Southeast Asia
Kachin Independence Army cadets in Laiza (Paul Vrieze VOA)

Burma: resistance unveils federal constitution

The leadership of Burma’s democratic resistance¬†issued a statement declaring the country’s 2008 constitution void and putting forward an interim replacement charter‚ÄĒa major political challenge to the ruling military junta. From hiding, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH, a reference to the lower house of Burma’s suspended parliament) released the text of the interim Federal Democracy Charter to social media. Significantly, it adopts a federal rather than centralized model of government, which has long been a demand of the ethnic rebel armies that control much of the country’s north and east. Recent days have seen renewed fighting between the military and rebel armies in Kayin and Kachin states. Repression of pro-democracy protesters in Burma’s cities has now claimed at least 530 lives. (Photo of Kachin Independence Army fighters via WikiMedia Commons)

Southeast Asia
karen

Burma: thousands displaced as junta bombs villages

More than 3,000 villagers from Burma’s Karen state have fled their homes following a series of air-strikes by the military on territory controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU). Many fled to the Ei Tu Hta camp, which already holds some 2,400 internally displaced persons. Other fled across the Salween River, which separates Burma and Thailand. The air-strikes, centered on Kho Kay village,¬†came after KNU fighters overran the military’s Thee Mu Hta base, capturing at least eight soldiers. (Photo:¬†Myanmar Now)

Southeast Asia
Bloody Sunday

Duterte under fire after ‘Bloody Sunday’ massacre

In the wake of the “Bloody Sunday” killings of nine activists in the Philippines, advocates are demanding passage of the Philippine Human Rights Act (PHRA) in the US Congress, which would suspend aid to the Manila government until the rights crisis in the archipelago nation is addressed. In a supposed operation against the New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas, national police backed up by the army killed nine members of New Patriotic Alliance (BAYAN) civil organization in Calabarzon region of Luzon island. Among the slain was Emmanuel “Manny” Asuncion, secretary general of BAYAN in Cavite province, and an important mass organizer in Calabarzon. The killings came two days after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered government forces to “kill” and “finish off” all communist rebels in the country. (Photo via Twitter)

Southeast Asia
R2P

Burma: protesters demand ‘R2P’ as massacres mount

The death toll since the Feb. 1 coup in Burma has now exceeded¬†100¬†as security forces continue to fire on pro-democracy protesters. Most recent repression has been in Yangon’s outlying townships, where protesters have barricaded off streets in an attempt to secure territory. Martial law was declared in six of these townships, giving the military broad authority over those areas. Protesters have started using the hashtags #WeNeedR2P and #WeNeedR2PForMyanmar. In images seen from the air, protesters have arranged placards or lights from their mobile phones to spell out “WE NEED R2P.” This is a reference to the “responsibility to protect” doctrine developed in the 1990s following the disastrous failures to prevent genocide in Bosnia and Rwanda. (Photo: Myanmar Now)

Southeast Asia
burma coup

Military re-seizes power in Burma

Burma’s military announced that it has taken control of the country and imposed a state of emergency. The country’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was detained in an early morning raid along with President U Win Myint and other figures associated with the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD). Although the internet was cut off by the military, Suu Kyi managed to get out a statement to social media calling on Burma’s people to “protest against the coup.” The military, officially known as the Tatmadaw, said the state of emergency will last for a year, during which time armed forces chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will rule. The Tatmadaw is justifying the move by asserting that there was voter fraud in the November parliamentary elections, in which the military-linked Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) suffered a crushing defeat to the NLD. No official election observers had made any claims of fraud. (Photo: The Irrawaddy)

Southeast Asia
Malaysia

Malaysia: elections suspended amid lockdown

Authorities in Malaysia have declared a state of emergency that suspends Parliament and puts on hold any new general elections at least through August. The order is ostensibly a measure to contain COVID-19, coming as Kuala Lumpur and other cities are being placed under near-total lockdown. But critics are portraying it as a ploy by embattled Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to remain in power despite a corruption scandal engulfing his ruling party, the right-wing¬†United Malays National Organization (UMNO). The accusations prompted Muhyiddin to go on national television after the declaration to insist the move is “not a military coup.” But the left-opposition Pakatan Harapan alliance issued a statement assailing Muhyiddin over the order: “Do not hide behind COVID-19 and burden the people with a declaration of emergency for the sake of saving yourself.” (Photo via CodeBlue)

South Asia
rohingya camp

Bangladesh rings Rohingya camps with barbed wire

Authorities in Bangladesh are surrounding the Rohingya refugee camps with barbed-wire fencing and watchtowers, turning them into what refugees and rights groups liken to a “prison.” Southeast Asia-based NGO Fortify Rights says construction on some 28 kilometers of fencing is nearly complete around¬†the camps, which are home to some 900,000 Rohingya pushed out of Burma. Humanitarian workers fear the fencing could hamper aid delivery and block access to medical clinics. Bangladeshi officials say the fencing is a response to growing concerns about crime and gang violence; humanitarian groups say any security measures must be proportionate. “The civilian and humanitarian character of the camps must be maintained,” the UN Refugee Agency¬†warned. (Photo: Dhaka Tribune)

Southeast Asia
indonesia strike

Mass strike against neolib reform rocks Indonesia

Riot police used tear-gas and water cannons in Indonesia’s capital to disperse large protests against a sweeping new law that rolls back protections for workers and the environment. Hundreds were arrested in Jakarta, and rallies took place in cities across the archipelago nation. The National Police have issued a notice to regional departments with directives on how to control the protests. The “Job Creation”¬†Omnibus Law was passed despite calls for a general strike by the trade unions. It revises more than 70 laws and regulations in an effort to cut “red tape” and improve the investment climate. Most controversially, it abolishes the national minimum wage, reduces severance pay, and relaxes the criteria for environmental impact statements on development projects. (Image: Global May Day)

Southeast Asia
Bangkok protest

Thailand authorities arrest pro-democracy activists

Thai authorities¬†arrested six activists involved in ths month’s pro-democracy demonstrations in Bangkok. Anti-government rallies by students have been occurring on a daily basis for over a month, demanding constitutional reform, curbing the power of the king, and an end to the intimidation of dissidents. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the protests have gone “too far”¬†and urged demonstrators “not to create chaos.” Speaking against the monarchy carries a 15-year prison term in Thailand. Demonstrators have been asserting that democracy is “impossible” without limiting the monarchy’s constitutional role. (Photo of student protest at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument¬†via Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
landgrab

Destruction of nature linked to new pandemics

Leaders from the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, the World Health Organization and the World Wide Fund for Nature joined to issue a stark warning that pandemics such as COVID-19 are a direct result of the destruction of nature caused by human activity. In an op-ed published by The Guardian, top figures from each organization state that the destruction of forests and other habitats, coupled with trafficking in wildlife, is causing a growing number of animal diseases to migrate to human hosts. In a call to action ahead of the UN Biodiversity Summit, the three representatives cite prior examples of environmental destruction that triggered new virus outbreaks in humans. (Photo: Schadomski/DW, used with permission)

Southeast Asia
#JunkTerrorBilllNow

Philippines: protests against ‘anti-terror’ bill

Hundreds of protesters marched in Manila against “anti-terrorism” legislation that critics fear will give Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte sweeping powers to crush dissent. The bill, approved by Congress and expected to be signed by Duterte, would create a council of presidential appointees empowered to order warrantless arrests of those deemed to be “terrorists.” It also allows for weeks of detention without charge. The Philippine Department of Justice is to issue a formal review of the bill, and opponents are demanding that it recommend a veto. In a letter addressed to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, human rights group Karapatan said the Anti-Terrorism Bill “will inevitably and ultimately infringe on the people’s exercise of basic rights and fundamental freedoms.” (Photo:¬†Bulatlat)

Southeast Asia
Java repression

Land conflicts escalate in Indonesia

Agribusiness and resource companies embroiled in land disputes with rural communities in Indonesia appear to be using the lull in oversight during the COVID-19 outbreak to strengthen their claims to contested areas. Since the first confirmed cases of the disease were reported in the country last month, two local land defenders have been killed and four arrested in connection with disputes in Sumatra, Java and Borneo. (Photo: Mongabay)