- The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace released a new report discussing the threat of the terrorist group Lashkare-Taiba (LeT) in South Asia. The report suggests that the group is the second most dangerous terrorist group in the region, after al-Qaeda.
- The United States named an Iranian General as a key figure in drug trafficking from Afghanistan on Wednesday. On Thursday, eleven people were wounded in a roadside bomb in the eastern city of Jalalabad; while American authorities announced they are looking into allegations that some Afghan Air Force officials have been using aircraft to transport narcotics and illegal weapons across the country. On Friday, the main US foreign aid agency in the country announced it is preparing to switch from private security contractors to Afghan government-provided security this month under a new policy mandated by President Karzai. On Saturday, the foreign minister announced he will visit Qatar to meet government officials to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban; five Taliban detainees held in Guantanamo Bay have reportedly agreed to be transferred to Qatar, a move Afghanistan believes will boost a nascent peace process; four civilians were killed and one more wounded by a NATO air strike in the northeastern Kapisa province; Afghan and foreign troops killed two insurgents and detained 27 more during joint operations around the country; while Al Jazeera ran a report documenting the change over one in one district following the Afghan army taking control of the area. On Sunday, an American service member allegedly walked out of a military base in a rural district in the south and opened fire on three nearby houses, killing at least 16 civilians, including several children, undermining stability and triggering angry calls for the immediate departure of American soldiers; the Pentagon’s chief spokesman announced that the basic war strategy in the country will not change despite the “isolated” incident; American President Obama offered condolences to the families killed by the American, calling the attack “tragic and shocking”; while President Karzai said he is nearly ready to sign a general Strategic Partnership Agreement with the US. On Monday, an American official leaked that the American Army member accused of Sunday’s massacre was treated for traumatic brain injury in 2010; while American President Obama said he was “heartbroken” over the massacre, called upon a thorough Pentagon investigation and expressed his determination to get American troops out of the country. On Tuesday, British PM Cameron arrived in Washington ahead of talks with American President Obama to discuss the transition of security in Afghanistan; gunmen attacked a senior Afghan government delegation investigating Sunday’s massacre, killing at least one soldier; hundreds of students took to the streets of Jalalabad in anger over Sunday’s killings; while a senior Afghan banking official said that wealthy Afghans are carrying an estimated $8 billion—almost double the state budget—in cash out of the country each year. On Wednesday, two bomb explosions in Helmand Province killed at least nine people; three Polish soldiers facing war crimes charges over the killings of civilians in Afghanistan were acquitted in Poland’s highest court, but will face a retrial in connection with the case; Afghan soldiers arriving at a meeting with the US Defense Secretary were told to disarm before arriving; and the US soldier accused with Sunday’s massacre was allegedly taken out of the country on legal recommendation.
- Lawmakers in Uzbekistan have reportedly declared war on toys that harbour foreign values, as they proposed a bill to protect the “moral health” of children and teenagers by limiting the import of foreign-made toys.
- Amnesty International accused Sri Lanka of illegally holding hundreds of detainees who are vulnerable to torture and execution and urged the UN to investigate allegations of serious abuses during and after the country’s 26-year civil war. On Monday, the Defense Ministry reportedly ordered news outlets to get prior approval before sending mobile phone alerts about the military or police, a move press freedom groups decried as another step towards greater censorship.
- Tens of thousands gathered in the capital of Bangladesh to demand the government step down and hold elections, in the biggest opposition demonstration since the Bangladesh Nationalist Party suffered a landslide defeat in 2008 polls.
- A village in western India reportedly hosted a mass wedding and engagement ceremony of 21 girls on Sunday aimed at breaking a tradition of prostitution in the region.
- A former chief of the spy agency in Pakistan was forced to admit to spending millions of military dollars to influence an election during a court hearing on Thursday; one child was killed and a woman and a child injured when a mortar shell hit a house in the Bara area of Aka Khel in the northwest Khyber region; the interior minister announced that three of Bin Laden’s widows had been charged by authorities with illegally entering and living in the country; while militants allegedly attacked a Pakistan Army post in the Sarwakai area of the South Waziristan region, killing one soldier. On Friday, the PM named a new head of the ISI spy agency to take over for the outgoing spy chief who was due to retire March 18th; the Pakistani Taliban warned it will attack government, police and military officials involved if three of the late Bin Laden’s widows are not released from custody; a US drone fired missiles at a house in the Saraogha area of South Waziristan, killing at least 13 people; a militant shot dead the head of a local pro-government militia in the Kalaya area of the northwestern Orakzai region; the army announced it is in the process of handing over the Swat Valley to civilian leaders three years after 30,000 troops were sent to fight the Taliban; while security officials said that at least seven soldiers and eight suspected Islamist militants were reportedly killed in a clash in the North Waziristan region. On Saturday, six members of a pro-government militia were reportedly killed when they were ambushed by militants in Dera Bugti; a clash between Pakistan army troops and militants in the Bara area of Khyber killed two soldiers and three militants; a mortar shell landed on a house in Aka Khel of Khyber region killing three people and wounding two others; and Pakistani fighter jets bombed four militant hideouts in the Khadezai and Mamozai areas killing 21 militants and wounding 23. On Sunday, 15 people died after a suicide bomber attacked a funeral attended by an anti-Taliban politician on the outskirts of Peshawar; while a homemade bomb exploded in the North Waziristan region, killing two people. On Monday, two people were killed and another 17 others wounded when a homemade bomb exploded next to a bus on the outskirts of the northwestern town of Sadda. On Tuesday, two missile strikes by suspected US drone aircraft reportedly killed at least 15 suspected militants close to the Afghan border; while militants allegedly threw a grenade and then opened fire at a meeting of tribal elders and local officials in a town in the North Waziristan regions, killing at least 3 people. On Wednesday, at least four people were reportedly killed and two others injured in a roadside bomb explosion near the Afghan border; while the government announced that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has “no more interest” in funding a project to build a natural-gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan.
- The authorities in Azerbaijan reportedly arrested 22 Azeri citizens on Wednesday suspected of spying for Iran and plotting to attack western embassies and companies; while an investigative journalist says she was allegedly blackmailed by authorities to stop her investigations into corruption and the financial dealings of the President and his family, and will not let the video released on the Internet purporting to show her engaging in sexual activities stop her.
- The Parliament of China unveiled legislation on Thursday solidifying police powers to hold dissidents in secret, prompting outcry from rights campaigners. A young Tibetan man died and two others were reportedly injured in a shooting at a police station in western China on Friday, after complaining about the arrest of another man for taking part in a mass protest; while a prominent Tibetan writer under virtual house arrest in Beijing plead for an end to self-immolations in protest against Chinese rule, saying such measures do nothing for the cause of Tibetan rights. On Saturday, reports suggested that police in western China had shot dead a Tibetan man and wounded two others amid protests against Chinese rule the previous Tuesday; another teenage Tibetan monk set himself on fire on the 53rd anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule; while three men started a hunger strike outside the UN headquarters in New York, calling for action over Tibet. On Sunday police announced they rescued more than 24,000 abducted women and children across the country in 2011 as nearly 3,200 human trafficking gangs were broken up. On Monday, it was reported that a controversial reality-TV show “Interviews Before Execution”, that interviewed death row criminals right before their death, was cancelled after 6 years on the air. On Tuesday, the outgoing Premier called for reducing growth to 7.5%, reportedly signaling that the days of GDP worship need to end; while authorities are reportedly set to pass a landmark legislation granting more rights to detainees and other political reforms, but human rights organizations and relatives of some of those already being held are concerned that it will have little effect on the activities of so-called secret “black jails”.
- Facebook and several independent new websites remained blocked in Tajikistan on Friday, and an official suggested the cut-off may be linked to potential national security concerns.
- Four soldiers were killed and one critically wounded when insurgents reportedly detonated a roadside bomb in the south of Thailand on Wednesday. On Thursday, a rubber farmer was shot dead and his wife seriously wounded when two unknown gunmen opened fire on them while they were working at their farm. On Friday, two soldiers were killed and 12 wounded in a series of insurgent attacks on military bases and checkpoints across the southern region, the latest outbreak of separatist unrest.
- The government of Myanmar/Burma announced that peace negotiations had reopened with Kachin rebels on Thursday in a bid to settle a stubborn conflict that could impact tentative Western efforts to lift sanctions on the country. On Sunday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that government censors are not allowing her party to criticize the previous military-run governments when it promotes its policies on state-run radio and television before next month’s elections. On Tuesday, a court sentenced a top leader of the ethnic Karen rebel group to life imprisonment for high treason, a move that could complicate a government-led peace process aimed at settling decades-old separatist conflicts.
- Some 1,500 people took to the streets to protest in the southern Kyrgyzstan city of Osh on Wednesday to dispute local election results and demanding more seats for their political party on the city council.
- Two NATO soldiers were reportedly shot dead in southern Afghanistan by two Afghans, including a man believed to be a soldier on Thursday. On Friday, the country’s top religious council demanded that those responsible for the burning of Qur’ans at the NATO base be put on public trial; negotiations between the US and Afghanistan on a potential long-term military presence has stalled over Karzai’s demands for Afghan control of prisons and an end to night-time raids on Afghan homes, two points the US say are impractical and compromise the effort; and the US government slapped sanctions on an Afghan national it says helped manufacture IEDs for the Taliban. On Saturday, a roadside bomb killed four civilians in a car in eastern Nangarhar province; while Afghan police reportedly killed six insurgents, with two insurgents killed while trying to plant a roadside bomb. On Sunday, a Western official reportedly released that the joint investigation by senior Afghan and US military officials determined that there was no intent to desecrate the Qur’an in the February 20th incident, but that it could lead to a disciplinary review of the American personnel involved, a move that Afghans apparently will never accept. On Monday, Afghanistan’s top clerics issued new guidelines in a statement that asserted that women are subordinate to men, should not mix in work or education and must always have a male guardian when they travel, and also called upon insurgents to join peace talks; a suicide bomber killed at least two civilians at a US military base where copies of the Qur’an was burned last month; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed four alleged insurgents, wounding one and detained four more across the country; while two separate suicide attacks killed at least six people. On Tuesday, President Karzai endorsed the clerics’ guidelines that activists criticize as a giant step backwards for women’s rights. On Wednesday, the human rights director for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan urged the government to implement laws to eliminate violence against women on the eve of International Women’s Day; four alleged insurgents were killed by NATO air strikes in Kunar and a 12 year old killed by the insurgent’s gunfire; a roadside mine killed two civilians in Kunar; a homemade mine killed two insurgents and their two children in Kabul; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed four insurgents, wounded one and detained 8 more around the country; while six British soldiers were reported killed by an explosion that hit their armored vehicle in Helmand Province. On Wednesday, four civilians were reportedly killed and some 10 others injured in an explosion near the Pakistani border.
- Security forces fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a protest rally in the northeastern city of Quba in Azerbaijan on Thursday, wounding four people; while authorities dismissed Iranian protests over its reported deal to buy arms worth $1.5 billion from Israel. On Friday, the Governor of the district of Quba was reportedly fired over the rioting.
- Authorities in Uzbekistan allegedly installed security cameras in about 30 mosques in the eastern city of Namangan to prevent “theft”, inflaming locals who insist it’s another move to curb Islamic practice in the country.
- The United States unveiled their new food aid program to North Korea in return for new nuclear moratorium agreement on Thursday, a move that China, South Korea and Japan welcomed and Reuters said helps to establish the credibility of Kim Jong-un. On Sunday, North Korea threatened “sacred war” against the South in a huge rally that reportedly attracted tens of thousands in the capital. On Monday, the UN nuclear watchdog announced it is preparing for a possible return to the country three years after it was expelled, a move welcomed by the United States.
- A Saudi diplomat was reportedly shot dead in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on Tuesday. The circumstances are still unclear.
- The ruling Congress party in India suffered a major election setback in crucial state polls, winning clearly in just one of five states contested on Tuesday.
- Supporters of the former President of the Maldives clashed with police and stopped the new leader from opening Parliament on Thursday, three weeks after he says he was forced to resign in a coup. Police announced 14 officers were rounded in the clashes, and that at least 34 people were arrested.
- Thousands took to the streets in an opposition protest on Thursday in the southern city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan ahead of local elections in the city. On Sunday, polls closed and vote counting began in Osh to select members for the 45-seat city council, in an election that reportedly drew some 75.2% of voters. On Monday, the leading local NGOs recognized the municipal elections, citing that they were confident that reported electoral violations did not affect the general outcome of the election.
- Six mortar shells landed in North Waziristan in Pakistan on Thursday, wounding six people, four of them children; and fighter jets bombed five militant hideouts, killing some 18 militants and wounding 26. On Friday, at least 10 soldiers and 23 anti-state fighters were reportedly killed after militants attacked a security checkpoint in the northwest; a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest at a camp of the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group in the northwest, killing seven militants and wounding five; Pakistani fighter jets bombed two militant hideouts in the Orakzai region, killing 15 militants and wounding 12 others; gunmen opened fire at a car in Peshawar, killing an intelligence official; three militants were killed and two soldiers wounded when militants attacked a paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Baluchistan province; while lawmakers voted for 45 new members of the Senate. On Saturday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest next to a police vehicle in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa province, killing one policeman and wounding four others. On Sunday, a suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest next to a police vehicle in the northwest, wounding one policeman. On Monday, the military announced that it had successfully tested a short-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads; three militants from the TTP were killed in fresh clashes with another militant group Lashkar-e-Islam in the Tirah Valley; a soldier was killed by a homemade bomb during a clearing operation in Bara; a group of militants reportedly ambushed a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the Uch area of Baluchistan province, killing three militants; unknown gunmen shot and killed a former local politician in the Charsadda district; while the number two commander in the Pakistani Taliban was reportedly fired. On Tuesday, a homemade bomb exploded and another defused on the outskirts of Dera-Ismail Khan, wounding two children; one Pakistani soldier was killed and two others wounded in a homemade bomb explosion in Bazai; and seven alleged militants were killed and nine others injured in a gun battle after they ambushed a convoy of Frontier Corps troops in the Uch area of Baluchistan.
- Forty-seven people charged with terrorism are expected to face trial in Kazakhstan in relation to two explosions last October. On Tuesday, police said they arrested three activists of the unregistered opposition Algha party in Almaty in connection with violence last December. On Wednesday, the wives of two jailed leaders of the opposition Republican Social Democratic Azat Party led a protest outside the National Security Committee’s detention centre in Almaty to condemn a government crackdown on activists and also claiming they have not been allowed to see their husbands or send them clothes or food since they were detained more than a week ago.
- China’s top official in Tibet urged authorities to tighten their grip on the Internet and mobile phones on Thursday, reflecting the government’s fears about unrest ahead of its annual parliamentary session; while the village of Wukan gave up their violent standoff over corrupt land grabs to vote for a new village committee. On Sunday, a Tibetan woman set herself on fire in the south-west the latest to protest against Chinese rule; residents in the southern village of Wukan elected a reformist leader to run a new administrative authority that many hail as a model for greater democracy following an uncompromising standoff over land grabs and abuses of power; while China apparently announced it is boosting its defence spending by 11.2% in 2012. Another Tibetan youth burned himself to death in the southwest on Monday, the third self-immolation in three days. On Wednesday, the government dismissed those self-immolating Tibetans as “criminals”.
- Authorities in Tajikistan reportedly blocked access to Facebook and two Russian-language sites that published an article critical of the long-serving President on Saturday.
- President Sein of Burma/Myanmar urged government troops and Kachin rebels on Thursday to end hostilities and take part in talks, but ruled out independence for any ethnic minority groups.
- The Guardian ran an article on Sunday about a student facing 15 years in prison in Thailand for speaking out against the monarchy.
- The Philippines ratified the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture on Tuesday by a unanimous resolution in the Senate.
- US Secretary of State Clinton announced she had a “constructive discussion” of common concerns with her counterpart in Pakistan on Thursday; new details about American drone strikes were revealed by Reuters; Pakistani jets bombed four alleged militant hideouts in the Mela area, killing at least 15 militants; while at least 15 people were killed and more than 30 injured in a bomb explosion near a bus station in Peshawar. On Friday, four police officers were killed and at least five others injured in a suicide attack on a police station in Peshawar; while seven militants were killed when Pakistani forces shelled their hideout in Bara. On Saturday, a mortar shell landed on a house in the northwestern Khyber tribal region, killing three people and wounding three others; fourteen small homemade bombs planted on railway tracks exploded in the southern Sindh province, disrupting railway traffic; an American drone reportedly crashed in North Waziristan, though the US denied Taliban claims that they had shot it down; while Pakistani forces began to demolish the house where Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces in the city of Abbottabad. On Sunday, a homemade bomb exploded next to a military patrol in the South Waziristan region, killing two soldiers and wounding another; while militants fired RPGs at a military checkpost in the Sarwakai, killing two soldiers. On Monday, at least five people were reportedly killed and 15 others wounded in a bomb explosion at a political rally in the North West. On Tuesday, at least 18 people were reportedly killed after gunmen opened fire on a passenger bus in a northern village; a homemade bomb exploded in the Bara area of the Khyber tribal region, killing two people and wounding another three; while the Stratfor WikiLeaks email release suggests that Pakistani army officials may have known where Osama Bin Laden was hiding.
- Sri Lanka rejected UN involvement in probing allegations of army atrocities in the long war against Tamil rebels that ended in 2009 on Monday, saying UN calls to prosecute soldiers guilty of misconduct were “unwarranted incursions”. On Tuesday, Chatham House released a report on breaking the cycle of continued impunity for war-time abuses in the country.
- The government of India clarified on Tuesday that it accepts a recent ruling by the Supreme Court that would legalize gay sex in the country; while millions of workers reportedly staged a 24-hour strike to demand improved rights for employees and to protest over rising prices.
- China is reportedly softening on its strict family planning laws, as older threatening slogans are being replaced by more upbeat ones. On Tuesday, at least 12 people reportedly died in riots in Yecheng County, with police allegedly killing two of the attackers. The cause of the riots was unknown at the time of reporting. On Wednesday, twenty people were reportedly killed when a group of men wielding axes and knives attacked a market in the western Xinjiang Uyghyr Autonomous Region.
- The Atlantic ran a report on the worsening violence in Tibet, as at least 22 people have self-immolated in protest at the Chinese government’s rule.
- A group of villagers in the south of Myanmar/Burma are speaking out against a massive industrial estate that is reportedly being built on their land, in a way that would have been unthinkable for years, for fear of consequences; while the Guardian reported that the censors are in retreat and that a new era of a (partly) free press and (some) freedom of expression is now permissible. On Friday, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said that developing the country will be impossible without peace in the restive Kachin regions.
- A court in Kazakhstan reportedly sentenced two opposition leaders to 15 day prison terms on Saturday for organizing a rally for democratic change. Around 300 protesters were vastly outnumbered by riot police, who detained a handful of speakers and later blocked a group that attempted to march to a police station where six activists were being held.
- The Commonwealth suspended the Maldives from its democracy and human rights watchdog on Wednesday, calling upon elections to be held before the end of the year.
- A court in northern Tajikistan gave jail sentences to seven people for being members of the banned Islamist Tablig-i-Jamaat organization on Thursday. On Wednesday, the ambassador to Russia announced his country expects Russia to start to pay rent for bases it uses on Tajik territory.
- The UN Security Council extended the mandate for the UN peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste on Thursday to the end of 2012 so that it can continue to help promote peace, stability and development.
- Protests continued over the burning of copies of the Qur’an at a NATO base in Afghanistan, with demonstrators setting fire to part of a housing compound used by foreign contract workers on Wednesday; the US Embassy in Kabul announced it was on lockdown and all travel suspended; while Pakistan announced it will give its full support to any clear effort by the Afghan government to achieve a political settlement with the Taliban, but does not want to lead a peace process that would impose a solution. The Attorney General alleged on Thursday that a female Senator has links with a criminal group involved in kidnapping in the country; Amnesty International released a new report about displaced people living within the country; at least 2 US soldiers and 2 Afghans were killed in separate incidents after the Taliban urged Afghans to target foreign troops in retaliation over reports that copies of the Qur’an were burnt at a NATO airbase; an Afghan soldier reportedly shot dead two American soldiers; US President Obama sent a letter of apology to the President, stating that the incident was not intentional; while protests continued reportedly killing some 5 Afghan protesters. On Friday, Pakistani PM Gilani publicly called on the Taliban and other militant groups in Afghanistan to join peace talks with the Afghan government; while protests over the burning of the Qur’an at the US-led base in the country were held in several regions, resulting in the death of at some 23 people. Protests continued on Saturday, resulting in at least six deaths; a remote controlled mine killed six Afghan army members and wounded some 12 others; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed some 12 alleged insurgents and detained six more in several provinces across the country; while two American officers were reportedly shot dead at close range in the Afghani Interior Ministry allegedly by an Afghan police intelligence officer, and another seven US military trainers were wounded in protests, resulting in NATO pulling all of its advisors out of ministries across Kabul and the US Defense Secretary calling on the Afghan government to protect NATO forces. On Sunday, President Karzai renewed his calls for calm, after protests continued for a fifth day; the Canadian department of foreign affairs suspended all meetings with Afghan ministries; while France announced it is making preparations to withdraw non-military personnel from the country and condemned the fatal shooting of the two Americans. On Monday, the American Obama administration announced it has no plans to accelerate their withdrawal from the country in the wake of violent attacks against their countrymen; the UN announced it is temporarily relocating its international staff from its office in the northern Kunduz province which was attacked over the weekend; nine people were reportedly killed in a car-bomb explosion at the airport in Jalalabad, with the Taliban claiming responsibility; the Taliban claimed to have infiltrated an international military base in the east and poisoned food supplies; Afghan security forces and foreign troops reportedly killed six insurgents and detained three more near the Pakistani border; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed another five insurgents and detained some 22 in eight separate operations; while the Atlantic reported that the recent anti-American protests and violence suggest that Afghans see Americans more as occupiers than liberators. On Tuesday, an explosion at a residential compound in the southern Helmand Province killed four women and three children. On Wednesday, the top American military transport commander said that overland cargo routes through Pakistan must be reopened to NATO for the US to complete its pullout from Afghanistan by the end of 2014; Afghan police killed four alleged insurgents during operations in Helmand and Kandahar provinces; while at least 20 people were injured in two explosions, one targeting a NATO supply convoy and the second targeting a bank in the northeast. The Atlantic ran an article on how Afghanistan hasn’t changed since the invasion of Western forces eleven years ago.
- Israeli defense officials confirmed a deal to sell drones, antiaircraft and missile defense systems for some $1.6 billion to Azerbaijan. The deal has reportedly been in the works for some time and is not in response to Iran’s nuclear development program.
- The former President of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo plead not guilty to charges of electoral fraud on Thursday. The charges include rigging the results of 2007 congressional polls to favour her candidates.
- The Atlantic ran an article about the how Thailand is looking increasingly fragile and prone to conflict again, as the military and civilian governments clash.
- The United States and North Korea reportedly met for their first talks on the North’s nuclear program since the death of Kim Jong-Il. On Friday, the American co-ordinator for policy on North Korea said that there was some progress, but that he had a “better understanding” of the North’s position on its controversial nuclear programme after the talks. On Saturday, North Korea threatened to wage a “sacred war”, launching a powerful retaliatory strike against the South if provoked, a day before the start of annual South Korean-US military drills. On Monday, South Korea and the US began their military exercises, despite the threats from the North of possible retaliation. On Tuesday, South Korean activists gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Seoul to protest against the country’s policy of repatriating North Korean defectors. On Wednesday, North Korea reportedly agreed to suspend uranium enrichment, implement a moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests and allow IAEA inspectors in to verify and monitor in exchange for American food-aid shipments.
- Three state-owned television channels in Uzbekistan removed Turkish soap operas because the material was deemed “inappropriate” by authorities. The soap operas are widely popular across Central Asia and the Middle East. On Tuesday, the British Defense Secretary arrived in Tashkent to reportedly discuss facilitating the withdrawal of British forces from Afghanistan via other Central Asian states.
- The media-freedom representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called upon the government of Kyrgyzstan to immediately lift its block on the fergananews.com news website to ensure Internet freedom in the country. The sites were blocked in mid-2011 by the Kyrgyz parliament over their coverage of the June 2010 violence in the south of the country. On Monday, the Russian defense minister says that Russia will fully pay overdue rental fees for a military facility in the Kyrgyzstan by the end of February; and the PM announced he decided to fire all customs officials, border guards and police at the country’s two international airports in a bid to tackle corruption. On Tuesday, the Atlantic ran a report about a previously unheard-of group allegedly declaring jihad against the Manas Transit Center in the country. Security measures are reportedly being increased in the southern city of Osh ahead of a planned demonstration on March 1st and weekend local elections.
- President Karzai of Afghanistan confronted the Pakistani leadership on Thursday during a visit to Islamabad, accusing Pakistani officials of harbouring the Taliban; he also was quoted as saying there were secret contacts between the US, Afghan governments and the Taliban, and that the militant group was interested in ending the war; while the Pakistani President publicly pledged efforts to seek reconciliation with the Taliban with hopes of ending the Afghan war. On Saturday, the two days of high level talks ended in acrimony with Afghanistan saying it was “preposterous” to think that Pakistan could deliver the Taliban chief Mullah Omar to the negotiating table. On Sunday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that education in the country would be taking a big step backward, as new textbooks would cut out much of the country’s post-1973 history since none of the major groups can agree on a basic set of facts. On Monday, a prominent female lawmaker repeated her intention to run for the presidency when Karzai’s term runs out in two years time; while a car bomb in Kandahar killed one policeman and wounded four other people. On Tuesday, US and NATO forces rushed to apologize for discarding and possibly burning copies of the Qur’an, as thousands of angry Afghans protested outside the Bagram military airbase; Chatham House released a new report on how the withdrawal of international forces will affect the country; Afghan officials reported that Taliban militants beheaded four Afghan civilians who they believed had been spying for the government; President Karzai reportedly invited the Taliban leadership to direct talks with his government, while urging Pakistan to help with negotiations; a man wearing an Afghan police uniform killed an ISAF service member in southern Afghanistan; a roadside bomb killed four civilians including a child in southern Kandahar; Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed two insurgents, wounded three and detained one more in Kabul and Logar provinces; and Pakistan announced it will not support an American-driven initiative to start Afghan peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar until it is clear that they have backing from Kabul. On Wednesday, Georgia’s Defense Ministry announced that three of their soldiers were killed in Helmand province while serving alongside NATO forces; while President Karzai appealed for calm as demonstrators protesting over the burning of copies of the Qur’an clashed with security forces, resulting in at least seven deaths.
- The military in Pakistan rejected criticism by Human Rights Watch concerning the murder of a Pakistani journalist that suggested the Inter-Services Intelligence agency was beyond the reach of the criminal justice system, as “derogatory, biased and contradictory”; while intelligence officials said two suspected US drone missile attacks killed more than 10 people in the North Waziristan region near the Afghan border. On Thursday, a suspected US drone aircraft reportedly fired two missiles at a car in the North Waziristan region, killing ten people; a homemade bomb planted in a vehicle exploded in the city of Quetta; a militant threw a hand grenade at police officials in Peshawar, injuring three people; one soldier and eight militants were killed in clashes between Pakistani forces and a group of militants in Wana; a suicide bomber killed two people and wounded five others in the Upper Dir district; and a suspected US drone aircraft killed six and wounded two others as it fired two missiles at a house in Miranshah. On Friday, the Atlantic ran an article that suggested that the Americans should “suck it up” and apologize to Pakistan for the “friendly fire” incident that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last fall; a homemade bomb exploded, killing three Pakistani soldiers in Tirah; three militiamen were killed when Pakistani forces and a pro-government militia attacked a militant base in Bara; a clash between two militias left five militants and three members of a government-sponsored militia dead; while a suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed up to 32 people and injuring at least 60 in a market in a town close to the Afghan border. On Saturday, the death toll from Friday’s suicide bombing rose to 39; and militants ambushed a Pakistani paramilitary convoy in the southwestern Baluchistan province, killing two soldiers and wounding nine others. On Sunday, a homemade bomb exploded in the northwestern Khyber region, killing seven pro-government militia members and critically wounding five others; while militants reportedly attacked a military checkpoint, killing a soldier and wounding three others in Wana. On Tuesday, the Interior Minister announced that the government in Islamabad intends to ask Interpol to arrest the former President and military chief Pervez Musharraf in connection with the assassination of former PM Bhutto; a homemade bomb exploded outside a hospital in Peshawar with no reported casualties; a homemade bomb exploded next to a police vehicle in the Bagzai area with no casualties; and policeman was killed when militants attacked a police checkpoint in Panjgur.
- The International Crisis Group released a new report on Timor-Leste’s upcoming elections, and the possibility of a more peaceful future.
- The President of Kyrgyzstan announced on Friday that he plans to demand overdue fees for Russian military assets on Kyrgyz soil during upcoming talks in Moscow. On Monday, the President announced at a meeting with visiting US State Department officials that “no foreign troops” should remain at the Manas airport after 2014, which the US pays to use as a transit centre for operations in Afghanistan. On Wednesday, a state-controlled Internet provider blocked access to a leading independent news website.
- Activists suspected of playing a role in December’s violence in Zhanaozen, Kazakhstan are reportedly still being rounded up by authorities and detained. On Tuesday, five men were reportedly sentenced on terrorism charges for creating an illegal armed group and of organizing and conducting a bombing in the northwest, to jail terms varying from 5 to 13 years; while the former VP of the Kazakh national nuclear company was arrested in Canada for violating immigration laws.
- Human Rights Watch criticized the authorities of Azerbaijan for the alleged forcible eviction of hundreds of residents to demolish the last standing building in the neighbourhood of Baku where the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest is to be held. On Saturday, security forces allegedly arrested and jailed an Iranian journalist within the country without any specific charge. Authorities announced on Tuesday that they had busted an alleged terrorist group working for Iran’s secret services.
- The government of Myanmar/Burma announced it expects to reach a ceasefire deals with all of the ethnic minority rebel armies within three months time before starting a process of political dialogue towards “everlasting peace”. The Bangkok Post ran an article that suggested that the recent ceasefire deals are driven by a desire of the army and politicians to capitalize on the booming narcotics business and not a real desire for change. On Thursday, the World Bank said it was in the process of returning to the country after 25 years, but the nation must first clear its arrears to global financial institutions before the bank resumes lending. On Friday, the EU announced it was lifting travel restrictions and sanctions against the country, in the first step towards rewarding the government for democratic reforms. On Sunday, a dissident monk who helped lead the 2007 anti-government uprising is facing fresh legal action for “squatting” illegally in a government-sealed monastery and breaking into two others. On Monday, the Guardian reported that a monk jailed for his role in the 2007 protests and then released in an amnesty in January now faces action by the authorities because he has “repeatedly broken Buddhist monks’ code of conduct and the law” by rejoining the religious order without requesting authorization and joining a monastery that has been sealed off by the government. On Wednesday, Karen rebels, who have been fighting for autonomy in the country for the last six decades, outlined their demands for peace with the government, including a complete withdrawal of government troops from posts near villages along the Thai border.
- Recent re-elected President Berdymukhammedov in Turkmenistan vowed to lay the foundations for a multiparty system and a free media on Thursday, after being elected with some 97 percent of the vote.
- Radio Free Europe reported that articles in the Uzbek language on Wikipedia have not been accessible in Uzbekistan for weeks, though no official statements have been released by authorities about the blockage. On Wednesday, it was reported that prominent cleric Imam Obidkhon Qori Nazarov survived an attempt on his life in a Swedish city where he was granted political asylum in 2006.
- The government of China reportedly detained several hundred Tibetans who were returning from teaching sessions by the Dalai Lama in India and is forcing them to undergo political re-education. On Wednesday, Chinese police reportedly detained a Tibetan writer in a western area. On Thursday, the exiled Tibetan PM said that the plight of Tibetans has deteriorated since a wave of deadly protests in 2008, stressing that Tibetans live in a “lockdown”. On Saturday, another Tibetan Buddhist monk reportedly set himself on fire in western China. On Sunday, the 21st Tibetan monk this year set himself on fire after shouting slogans in favour of Tibetan independence and the exiled Dalai Lama.
- The new President of the Maldives agreed to hold early elections on Thursday to break the political impasse brought on by the allegations that the former President was forced to resign in a coup. On Friday, thousands of supporters of the former President rallied peacefully in the capital as Commonwealth ministers arrived to investigate the circumstances of his exit from power.
- Two fishermen in India were reportedly shot dead in a confrontation with an Italian oil tanker off the southern Indian coast on Wednesday, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries. Indian police detained the entire Italian crew.
- North Korea threatened to launch “merciless” strikes against South Korea over its planned regular live-fire drills near their disputed sea border on Sunday. On Monday, South Korea conducted live-fire military drills from five islands near its disputed sea boundary with the North, despite their threat of retaliation; while North Korea’s state media announced that the ruling Worker’ Party will hold a key conference in April where it will likely make official the succession of power to Kim Jung-un.
- The family of two young brothers in Indonesia have blamed police brutality for the death of their two boys, aged 13 and 17, who died in police custody. A new poll on Monday suggested that the ruling Democrat Party has lost major support, to the point that it could be pushed out in the next election. On Wednesday, security forces reportedly stormed a prison on Bali following a riot by inmates, injuring several people.
- Officials in China clamed separatist plots to attack police and public buildings for clashes that recently led to Tibetan deaths on Wednesday; while residents of a small southern village held a symbolic election that allegedly had a turnout over 80 percent in protest against land grabs and corruption. Officials reportedly cut off mobile and internet connections on Friday to areas where Tibetans were shot dead in unrest last month; while Wang Lijun, a gang-busting police chief who is set to be immortalised on film, was abruptly transferred to more general duties, causing massive online speculation. On Saturday, American Senator John McCain warned China that “the Arab Spring is coming to China”, highlighting the recent spate of Tibetan self-immolations, though authorities dismissed it as “no more than fantasy” and condemned foreign interference in their internal affairs. On Sunday, three Tibetans in the south-west reportedly set themselves on fire in protest against Chinese rule, the latest in a series of self-immolations over the past year. On Wednesday, the Atlantic ran an article about the massive land grab epidemic in the country and how it is causing more Wukan-style protests; while another ethnic Tibetan reportedly immolated himself protesting against Chinese rule.
- The civilian death toll for the war in Afghanistan reached a record high last year of 3,021, and a further 4,507 civilians wounded, according to the UN; while the Atlantic ran an interesting article discussing why American President Obama is right to withdraw from the country early. The United States Institute of Peace released a report on Traditional Dispute Resolution and Afghanistan’s Women; while the UN released an opinion survey showing that 8 in 10 Afghans do not think the Afghan National Police are ready to take charge of law and order, with 68 percent allegedly saying foreign troops should stay for now. An editorial in the Guardian suggested the public is repeatedly being told lies when they are told that the Taliban is being pushed back in the country when the truth is that they show no sign of being bombed to the peace table. On Wednesday, the US announced they plan to wind down their war in the country a year or more earlier than scheduled, ending their combat role in 2012; a NATO report suggested that the Taliban, backed by Pakistan, vows to retake Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw, a suggestion Pakistan vehemently denies; the Afghan Taliban said they would not agree to American demands for a ceasefire as a condition for peace talks; joint Afghan and coalition forces reportedly killed three armed insurgents during operations; and a person wearing an Afghan National Army uniform killed an ISAF service member in Kabul. On Friday, NATO defense ministers discussed plans to balance security needs with budgets cuts that could potentially reduce the envisaged national army and police force by two-thirds. On Saturday, the White House announced it had received a letter last year purported to come directly from Taliban leader Mullah Omar asking the US to deliver militant prisoners. On Sunday, a car bomb exploded at a police headquarters in Kandahar, killing at least seven people; an American soldier reportedly shot and killed an Afghan guard at a base in the north he allegedly thought was about to attack him. On Monday, NATO forces announced that one of their helicopters crashed in eastern Afghanistan, with no casualties; and Afghan and foreign forces killed six alleged insurgents and detained 19 in Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Daikundi and Khost provinces. On Tuesday, an employee of a private security firm reportedly killed three of his colleagues and two Afghan police officers and injured another five security guards in Kandahar. On Wednesday, a top American commander said that only one percent of Afghan police and soldiers were capable of operating independently raising further doubts about whether their forces will be able to take over security after the West withdraws.
- Leaders of an unregistered opposition party in Kazakhstan were summoned to face the National Security Committee on Tuesday for unknown reasons, just a month after another one of their leaders was detained pending trial on charges of fomenting social hatred in Zhanaozen. On Thursday, police reportedly interrogated the deputy editor of an opposition newspaper and raided its offices in Almaty over her support for an arrested journalist.
- The President of the Maldives resigned on Tuesday, after nearly three weeks of opposition-led protests ended in police mutiny. Protests were led by supporters of the former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. On Wednesday however, President Nasheed claims that his so-called “resignation” was forced at gunpoint, causing rioting, attacks on police stations and sparking a potentially fierce power-struggle coup.
- Pakistan rejected a leaked NATO report that claimed Pakistani security forces were helping the Taliban and suggesting the group believes it is poised to regain power on Wednesday; while Pakistani fighter jets reportedly bombed militant hideouts near the Afghan border, killing dozens. On Thursday, the top court summoned PM Gilani to appear later this month over his refusal to pursue corruption cases against the President, announcing it intends to indict him on contempt charges; while the Foreign Minister said her country is ready to push the Taliban and other insurgent groups to enter negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan. On Friday, government officials alleged that militants opened fire on a security checkpoint, killing at least seven soldiers and wounding three more before Pakistani forces killed 18 militants in retaliation near the Afghan border; a homemade bomb exploded next to a house killing at least three people in Peshawar; another homemade bomb exploded outside a house in the Khyber region, killing one person and wounding two others; militants attacked a paramilitary checkpoint in Khyber region, killing a soldier, two militants and wounding two soldiers; and militants set off explosives at a girls’ school in the town of Dera Ismail Khan with no reported casualties. On Saturday, the Foreign Ministry announced that PM Gilani would be travelling to Qatar in the upcoming week for talks with leaders there on a peace deal to end the Taliban’s 10 year war in Afghanistan. On Sunday, a military convoy struck a roadside bomb in Islamabad, killing one soldier and wounded another 12. A suspected US drone has fired missiles near the Afghan border, killing 10 alleged Taliban insurgents on Wednesday; police in Peshawar reportedly detained more than 100 in raids on unregistered madrasahs or religious schools, with many local residents protesting their actions; PM Yusuf Raza Gilani appealed his summons by the Supreme Court to face indictment on contempt-of-court charges; unidentified attackers threw a hand grenade at a shop in Quetta wounding four people; gunmen on motorcycles shot and killed a local politician in the town of Chaman; militants set off a homemade bomb next to a police patrol in the village of Chinari, killing two policemen and wounding one; while officials in the military leadership announced they were holding talks with NATO and Afghan commanders to improve coordination along the Afghan border.
- The United Kingdom is set to try and persuade the government of India to rethink its plans to buy Rafale fighter planes from France rather than UK-backed Eurofighter Typhoons on Wednesday. The most populous and politically important state, Uttar Pradesh, voted on Wednesday in the first of seven-phase elections for state assembly constituencies, with around a 62% turnout; while authorities decided to buy 126 fighter jets from France, received the delivery of a nuclear-powered submarine from Russia and prepared for its first aircraft carrier as it modernizes its military to try and keep the pace with China’s.
- For the first time in 15 years, the ethnic Mon community in Myanmar/Burma was permitted by authorities to publicly celebrate their national day, just a week after a peace deal was struck between the Mon State party and the government. On Sunday, the election commission gave opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi approval to run in the upcoming parliamentary by-elections.
- Gunmen seized a Dutch and Swiss tourist and their Filipino guide, holding them hostage in the southern Philippines on Wednesday. On Thursday, military force reported they had killed 15 alleged al-Qaeda linked militants in air strikes, including three leaders of the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf and Jemmaah Islamiyah. On Friday, the military said it was stepping up security as it was expecting revenge attacks for its airstrikes of the previous day.
- Maoist former rebels in Nepal reportedly shed their uniforms on Friday and began to rejoin their families in the first step to their reintegration nearly five years after the official end of the civil war. The rehabilitation of more than 19,000 former rebels is seen as crucial for the stability of the country.
- The United States temporarily waived a ban on providing military assistance to Uzbekistan because of their crucial role in transiting supplies to forces in Afghanistan, despite Human Rights Watch’s recent report calling the human rights situation in the country “appalling”.
- North Korea backed away from an earlier vow to never deal with South Korea on Thursday, but demanded several preconditions for resuming talks, including the cancellation of US-South Korean military drills. Although some called the preconditions “unreasonable” other analysts suggested that they may actually be a good thing, showing that diplomacy may actually be possible under the new leadership. Kim Jong Un is allegedly followed by an inner circle of aging military advisors, as he steps into the role of “supreme commander” less than two months after the death of his father.
- Relatives of inmates on a hunger strike in Kyrgyzstan picketed a pretrial detention centre on Wednesday to demand their relatives’ demands be met. The protesters are calling upon reviews for the inmates’ cases, who they claim have been sentenced for crimes they didn’t commit. On Tuesday, the Kyrgyz Parliament elected a new speaker, Asylbek Jeenbekov, who announced he is against dissolving Parliament and would resist any calls for its dissolution, and supports the law that prohibits any review or amending of the constitution prior to 2020.
- On Tuesday, violent clashes occurred between residents of the town of Sulutepe, Azerbaijan who were protesting the demolition of their homes and a state oil company’s employees and police. The security regime claims the lands were illegally occupied and should be evacuated. On Wednesday, residents of a coastal village clashed with police after border guards tried to prevent local fishermen from casting their nets beyond a two-mile limit and arrested them.
- Last Monday the government of Nepal decided not to renew the mandate of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the only branch of the UN watchdog in South Asia. Rights groups are claiming that the Nepali government’s constitutional promise to constitute a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate grave violations of human rights has failed to materialise and that impunity is widespread.
- Kim Jong Il, leader of North Korea since the mid-nineties, died on the weekend after reportedly suffering a stroke on his private train amid much speculation of a future without the “Dear Leader”. The country appeared to enter what many called an “enforced mourning” period, publicly grieving in the streets at his death. His 27 year old son, Kim Jong Un has been named as his successor with quick Chinese endorsement, though some speculate that the military may not support him. On Monday, the North test-fired a missile off its eastern coast, as South Korea’s government went into “emergency mode” amid fears that Kim’s death could further destabilise relations; the United States announced it remained open to engagement with North Korea if it took steps towards denuclearization; while Kim Jong-un visited his late father’s body to pay respects and the state media began pledging loyalty to the new leader. By Wednesday, many humanitarian groups began voicing their concern that the death of Kim Jong-Il could worsen the dire food situation in the country, after the US postponed a decision on potential aid.
- On Wednesday, police allegedly sealed off the village of Wukan in China, including cutting off all food supplies, in an attempt to quell an uprising of protesters demonstrating over government land seizures and the death of a village leader in police custody last week. The protests continued for the rest of the week. On Friday, the Beijing city government announced that it would tighten control over popular micro-blogs, giving users three-months to register with their real names or face legal consequences; while the government reportedly sent human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, whose whereabouts have been unknown for the last year, back to jail, after allegedly withdrawing his probation. On Sunday, protesting villagers in Wukan demanded that central leaders defuse their grievances and vowed to take the protests into a second week unless those leaders step in. On Monday, the villagers threatened to march on a local government office in protest, and hunkered down with rocks and rice at makeshift barricades to block police. On Tuesday, thousands besieged a government office and blocked a highway to demand a halt to a planned coal-fired power plant over concerns of pollution in the town of Haimen in Guangdong province; while officials offered concessions to the villagers in Wukan if they would give up their protesting, as talks were scheduled for Wednesday morning.
- Cambodia and Thailand agreed on Wednesday to withdraw their troops from a disputed border region near the Preah Vihear temple. The International Court of Justice ordered both sides to remove their troops in July after earlier fighting left 18 dead and tens of thousands displaced, but neither side complied.
- The sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in Malaysia officially closed this week, with the judge setting January 9th for the verdict. The trial, which many allege was brought about only after the Anwar-led opposition won historic gains in the March 2008 parliamentary elections, is expected to have major implications in the expected upcoming elections.
- On Wednesday, the US defence secretary announced that US troops in Afghanistan were winning the conflict against the Taliban as he addressed the troops in an operating base in the country; international forces remained concerned about the country’s depleting security forces, who have a reported 30-40% non-re-enlistment rate at the end of their 3 year contracts; and an ISAF service member was killed in a bomb attack in the south. On Thursday, officials re-opened the notorious Ghazi Stadium, home to executions, stoning and mutilations by the Taliban from 1996-2001, to sports after a US-funded refurbishment; while President Karzai called upon Afghans to lead any peace negotiations to end the war in their country after reports that Qatar had agreed to set up an unofficial Taliban embassy; and Human Rights Watch called upon the American military to halt plans to expand the Afghan Local Police force program until significant reforms were made in training, supervision and accountability. On Friday, a series of explosions rocked western Kabul after a police station was targeted by attackers with no reported injuries. On Saturday, an ISAF service member was killed by insurgents in eastern Afghanistan; and four armed insurgents were reportedly killed during operations by the police, National Army and coalition forces in Kabul, Kunduz, Kandahar, Helmand and Maidan Wardak provinces. On Sunday, a key government negotiator announced that the Taliban is willing to open a political office outside the country, in a step towards holding face-to-face peace talks with the government; two militants opened fire on a bus carrying Afghan army training officers, killing five and wounding nine; an ISAF service member was killed by a roadside bomb in Kabul; three Afghan soldiers and two policemen were killed in an attack by at least three suicide bombers on an army recruitment centre in Kunduz; and ISAF air strike killed at least three alleged insurgents in eastern Nangarhar province as they were laying a roadside bomb overnight; and Afghan and coalition forces killed or detained several alleged insurgents in northern Kunduz. On Monday, a senior Taliban commander denied that the group held secret talks with American officials after the United States announced that talks had reached a turning point. On Tuesday, Afghan security forces and foreign troops killed two alleged insurgents and detained another nine during operations in several provinces. On Wednesday, a roadside bomb killed five Polish soldiers in Ghazni City; a suicide bomber was killed by Afghan National Police in Khost province; four armed insurgents were killed in a police operation in Helmand Province; and one civilian was killed by a homemade mine in Helmand.
- A senior monk, who is a vocal critic of the government in Burma/Myanmar, has reportedly been ordered to leave his monastery in Rangoon because of a speech he gave at a pro-democracy event for Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s political party, the National League for Democracy. The monk has allegedly refused to obey the order and said that he will stay until forced out. The International Atomic Energy Agency is again seeking access to sites in the country, which rejected allegations by an exile group last year that it was trying to develop atomic weapons. On Saturday, the government announced plans to bring an end to a series of conflicts with ethnic rebels within three years, ordering troops to halt all offensives against Kachin militias and discussing ceasefire agreements with numerous groups. On Thursday, a local aid group in the north reported that tens of thousands of displaced ethnic Kachins are facing food shortages and health problems, and that some of the displaced who attempted to cross into China were ordered to return to the conflict zone. On Wednesday, a woman was killed and another injured in an unknown explosion at the country’s biggest university.
- The government of Bangladesh has reportedly announced an inquiry into a recent spate of killings and disappearances in the country, after at least seven bodies were found in the last eight days, and more than 40 people disappeared between January 2010 and November 2011. Local human rights groups allege that most victims are opposition political activists. On Sunday, a violent clash broke out between police and opposition party activists gathered to mark the 40th Independence anniversary, killing at least one person in Dhaka.
- Officials in Pakistan alleged this week that NATO forces knew they were opening fire on Pakistani forces, even apologizing to Pakistani officers, throughout the friendly fire incident that killed 24 Pakistani troops in November; though the two forces have officially re-established military contact with each other. On Wednesday, gunmen on a motorcycle killed three Shi’ite Muslims in a suspected sectarian attack in Quetta; helicopter gunships attacked three suspected militant hideouts in Orakzai, killing six insurgents; and gunmen set fire to a NATO tanker in Kalat. On Friday, a pro-Taliban religious group in the north announced that it is mediating between the government and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan group. On Sunday, tens of thousands protested in support of the military and condemning the US for the NATO attacks in Lahore; while militants set off explosives at a girls’ high school in Khyber, partially damaging the building. On Monday, a senior government official reported that the President had returned home after nearly two weeks overseas seeking medical treatment.
- Police in Indonesia’s Aceh province raided a punk-rock concert and detained 65 fans, cutting off Mohawks and stripping away body piercings and any other “inappropriate” clothing or accessories because of the perceived threat to Islamic values in the conservative region. Those detained are reportedly to receive 10 days of “rehabilitation”, training in military-style discipline and religious classes.
- On Thursday, the Philippines declared a 19 day unilateral Christmas truce with Maoist guerrillas despite intensified attacks, including some 6 from that day alone. On Wednesday, the government asked the United States to give it at least a squadron of second-hand F-16 fighters to help upgrade its territorial defences and plans to spend 40 billion pesos ($941 million) over the next five years to upgrade its military.
- On Friday, at least 13 people were killed in violent clashes between police and demonstrators in an oil town in western Kazakhstan after police tried to clear the town’s main square, where workers have been protesting for higher wages and better working conditions for more than six months. An opposition activist was arrested for 15 days for protesting against the violence the following day. On Saturday, police allegedly opened fire on rioters who stopped a train, killing one person in the central city of Shetpe. The President responded by declaring a 20-day state of emergency in the province, amid mounting pressure on him to relax the rigid authoritarian system he has built. On Sunday, journalists were stopped from travelling to the region, and all telephone connections were reportedly cut. On Tuesday, many again took to the streets demanding to know who ordered police to fire on protesters in Aktau, the capital of the western Mangistau region. On Wednesday, it was reported that members of a newly established public commission set to investigate the deadly shootings in the region have been prevented from visiting the cities of Zhetibai and Zhanaozen by police; while the Kazakh ambassador to the US said that amateur video showing the police shoot at unarmed protesters as they flee is “shocking” and that the government is planning an investigation.
- On Friday, Russia signed a deal to provide India with 42 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets that will be assembled locally in India. On Monday, politicians forced the closure of Parliament in protest against a Siberian trial calling for a version of the Hindu holy book, the Bhagavad Gita, to be banned. On Tuesday, the cabinet approved a landmark anti-corruption bill draft that had been the focus of nationwide demonstrations, though the draft was already rejected by anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare. A new report released by the country’s Human Rights Commission claims that more 1,500 people have died in official custody in the country over the past year, a large number from torture while in custody.
- One of the two rival PMs in Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill, has announced that he has the support of the country’s parliament, following last week’s decision by the governor-general and Supreme Court to reinstate Michael Somare. O’Neill had Somare removed from office by a parliamentary vote in August while he was outside the country seeking medical treatment. On Monday, a historic bill aimed at guaranteeing seats for women in Parliament failed to get the required 73 votes to become law, after less than 70 of the 109 MPs attended the sitting; while the Governor-General reversed his decision to reinstate Michael Somare, claiming he received bad legal advice. On Tuesday, O’Neill claimed his government was in total control of the country, though Somare issued a statement saying he remained the PM, despite O’Neill’s parliamentary control.
- The panel probing the end of Sri Lanka’s 25 year war has concluded on Friday that the military did not deliberately target civilians, even though a “considerable” number were killed in the crossfire and urged the prosecution of soldiers found guilty of misconduct. The panel said it could not establish the number of civilian casualties, nor could it determine who was responsible for shelling hospitals, and urged that the families of those hurt or killed be compensated for their loss. A new report by the International Crisis Group claims that more than two years after the end of the civil war, women in the north and east of the country still suffer from sexual violence, poverty, and displacement.
- A massive strike saw the closure of shops all around India on Thursday, in protest of a new policy to allow big-box retailers into the country. On Sunday, a landmine attack reportedly by Maoist rebels in eastern India struck the convoy of a senior politician, killing ten policemen and a young boy. The Atlantic ran an interesting piece on Anna Hazare, the man who led a nonviolent national movement against corruption who threatened to starve himself to death if the government fails to enact the anti-corruption reforms he seeks. The death toll at the Bangladesh-India border continue to mount three months after the Indian government instructed its border security forces to stop shooting civilians suspected of being undocumented migrants. On Sunday, Maoist rebels reportedly killed 11 people in attacks across the eastern Indian state after their leader died in a gun battle with security forces last week. On Monday, India urged social network companies, including Facebook, Twitter and Google to remove offensive material, amid complaints of censorship.
- Security forces in Afghanistan face a $4 billion funding shortfall after 2014, when they are supposed to take over the main responsibility for fighting the insurgency, raising concerns over whether the government will have the resources to keep the Taliban at bay. On Wednesday, Bulgaria announced its plan to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan by cutting its 600 troops there by three fourths by the end of 2014. On Thursday, NATO killed two Pakistani men who were reportedly gathering wood in Afghanistan; and two ISAF service members were killed in roadside bomb attacks. On Friday, a suicide bomber killed at least one and injured dozens in Logar province; and a British soldier was dismissed from the army after stabbing a 10-year-old Afghan boy in his kidneys with a bayonet for no reason. On Saturday, three ISAF soldiers were killed in a roadside bomb attack in the east of the country; and six armed insurgents were killed and six others arrested in joint operations by the Afghan police and army, and coalition forces in Takhar, Kandahar and Herat provinces. On Sunday, multiple alleged insurgents were killed and two wounded during coalition airstrike in the eastern part of the country; and the ISAF announced that they had lost control of a surveillance drone flying over western Afghanistan last week and that it may be the one Iran said it had shot down over its own airspace. On Monday, two ISAF service members were killed in attacks by alleged insurgents in the south; and a roadside bomb killed five civilians in the southern Uruzgan province. On Tuesday, more than 50 worshippers were killed and another 150 others injured in a suicide bomb attack on a Shi ite shrine in Kabul. On Wednesday, 19 civilians were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Kabul.
- The military in Pakistan gave clearance on Friday for commanders in areas along the border with Afghanistan to return fire if they are attacked in response to last week’s NATO attack that killed some 24 Pakistani soldiers. On Friday, reports were saying that Pakistan’s Supreme Court barred the former Pakistani ambassador to the US from travelling abroad over a controversial memo that was leaked; while militants attacked a paramilitary post near the Afghani border, wounding five soldiers and killing seven militants. On Saturday, helicopter gunships attacked alleged militants’ hideouts in the northwestern region, killing around a dozen insurgents. On Tuesday, the body of a paramilitary soldier kidnapped in August was found in the northwest region; a small roadside bomb exploded, wounding two people in Karachi; militants fired six RPGs at buildings in Hangu, wounding three policemen; militants fired four RPGs that exploded near a Shiite Ashura procession in Orakzai; and twelve militants and two Pakistani soldiers were killed in clashes near the Afghan border. On Wednesday, speculation regarding President Zardari’s sudden hospitalization in Dubai had rumours flying that he was about to step down under coercion from the military or even that a coup was in the offing.
- China’s public security bureau has launched a six-month crackdown on “black” jails operated by private security firms in Beijing. The police report that the firms are involved in illegal detention, violence and running underground jails. A report by Georgetown University reported that China’s nuclear arsenal may be many times larger than previously thought, with as many as 3,000 nuclear warheads instead of the estimated 400. The Chinese state media have claimed that online rumours are drugs that damage users and harm society as they step up attempts to rein in microblogs.
- Vanuatu became the latest State to become a party to the Rome Statute, joining the International Criminal Court on Friday. One hundred and twenty countries are currently parties to the statute that serves as the main court for international justice.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called upon the new leadership of Kyrgyzstan to encourage a national dialogue and reconciliation in the wake of last year’s overthrow of the government and subsequent ethnic clashes. Former PM Alamazbek Atambaev was inaugurated on Thursday as President, saying he planned to fight corruption and prosecute those responsible for ethnic and regional clashes.
- A former Buddhist monk in Tibet immolated himself on Thursday in the latest self-immolation protests against Chinese rule. The Chamdo regional Communist Party denied the incident occurred.
- The government of Myanmar/Burma reached a ceasefire agreement with one of the country’s biggest ethnic rebel groups, the latest in the series of reforms by the new civilian leadership. The International Crisis Group urged the new government to address the grievances of armed ethnic groups—instead of just reaching ceasefire deals—to achieve lasting peace.
- The International Crisis Group released its newest report on the violent border clashes between Thailand and Cambodia earlier this year.
- Five alleged militants and two members of an elite police force were killed in operations in southern Kazakhstan on Saturday. On Sunday, five members of the group accused of the previous days killings were killed during a clash with government forces as the government accused them of having previously taken part in a number of other crimes.
- The Senate in Uzbekistan has adopted a bill that would change the term in office for a President back to five years instead of the current seven-year term, amid suspicion that incumbent President Karimov would use the change to seek two more terms in office.
- South Korea announced that it would resume sending aid to North Korea through the UN UNICEF agency, in what is being seen as another sign that animosities are continuing to ease.
Hello all! Hope all is well!
Still having difficulty adding links here, but hopefully I will have it worked out by tomorrow. In the meantime, you can access a version with all the links here.
Special thanks to Michael Southcott for his submissions this week!
• On Friday, suspected insurgents killed two civilians and wounded another four in a triple bombing attack in Thailand, near the Malaysian border. Thailand faces an election July 3rd, in a vote that the opposition is expected to win away from the ruling Democrat Party.
• Authorities in Malaysia have accused 30 detained opposition members of conspiring to overthrow the government and to revive communist ideologies. The activists, who call the allegations ludicrous, were arrested before a banned political rally where they planned to fight to introduce transparent voting procedures to prevent what they call manipulation of election results by the ruling party to preserve its nearly 54 year rule.
• The UN backed war crimes trial of the four most senior surviving members of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge regime has commenced this week in Phnom Penh. All four defendants have denied the charges against them, and are expected to enter not guilty pleas.
• Conservative Nepal has opened its first ever shelter for ostracized gays, lesbians and transgender people, alongside an adjoining hospice that provides shelter for those living with HIV/AIDs who have been abandoned by their families. Although there are no laws specifically against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders exist, “unnatural sex” is punishable by up to one year in jail.
• A Kachin women’s organization in Myanmar/Burma accused the military of using sexual violence extensively in their offensive against ethnic Kachin separatists in the north of the country. On Friday, four explosions rocked the capital and two other towns, causing many injuries, but no reported deaths. It was not immediately clear who was behind the attacks.
• China and Vietnam both pledged on Sunday to resolve their maritime dispute over the South China Sea through peaceful negotiations without foreign intervention following talks between China’s foreign affairs chief and Vietnam’s vice foreign minister, though an Australian think tank warned that the risk of war in Asia was growing. China released Hu Jia, a prominent dissident on Sunday after serving a three and a half year sentence for “inciting subversion”, and is now reportedly banned from talking to the media.
• Two men were killed and 15 wounded in a bomb attack in a restaurant on Saturday on Mindanao Island in the Phillipines. President Aquino ordered security forces to investigate the attack that they believed coud be a tactic to threaten peace talks with separatist guerrillas.
• On Friday, India and Pakistan issued a joint statement announcing they have agreed to try to ease mutual fears about their nuclear arsenals after what were deemed successful talks between the two countries’ diplomats. The officials also announced they would try to improve trade and travel across the ceasefire line dividing disputed Kashmir.
• Fifteen suspected militants were killed and 8 wounded in a clash between rival militant groups in the northwest Orakzai region of Pakistan on Saturday; a low intensity bomb exploded near the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Karachi, with no injuries or damage; and at least 12 were killed in an attack on a police station in the northwest, thought to be perpetrated by a Talibani husband and wife suicide team, dressed in burqas and heavily armed. On Sunday, a bomb planted outside a police station in eastern Pakistan wounded four policemen. On Monday, a suspected US drone missile killed 8 suspected militants in Wana; another drone strike on a Taliban training centre killed 13 suspected militants; gunmen attacked and killed a Pakistani Taliban commander in North Waziristan; and the main coalition partner in the government announced it had quit the government, citing the “dictatorial” and “brutal” approach of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
• Armenia and Azerbaijan failed to agree to a framework document to set the stage for a resolution over Nagorno-Karabakh on Friday, increasing the risk of new war in the Caucasus region. On Saturday, the two sides blamed each other for the failure, though they both pledged to continue talks. On Sunday, Azerbaijan held its biggest military parade since the fall of the Soviet Union. On Tuesday, an Armenia military official said that his country is not intimidated by Azerbijan’s ongoing military buildup.
• On Thursday, a court in Bangladesh sentenced the younger son of the former PM Zia to six years in prison for laundering $2.7 million received as kickbacks from foreign companies. Many fear the verdict could fuel street protests by those who say the charges are politically motivated.
• On Wednesday, at least six Afghan police were killed in an attack on a checkpoint in Ghazni, Afghanistan; while another four officiers were killed by a roadside bomb on their way to the scene; and US President Obama announced his plans to withdraw 10,000 troops from the country by the end of the year, and another 20,000 by the end of next summer, with Hamid Karzai welcoming the decision and assuring his troops would be ready to take over. On Thursday, an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; a special court set up by Karzai threw out results in about a quarter of the seats in the parliamentary assembly, raising fears of a constitutional crisis; Britain announced it too was in contact with Taliban insurgents, alongside the Americans in an attempt to build future peace talks; the Taliban called the US plan to withdraw droops symbolic and warned of more bloodshed if they didn’t all immediately withdraw; and Afghani authorities complained to Pakistan for a second time about its shelling of Afghan villages that resulted in the killing of four children this week. On Friday, a suicide bomber killed six people and wounded two in an attack on a group of policemen in eastern Kunar province (later reported as 10 killed, with 24 wounded); France announced it would bring home hundreds of soldiers between now and the end of 2012; Spain announced it would withdraw 10% of its troops in the first half of next year, 40% by the first half of 2013 and all of its troops by 2014; and MPs unseated in Thursday’s court decision threatened to call for protests, including blocking the country’s roads. On Saturday, a suicide bomber killed more than 30 people outside a hospital in Logar province, the victims were mostly those in the materinty ward; two ISAF service members were killed in separate attacks in Kabul; an ISAF helicopter crashed near Kabul, with no reported injuries; and 183 of the 190 lawmakers who attended parliament voted to fire the five most senior judicial officials over the firing of 62 MPs unseated in Thursday’s court decision, creating a political crisis. On Sunday, two ISAF service members were killed in a roadside bomb attack in Kabul; an eight year old girl was killed when a bomb in a bag she was alledgely given to carry by Taliban insurgents exploded; an ISAF service member was killed in an attack by insurgents in Kabul; and a remotely detonated bomb wounded 8 in Ghazni. On Monday, the central bank Governor announced he was resigning from his post because he feared for his life following his role in investigating a scandal surrounding Kabulbank, while the government said he had not resigned but rather was trying to escape prosecution over his own role in the scandal; and a former security contractor for Blackwater Worldwide was sentenced to 30 months in prison after being convicted of manslaughter in the 2009 death of an Afghani man in Kabul. On Tuesday, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and two other militants were captured during a combined Afghan and ISAF mission in Kabul; two ISAF service members died after separate insurgent attacks in Kabul; at least 5 insurgents were killed during a combined Afghan/ISAF security operation in Nimroz province; insurgents burnt down an elementary school in Nangarhar province; an anti-personnel mine killed two Afghan women and wounded a child in Kandahar; the government issued an arrest warrant for the central bank Governor who previously said he was resigning and Kabul began pursuing talks with international donors for foreign aid after a breakdown in discussions with the IMF left millions of dollars in limbo. A 46-page study by International Crisis Group discusses the problems of rampant corruption in the country that is only getting worse, and how the billions of international aid dollars have only brought wealthy officials and insurgents together to create more violence.
• Two journalists in Uzbekistan have been temporarily detained and fined after trying to begin a hunger strike outside the Presidential palace to protest censorship. On Thursday, a court handed out six and seven year jail sentences to a group of men accused of taking part in the banned Hizb ut-Tahrir group. Uzbek border guards have been accused of shooting dead at least 13 people who were crossing into the country from Kyrgystan over the past two months, though Uzbek officials say they only fire on those crossing illegally and smugglers who disregard orders from the guards.
• On Thursday, some 40 soccer fans were detained in Dushanbe, Tajikistan for rioting after their team’s victory in the country’s top soccer league. This is the second such incident involving soccer fans in the past 10 days. On Monday, the head of the Council of Islamic Scholars said that a special Islamic education program for children is being planned to quell criticism over a draft law banning children from entering a mosque.
Hello, hope all is well!
Sorry, several of the This Week in Conflict reports are a little late this week, as I have been without power or Internet since Tuesday, one of the side-effects of living in a conflict zone. As such, stories are only updated until Tuesday evening. I will try to keep to a consistent posting schedule, as much as my access to the Internet allows me.
This Week in Conflict is now being divided up!
Here is the new schedule:
This Week in the World of Conflict – posted on Mondays
This Week in African Conflict- posted on Tuesdays
This Week in Asian Conflict – posted on Wednesdays (includes Oceania and Australia)
This Week in Conflict in the Americas – posted on Thursdays
This Week in Middle Eastern Conflict – posted on Fridays
This Week in European Conflict – posted on Saturdays
Please submit any reports or stories of conflict around the world to email@example.com or write in the comments below. Here’s a summary of what happened this week in Asia:
- On Wednesday, five civilians and two policemen were killed and several more injured in a suicide bombing northeast of Kabul, Afghanistan; insurgents targeted a ceremony at a new police training centre in central Wardak province; and two ISAF service members were killed in Kabul in separate bomb attacks. The UN has decided to separate the link between the Taliban and al-Qaeda for joint sanctioning purposes in an attempt to kick-start peace talks within Afghanistan by offering an incentive for Taliban members to renounce al-Qaeda. On Thursday, an ISAF service member was reported killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; and Russia announced it wants to enlarge its presence in the country during rebuilding in parts of the country where Soviet troops fought a decade long war. On Saturday, nine people were killed in a suicide attack by three men dressed in army uniforms at a police station in Kabul; an ISAF service member was killed in an insurgent attack in Kabul; four Afghan private security guards protecting NATO supply trucks were killed and two others injured by roadside bombs in Ghazni; two ISAF service members were killed in separate insurgent attacks in Kabul; and the President Karzai announced that the US is engaged in peace talks with the Taliban. On Sunday, three civilians were killed and some 11 wounded after a suicide attacker blew up his car next to a German military convoy in the north. On Monday, an ISAF service member was killed by a homemade bomb in Kabul; Afghan and ISAF forces killed a rogue Afghan soldier who shot dead an Australian soldier three weeks ago during an operation in Khost; Afghani authorities complained to Pakistan about its shelling of Afghan villages; and the Afghan finance minister said he is “running out of patience” with the IMF after it rejected a plan to deal with the troubled lender Kabul Bank, jeopardizing the payment of civil servants. On Tuesday, it was reported that US President Obama is expected to withdraw roughly 10,000 US troops from Afghanistan this year.
- On Wednesday, officials reported that suspected US drones killed at least 15 people in South Waziristan, Pakistan; gunmen attacked and torched two NATO fuel supply trucks in the southwest; and two missiles hit a compound in Wana, killing at least 6. Pakistani intelligence service reportedly arrested the owner of a safe house rented to the CIA to observe bin Laden’s compound before the US raid, as well as a handful of other Pakistani informants who fed information to the CIA. On Thursday, Pakistan’s army chief General Kayani was reported as “fighting to keep his job amid growing pressure from within the military to reduce ties with the US”; while some 250 militants staged a cross-border raid from Afghanistan into a pro-government village, killing six civilians; a bomb blast destroyed a NATO fuel supply truck in Landikotal; gunmen killed one man in Quetta; and a roadside bomb hit a military convoy in the northwest, wounding two soldiers. On Friday, officials announced that security forces had killed at least 11 suspected militants during clashes in the northwest of the country; police presented charge-sheets against six members of a paramilitary force for the killing of an unarmed man last week that was caught on videotape and later broadcast on channels nationwide; and the government expressed “serious concern” at a NATO aircraft attack on its military post near the Afghani border. On Saturday, Pakistani forces killed three suspected militants after insurgents attacked a military check post in South Waziristan, killing one soldier and wounding two others; and a roadside bomb attack killed a man and two children and wounded over two dozen in Panjgur. On Sunday, officials reported that an army offensive had killed 25 militants and left four soldiers dead near the Afghani border. On Monday, suspected US drones fired missiles into the north-western region, killing at least 11 suspected militants; a car bomb killed one person and wounded 12 in Quetta; an 8 year old girl was kidnapped by militants who allegedly forced her to wear a suicide vest to attack security forces in Peshawar; dozens of militants attacked the homes of two prominent anti-Taliban elders close to the Afghan border, killing at least four and injuring another four; and men wearing police uniforms allegedly beat a Pakistani journalist working for the British Guardian newspaper after he published an account of abduction and torture by suspected intelligence agents. On Tuesday, an army brigadier was arrested for suspected ties to the banned group Hizb-ul-Tahrir.
- State media in Myanmar/Burma accused ethnic minority rebels of starting deadly fighting near the Chinese border, claiming that government troops had acted to defend a hydropower plant being built to provide power to China. Rebels blame the government for starting the clashes. On Monday, government troops said they had no choice but to fight ethnic Kachin separatists following the collapse of peace talks and violence ensued. One analyst commented that it was no real surprise that conflict continues, as the Kachin had been cut out politically in last year’s election and economically with the dams that they are now accused of attacking.
- On Thursday, it was reported that China had closed Tibet to foreigners ahead of the 90th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party on July 1st. On Friday, details about the apparently brutal detention of one of China’s most important legal activists, Chen Guangcheng, were released. Chen uncovered stories of forces sterilizations and abortions in an eastern city. A new report by the country’s central bank revealed that thousands of corrupt officials have stolen more than $120 billion and fled overseas since the mid-1990s; and police in southern China arrested 19 people in connection with the civil unrest in Guangdong province. Police also began offering residency and cash rewards to migrant workers who provide tip-offs leading to the arrest of rioters involved in the unrest in Guangdong. On Monday, Singapore asked China to clarify its claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea and urged all parties to act with restraint amid the biggest flare-up in regional tension in years over maritime sovereignty claims.
- Representatives from India and Pakistan are scheduled to meet later this month to discuss Kashmir in the first formal talks between the two rivals since 2008. Analysts expect no breakthroughs.
- A new British documentary looking into new allegations of war crimes in Sri Lanka sparked debate over whether investigations should be conducted on the extrajudicial killings. The government said the video material shown in the documentary, which shows the apparent execution of three tied up Tamil prisoners, including a woman, was fabricated. On Thursday, the Tamil party said the military had attacked its campaign events in the north to create a climate of fear ahead of the first local government polls in 26 years, scheduled for July 23.
- The US Navy intercepted a ship from North Korea suspected of carrying an illegal shipment of missile parts to Myanmar/Burma was reported this week. The cargo ship was forced to return home after a standoff at sea and several days of diplomatic pressure from Washington and Asian nations. On Wednesday, a government source reported that nine North Koreans had defected to the South in a small boat and were seeking asylum, an incident likely to raise tensions between the two sides. South Korea rejected the North’s demand for their return on Friday, with the North warning that relations could worsen if the group is not returned.
- South Korean Marines fired rifles at a South Korean commercial aircraft flying near the sea border with the North, thinking it was one of the North’s jet fighters on Saturday. The craft sustained no damage, as it was out of range of the rifles.
- Several foreign members of the legal staff for a UN backed Cambodian tribunal trying former Khmer Rouge leaders walked out in recent weeks to protest an apparent decision by top investigators not to pursue new prosecutions beyond the first two cases. The investigator’s actions echo those of PM Hun Sen, who previously told SG Ban Ki-moon that a so-called Case 3 was “not allowed”.
- It was reported this week that the alleged leader of the banned Islamic organization Hizb ut-Tahrir was arrested in Tajikistan sometime last week. Sharifjon Yoqubov has already spent 10 years in prison, and his sister alleged that after his arrest his three daughters, aged between 4 and 16, disappeared, and are suspected to be in police custody in an effort to pressure Yoqubov to talk. On Thursday, authorities had detained a local BBC reporter on suspicion of belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir, who was reportedly denied access to his lawyer. On Friday, it was reported that the government had taken the first step towards banning children and adolescents from worshipping in mosques and churches, in the latest crackdown on religious freedom.
- Philippine security forces are on alert for possible attacks from militants after some rebels had been spotted arriving in Manila this month, the government announced on Thursday. One report suggested a bomb attack was planned for Independence Day (June 12th), though no attack was carried out on that day.
- Suspected Muslim militants killed 4 soldiers in an ambush at a crowded market in southern Thailand on Thursday. On Monday, suspected militants killed a policeman and two local officials in the south. There has been a sharp rise in the number and scale of attacks in recent months.
- Vietnam and the US took the first step towards cleaning up Agent Orange contamination on Friday. The US military sprayed up to 12 million gallons of the defoliant between 1961 and 1971 and for years there has been the questions of compensation for Vietnamese who suffered health problems resulting from exposure to the compound.
- The mother of a jailed youth activist was briefly detained on Friday in Azerbaijan after leaving her membership card from the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party on the grave of the former President. A security guard explained that the detention occurred to “clarify the issue”.
- The parliament of Kyrgyzstan has adopted a new resolution calling for a local news website to be banned, claiming it “ignites ethnic hatred” among Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. Uzbek officials banned the website in 2005 after the site’s coverage of the massacre of protesters by security forces. Some fear it would be the “introduction of censorship” to the country. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media voiced a concern, saying that the measures could potentially limit media pluralism.
Written by Heather Wilhelm
For my birthday last week, my boyfriend bought me a beautiful necklace from a great fair trade store called Ten Thousand Villages. The necklace is called a Peace Dove Bombshell Necklace, and upon reading the literature that came with it, I learned that this piece of jewellery was made in Cambodia by a group of artisans who had formed an organization called Rajana. Rajana is completely owned and operated by the Khmer people of Cambodia, and offer fair salaries, education, interest-free loans and many other benefits to their workers. They are working to create beautiful art by turning the ravages of decades of war and tragedy into prosperity for their people. The Peace Dove Bombshell Necklaces are made from the remains of land mines that litter the land of Cambodia and have led the country to have one of the highest numbers of amputee populations in the world. This birthday gift – as beautiful as it is – tells the story of a horrific past and the ever-present danger that face the people of Cambodia.
Between 1975 and 1979 the ruling party in Cambodia was a totalitarian government called the Khmer Rouge. The party was led by Pol Pot and believed in extreme Communist principles including social engineering and agricultural reform. Their radical social reform process was carried out by deporting all the inhabitants of major cities to the countryside where they combined populations with farmers and were forced into labour in the fields. Anyone suspected of capitalism (a group that included teachers, professors, urban city dwellers, anyone connected to foreign governments, and even people who simply wore reading glasses) was arbitrarily executed, tortured or detained. There is a large range of estimated deaths in the four years that the Khmer Rouge ruled Cambodia, but most estimates but the death toll at 1.5 million people. This included those executed by the government, as well as those who died of starvation from lack of experience growing food, and those who died of preventable diseases because of the government’s insistence that westernized medicine be kept out of the country. Money was abolished; schools, hospitals, banks, industrial and service companies were closed; books were burned and as mentioned earlier, almost the entire intellectual population of the country was massacred. Most notable in the long list of treacherous crimes performed by the Khmer Rouge was the separation of children from their parents (who were believed to be tainted by capitalism) and their subsequent brainwashing (children were often given leadership roles in torture and execution) into this dangerous form of socialism. While the Khmer Rouge were toppled from government in 1979, the group itself survived as a group into the 1990s, causing death and destruction throughout these decades.
It is estimated that four to six million landmines were laid in Cambodia over the decades of war fought there, and every year hundreds of Cambodians fall victim to the lasting effect of these forgotten weapons. In a population of approximately 12 million people, it is estimated that more than 40,000 amputees are living, or one in every 290 Cambodians. These amputees are chastised by their peers and have been forgotten by their government, often having to try and make a living selling merchandise on the streets for small commissions. There are many active mine removal organizations that work within Cambodia that are trying to clear mines in an effort to make the country safer, but this sizable job is nowhere near completion leaving the citizens of Cambodia in constant danger or death or amputation.
Organizations like Rajana are imperative to the turnaround of countries like Cambodia that are suffering the after effects of decades long war, as they play a role in creating job opportunities and education for its citizens. By providing fair wages, health care, education and more to their employees Rajana is working to create a different future for Cambodia. Aside from creating a better social welfare system, it is imperative that the international community become active in the banning of land mines and cluster bombs. The Ottawa Treaty also known as the Mine Ban Treaty became effective on March 1, 1999, and as of early 2009 had 156 parties to the Treaty. Once a country has signed, they are required to cease production of anti-personnel mines as well as destroy any stockpile of mines within four years (except for a small number they are allowed to retain for training purposes). Thirty-seven countries have not signed the Treaty, including the People’s Republic of China, India, Russia and the United States of America, all of whom are some of the largest producers and carry some of the largest stockpile of anti-personnel landmines. By refusing to sign this Treaty, some of the most powerful countries in the world, namely the United States and China, are perpetuating a problem that has caused countless deaths and produced mass destruction.
The Peace Dove Bombshell Necklace is just one small way that we can make a difference in the eradication of land mines while at the same time allowing us to contribute to the social development of a nation. A portion from the proceeds of every necklace sold between the International Day of Peace (September 21) and Remembrance Day (November 11) goes to Mines Action Canada while the remainder goes to the artisans making a change through the Rajana organization. While I hazard to use this site to advertise for companies, Ten Thousand Villages has spent decades providing international communities with a venue to sell fair trade items and I feel their work should be recognized. If you’re interested in learning more about Ten Thousand Villages and their fair trade items, visit them at www.tenthousandvillages.ca. To learn more about the work of Mines Action Canada, visit them at www.minesactioncanada.org. While it is often hard to read about the horrors occurring in other countries, at times I feel our minds can be eased by trying to make any kind of difference, however small or insignificant it may seem.