Southeast Asia
Mother Nature Cambodia

Cambodia: ecologists charged with insulting king

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court in Cambodia charged four environmental activists with conspiracy and insulting the king, a prosecutor confirmed after three activists were arrested for documenting raw sewage discharge into the Tonlé Sap River. Three of the charged conservationists were sent to pre-trial detention, while the fourth, Mother Nature Cambodia co-founder Alex Gonzalez-Davidson, was charged in absentia. The four face a sentence of up to 10 years for the conspiracy charge. The charge for insulting the king carries an additional one to five years. (Photo of Alejandro Gonzalez-Davidson via Phnom Penh Post)

Southeast Asia
mandalay

Burma: urban warfare erupts in Mandalay

Gunfire erupted in the streets of Mandalay, Burma’s second largest city, as regime troops raided a building where a cell of the incipient armed resistance movement was sheltering. The raid sparked hours of running street battles. Resistance fighters erected barricades of flaming tires to slow the advance of troops. Both the military, known as the Tatmadaw, and the rebel People’s Defense Force (PDF) claimed casualties on the opposing side and denied deaths among their own forces. “We’ve declared war,” the Mandalay PDF said in a statement. “The day we’ve been waiting for is finally here.” (Photo: Myanmar Now)

Southeast Asia
Khet Thi

Burma: poet killed under military interrogation

Ko Zaw Tun, a poet who wrote under the pen-name Khet Thi, was tortured to death in military custody, according to family members after his bruised and mutilated body was returned to them. Khet Thi was arrested at his home in Shwebo, Sagaing region, along with his wife who was later released. He was an outspoken opponent of the February coup d’état, in which the military removed the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi. A line from one of his poems has been taken up as a slogan by the pro-democracy movement: “They shot us in the head; They don’t know the revolution dwells in our hearts.” (Photo via Myanmar Now)

Southeast Asia
burma

Burma: ousted leaders form parallel government

Ousted Burmese lawmakers and opponents of the military junta hitherto constituting the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH, a reference to the lower house of the suspended parliament) officially announced the formation of a National Unity Government. The president of this parallel civilian authority is U Win Myint, the ousted former president. Similarly, its state counselor is Aung San Suu Kyi, who was serving in that capacity before the February coup d’etat. Both U Win Myint and Suu Kyi are being held in detention by the junta, and the first demand of the NUG is for their freedom. Protests against the junta continue, with the death toll in repression since the coup d’etat now thought to be over 700. In some areas, civilians have started to form armed self-defense patrols. (Photo: Myanmar Now)

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—a 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)