CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy.
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Within the last week, three separate cases against Myanmar were been filed on counts of human rights abuses and genocide. The Gambia filed a genocide case with the International Court of Justice (IJC) against Myanmar on November 11th, urging the United Nations court to immediately issue orders to to stop atrocities and genocide against the Rohingya people. On November 14th, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched its own investigation into Rohingya prosecution, while a separate lawsuit was filed in an Argentine court against Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader. Though the three cases complement each other, they are distinct in the crimes they charge Myanmar with, the identity of the accused and the remedies the courts can order, which creates significant and differing advantages. The UN has stated that The Hague will hold public hearings in the case next month.
Aung San Suu Kyi, former Burmese leader and icon of democracy, will lead a delegation to the Hague next month and defend Myanmar against allegations of genocide. Prior to her election as State Counsellor in 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi spent decades under house arrest in Myanmar for campaigning for democracy. Though she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her efforts in spreading democracy, she has repeatedly refused to condemn the actions of the military against the Rohingya, claiming there is not enough evidence to definitively say whether or not a genocide occurred in Rakhine, and blaming “terrorists” for the situation.
The first political prisoners in Cambodia were freed this week following Prime Minister Hun Sen’s promise to release over 70 individuals. The prisoners were jailed in response to their alleged support of the Cambodian opposition party formerly led by Sam Rainsy. The release of political prisoners is a step forward for Hun Sen’s administration, which has been heavily criticized for human rights infringements and the consolidation of power.
A 69 year old woman from Britain died in the Maldives this week while swimming. The unnamed tourist is the sixth person to have died in the Maldives this year as a result of strengthening currents around the island.
Former leader of the Future Forward Party (FFP), Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, has been stripped of his role as an MP following allegations that he had not sold shares in his company before taking office. Thanathorn has claimed that the charges were politically motivated and maintains that he sold shares before his time as an MP; Thanathorn and the Future Forward Party have criticized the monarchy and the military, leading many of the Thai political elite to see him as an enemy. Though the charges come as a blow to the FFP, Thanathorn was not jailed or banned from politics, as many thought he would be.
A strong earthquake hit the border between Laos and Thailand, registering as a 6.1 on the richter scale. Despite the level of the earthquake, no casualties or major damages have been reported in Laos; though there were no serious repercussions, the earthquake comes as a reminder of the need for earthquake-resistant structures as Laos builds up its infrastructure.
Families of the 39 victims found in a refrigerated lorry in Essex last month will be responsible for covering the costs of repatriation for the victims. On Tuesday, Vietnamese officials in the Ha Tinh province, where 10 of the victims lived, received instructions from Vietnam’s foreign ministry to inform families that neither the British government nor the Vietnamese government would aid families in the costs of returning the bodies of the victims. The Vietnamese government has offered to pay only the costs of bringing the bodies “home from the airport”. Though both agreed to front the costs initially, the loans of 66,240,000 Vietnam dong (£2,209) will need to be paid for the bodies. Interviews with several of the families revealed that the families were already experiencing crippling debt, with one stating that “the cost [of the loan] is out of our family’s capacity to pay now”. Pham Van Thin, the father of Pham Thi Tra My, stated that he “had to take loans from the bank to pay for her travel, and we still owe the banks”.
This week, four Malaysian men were punished and struck by canes six times each, because they had violated Islamic law by having same-sex intercourse. The men were also fined and sentenced to 7 months in prison. According to Amnesty International, the religious authorities uncovered the event by “monitoring [their] messages”. The authorities then proceeded to raid the apartment and detain the men. Religious authorities have the power to arrest and detain Muslim citizens, because of the dual-track legal system in Malaysia. Malaysian religious authorities often impose Islamic Law and punish violations against it.
North Korean senior official Kim Kye Gwan announced that North Korea will no longer participate in nuclear talks with the United States until concessions are made. He stated that North Korea “will not give anything for the US president to brag about.” North Korea wants to be acknowledged for their achievements, instead of President Trump crediting them for himself. This message comes after Trump urged North Korea via Twitter to “act quickly” on restarting talks.
The United States Senate has passed a bill that would attempt to preserve human rights in Hong Kong, and passed a second bill that would ban the sale of riot gear to Hong Kong police forces. The contents of the bill, labeled the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” were widely supported in the House and the Senate and will soon be going to President Donald Trump’s office for his approval. Chinese officials slammed the move by Washington, saying that they “condemn and firmly oppose” it due to perceived infringement by the US.
In Hong Kong, this week has seen the continued fight of activists in university campuses. Many demonstrators have taken control of campuses and blockaded entrances, but riot police have managed to gain access to some of these areas and have arrested over 1,000 people. Inside one campus, 3,900 petrol bombs were found. Demonstrations continue.
This Monday, the UN Security Council received word by the UN Libya envoy that the attack in Wadi Rabea killing 10 people and wounding 35 may be considered a war crime. Many people killed and injured during this attack were migrants from Niger and Bangladesh. The attack was carried out by the Libyan National Army (LNA) under renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar. The UN Libya envoy also shared that this attack may be considered a war crime regardless of whether the factory was the LNA’s intended target. He blames LNA for increased civilian casualties through their use of unguided bombs. The LNA’s drone attacks have also been disproportionate to that of the Tripoli government; LNA has carried out 800 drone attacks, while the latter has carried out 240.
A week of lethal protests has resulted in at least 106 deaths and over 1,000 arrests, according to Amnesty International. The Iranian government has rejected these claims, stating that the human rights group is “biased”, and “fabricated” the death toll. The protests, originally sparked by growing anger and frustration after authorities rolled out a petrol-rationing scheme that sent prices soaring by 50 percent, have resulted in a four-day internet blackout and a violent crackdown from Iranian forces. The Iranian government has said that the price increase was imperative due to crippling American sanctions that have degraded its oil-based economy, and the purpose was to raise about $2.55 billion a year for subsidies to Iran’s poorest families.
Iraqi protestors have been using humor to fight back against the spread of fake news by military officials. In the latest move by demonstrators, many have taken to Twitter under the hashtag #Tweet_Like_Khalaf to make fun of General Abdul Khalaf for consistently making false claims. In the past, Khalaf has denied the use of live ammunition by security forces and has accused protesters of mooning government forces in aims of provoking them. Tweets under the hashtag depict ridiculous, humorous scenarios in order to point out the absurdity of Khalaf’s claims.
At least 22 civilians have been killed in Idlib’s Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP) as Russian-backed Syrian forces continue to shell the last stronghold of the Syrian resistance. A ground-to-ground missile struck the camp in the village of Qah on Wednesday according to Ahmed Yarji, a spokesman for Syrian Civil Defense (also known as the White Helmets). Among the victims were 10 children and three women.
This Tuesday, Israeli forces launched retaliatory missiles at Iranian forces located in Damascus, resulting in two known civilian deaths. The strikes followed the interception of four rockets fired from Syria towards northern Israel on Tuesday morning.
This week, a parliament session was postponed after Lebanese protesters convened around the entrance to parliament and formed a human barricade. The announcement to postpone parliament was widely celebrated amongst protesters who argued the session did not properly address the protesters’ demands. Still, security forces were deployed to block the entry of additional protesters intending to join protesters and bolster the human barricade.
Zimbabwean police forces responded violently to civilians who had gathered to listen to a speech by the primary opposition party. Growing discontent in Zimbabwe comes as a result of the worst economic crisis in a decade and the decline of political freedom. Anti-government protests have been banned by the Mnangagwa regime and nonviolent demonstrations have been met with violence. Conditions in the country have continued to decline at an alarming rate and the economic situation continues to spiral.
This month, Havana celebrates its 500th year since its founding in 1519. In recognition of Havana’s anniversary the Spanish crown visited the capitol, marking the country’s first Spanish royal visit. The celebration comes in the wake of worsening economic conditions caused by increased US sanctions. However, these circumstances did not deter Cubans from celebrating their capital. One Cuban shared, “even if we are feeling low, we know we have to pick ourselves up, so it’s good Havana is celebrating its 500 years and there is a party.”
This week, University of Miami professor Bruce Bagley has been arrested on money laundering charges amounting to $2.5 million in proceeds from bribery in Venezuela. For years, Bagley has been a go-to expert for journalists reporting on drug trafficking, money laundering and corruption in South America. According to federal prosecutors, Bagley kept about 10% of the money for himself as a commission. Though specific details were not released about the bribery scheme, Bagley’s corruption was “in connection with public works projects in Venezuela”.
A hunger strike held by seven mothers in a Catholic Church in Nicaragua came to an end after police surrounded the building and pro-government protestors broke in and threatened the demonstrators. The mothers were holding the strike to protest the imprisonment of their children, whom they consider to be political prisoners. The support of anti-government demonstration by the Catholic Church underlines the influence of the church as the last major institution independent from the Ortega regime.
Tensions in Nicaragua have risen since the ousting of Bolivian leader Evo Morales; Ortega has expressed that what happened in Bolivia would not happen in Nicaragua and has begun to crack down on protests of any kind.
Clashes between security forces, Morales supporters and anti-Morales protestors have dominated Bolivia in the past week, following the resignation of longtime president Evo Morales. The death toll has now risen to 32, with casualties primarily on the side of pro-Morales demonstrators. New elections have been proposed by interim leader Jeanine Áñez, though a date has not been set. Bolivian officials have stated that Morales would not be allowed to run in the election, and the interim government has voiced a desire to move on from the former leader’s 14 year rule. Morales, who has been granted asylum in Mexico, accused security forces of using unnecessary violence against protestors, a large number of whom are indigenous people.
The presidents of Russia and Ukraine will meet for the first time in over three years in Paris on December 9th of this year. They will meet to discuss peaceful resolutions to the Eastern Ukraine conflict. Also attending will be the leaders of France and Germany. Elysee Palace has commented on the upcoming conference and shared that “the summit will be held following major progress since the summer in negotiations for a settlement in the East Ukraine conflict, progress which in particular allowed for the removal of troops from several areas of the frontline.”
President Trump has been further implicated in an attempt to persuade Ukrainian officials to investigate his political opponents for the 2020 election. This Wednesday, key witnesses testified before Congress such as Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and David Hale, undersecretary of state for political affairs, testified before the House Intelligence Committee. Their appearance followed testimony from U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who implicated President Donald Trump directly in a “quid pro quo” trade with Ukrainian officials. Referencing a White House meeting, Sondland explicitly stated that “everyone was in the loop” about what was going on with the Ukraine foreign policy, including the President and his top officials. Sonland’s testimony along with the testimony from Cooper and Hale have been labeled as “explosive” and “damning”, drastically altering the course of impeachment hearings.
This Monday, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the U.S. no longer considers Israeli Settlements in the occupied West Bank to be in violation of international law. The decision marks a stunning reversal of decades of U.S. policy, and a direct contradiction to international consensus. Pompeo’s announcement arrived as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rival Benny Gantz attempted to gather a majority of the Israeli Knesset. Gantz ultimately failed to form a coalition on Wednesday evening, which will likely result in Israel’s third election of 2019.
This week, Israeli authorities rejected a request from Human Rights Watch regional representative Omar Shakir to remain in the country. Shakir is set to be expelled from Israel on November 25th, in accordance with a Supreme Court ruling that implicated him in “promoting boycott strategy”. The expulsion of boycott supporters, Shakir’s request said, “is an earthquake for everything that relates to the ability of human rights organizations and advocates to do their work in Israel and the occupied territories in connection to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.”
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.