Planet Watch
Daouda Diallo

Frontline fighters (and martyrs) for free speech

In Burma, the mutilated body of independent journalist Myat Thu Tan was found at the military base where he had been detained, after the camp was overrun by rebels of the pro-democratic resistance. In Kazakhstan, detained activist Aqylbek Muratbai is fighting extradition to Uzbekistan, where he had been speaking out against bloody repression faced by his Karakalpak ethnic minority. And in Burkina Faso, human rights defender Daouda Dialloremains missing months after he was “disappeared,” presumably at the hands of the ruling military junta. Yet neither the mainstream media nor “progressives” in the West pay heed to these cases—while the reactionary and Kremlin-coopted Julian Assange is a cause cĂ©lèbre. In Episode 214 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg asks: Why is that? Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: CISC via OHCR)

Southeast Asia
Burma

Burma: investigate killing of journalist Myat Thu Tan

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists called for the Burmese military government to investigate the killing of journalist Myat Thu Tan and prosecute the perpetrators. The journalist’s remains were found buried in a bomb shelter at a military camp in Rakhine state. The body, bearing signs of torture, was discovered along with six other political detainees after the camp was overrun by the insurgent Arakan Army. Since September 2022, authorities had held Myat Thu Tan in pre-trial detention. At the time of his death, he had not been tried or convicted of any offense. He was accused of disseminating “defamatory material” on social media, in violation of the Burmese Penal Code. According to Human Rights Watch, the offense is used “to target those speaking critically of the military” following the coup of February 2021. (Map: PCL)

Southeast Asia
Burma

Burma junta extends state of emergency again

Burma’s ruling military junta announced that it has extended the country’s state of emergency period for another six months. The junta last extended the state of emergency by six months in July 2023 and postponed an election it had promised to hold that August. The state of emergency was first declared after the February 2021 coup, and has been continuously extended since then. While Article 425 of the Constitution stipulates that a state of emergency may only be extended twice at maximum, the junta stated that the extension was necessary as Burma is in an unusual situation. The junta blamed opposition organizations for keeping the country from conducting multi-party democratic elections. (Map: PCL)

Southeast Asia
Burma

Burma: key border city falls to rebels

Burma’s ruling junta acknowledged that it withdrew its forces from a key city on the border with China after it was seized by an alliance of ethnic rebel armies. The fall of Laukkai is the most significant defeat the junta has suffered since the self-declared Three Brotherhood Alliance launched its offensive in northeastern Shan state in October. Days earlier, at least 150 junta soldiers fled across the border into India’s Mizoram state, driven from their outposts in Burma’s northwestern Chin state by the rebel Arakan Army. The soldiers turned themselves over to a detachment of India’s paramilitary Assam Rifles, and had to be flown back to Burmese territory. (Map: PCL)

Watching the Shadows
computer smash

Podcast: for a meme moratorium

Meta has tweaked the Facebook algorithm to sideline links to news articles and boost “memes“—precisely the format most subject to the fabrications and distortions being aggressively peddled by both sides (yes) in the Gaza conflict. Such propaganda has already been implicated in genocide in Burma and Ethiopia. But even apart from such egregious abuses, memes are dumbing down discourse and entrenching groupthink and dogmatism—and are being pushed by Meta as part of its sinister corporate design to enclose the internet. In Episode 207 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg calls for a total moratorium on posting or sharing memes as a means of pressure on Meta to re-emphasize actual news articles, and deep-six the war propaganda. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image: Earth First! Newswire)

Southeast Asia
Shan State

Podcast: the Burmese struggle in the Great Game

The US uses its veto on the UN Security Council to protect its client state Israel amid the criminal bombardment of Gaza, while Russia and China pose as protectors of the Palestinians. In Burma, the situation is precisely reversed: Russia and China protect the brutal junta on the Security Council, while the US and UK pose as protectors of the pro-democratic resistance. Yet another example of how a global divide-and-rule racket is the essence of the state system. Bill Weinberg dissects the mutual imperial hypocrisy in Episode 206 of the CounterVortex podcast. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo: Burmese resistance fighters pose with armored vehicle seized from a captured junta outpost. Via Myanmar Now)

Southeast Asia
Burma

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)

Southeast Asia
Burma

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
Mon-Lai-Hket

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)

Southeast Asia
Burmese Days

Podcast: Orwell and the crisis in Burma

In Episode 191 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg revisits George Orwell’s first novel, Burmese Days (1935), to see if it offers any insight into the current crisis in Burma. The novel is actually problematic in its portrayal of the Burmese, but Orwell’s anti-colonialist views are better articulated in his little-known 1929 essay “How a Nation is Exploited: The British Empire in Burma.” Ironically, the factors he identified as necessitating “despotic” rule by the British in Burma still mandate dictatorial methods by the regime today—such as the imperative to pacify “frontier areas” where indigenous peoples wage pro-autonomy insurgencies. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via eBay)

Southeast Asia
Burma

Burma junta postpones promised August election

Burma state media announced that the ruling junta has postponed an election that it previously promised to hold in August. Instead, junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing extended the country’s state of emergency for another six months. Gen. Hlaing stated that the election could not occur due to continued fighting in certain regions of Burma, including Sagaing, Bago and Magway. In addition, the junta statement said that it would need to put in place additional security arrangements to ensure the elections are “free and fair.” (Map: PCL)

Planet Watch
refugee camp

Number forcibly displaced worldwide 110 million: UN

The United Nations released the Global Trend Report 2022, on refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced and stateless people worldwide. It finds that the number of forcibly displaced people stands at 108.4 million, with 29.4 million falling under the protection of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Both figures are at an historic high. The increase in forcible displacement within a single year is also the largest since UNHCR started tracking these statistics in 1975. In light of the continuing significant increase, the report says forcible displacement likely exceeds 110 million as of May 2023. (Photo: Afghan refugee camp in Shinkiari, Pakistan, via Pixabay)