Southeast Asia

Burma sentences Arakan leader to 20 years

A Burmese court sentenced prominent Rakhine ethnic leader Aye Maung to 20 years in prison for treason and defamation stemming from a January 2018 speech made one day before deadly riots broke out in Mrauk-U township. Maung, a member of parliament and former chairman of the Arakan National Party, was arrested along with writer Wai Hin Aung days after giving "inflammatory" speeches. Maung is said to have accused the ethnic Bamar-dominated ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government of treating the ethnic Rakhine people (also known as the Arakan) like "slaves." Seven people were killed the evening after the speeches, when Rakhine protestors seized a government building and police opened fire. Maung’s lawyers are unsure if he will appeal at this time, as a new trial in the case could result in a death sentence. (Photo via Myanmar Times)

Southeast Asia

Autonomy vote at issue in Sulu cathedral bombing?

Twin explosions left at least 20 dead and some 80 wounded at the cathedral in Jolo, capital of Sulu province in the restive southern Philippine island of Mindanao. The first blast went off inside the Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as Sunday mass was about to start. This was followed seconds later by another blast in the cathedral's parking area. The attack came just days after the Bangsamoro Organic Law was approved by voters in the region, creating a new Muslim-led autonomous government. The new Bangsamoro autonomous region replaces the weaker Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Of the five provinces in the autonomous region, the only one to reject the BOL was Sulu. (Photo via PhilStar)

Southeast Asia

Arakan Army escalates insurgency in Rakhine state

Over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have been driven from Burma's northern Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh by the Burmese army's brutal "clearance operations," ostensibly launched in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in August 2017. But over the past weeks, the state has seen a new outbreak of attacks—this time by the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine insurgent group opposed to the central government's Burman-centric rule. Ambushes by Arakan Army fighters have targeted both the Burmese army, or Tatmadaw, and the Border Guard Police. Fighting in several townships has left some 2,500 displaced. Last month, the Tatmadaw announced a four-month ceasefire in Burma's north to facilitate peace talks with multiple armed groups fighting for local autonomy, but that announcement excluded Rakhine state. (Photo via Asia Times)

Southeast Asia

Protest forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees

Authorities in Bangladesh and Burma must immediately halt plans to send Rohingya refugees back to Burma's Rakhine State, Amnesty International said. A first wave of organized returns could begin imminently, following announcement of a bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and Burma last month—which Amnesty says falls short of international obligations. "This is a reckless move which puts lives at risk," said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty's director for East and Southeast Asia. "These women, men and children would be sent back into the Myanmar [Burma] military's grasp with no protection guarantees, to live alongside those who torched their homes and whose bullets they fled." (Photo: UNHCR)

Southeast Asia

Philippines: who killed the ‘Sagay 9’?

The massacre of nine farmworkers, including two minors, at Hacienda Nene, outside Sagay City in the central Philippines, constituted the single most deadly attack against peasant activists under the Rodrigo Duterte administration. A fact-finding mission led by human rights and civil society groups has pointed to members of the Special Civilian Auxiliary Army, a private militia associated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, as the most likely perpetrators of the "Sagay 9" massacre. But the Philippine National Police have charged two members of the farmworkers' union for inciting the violence by launching a land occupation at the hacienda. Duterte issued a new warning that his troops will shoot to kill if landless peasants begin any new occupations. (Photo via Philippine Inquirer)

Southeast Asia

Farmworker massacre in Philippine land occupation

Nine sugar-cane workers were killed as a group of some 40 gunmen fired on their encampment on lands they were occupying in Negros Occidental province of the central Philippines. Among the fatalities were three women and two minors. The slain were members of the National Federation of Sugar Workers who were occupying part of the sprawling Hacienda Nene near Barangay Bulanon village, outside Sagay City. The occupation was legally permitted under an agrarian reform program established in the 1980s that allows landless rural workers to cultivate fallow lands on large plantations while title transfer is pending. The massacre was reported by survivors who managed to scatter and hide. Some of the bodies were burned by the attackers. "They were strafed by unknown perpetrators while already resting in their respective tents," said Cristina Palabay, head of the rights group Karapatan. Calling the attack "brutal and brazen," she said: "We call on the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an independent and thorough investigation on the massacre. We are one with the kin of the victims in the Sagay massacre in their call for justice." (Photo: PhilStar)

Southeast Asia

UN experts renew call for Burma genocide charges

UN investigators renewed their call for charges against Burma military officials suspected of carrying out a genocide against the nation's minority Rohingya population over the past year. The UN Office of Human Rights published an exhaustive list of atrocities and called "for the investigation and prosecution of Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and his top military leaders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes." Since last August, 700,000 Rohinga refugees have fled into neighboring Bangladesh, and many have spoken of the Burmese military's attacks on their villages, describing actions that are considered crimes against humanity under international law. This August, a UN fact-fidning mission for the first time referred to the conflict as a genocide. (Photo: UNHCR)

Southeast Asia

Duterte charged with ‘crimes against humanity’

Several Philippine families filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court accusing President Rodrigo Duterte of "crimes against humanity" carried out in the context of his "war on drugs." This is the second complaint against Duterte filed with the ICC; the first was filed in April 2017. The ICC began preliminary examination in the case in February. Duterte announced the Philippines' withdrawal from the ICC this March. Under the Rome Statute, a member can withdraw no sooner than one year following written notification to the UN Secretary-General. However, Duterte claimed that the agreement was immediately voidable because it was signed fraudulently. (Photo: Anakpawis)

Southeast Asia

UN report: try Burma leaders for genocide

The UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar issued a report urging the investigation and prosecution of Burma's top military generals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Mission "found patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States that undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law," adding that there is likely sufficient evidence to establish "genocidal intent." (Photo: European Commission via Flickr)

Southeast Asia

Demand ICC investigation of Burma over Rohingya

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (Burma) Yanghee Lee  called for the Human Rights Council to support an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into crimes against the Rohingya people. "I strongly recommend the persons allegedly responsible for the violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law be investigated and prosecuted by the ICC or a credible mechanism," said Lee. She  expressed disappointment that the Security Council has not yet referred Burma to the ICC, stating said that none of the investigations by the Burmese government have met international standards, and were likely initiated to distract the international community. (Photo: European Commission via Flickr)

Southeast Asia

Indonesia approves draconian anti-terrorism bill

The Indonesian Parliament unanimously approved a new anti-terrorism law that will allow the military to directly participate in operations against militant groups. The legislation comes following a slew of suicide bombings in Surabaya by individuals supposedly tied to the Islamic State. President Joko Widodo stated that involvement of the Indonesian National Army in counter-terrorism is necessary in addressing the crisis faced by the nation. A related measure also gives police the power to detain suspects for 21 days without charge. (Photo: Indonesian Navy Special Forces Kopaska)

Southeast Asia

Indigenous environmental activist killed in Burma

Indigenous and environmental activist Saw O Moo is reported killed in Burma's conflicted Karen State. According to the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), Saw O Moo was killed in an ambush by Burmese army soldiers while returning home from a community meeting to help organize humanitarian aid for villagers displaced by renewed hostilities between the military and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). Saw O Moo was one of the most active local community leaders pushing for the creation of the Salween Peace Park, a proposed 5,400-square-kilometer protected area to be overseen by indigenous peoples. “We will never forget his dedication in the ongoing struggle to build peace and protect ancestral lands,” KESAN said in a statement. (Photo: Burma Link)