Central Asia

Karakalpak activist detained in Kazakhstan

Police in Almaty, Kazakhstan, detained Aqylbek Muratbai, an activist who has been working to raise international awareness about the bloody crackdown on a mass protest in his native Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of western Uzbekistan, last July. It is feared that Kazakh authorities intend to deport him to Uzbekistan, where he could face a severe prison sentence. (Map: Wikipedia)

Southeast Asia
South Thailand

Thailand: southern insurgency accepts peace plan

Muslim separatists in Thailand’s Deep South agreed in principle  to an “improved” peace plan with the government. The agreement, facilitated by Malaysia, follows years of abortive talks. The Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), the main separatist organization, announced a unilateral ceasefire in 2020 in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. More than 7,000 people have been killed in 20 years of intermittent fighting between government forces and separatists in the country’s three southernmost provinces of Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat, whose populations are overwhelmingly Malay Muslim. (Map: Wikipedia)


Regional lines drawn over Somaliland conflict

Addis Ababa held talks on military cooperation with Somaliland, after announcing a controversial deal on sea access through the self-governing but unrecognized republic. As the talks began, Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud visited Eritrea (Ethiopia’s regional rival) seeking support for his harsh opposition to the deal, decried as a step toward recognition of Somaliland’s independence. President Mohamud also signed a law nullifying the New Year’s Day memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the governments of Ethiopia and Somaliland, which grants the landlocked regional power a corridor to Somaliland’s port of Berbera. The Somaliland government, based in Hargeisa, claims full sovereignty, and does not recognize Mogadishu’s jurisdiction over the territory. (Map: Somalia Country Profile)

South Asia

India in peace deal with (some) Assam rebels

The Indian government and the state government of Assam signed a peace agreement in New Delhi with the rebel United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), aiming to end over 40 years of insurgency. Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma highlighted the importance of moving towards similar peace initiatives with other “separatist” and “insurgent” groups in the state, including Bodo, Karbi, and Adivasi rebels. However, ULFA-Independent, an intransigent faction, was excluded from the negotiations, and remains in arms. (Photo: K. Aksoy via CounterVortex)

Southeast Asia

China seeks ceasefire in Burma border zone

China’s government announced that it has mediated a short-term ceasefire to the conflict between the Burmese junta and rebel armies of ethnic peoples in the northeastern region near the Chinese border. The conflict has been escalating since the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched Operation 1027 in Shan state in late October. The rebel armies have joined as a self-declared Three Brotherhood Alliance seeking control of Burma’s northeast. None of the parties to the conflict have commented on the supposed ceasefire. China, a major backer of the junta, continues to conduct live-fire military exercises on its side of the frontier. (Map: PCL)


Zapatistas reorganize autonomous zone structure

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) indigenous rebel group in southern Mexico has announced the dissolution of its “autonomous municipalities” in the mountains and jungle of Chiapas state. A statement signed by Zapatista leader Subcomandante MoisĂ©s said the decision was taken “after a long and profound critical and self-critical analysis.” The Zapatista Rebel Autonomous Municipalities (MAREZ), overseen by rotating Good Government Juntas, have been maintained since the Zapatistas’ initial uprising in 1994. MoisĂ©s said that future communiques “will describe the reasons and the processes involved in taking this decision,” as well as “what the new structure of Zapatista autonomy will look like.” The communique did, however, mention a new pressure in the growing power of “disorganized crime cartels” in Chiapas, a reference to the narco-gangs seeking to control “the entire border strip with Guatemala.” (Wikimedia Commons via Mexico New Daily)

Southeast Asia

Burma: rebels seize towns on Chinese border

Burma’s rebel Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has taken control of nearly the entire town of Namkham in northern Shan state, besieging the last remaining junta outpost there. The town is located along the Shweli River, a main trade route on the Chinese border. Meanwhile, in Mongko—northeast of Namkham and also located on the border with China—TNLA allies the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the Arakan Army have reportedly captured four junta bases, representing a serious loss of strategic territory for the regime. These rebel armies together make up a force known as the Three Brotherhood Alliance, now emerging as the junta’s most formidable military challenge. (Map: PCL)

Southeast Asia

Burma: deadly junta drone strike on Kachin village

Nearly 30 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were killed in a Burmese junta drone strike on a village near the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) reported. The attack, which killed several children, appeared to target an IDP camp where some 500 were sheltering in the village of Munglai Hkyet. The village lies just outside the town of Laiza, which is the capital of the KIA’s autonomous zone in remote Kachin state. The drone attack came almost exactly a year after regime warplanes carried out a deadly air-strike on a music festival in nearby Hpakant township, celebrating the 1960 founding of the Kachin Independence Organization. The KIA accused the junta of “genocidal act[s] of militarism towards our ethnic people.” (Photo: Myanmar Now)


Mali: junta forces advance on Tuareg rebel zone

Mali’s army is advancing in a large column toward the strongholds of a coalition of Tuareg armed groups in the country’s north, signalling an intensification of the conflict that erupted in August. Fighting has been reported close to the town of Anefis, which is around 110 kilometers from Kidal, the main base of the rebels. The former separatist groups signed a peace agreement with Malian authorities in 2015, but relations soured under the current junta-led government, which views armed-group control over northern territory as undermining state sovereignty. Tensions escalated after the junta demanded the withdrawal of a UN peacekeeping mission, and its forces started taking over Blue Helmet bases in northern areas claimed as autonomous territory by the Tuareg coalition. The military convoy is now reportedly seeking to take over former peacekeeper camps in Kidal, Aguelhok, and Tessalit, risking further fighting. (Map of Azawad, the claimed Tuareg homeland, via Twitter)


Iraq-Turkey oil pipeline to resume operation

The pipeline exporting crude oil from Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq to the Turkish port of Ceyhan is ready to resume operation, seven months after it was ordered closed by an international court ruling. The Paris-based International Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of Baghdad against Ankara, finding that the latter breached a 1973 agreement by allowing the Kurdistan Regional Government to begin independent oil exports in 2014. The judgement confirmed that Iraqi national oil company SOMO is the only entity authorized to manage export operations through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline. The KRG has now acceded to these terms, agreeing to market through SOMO. (Photo via Iraqi News Agency)


Turkish strikes on Iraq after Ankara blast

Turkey launched a wave of air-strikes on Kurdish rebel positions in northern Iraq, hours after a suicide blast at the Interior Ministry complex in Ankara. The Turkish military said 20 targets were destroyed and several fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) “neutralized.” The People Defense Forces (HPG), armed wing of the PKK, released a statement saying a “sacrificial action” against the Ministry was carried out by a unit of their Immortal Brigade. Two assailants, both women, were killed in the attack, and two police officers wounded. The statement said the attack was a “warning” to the Turkish government over its ongoing military operations against Kurdish militants both in Syria and Iraq. (Map: CIA)


Mali: Tuareg rebels call for ‘fall of the junta’

The ruling military junta in Mali announced the indefinite postponement of presidential elections that had been scheduled for February 2024. The announcement comes as one of the Tuareg rebel groups in the country’s north, which have observed a ceasefire since 2015, called for renewed armed struggle to remove the junta from power. Fahad Ag Almahmoud, a leader of the Imghad Tuareg Self-Defense Group (GATIA), said in a statement: “We are in a war that the junta in Bamako wants. We will continue this war until all of Mali that has been taken hostage by the five colonels is liberated.” (Map: PCL)