Weekly Report November 29th, 2019 — CANVAS

Myanmar

This Tuesday, Myanmar’s military began a court martial to try soldiers accused of committing atrocities during a crackdown on Rohingya Muslims, according to an Army spokesperson. Myanmar prepares to face genocide charges at an international court in The Hague within the next month. Occurring in 2017 and resulting in a mass influx of Rohingya refugees into neighboring Bangladesh, the military crackdown has been labeled by the UN as “executed with genocidal intent”. Under investigation will be soldiers, police and local Buddhists that allegedly razed hundreds of villages in the Rakhine State. 

Cambodia

The Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has responded positively to diplomatic efforts by the Trump administration. Hun Sen accepted an invitation to the United States for a meeting of Southeast Asian countries and agreed to promote talks between Cambodia and the United States. Additionally, Hun Sen also appeared with the Trump administration’s push for democracy in the region, following a trend of increased liberty in Cambodia in the past few weeks. Despite improvement in freedoms, Hun Sen still intends to rule until 2028 and remains a stringent leader; many see his alleged efforts to foster democracy and human rights as a show to maintain trade relations with democratic countries. 

Thailand

Thailand confirmed that mandatory conscription in the country will not be abolished due to low numbers of volunteers. The current conscription system targets men over the age of 21 and uses an annual lottery to pick servicemen. Public opinion concerning the system has been unfavorable, but the latest statement from the Thai Deputy PM indicates that conscription will continue. 

Laos

The Laos economy has been steadily growing since its initial launch of public companies in Laos Stock Exchange 10 years ago. Now having 11 Laotian companies trading in the stock exchange, the country has seen significant financial growth and has implemented a policy of transparency and neutrality in trading. Growth is expected to continue as the nation aims to add more public companies to its stock exchange. 

Vietnam

The bodies of 16 Vietnamese found dead in Essex this October were returned to Vietnam this Wednesday. The victims were flown to Hanoi’s Airport, and will be taken by ambulance to their family homes. The lorry driver, 25 year old Maurice Robinson, has admitted to assisting in illegal immigration, while investigations are under way in both the UK and Vietnam. Though relatives were encouraged by authorities to opt for ashes “to ensure speed, low cost and sanitation safety”, many paid more for the bodies to carry out traditional burials, as cremation is rare in the Vietnam countryside. The Vietnamese government has issued loans to the families of the victims. 

Malaysia

This month, Malaysia’s economic growth “grew at its slowest pace in a year”. The reasoning for this slow growth is because of faltering exports in the wake of the US-China trade war. Still, Malaysia is the third-largest economy in Southeast Asia. A statement from Malaysia’s central bank, Bank Negara, suggested they are unconcerned with the growth slow, sharing the “growth is expected to be within projections in 2019 and the pace sustained going into 2020”. 

North Korea

North Korea has described US democratic candidate Joe Biden as a “rabid dog” after his campaign release that condemned Trump’s foreign policy. In the campaign, Biden criticized Trump’s tendency of praising “dictators and tyrants”, while pushing aside US allies. The campaign then showed an image of North Korean leader Kim and Trump meeting at the in Singapore at their first summit. Trump has responded to Biden’s criticism by sharing Biden “is actually somewhat better than that.” 

Hong Kong

China has responded angrily to U.S. President Donald Trump’s signing of legislation that attempts to defend protesters in Hong Kong. The signing of the bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, was met with enthusiasm by pro-democracy protesters in the region, who recently made more concrete steps towards democracy with local elections. The Hong Kong elections saw overwhelming support for pro-democracy candidates and a clear aversion to pro-Beijing candidates. Chinese media outlets in mainland China attempted to downplay the results of the elections, after the Chinese government’s hope for a silent majority of Beijing supporters was crushed by voting outcomes. Some media outlets ignored the elections altogether, while others accused the United States of interference. 

Libya

This week, Senior US officials met with Khalifa Haftar, the Libyan renegade general, in an effort to stop his offensive in Tripoli. The US state department also announced that they believe Russia to be “exploiting the conflict.” The aim of this meeting was to initiate “steps to achieve a suspension of hostilities and a political resolution to the Libyan conflict”.  Russia has yet to comment on the recent US accusation concerning Russian influence and exploitation of Libya.

Iran

After a week-long internet blackout, Iranian citizens can now access digital services again – however, the damage done to Iran’s virtual economy seems to be extensive. The blackout, imposed by the Iranian government, disrupted daily routines, postponed university application plans and dealt a blow to the bottom lines of many businesses. Currently, the damage to business is unclear after being barred from global infrastructure for 7 days. Though Tehran is on the verge of containing the violent protests, which claimed over 300 lives, intelligence agencies have indicated that Iranians are questioning the legitimacy of the regime and its Islamic revolutionary values instilled in 1979. With parliamentary elections set for February, Iranian officials fear a mass boycott of voters that will further delegitimize the status quo.  

Syria

This week, the United States military has resumed large scale operations against ISIS in Northeastern Syria. Though President Trump ordered for a full withdrawal of American troops, nearly 500 troops still remain and are expected to be engaged in active combat for the foreseeable future. Though ISIS leader al-Baghdadi was killed by U.S. forces, intelligence agencies have reported that ISIS fighters in Northeastern Syria have regrouped. Last Friday, American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters, previously abandoned by the Trump Administration in the face of a Turkish invasion, reunited to conduct a large-scale operation against ISIS fighters in the Deir- al-Zour province, 120 miles south of the Turkish border. According to the Defense Intelligence Agency report published this week, the death of al-Baghdadi would probably have “little effect” on the Islamic State’s ability to regroup. 

Zimbabwe

A UN envoy to Zimbabwe released a statement this week claiming that over 60% of Zimbabweans suffer from food insecurity, placing the country on the brink of man-made starvation. The current situation comes as a result of an economy crippled by hyperinflation, a period of extreme drought and the failure of government programs as a result of corruption. Though high numbers of food insecurity were expected, the figures shocked the UN envoy, who claim that the crisis will only worsen. Additionally, various senior doctors in the nation have stepped down as the doctors’ strike continues for the fourth consecutive month. 

Iraq

Iraqi security forces have killed at least 45 protesters in Najaf after demonstrators stormed the Iranian consulate and set it alight. The killings come a day after the shootings of 29 people in Nassiriya and 4 people in Baghdad; many people ignored city-wide curfews to mourn the bloodshed. Protests continue in the region despite the violent crackdown of government forces and the deployment of military to the south of Iraq.  

Cuba

This Tuesday, new sanctions were imposed on Corporacion Panamericana SA. Sanctions were imposed by the Trump administration, because the company was accused of evading Venezuela-related sanctions. In an effort of backing the newly imposed sanctions, US Treasury Secretary Justin Muzinich shared that “Cuba has played a direct role in preventing the return of democracy to Venezuela.” The US hopes that by imposing sanctions on Cuban companies evading Venezuela-related sanctions, Nicolas Maduro will be squeezed from power. 

Nicaragua 

The Ortega regime has awarded 70 loyalists and security personnel for the repression of protesting civilians. Described as “peace-loving”, many of the individuals chosen for the award were involved in the killings of at least 328 demonstrators in the past year and a half. The award ceremony comes shortly after Ortega decided to enhance security measures in response to unrest in Bolivia. 

Sudan

Sudan has repealed a public order law from the al-Bashir era that dictated the way women acted and dressed. The law had previously allowed law enforcement personnel to punish women for the way they acted in social situations and for what they choose to wear. The repeal was seen as the first step in correcting a hugely discriminatory legal system put in place by the al-Bahsir regime, and appears to be a continuation in efforts to foster equal opportunities for men and women in Sudan.

Venezuela

Despite the financial crisis in Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro reportedly sent over $900 million in oil to Cuba this year, according to a top U.S. diplomat Elliott Abrams. Abrams stated that Maduro has the funds to alleviate the shortages of food and medicine that have ravaged the country, but has instead opted to pay debts to Russia and China, while continuing to supply Cuba with oil as Venezuela’s main regional ally. In total, Maduro has sent over $4 billion to foreign governments in 2019 alone. 

On Tuesday, a Miami investment manager Gustavo Hernandez Frieri plead guilty to participating in a $1.2 billion money laundering scheme with Venezuelan businessmen connected to Nicolas Maduro. The indictment charged against him last year also named seven other defendants, most of whom are still fugitives. Hernandez is accused of helping launder at least $12 million that prosecutors say was paid in bribes to one former senior official in Venezuela’s national oil company, PDVSA. 

Lebanon

This week, Lebanon enters its third night of violent protests after nearly three weeks of mostly peaceful demonstrations. Many individuals who once supported the anti-government protests have been swayed to support Hezbollah and the Amal movement after the Hezbollah leader condemned the protests and called for its end. With the Hezbollah leader’s  condemnation, the once largely inclusive protests began to show divisions and violence eventually sparked between protesters. Many fear the violence may lead to another civil war

Bolivia

On Sunday, interim President Anez signed a law that requires new presidential elections to take place. This law not only has the backing of Anez’s party, but also is backed by former President Morales’ party. The law also symbolizes a return to normalcy in Bolivia after weeks of deadly protests from anti-Morales’ protesters and protesters supportive of Morales.  

Russia

Russia has seen a 2.2% growth in their economy last month when compared to the year before. This economic growth may be attributed to President Putin’s 13 projects proposed in 2018. These projects range from from education, healthcare and infrastructure. In all, $406bn is expected to be spent on the 13 projects. However, there is still uncertainty on the private sectors roll in these state funded projects. Many also claim that this economic growth is not sustainable and will lesson in the coming months. 

The United States

This Wednesday, review boards for three Navy SEALs were cancelled that could have stripped them of their SEAL status. The SEALs were superiors to Edward Gallagher, who was convicted of posing for a photo with a dead ISIS fighter in Iraq and accused of murdering a prisoner of war, though he was ultimately acquitted of the latter. In total, Gallagher faced nearly a dozen charges for allegedly opening fire on civilians during a deployment to Iraq, and threatening fellow SEALs who wanted to report his actions. This week, President Trump ordered the reversal of the Navy’s demotion of Gallagher, resulting in the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer as he refused to restore Gallagher’s full rank. The decision to cancel review boards for Gallagher’s superiors was made by the chief of naval operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, and Acting Secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly, who was named to the job earlier this week.