ACLED Regional Overview – Asia (5 February 2019)
Last week, in Asia, there was an overall slight increase in demonstrations and a small uptick in the number of violence against civilians events. In South Asia, Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan militants attacked a police office in Balochistan, leading to a clash that resulted in twelve reported fatalities. In Southeast Asia, battles between the Philippine armed forces and the Abu Sayyaf Group increased while a clash between the West Papua National Liberation Army and the Indonesian military led to the reported death of one Indonesian soldier.
In Afghanistan last week, fighting continued between multiple armed groups and Afghan/NATO forces throughout the country. The heaviest concentration of clashes occurred in the provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Nangarhar, and Balkh.
The latter is not typically amongst the most active provinces in Afghanistan, although there are occasional spikes of activity. Since the start of 2019, both Afghan military and Taliban operations have increased, particularly in the districts of Charbolak and Chimtal along the border with Jowzjan; these are districts where the Taliban contests control (Long War Journal, 2019). There have also been recent reports of Taliban attacks on police forces in Sholgara district. Last week, 20 hostage truck drivers were reportedly freed from a Taliban prison following a clash with Afghan soldiers in the province.
Meanwhile, in the east, there was a slight rise in Islamic State (IS) activity in Kunar province, where the group clashed with the Afghan army, Special Forces, and National Directorate of Security (NDS) personnel. In Nangarhar, Afghan and NATO airstrikes targeted the group’s fighters in the districts of Khogyani, Rodat, Dih Bala, and Achin.
Last week in Pakistan, three Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants, including a suicide bomber, attacked the office of the Deputy Inspector General of Police in Loralai, Balochistan. Twelve fatalities — including three militants, three police officers, and six civilians — were reported following an exchange of fire between militants and security forces deployed at the location. This incident marks the second attack on police establishments by TTP in Loralai since the beginning of 2019; earlier this year on 1 January, militants attacked a Frontier Constabulary training center.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, a Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officer was reportedly shot dead by an unidentified group. The shooting took place in the wake of recent CTD operations against militants across the country, which resulted in the controversial death of four people in Sahiwal city, Punjab. Following demonstrations against the Sahiwal encounter last week, six CTD personnel were sent to jail on judicial remand and an investigation into the incident is ongoing (Dawn, 28 January 2019).
In other developments, the review petition against the acquittal of a Christian woman accused of blasphemy was dismissed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan last week. Following the dismissal, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) organized demonstrations across Punjab and Sindh provinces. Security forces detained hundreds of leaders and members of TLP and other religious parties for delivering incendiary speeches and participating in the demonstrations.
Minimal violent activity was reported along the Line of Control (LoC) in the contested Kashmir region last week. No casualties were reported in two cross-border firing incidents between Indian and Pakistani forces.
In India, a reduction in clashes between state forces and militants in Jammu & Kashmir resulted in two Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant deaths. Additionally, in Kargil and Leh districts, a local Shiite organization launched a series of protests calling for the opening of the Kargil-Skardu road between the Indian and Pakistani-controlled territories.
Similarly, a reduction in clashes between police forces and Maoist rebels resulted in the reported death of one Maoist in Bihar while five Peoples Liberation Front of India (PLFI) militants were reportedly killed in an encounter with police in Jharkhand. Also, in a continuing trend from previous weeks, another three civilians accused of being police informants were reportedly killed by Maoists in Maharashtra.
In the northeastern states, demonstrations continued against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016. The bill, which has been approved by India’s lower house of parliament, would grant residency and citizenship rights to non-Muslim immigrants. Opponents of the bill mainly criticize that legitimizing undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh will threaten indigenous communities (Al Jazeera, 8 January 2019). On 28 January, various tribal organizations staged peaceful protests across Assam against the government’s move to include six Assamese communities in the scheduled tribes list (The Sentinel, 29 January 2019).
In Bangladesh, another two Bangladeshi civilians were reportedly shot dead by Indian Border Security Forces (BSF) in separate incidents along the India-Bangladesh border. A total of seven Bangladeshi civilian fatalities have been reported after similar shootings by BSF over the past month. In Jessore, the residences of Awami League leaders were targeted with crude bombs by unidentified rioters, purportedly as an intimidation tactic against them.
In Nepal, there was an increase in demonstrations across the country last week, largely against the National Medical Education Bill which was passed by parliament during the week prior. The main proponents of the demonstrations were the opposition party Nepali Congress and its affiliated wings, the Nepal Student Union and Nepal Tarun Dal. Demonstrators criticized the government for neglecting to honor the agreement signed with Senior Orthopedic Surgeon, Dr. KC, regarding medical reforms in the country. Activists also expressed dissatisfaction towards the government’s inability to curb corruption and crime.
In Sri Lanka, tea estate workers increased their protest activity throughout the country, demanding an increase in wages.
In the Philippines, after the bombing of a Catholic cathedral in Sulu province on 27 January which reportedly killed 22 people, two civilians were reportedly killed when grenades were thrown at a mosque by unidentified assailants in Zamboanga city. Both attacks come in the lead up to the second phase of the plebiscite on the Bangsamoro Organic Law, which will take place on 6 February. The second phase will be held in Lanao Del Norte and North Cotabato and will determine whether these provinces will join the envisioned new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (GMA News, 28 January 2019).
There have been increased battles in Mindanao in the wake of the cathedral bombing in Sulu province. The Philippine military and Abu Sayyaf Group clashed in Patikul, Sulu province while the Philippine military and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) battled in Maguindanao province. Meanwhile, the reported killing of a barangay chairwoman in Quezon city was marked by police as the first election-related violence in the National Capital Region (Philippine Inquirer, 31 January 2019).
The issue of Papua independence continues to lead to violence in Indonesia. On 28 January, in Papua, the West Papua National Liberation Army fired at a military plane and shot at Indonesian forces who were securing the Mapenduma airport before the arrival of the Nduga regent. One Indonesian soldier was reportedly killed, and another was seriously injured.
Separatist violence continues in the south of Thailand as well. Two bombs targeting the Thai military were planted by suspected separatists in Narathiwat province. A border patrol policeman was also reportedly killed by separatists in Yala province. Meanwhile, in Bangkok, a protest was held against the government’s water projects in the country’s southern provinces.
In Myanmar, clashes between the Myanmar military and Arakan Army (AA) continued in northern Rakhine state. As well, the Myanmar military occupied the headquarters of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K) in the Sagaing region (Eleven Media Group, 5 February 2019). In Loikaw, Kayah state, many activists protested the opening of the Bogyoke Aung San statue by the National League for Democracy (NLD) government. A counter-protest by those in support of the statue was also held. Similar protests were held last year against efforts by the NLD to set up statues of Bogyoke Aung San in ethnic minority states with many arguing that such efforts reflect the dominance of the Burman ethnic majority (The Irrawaddy, 6 July 2018).
Protesters from Preah Vihear province in Cambodia sought a resolution to a land dispute while demonstrating in front of Hun Sen’s residence in Phnom Penh. As well, in Mondul Kiri province, wildlife poachers clashed with a joint park patrol, leading to one park ranger being injured.
In Vietnam, in Kon Tum province, a Vietnam Television (VTV) reporter was attacked and injured by two unidentified assailants. This marked the second attack on a journalist in recent weeks (VietNamNet Bridge, 28 January 2019). In Phu Yen province, video of police kicking a man in a police station went viral.
A group of young men attacked a police post in Johor state in Malaysia after the arrest of their friend.
No political violence or protest events were recorded last week for Laos.