CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy, including Cambodia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mexico, Syria, the United States, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.
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On Thursday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has approved an investigation into Myanmar’s mistreatment of the Rohingya minority ethnic group. ICC judges have backed a prosecution request to investigate allegations of crimes against humanity committed in Myanmar’s 2017 military crackdown against the Rohingya. The investigation approval came on the heels of a case against Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de-facto civilian leader, who was named in an Argentine lawsuit over crimes against the Rohingya, while Myanmar faced a separate genocide lawsuit at the United Nation’s top court. Though Myanmar is not a member of the ICC, the Hague ruled last year that it has jurisdiction over crimes against the Rohingya minority because Bangladesh, where they are now refugees, is a member. Myanmar has long denied accusations it committed ethnic cleansing or genocide.
The Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, has ordered the release of 70 opposition activists amongst rising tensions with trade partners. Hun Sen has been in power for 34 years and has received criticism from the international community for human rights abuses and the erasure of free speech; the European Union’s threat to withdraw trade benefits likely prompted the release of opposition activists. Additionally troubling the Hun Sen administration is opposition leader Sam Rainsy; Rainsy recently called for a peaceful uprising by the people of Cambodia and urged military forces not to shoot at protestors. Rainsy went on to criticize Hun Sen’s alleged deal with Beijing that allows a Chinese military base in the country, saying “Cambodia must be neutral”.
On Thursday, the Maldivian government released a statement strongly condemning Israel’s airstrikes against the Palestinian-held territory of Gaza. Resulting in the deaths of at least 34 Palestinians, the airstrikes were deemed as a disproportionate use of force against unarmed civilians, including women and children. The administration and the Maldivian people expressed sincere condolences to the families of the victims of Israeli aggression in Gaza. The official statement also encouraged efforts by the international community, particularly Egypt, to de-escalate the situation.
On Thursday, a French tourist was killed in Thailand while taking photos next to Na Mueang 2 waterfall on the tropical island of Koh Samui. The 33-year-old man fell from the same spot where a Spanish tourist died in a fall in July, Lieutenant Phuvadol Viriyavarangkul of the island’s tourist police told the press. Thailand’s tourist industry has taken several recent hits due to lax safety regulations, causing authorities to scramble to restore the country’s image in 2019.
The UN Environment Programme announced this week that the Green Climate Fund has approved to donate $10 million USD to a project in Laos. The project intends to use climate-friendly measures to make urban areas more resilient against flooding. Laos’ project has been named one aspect of a “paradigm shift” in the region that focuses on creating green infrastructure. The project will target the four cities in Laos considered to be the most vulnerable to climate change and aims to restore wetlands that are home to endangered species.
On Friday, a Vietnamese court sentenced a college music teacher to 11 years in prison for posting content to Facebook that was deemed “anti-state”. Nguyen Nang Tinh, 43, denied the allegations of “making and spreading anti-state information and materials”, and that the account did not belong to him. Tinh’s trial lasted for one day at the People’s Court in the northern-central province of Nghe An. In police custody since May, Tinh is required to be placed under house arrest for five years after serving his jail term. The intolerance of the Vietnamese government has sharply risen this year, with Vietnam listed as 176th out of 180 countries on the 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
This Monday, a Malaysian court ruled that former Prime Minister Najib Razak must “defend himself” in seven charges that have been brought against him. These charges circulate around the $4.5 billion taken from the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The prosecution’s case is said to have“overwhelming evidence” against Najib, including 57 witnesses. For each charge Najib is found guilty, he will face 15-20 years and be forced to pay large fines. Currently, Najib is out on bail and his trail commences in less than one month on the 3rd of December.
This Thursday, South Korea announced that they deported 2 North Korean men. The decision to deport these men back to their home country came after discovering the men were responsible for murdering “16 crew members on their fishing boat before fleeing to the South.” The South Korean government shared that if the men “had been incorporated into [their] society, it was judged they would pose a threat to the lives and safety of the people.”
Approximately 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea since the division of the two countries. Usually these defectors are interrogated, undergo a 3 month re-education period, and then free to integrate into South Korean society. The deported men, however, have been declared unfit for integration after their 3 day interrogation period. These men are the first asylum seekers to be deported back to North Korea since the end of the Korean War.
Universities have become the grounds for protest camps in Hong Kong, leading to the closure of several major institutions. Protestors have created barricades to stop police from entering the universities and have begun to stockpile supplies. The move to campuses takes place during a time of heightening tensions between the Chinese government and protesting Hong Kongers; Beijing recently released a statement warning protestors that they “are on the edge of doom”. An escalation in violence has also taken place during the past week, leading to the shooting of a protestor and the burning of a pro-China counter-protestor.
This week, an Al Jazeera investigation revealed that arms support for military leader Khalifa Haftar was provided by Egypt, Russia and the UAE. Khalifa Haftar is a military commander who has “waged a months-long offensive against the UN-recognized Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).” The investigation further revealed that military supplies reach Haftar through Libya’s border with Egypt. The GNA maintains that while they have never resorted to the illegal purchasing of weapons like Haftar has been proven to do, they still do not “receive any real support from any of [their] allies.” The GNA fears that continued illegal military support for Haftar may further jeopardize the GNA.
Sudan’s health system continues to deteriorate as a result of decades of conflict and unstable governance. According to the World Health Organization, more than 35% of Sudan’s population of 40 million people live in areas far from adequate health facilities, due to the destruction of health facilities throughout the country’s conflict, and 20 years of sanctions against Sudan. At present, less than 10% of government funds are directed towards healthcare. Due to the lack of adequate funding for payrolls, government hospitals are severely understaffed, depriving those who cannot afford private facilities of healthcare. Since the transitional government took control in August, the country has been suffering from Malaria, Cholera and Dengue fever epidemics. Since September, at least 300 cases of Cholera have been reported, including 10 fatalities. In November, over 90 people suffering from Dengue fever were received daily in hospitals across Khartoum.
On Friday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni spoke at the International Conference on Islamic Unity, and stated that Tehran is not calling for the “disappearance of Jewish people,” and that people of all religions should decide Israel’s future. Though the leader routinely mentions the disappearance of the State of Israel, he emphasized that this does “not mean the disappearance of the Jewish people”, but the “Zionist regime”. The Ayatollah noted that “the people of Palestine – be they Muslim, Christian or Jewish – should choose their own government” if the State of Israel disappears, and encouraged citizens to “oust people like Netanyahu”. Khameni also stated that “we are not antisemitic”, and that “Jews live in Iran safely”.
Protests in Iraq have continued despite extremely violent measures taken by government-led security forces. Protestors have taken over Tahrir Square, routing electricity and providing water, food and health services to those in the encampment. In an effort to disperse demonstrators, security forces used rubber bullets, live rounds and tear gas, which wounded at least 50 and killed at least 3. Additionally concerning was the targeting of medical workers by government forces; the Human Rights Watch released a statement condemning military personnel for shooting at medic tents and attacking medics treating protestors.
As the ceasefire between Syrian and Turkish forces remains volatile, Russian forces have established a new stronghold in the city of Qamishli in northern Syria. Resulting in the deaths of 5 teenagers, explosions in Qamishli this week prompted Russian forces to enter and establish security. The U.S. military has officially withdrawn from the nearby Kobani military base, which previously served as its main logistics hub. However, hundreds of U.S. troops still remain in the region.
This Tuesday, one protester was shot and killed by a Lebanese soldier. The soldier was aiming to disperse a crowd that was blocking a road leading to the capitol. This is the first killing in over a month of nationwide protests. The protesters are aiming for the complete restructure of the Lebanese political system. Many believe that this death will reenergize protests and give way for more unrest.
Zimbabwe has banned the installation of electric water heaters due to a national electricity shortage. The country has been suffering from widespread electricity cuts, as well as a severe drought and economic crisis. Extremely high rates of inflation have halted the daily lives of Zimbabweans, who can no longer afford solar alternatives and are left without electricity. The draught in the region has also caused the deaths of hundreds of elephants, leading Zimbabwe to start moving starving animals in hopes of saving them. This week, the Zimbabwean government put the Zimbabwe dollar back into circulation in an attempt to remedy the disastrous inflation rates that have plagued Zimbabwe’s economy.
Cuba announced that their country has attracted a total of 1.7 billion US dollars this year in foreign investment, despite worsening US sanctions and trade embargoes. The $1.7 billion in foreign investment falls short of their $2 billion goal, however it still is a significant accomplishment. Foreign investment is much needed in Cuba, especially in the wake of declining subsidies caused by their key ally Venezuela facing an intensified crisis.
Hugo Carvajal, the Venezuelan head of military counter-intelligence from July 2004 until December 2011 under the Hugo Chávez administration, disappeared this week after a Spanish court ruled that he should be extradited to the US, where he is accused of drug trafficking. Spanish police have not been able to locate Carvajal since Friday. In 2011, U.S. prosecutors accused Carvajal of personally coordinating a US-bound shipments of more than five tonnes of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico, and alleged that he was personally connected to Colombia’s Marxist Farc rebels. Carvajal has repeatedly denied having any associations with drug traffickers or the Farc.
According to a United Nations special envoy, many Venezuelan refugees fleeing their countries disastrous economic crisis and political turmoil are increasingly unlikely to return. On Wednesday, Eduardo Stein told The Associated Press that the exodus of over 4.6 million Venezuelans has now permanently changed Latin America and that even with immediate resolution, many Venezuelans would likely stay abroad.
The National Bank of Nicaragua has halted the publication of national inflation rates. The organization has additionally stopped publishing the numbers for the basic basket, which outlines the average prices of basic goods. The halt in publishing was not announced by the National Bank, and was instead noticed by media sources. The statistical blackout is worrying and gives analysts no information for calculating market indicators and overall economic trends.
Following the resignation of Bolivian President Evo Morales on Sunday, the country has devolved into turmoil as protestors for and against Morales flood the streets of La Paz and surrounding communities. On Tuesday, Jeanine Áñez declared herself interim leader in accordance with the constitutional succession. Morales, leftwing and from the indigenous community, fled to Mexico once granted asylum on Tuesday after the military urged him to quit. Supporters of Morales continue to protest against what they say is a military coup, and against Áñez as interim president. Though Áñez has vowed to reconstruct democracy and hold elections within the 90 days allotted by Bolivia’s constitution, the new cabinet she unveiled this week is void of indigenous representation, which has further polarized supporters of her predecessor.
The United Nations has sent a special envoy to Bolivia in response to an appeal from Evo Morales for foreign intervention. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked Jean Arnault to engage, as his personal envoy, with all Bolivian actors and offer United Nations support in efforts to “find a peaceful resolution to the crisis, including through transparent, inclusive and credible elections,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York. Arnault has previously served as special representative for Colombia, Georgia and Afghanistan.
Two people have been killed in clashes between Bolivian police and supporters of Morales on Wednesday. The violence came after pro-Morales protestors launched a campaign that included marches and roadblocks.
This week, Turkish President Erdogan met with US President Donald Trump to discuss diplomatic and military relations. The two NATO allies suffered strained relations after Turkey accepted Russian-made- S-400 missiles earlier this July. During the meeting, President Trump pressured Erdogan to comply with US and NATO demands. Trump also tweeted that if Turkey did anything “off limits” to the Kurds in Syria, he would “obliterate” the Turkish economy. Erdogan responded and shared that Turkey’s “transactional relationship with Russia currently trumps adhering to US demands.” Russia seems to have strengthened its foothold in the region in the wake of weakened American influence.
Public impeachment hearings against President Trump were televised this Wednesday. George Kent, a senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine policy, and William Taylor, the top United States diplomat in Ukraine, testified about Trump’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph Biden, one of his leading political rivals. The officials revealed new evidence of collusion between President Trump and Ukrainian officials in exchange for needed military aid. Despite the evidence of collusion, Trump is unlikely to be removed from office as it would require a two-thirds majority of the senate, which is controlled by the Republican Party. The Democratic party moves forward with the impeachment process in the hopes of damaging Trump’s bid for the 2020 election, regardless of his removal from office.
On Tuesday, the Arakan army released 25 people that it seized from a ferry in the war-torn Rakhine State on October 26, according to a spokesperson from the armed ethnic group. The civilians were each given the equivalent of $10 USD for travel expenses, and their personal items returned. The 25 people were among 168 taken from the ferry, resulting in a total of 150 freed since the seizure. Of the 18 remaining hostages, it is unknown how many are still alive. A Rakhine police spokesperson said this week that the suspects from the Arakan Army will face trial under the Anti-Terrorism Law.
The 10 ethnic armed groups that have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) have yet to agree on whether to convene a Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM), the highest meeting of the national peace process. The meeting, which is usually attended by top government and military officials as well as the 10 groups, has been indefinitely postponed due to friction between the NCA signatories at an event marking the NCA’s fourth anniversary last week.
A Cambodian opposition leader, Mu Sochua, has been detained in Malaysia this week whilst on her way to Cambodia. The Malaysian Prime Minister announced that Sochua will be deported and will not be able to enter her home country. Sochua’s failed efforts to return to Cambodia indicate the likely outcome of fellow opposition leader Sam Rainsy’s attempts to re-enter the nation. Rainsy’s upcoming return to Cambodia has put officials on edge, resulting in the deployment of 20,000 troops; extreme precautionary measures by the Cambodian government have cast doubt on Rainsy’s ability to enter the country.
Maldivian Chief Justice Ahmed Abdulla Didi has denied threatening to fire the Supreme Court’s secretary-general, a day after a judicial watchdog launched a probe over Abdulla’s alleged ethical misconduct. The Chief Justice is accused of ordering Dr. Hussain Faiz not to comply with new rules formulated by the Department of Judicial Administration. The DJA – which is tasked with management of the courts – was previously under the direct control of the Supreme Court.
Fifteen people were killed by gunmen in southern Thailand this week, marking one of the bloodiest attacks in recent years. The attack took place at a security checkpoint and attackers utilized bombs, nails and M-16 rifles. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, though it was likely carried out by an extreme separatist group seeking autonomy in the southern regions. Consistent violence between separatist groups and Thai government forces has plagued Thailand since 2004 and has resulted in the deaths of thousands over the past decade. Though the issue has not received extensive international coverage, the battle for secession is thought to be the deadliest conflict in South East Asia at the moment.
Laos has invited a top Chinese political advisor to visit the country, likely in aims of securing funding for increased construction in the country. Laos has continuously pushed to improve infrastructure, though the government has been criticized for ignoring the potential for environmentally damaging repercussions. The country has reached out to corporations in other nations such as Vietnam and China to hold shares in major infrastructure projects.
On Tuesday, Vietnamese police made another arrest in connection with the death of 39 Vietnamese nationals found in a truck. Officials have painted a picture of where Vietnamese nationals were traveling to Russia from Vietnam before being smuggled into Europe. Only a handful of identifications have been determined, adding to the anguish of villagers in two Vietnamese provinces who suspect their loved ones are among the dead. Nguyen Huu Cau, chief of police in the province of Nghe An, said one of those arrested lived in Russia and is accused of collecting thousands of dollars from migrants who then traveled to Russia before he allegedly smuggled them to Germany and then to a third country – in this case, the United Kingdom.
The Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia still anticipate a protracted fight with ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), even after the death of its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay, the Malaysian Chief of Counterterrorism, shared that “it’s good news, but his death will have little impact here as the main problem remains the spread of the Islamic State ideology.” He shared that the spread of the Islamic State ideology is perpetuated via Internet, where ISIL holds a powerful influence.
Malaysia has already arrested 400 people suspected to have links with ISIL. The country remains on high alert as fears that Iraqi and Syrian ISIL supporters fleeing their countries may exploit the “porous borders” of Southeast Asian countries: Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia.
On Thursday, North Korea tested “super-large multiple rocket launchers.” North Korean leader Kim Joung-un shared his satisfaction and praised the scientists that built the weapon. The weapons test publicly demonstrated North Korea’s weapon progression, all while relations with the US stay stagnant. The launch is also seen to undermine future talks with the US, because North Korea’s “escalating behavior”.
This Friday, vigils were held in remembrance of the Hong Kong protestor who died during a demonstration. Twenty-two year old Alex Chow fell off a parking garage during a police raid of protests, leading many to think he was trying to get away from tear gas. The death of the student has caused outrage and further heightened tensions in Hong Kong.
On Thursday, students of the Chinese University of Hong Kong staged a march before the university’s graduation this week, expressing discontent with China’s refusal to meet the five demands of protestors. Wearing masks and chanting “Five demands, not one less”, the students echoed the sentiments of the continuous demonstrations in Hong Kong. Though the protestors were nonviolent, a mainland Chinese student met the demonstrators with a knife whilst singing the Chinese national anthem. Though the Chinese student was removed by university security, the interaction provided a look into the tension between Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese people.
This week, Francesca Mannocchi, a correspondent for The Guardian, visited and reported on a Libyan migrant detention camp. The conditions reported were stunning. Even though the EU has committed more than €110m for improving conditions in Libyan migrant detention camps, much remains unchanged. Triq-al-Sikka is a migrant detention camp in Tripoli, which holds 300 men. Here, out of the six toilets provided three were “blocked with sewage”. Likewise, stained mattresses placed on dirt floor provided the only means for these men to sleep. Migrants could not even contemplate escaping, because they did not own shoes to do so. In this detention camp, men have little hope for improved and humane living conditions. As Mannocchi entered the camp, one man sternly greeted her by starting, “Welcome to hell.”
Sudan has launched its first satellite in a partnership with China this week. The satellite, which was launched from the Chinese province of Shanxi, aims to collect information on potential resources that would boost military capabilities for Sudan. While monitoring is currently based in China, it has been announced that monitoring responsibilities will move to Sudan in the coming months.
The Sudanese Prime Minister, Abdallah Hamdok, visited the displaced persons camps in Darfur. Hamdok’s visit to the camps indicates a potential change in the ways in which the Sudanese government deals with mass displacement. Roughly 1.5 million people remain displaced in the region following over a decade of conflict led by former leader Omar al-Bashir. The Darfur region saw attempts of ethnic cleansing and extreme suppression by government militias under al-Bashir. Hamdok has promised peace and stability to the victims of the Darfur conflict.
Iran faces extreme turbulence this week as the U.S. announced sanctions against the inner circle of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, including one of his sons. The sanctions were announced on the 40th anniversary of the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran, and amid crumbling nuclear negotiations between Iran and the U.S. Additionally, a magnitude 5.9 earthquake struck the country early Friday morning, resulting in at least 5 deaths and an unknown number of injuries.
It has been reported that at least 3 people were killed in anti-government protests this week, while 17 others have been injured. The mass protests in Baghdad have resulted in the killings of at least 97 civilians by security forces using live ammunition. Netblocks in the region have made communication more difficult and protestors have voiced a fear of isolation whilst government-led killings take place. Despite the threat of violence, demonstrators have continued to protest by the thousands and have continuously pushed for extreme systemic change in Iraq. Iraqi protestors have also shown contempt for Iran, hitting pictures of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei with shoes, throwing fire bombs at an Iranian consulate and destroying the buildings of organizations associated with Iranian influence.
Approximately 1000 U.S. troops are now in Syria defending Syrian oil fields, in response to orders from President Trump. The military decision, coming just days after American troops were ordered to evacuate Syria and leave Kurdish forces to defend themselves against the Turkish invasion, has perplexed U.S. officials. This Thursday, an internal report by the top US diplomat in northern Syria, William Roebuck, was leaked to the New York Times. In the report, Roebuck complains that “we didn’t try” to deter the Turkish incursion, which has killed hundreds of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands. President Trump’s claim over Syrian natural resources has angered the Syrian government and its ally, Vladimir Putin.
Lebanon is entering its third week of nationwide protests. Protesters have now taken to road blocks as their main form of opposition. By blocking the main entrance to Beirut, they aimed to impede “the government from functioning properly.” Roadblocks have sprung up elsewhere in the country as well. These roadblocks range from a pile of rocks impeding cars to “giant parties attended by hundreds of people with tents and music.” Security forces have been successful in unblocking the main road to the capital and the road that links Beirut to Northern Lebanon. However, protesters have expressed their unwillingness to stop. They will continue to build roadblocks until the government listens and acts on their demands, which includes a complete overthrow in the Lebanese sectarian political structure.
In response, the Lebanese President, Michel Aoun, has recently called on the protesters to have patience for his reforms to be implemented. Aoun has “pledged to move away from the sectarian-based political system to a civil state.” However, anti-government protesters still believe his reforms to be inadequate.
The Zimbabwean government has responded to two months of strikes by a group of doctors by firing 77 of the protesting individuals. The doctors have been striking due to low wages and have been making under $100 USD per month. Zimbabwe, which is currently in an economic crisis, has been dealing with high rates of inflation and a total collapse of the financial system. As conditions in the country have continued to deteriorate, civil servants have taken to the streets to protest consistently declining pay. The workers were not deterred by the firing of doctors, and many have voiced that they felt there was no choice but to demonstrate.
For the first time, Brazil has voted against the “United Nations resolution condemning and calling for an end to Washington’s embargo on Cuba.” The only other countries to vote against this resolution where the United States and Israel. Brazil has changed its stance on Cuba, likely because of the “recent wave of Latin American protests and the left’s return to power in Argentina.” Brazil’s government is headed by a far-right president and fears of Latin American leftest protests spreading to Brazil has influenced their decision to vote against the resolution.
This week, a Guardian correspondent assessed the living conditions for Venezuelan refugees in Maicao, Colombia. As Colombia struggles to keep up with the influx of refugees, Venezuelans taking refuge in Colombia face worsening living conditions and struggle for survival. Axleny Machado, a Venezuelan refugee in Maicao, Colombia, only makes €4 a day selling cigarettes, coffee and sweets in her cart that she rents for 90p a day. After work, she and her mother are forced to sleep in the bus terminal on top of cardboard. Her phone and passport have already been stolen, making her and her mother more trapped than ever. This situation is, sadly, not unique to her. A United Nations assessment found that almost half of Venezuelan refugees in Maicao “were living on the streets.”
The United States has sanctioned 3 Nicaraguan officials, citing human rights abuses, election fraud and corruption. Since 2017, the United States has sanctioned 14 Nicaraguan officials; the sanctions have directly targeted key members of the Ortega regime in aims of destabilizing the President’s governmental support structure. Sanctions dictate that the Nicaraguan officials are unable to do business with any U.S. entity.
This Friday, Russia and Turkey carried out their first joint patrol in northeastern Syria. The joint Russian and Turkish patrols aimed to implement the deal struck between Russia and Turkey. The deal reached “forced Kurdish fighters to evacuate from a so-called ‘safe-zone’ on the Syrian side of the border.” Two days before the joint patrol, Turkey announced that not all Kurdish fighters withdrew from the ‘safe zone’. During the patrol, it was reported that 18 Syrian government soldiers had been captured and turned over to the Russians. They are now being detained in Syria near the Turkish border. Russia has yet to share who is responsible for the detainment of these individuals, but it is clear that Russia has helped coordinate the move.
This week, Judge Saliann Scarpulla ordered President Trump to pay $2m “for missing funds from his charity to finance his 2016 political campaign.” In the settlement agreed upon, it also called on Trump to acknowledge his wrongdoing and faulty actions. His three oldest children, Donald Trump Jr., Erick Trump, and Ivanka Trump were also involved in the scandal. All three children will be required to enter training on how to properly direct charitable organizations. So far, no criminal charges have been filed.
This Wednesday, two satirical performers from the group “Peacock Generation” were given one-year prison sentences after they were found to be mocking Myanmar’s military. The performers, who were arrested back in April and May, were performing “thangyat” – a traditional show of poetry and dance that has historically been used to mock the country’s leaders since the 19th century. Live-streamed on Facebook, the performance channeled popular anger about the military’s control over the economy. After being held for months at Yangon’s Insein prison and denied bail, the performers have become a symbol for the dire state of freedom of expression in Myanmar. The remaining performers, who face additional charges of defamation, still await their sentences which will be given next month.
Cambodian officials have continued to prepare for the expected return of exiled political leader Sam Rainsy on November 9th. Though there has been speculation as to whether Rainsy will be able to get into Cambodia, the Interior Minister has nonetheless prepared local policymakers for future arrest efforts; he has asked all governors to be present on the weekend of November 9th in order to ensure that Rainsy does not go undetected.
The friendly relations between China and Cambodia were underlined this week by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s praise for Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni. During the celebration of his 15th coronation anniversary, Jinping congratulated Sihamoni for fostering national unity and development in Cambodia. The leaders have a long history of mutual commendation.
The United States has decided to suspend Thailand’s exemption from trade tariffs due to labor issues. Thai authorities have 6 months to negotiate with the U.S. over the decision, and Thai officials have voiced optimism for upcoming talks. Despite the potentially negative impact of the change in tariffs, Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha expressed that Thailand harbors no ill will towards the United States and emphasized that relations between the two countries will remain positive regardless of the outcomes.
The Thai political party Future Forward has been dealt a severe blow in membership following the resignation of 120 major members. Future Forward’s leader, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, has admitted the party has made mistakes following various complaints and court cases.
A dam collapse in Laos has caused widespread flooding and the death of at least 19 people. Rescue efforts are underway while thousands of people remain in flooded areas. Over 6,000 people are estimated to have lost their homes due to the collapse.
A strain of drug-resistant malaria has spread to Laos and surrounding countries, causing concern from the international community. Studies and efforts to create effective medication are ongoing.
Vietnamese families are mourning the deaths of 39 migrants found dead in a truck after attempting to reach the UK. As more details emerge around the migration path and the backgrounds of the migrants, the reality of Vietnamese trafficking is brought into focus. Though the country has become a leading example for economic development in South East Asia on paper, many still fall victim to extreme poverty and seek escape by any means necessary. According to Britain’s ambassador to Vietnam, Vietnam is a major source of human trafficking victims into Britain, the second-highest after Albania. The New York Times reports that Nghe An and Ha Tinh, two of Vietnam’s poorest provinces, supply much of the trade. Officials in Ha Tinh estimate more than 41,000 people left the province in the first eight months of 2019 alone.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad worries Malaysia could be caught in the middle of a US-China trade war and become a target for sanctions. Mahathir shared how “economically [they] are linked to both markets, and physically [they] are also caught in between for geographical reasons.” The US and China are the second and third largest exporters of Malaysian goods, closely following Singapore at the top. In an effort to ease the impact of potential sanctions, Malaysia has started to collaborate more with its regional neighbors.
Mahathir also expressed his anger concerning being bullied by European countries. His complaint was in relation to a European campaign against Malaysian palm oil. Last year, Malaysian palm oil accounted for 4.5 percent of its exports. However, the European Union actively criticizes the agricultural mainstay of palm oil because of deforestation concerns. This year, the EU has passed an act that aims to “phase out palm oil for renewable fuels by 2030.” In response to this act, Mahathir condemned it and commented the act will only “impoverish the poor by preventing them from… earning a living.”
This week, KCNA, a North Korean state news agency, warned that the US-North Korean ties are endangered. Diplomatic relationships remain threatened, as the year-long deadline for “close personal relations” is pushed off by Washington. Kim Joung-un shared in a statement on Monday that the US is pressuring North Korea in a “more crafty and vicious way”. The North Korean envoy for nuclear talks between the US and North Korea, Kim Yong-chol, added that “there can be an exchange of fire at any moment.” Kim Yong-chol, in accordance with the North Korean government, believe there to be no permanent friends of North Korea; the United States is no exception.
Hong Kong has officially slipped into an economic recession following months of protests. The demonstrations have hit tourism and retail, and many firms are reportedly considering pulling their offices from the city. Hong Kong’s recession is the first in ten years for the region, and has left financial analysts worrying about global repercussions. Protests are ongoing and show no sign of stopping in the near future.
This week, Transport Minister Milad Maatoug announced the gradual reopening of Libya’s Mitiga airport. The Mitiga airport is the only functional airport in Tripoli. However, after the attacks of Khalifa Haftar’s forces two months ago, the airport was forced to shut down. Haftar’s forces are angered by Maatoug’s announcement to reopen Mitiga airport, because they believe the airport will be used for military purposes. However, UN special envoy Ghassan Salame assured that the Mitiga airport will not be used for military purposes and “there is no excuse for it to be a military target.”
The U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and four other Gulf States have issued sanctions against 25 individuals, corporations and banks composing a financing network controlled connected to Iran’s military and to Hezbollah. The sanctions were declared in tandem with an announcement from Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin on Wednesday, who referenced the activation of air defense systems amid a general threat of attack from Iran. The Israel Defense Forces believes Iran is likely to retaliate against targeted airstrikes in the coming weeks, which could take the form of a large-scale attack involving cruise missiles and attack drones, similar to the strike on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco petroleum facility attributed to Iran.
This week, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khameni blamed the United States and its allies for spreading “insecurity and turmoil” in Iraq and Lebanon, urging anti-government protesters in both countries to seek changes in a “lawful way”.
Late Wednesday night, rockets were fired into Baghdad’s Green Zone, killing one member of Iraq’s security forces. The Green Zone houses Iraq’s government buildings and foreign embassies, including the United States embassy which was within 100 meters of the blast. Wednesday’s attack followed six consecutive days of anti-government protests that have shaken Baghdad and several key cities across the country. Iraqi security forces have reportedly fired tear gas and live ammunition at protestors trying to penetrate the heavily fortified Green Zone. According to Iraq’s semi-formal human rights commission, approximately 100 people have been killed and more than 5,000 injured since Friday, when protests resumed after a three week lull. Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is likely to resign in the coming days amid mounting pressure, and call for an early election.
Intense military clashes have erupted between Syrian and Turkish forces when Turkish-backed forces seized villages surrounding the border town Ras Al-Ain. The clashes have spurred thousands more civilians to flee the area. On Thursday, American forces patrolled part of Syria’s border with Turkey, a first such move since Washington withdrew troops from the area earlier this month. Additionally, at least eight people were killed early on Thursday when a car bomb exploded in a busy market in the northwest Syrian city of Afrin, currently under the control of Turkey-backed rebel groups, witnesses said. The blast also wounded at least 30 people. The violence follows separate deals struck between Ankara, Washington and Moscow, which determined that Kurdish forces would be pushed back at least 30 km south of the Syrian-Turkish border.
Zimbabwe’s central bank has announced that a new currency will be released in upcoming weeks as a response to liquidity shortages. The highest amount on the new currency will be five Zimbabwean dollars, in response to hyperinflation in the country. The inflation rate was reported at 350% in September, before the Finance Minister forbid the statistical department from publishing inflation numbers. There has been speculation as to whether the new currency will aid Zimbabwe or if the nation will be unable to maintain the value of the currency moving forward.
This Friday, the Trump administration banned all flights from the US to Cuban cities, with the exception of Havana. The ban was brought forth in an effort to reverse the normalization of relations made by the Obama administration. The reasoning behind the ban is to prevent American tourism, which was already banned by law in the US. The Deputy Assistant Director for Cuba and Venezuela shared her that her office “wants to make sure that Cuban-Americans do have a route to their families” and assures that Havana is equipped to take all incoming traffic. However, this ban is likely to affect Cuban-Americans visiting their families more than tourists. Many Cuban-Americans have families far outside Havana, while most tourists, whether American or not, chose to travel to Havana.
The Ortega regime has announced that the Ministry of Finance will serve as the sole arm of government purchasing. This consolidation of purchasing power under Ortega exemplifies the continued efforts by the President to gain more control over Nicaragua. In response to his actions, a university group has organized a “March of Mockery” that intends to criticize Ortega through satire. The police have denied permission for the march to take place, leading many to worry that violence will break out should the demonstration happen. Last year’s violent response by police to peaceful protest left 328 civilians dead.
This Thursday, Russia successfully tested an intercontinental missile in the White Sea. The missile was fired from the Prince Vladimir submarine and reportedly traveled thousands of kilometers starting in the White Sea and reaching the north-western Arkhangelsk region. This test-firing acts as a powerful reminder that the Russian nuclear defense system is modernized and of large scale. The firing of this missile was just “one of many weapons tests expected to take place in the coming weeks.” Russia has also announced its plan to build 10 more submarines similar to that of the Prince Vladimir submarine by 2027.
President Trump announced earlier this week that the leader of ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed by American forces. Trump described Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as “a sick and depraved man” and shared how he “died like a coward”. Observers believe this raid to be largely political, in an effort to obvert unwanted attention gained by Trump’s withdrawal in Northeastern Syria. Trump received bipartisan criticism for his decision to withdraw. He has been accused of abandoning Kurdish allies, allowing Russia to strengthen its influence in the Middle East and enabling ISIS prisoners with a means to escape. Regardless of political moves, Trump has flaunted this “termination” revealing he insisted on capturing al-Baghdadi and the military complied: “I want al-Baghdadi, get him, and they got him.”