Weekly Report 4 October, 2019 — CANVAS

Myanmar

This Tuesday, the UN’s refugee agency released a report regarding Myanmar’s refugee crisis. Figures provided demonstrated an increase in the ratio of deaths or missing persons of refugees or asylum seekers who embarked on a sea journey: an increase from one in every 81 refugees or asylum seekers in 2013 – 2015 to one in every 69 refugees or asylum seekers. The report also indicated that previously most of these refugees or asylum seekers’ deaths were a result of people smugglers and caused by “beating, gunshot wounds or deprivation of food and water.” However, recently the report showed that most deaths of Myanmar’s refugees and asylum seekers were attributed to sea journeys. Of these maritime movements, approximately 59% of individuals embarking on sea journeys were women or children.

This increase in women or children sea voyagers corresponds with the increase in women or children Myanmar refugees or asylum seekers seeking safety in Bangladesh. The report found that four out of five Myanmar refugees or asylum seekers seeking safety in Bangladesh were women or children, a great increase from  2013 – 2015 when most individuals seeking refuge in Bangladesh were men.

Cambodia

A Cambodian judge ruled on Thursday that the espionage case against journalists Uon Chhin and Yeang Sotearin needed reinvestigation due to a lack of evidence to convict. Chhin and Sotearin were accused two years ago in 2017 for “supplying information to a foreign state” during a government crackdown on political and media opponents. This accusation sprouted from the journalists working for Radio Free Asia, a US funded broadcasting organization. The decision for reinvestigation angered human rights activists who reasoned if there is a lack of evidence to convict the charges should be dropped. Chhin, who already has spent nine months in detention before a bail was set, shared he “expected everything would be clear today, black and white, and [my family and I] could plan for our future.”

The Maldives

Maldivian President Ibrahim Solih attended last week’s UN General Assembly meeting, a symbolic gesture of the revival of democracy in the Maldives. The first appearance of a Maldivian Head-of-State in over 7 years, President Solih’s visit to the UN illustrated a commitment to multilateral engagement. During his address to the UN, President Solih highlighted the Maldives’ engagement with climate activism, the ongoing struggle to combat terrorism, and his desire for greater regional integration. Following his address, the President met with Indian Prime Minister Modi to discuss further cooperation between the two states.

North Korea

North Korea successfully launched an alleged submarine-based missile this week. Despite claims from the nation that weapon was launched from a submerged submarine, expert analysts believe the missile was launched from an underwater platform. Reactions from the international community have been largely negative; South Korea voiced concern about the launch and Japan declared North Korea’s actions to be in conflict with UN Security Council rulings. The test launch came hours after North Korea announced that it was willing to resume talks with the United States; this event will no doubt have a negative impact on Washington’s relations with Seoul.

Hong Kong

This week, an Indonesian journalist was hit in the eye by a rubber bullet fired from police while covering a protest. The bullet ruptured the journalist’s pupil leaving her blind in one eye. Controversy sparked regarding the police force’s use of force, because at the time of the incident the journalist was not in the near vicinity of the protesters and had clearly visible press markings on. This incident has increased worries about the heightened use of force by police officers in Hong Kong. The shooting came shortly after police shot a teenage student in the chest while at a protest. Police deemed this shooting self defense and charged the teenager with assaulting a police officer.

Libya

According to U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), a fourth  U.S. airstrike in less than has killed 7 Islamic State members in Libya. The strikes were carried out in coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord to inhibit IS capacity in the region. As Libya’s national security deteriorates, militants affiliated with IS have expanded their influence in ungoverned regions of Libya, with some reports estimating between 500 and 750 active IS fighters in Libya. However,  experts think the number is higher than what has been reported as foreign fighters continue to flee there from Syria.

Despite agreeing to talks last week, Khalifa Haftar launched two attacks on the Ramla frontline this week. The attacks, which occurred near Tripoli Airport and Yarmouk Camp, represent Haftar’s attempt to advance further into Libya’s capital.  Both attacks were thwarted by the Libyan Army.

Sudan

In light of recent improvements the country’s security, the Sudanese government seeks removal from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. This Tuesday, interim President Abdalla Hamdok stated that Sudan, while facing economic challenges, would benefit from the removal as it would allow the government to stabilize the country during this transitional period. Additionally, Hamdok used part of his speech to the UN General Assembly last week to appeal for Sudan’s removal and illustrate the harm of U.S. sanctions against the new democracy.

Iran

This week, Iranian officials reported a plot by Arab-Israeli forces to assassinate Major General Qassem Soleimani, a senior commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Arrested this week, the suspects allegedly planned to attack Soleimani during a religious ceremony in early September. However, reports of the attack came from state-sponsored media in Iran, making verifications of these reports impossible.

Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani spoke to Al Jazeera reporters on Tuesday, and relayed that Tehran is open to peace talks with Saudi Arabia, following a statement from Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that he would prefer a peaceful resolution of regional conflict as opposed to military intervention. Each citing the potential for crude oil prices to spike in case of armed conflict, the leaders each aired their desires for peaceful dialogue to CBS and Al Jazeera.

Iraq

This week has seen an eruption of protests in Iraq, resulting in the killing of at least 44 civilians. Beginning on Tuesday of this week, Iraqi people took to the streets to voice anger over political corruption and declining living conditions. The Iraqi government has shut down internet access, implemented a curfew for residents of major cities, and has deployed security forces in aims of quelling discontent. The use of live rounds, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons by security forces has caused many injuries and a rising number of deaths.

Zimbabwe

This Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa addressed the parliament in a state of the nation address. Mnangagwa called for patience in his efforts of reviving the country’s economy, stating “getting the economy working again from the dead will require time, patience, unity of purpose and perseverance.” He also confirmed his commitment to fulfill recommendations proposed at Zimbabwe’s 2018 election by the election-observer. These recommendations include heightened security and electoral reforms. The state of the nation address was boycotted by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who largely question the legitimacy in Zimbabwe’s 2018 presidential election.

Cuba

Amid increased U.S. hostility towards Cuba, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev began a two-day visit this Thursday to illustrate Moscow’s support for the Communist administration. Part of a wider plan to strengthen Russia’s ties in Latin America, Medvedev’s visit reaffirmed Moscow’s support for Cuba alongside Nicolas Maduro’s Leftist government in Venezuela. Medvedev’s third trip to Cuba includes a meeting with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and a tour of an energy project on the outskirts of the capital. Following a month of oil shortages in Cuba as a result of heightened U.S. sanctions, the meeting symbolizes Russia’s interest in Cuba’s financial success.

Venezuela

The UN Human Rights Council has agreed to launch a fact-finding mission on the state of human rights in Venezuela. The Venezuelan ambassador declared the action a “hostile resolution”, despite continuous reports that government leadership in the country has employed death squads, utilized torture methods and is responsible for food shortages that have left 3.7 million people malnourished. The report will be completed in one year, with or without pushback from the Venezuelan government.

Russia

Earlier this week, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy signed an agreement in Minsk, Belarus allowing for local elections to take place in Eastern Ukraine. This agreement was backed by Russia and Ukrainian separatists and acts to pave the way for future peace and stability in the region. However, just hours after the agreement was signed demonstrators gathered outside the Zelenskiy’s office protesting the agreement. Protesters argued Ukraine was capitulating to Russia and disregarding the efforts made in making Ukraine an independent and sovereign state. All that Russia offered Ukraine after the signing of the agreement was a meeting with the Ukrainian president.

The United States

Despite calls for impeachment over his exchange with Ukrainian officials, President Donald Trump has insisted that Ukraine and China investigate his Democratic opponent Joe Biden. When asked whether President Trump had contacted Chinese President Xi Jinping to launch an investigation into the Bidens, he replied that it was “certainly something we could start thinking about”. President Trump has denied any wrongdoing, although he froze $400 million in aid to Ukraine before asking the Ukrainian President to investigate the actions of Joe Biden’s son in the nation; these actions have prompted accusations of using US foreign policy for personal gain.

Other News: Peruvian Congress Dissolution

This Tuesday, Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra called for the dissolution of Peruvian congress and new parliamentary elections to be held in January. His decision to do so lies with his anti-corruption campaign and his struggle against right-wing congressmen. The majority of the Peruvian public is in support of Vizcarra’s decision. Demonstrators rallied outside congress to show support for President Vizcarra. Congress labeled Vizcarra’s decision unconstitutional and voted to suspend Vizcarra’s presidency. Congress also declared Vice President Araoz as acting president. However, Araoz declined their offer and later resigned from the vice presidency. Araoz stated that “the main reason for [her] resignation is that Peru’s constitutional order has broken down.” Her resignation only worked to strengthen Vizcarra’s claim to the presidency.