Southeast Asia Theater
Seven of Burma's hold-out ethnic rebel armies formed a new committee this week to prepare collective talks with the government in anticipation of the next round of peace negotiations. Participating groups in what is now being called the "Northern Alliance" were the Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA), Arakan Army (AA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA), National Democratic Alliance Army-Eastern Shan State (NDAA-ESS), and the United Wa State Army (UWSA). The meeting was held in Pangkham, administrative capital of the UWSA-controlled territory. After eight other northern ethnic armies have signed peace deals in recent years, these groups remain officialy at war with the Tatmadaw, the government's armed forces.
A lawmaker in the Philippines filed impeachment proceedings March 16 against President Rodrigo Duterte over killings carried out in the name of his war on drugs. Rep. Gary Alejano accused the president of constitutional violations, betrayal of public trust, bribery and other high crimes. "The most important thing here is the state policy of killing of drug suspects. The killings of fellow Filipinos were done without due process," Alejano said, according to ABS-CBN news service. "More than 8,000 have died. This is disturbing. We should not wait for the deaths to reach 20,000, 30,000, or 50,000 before we stand up and fight."
Human Rights Watch has issued an urgent statement calling on Philippine authorities to drop "politically motivated" charges against one of the country's only lawmakers openly critical of President Rodrigo Duterte's blood-drenched "war on drugs," which has claimed more than 7,000 lives since he took office last June. Sen. Leila de Lima, a former secretary of justice, was arrested Feb. 24 on drug-trafficking charges.
There was recently a sign that the Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte was going to rein in his murderous police in the face of mounting international criticism of their harsh anti-drug crackdown. It took the police killing of a foreign business executive, but Duterte finally pledged that he would disband and reorganize the National Police narco units. But human rights observers may have rejoined too soon. On Jan. 31—just one day after his announcement of the police overhaul—Duterte made a speech to army generals, telling them that while the police were off the drug war beat the armed forces would have to step in to replace them. Rather than taking a step back from the brink, it looks like the Philippines could be following the grim examples of Mexico and Colombia of turning the drug war into a real war, run by the military.
The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte may have finally gone too far. It is all too telling that after his anti-drug crackdown has claimed perhaps 7,000 lives since he took power last June, it is the death of a prominent foreign businessman that has finally prompted him to—perhaps—rein in his murderous police. All those suspected low-level drug users and dealers who were killed? Their lives don't matter, apparently. But after rogue National Police officers abducted and put to death a South Korean shipping company executive, Duterte has finally pledged to disband the controversial anti-drug units.
In his latest outrage, the Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte now threatened to actually impose martial law across the country if the drug problem becomes "very virulent." Reuters on Jan. 16 quoted him as saying: "If I wanted to, and it will deteriorate into something really very virulent, I will declare martial law. No one can stop me." In a comment apparently directed at the Supreme Court and Congress, he voiced open defiance of legal norms: "My country transcends everything else, even the limitations."
The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte has openly threatened to kill human rights activists and journalists who report on his draconian anti-drug crackdown. Now it looks like he may be starting to follow through. Press freedom groups in the Philippines are protesting what they say is the first murder of a journalist in the country since Duterte took office in June. On Dec. 19, Larry Que, publisher and chief correspondent for Catadunanes News Now, a local newspaper in Luzon region (apparently with no website), was shot in the head as he was entering his office, in Virac township. The assailants escaped. Que died from his injuries the next morning.
The Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte—facing international outrage for his bloody anti-drug crackdown—boasted to a group of business leaders he hosted at the presidential palace in Manila Dec. 12 that he "personally" killed drug suspects when he was mayor of Davao City. Bizarrely, this boast came as he argued that the thousands of victims of his drug war have been killed in legitimate police operations. The quote (apparently cleaned up from his choppy verbatim) is reported in the Philippines Inquirer: "I know because...I used to do it personally. Just to show to the [police officers] that if I can do it, why can't you? ...I go around in Davao [on] a big bike and I would just patrol the streets and looking for trouble. [Sic] I was really looking for an encounter to kill."