Posted: 5 May 2023
Myanmar: Deadliest military airstrike since the coup carried out in Sagaing region
April was the deadliest month in Myanmar for military airstrikes targeting civilians since the military coup. On 11 April, around 170 people, including dozens of women and children, were reportedly killed in a military airstrike in Kanbalu township in Sagaing region. The airstrike targeted villagers as they gathered to mark the opening of a new office of the People’s Administration Team (Pa Ah Pha) under the National Unity Government (NUG) in Pa Zi Gyi village.1Ingyin Naing, ‘Bombing of Civilians in Myanmar Leaves Village Reeling,’ Voice of America, 22 April 2023 The military reportedly dropped two bombs on the area from a fighter jet before opening fire on the crowd using a Mi-35 helicopter gunship.2Maung Shwe Wah, ‘Children’s bodies crushed into pieces’ in Myanmar military airstrike on Kanbalu Township,’ Myanmar Now, 12 April 2023 Over a week after the initial attack, the military dropped six bombs on the village from a fighter jet. No villagers were injured as most were still in hiding after the previous attack.3RFA Burmese, ‘Junta bombs Myanmar village again where earlier strike killed 200,’ 20 April 2023 The military claimed that the airstrikes targeted the People’s Defense Force, which it claimed was present.4Al Jazeera, ‘Myanmar military confirms air raid that killed dozens in Sagaing,’ 12 April 2023 The military has increasingly resorted to airstrikes targeting civilians as it fails to consolidate control over the country amid ongoing anti-coup resistance.
Thailand: Resistance fighter killed after being returned to Myanmar by Thai immigration officials
Immigration authorities in Thailand arrested three members of the Lion Battalion, an armed resistance group in Myanmar, when they tried to seek medical treatment in Mae Sot, Thailand for battle injuries suffered by one of the members. While attempting to escape during the handover to the Myanmar military-backed Karen Border Guard Force on 4 April, one of the three members was shot and later died of his injuries.5May Yu, ‘One of three resistance fighters handed to Myanmar junta ally by Thai authorities dies in military custody,’ 10 April 2023 While the status of two other members is unknown, they were believed to be held at a military interrogation center in Mawlamyine township in Mon state in Myanmar.6Tin Aung Khine, and Saw Kyaw San, ‘Anti-junta fighter killed during deportation from Thailand to Myanmar,’ 10 April 2023 The actions of the Thai authorities were met with condemnation by local and international human rights groups, who have noted the growing harassment faced by people from Myanmar who fled to Thailand in the aftermath of the military coup.7Human Rights Watch, ‘Thailand: Myanmar Activists Forcibly Returned,’ 12 April 2023 The forced repatriation comes amid increasing numbers of raids and arrests of people from Myanmar by Thai officials in Mae Sot.8RFA Burmese, ‘Thai police seeking anti-junta activists detain 108 Myanmar nationals in Mae Sot,’ 23 March 2023 In late March, Thai immigration raided a building housing Myanmar nationals searching for people they believed to be connected to the People’s Defense Force.
Thailand: Spike in separatist violence precedes May elections
Malay Muslim separatist violence increased in Thailand’s Deep South in April. On 13 April, separatists fired on police in Narathiwat province, injuring three officers. The following day, separatists clashed with military and police forces at six security bases across the Deep South. On 20 April, a separatist-planted explosion occurred while police were on patrol in Narathiwat, killing one officer and seriously injuring another. Amid the upswing in separatist violence, Barisan Revolusi Nasional Melayu Patani, the largest separatist group, released a video calling for the prosecution of those responsible for the 2004 Tak Bai massacre that saw dozens die at the hands of security forces, as the case is about to expire.9Isranews Agency, ‘Panare volunteer fired, killed – BRN released a video asking about the Tak Bai tragedy,’ 18 April 2023 The uptick in separatist violence comes as Thailand prepares for general elections on 14 May. Among the opposition parties, the Move Forward party has called for the demilitarization of the Deep South.10BenarNews, ‘Move Forward party: their challenging mission in the Deep South,’ 28 April 2023 Prior to the elections, anti-government demonstrations opposing the role of the military and monarchy in Thai politics have been on the wane due to judicial harassment. Still, the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship led an annual gathering in Bangkok on 10 April to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the dispersion of the 2010 red-shirt demonstrations.11Matichon, ‘Red shirts and activists gathered at 14th October 1973 Memorial, commemorating the heroes of April 10, 2010,’ 10 April 2023 Currently, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, leader of the Pheu Thai party and the daughter of the red-shirt-backed Thaksin Shinawatra, is leading in the polls.12Bloomberg, ‘Thailand’s Election Race Heats Up With Pheu Thai Party Dominating Poll,’ 30 April 2023
Afghanistan: Key Islamic State leader killed in Taliban operations
The Taliban continued to carry out raids in April targeting the Islamic State (IS), reportedly killing over a dozen IS militants across Afghanistan. Amid these raids, the United States claimed that the Taliban had killed the mastermind of the IS attack on the Kabul airport during the US withdrawal in August 2021.13Karoun Demirjian, Eric Schmitt, ‘Taliban Kill Head of ISIS Cell That Bombed Kabul Airport,’ New York Times, 25 April 2023 However, US-based reports have found that despite the Taliban’s ongoing crackdown on IS, Afghanistan has become a staging ground for potential IS attacks in Asia and Europe. The Taliban has rejected this assessment.14Dan Lamothe, Joby Warrick, ‘Afghanistan has become a terrorism staging ground again, leak reveals,’ Washington Post, 22 April 2023; Ayaz Gul, Taliban Reject Leaked US Assessment IS Using Afghanistan as Terror Base,’ Voice of America, 23 April 2023 Meanwhile, the UN is considering suspending its operations in Afghanistan after the Taliban banned women from working for the organization. UN officials are meeting in Qatar in early May to discuss key issues, including human rights, in the country; the Taliban was not invited to the meeting.15Osama Bin Javaid, ‘UN holds crucial Afghanistan talks in Qatar, without Taliban,’ Al Jazeera, 1 May 2023
India: Deadly ‘Red Corridor’ violence reported during Tactical Counter-Offensive Campaign
Clashes in India between Naxal-Maoist rebels and Indian security forces continued at elevated levels in April, following increased activity in March. On 26 April, Naxal-Maoist rebels targeted a police convoy with an IED in Chhattisgarh state, reportedly killing at least 10 security personnel. This was the deadliest attack on security forces in the ‘Red Corridor’ in two years.16The Hindu, ‘Biggest attack by Maoists in Chhattisgarh in two years,’ 26 April 2023 Earlier in the month, security forces reportedly killed five high-ranking CPI (Maoist) cadres, including two special area committee members, in an exchange of fire in Jharkhand state. The ‘Red Corridor’ typically sees an increase in armed activity between March-June every year, when Naxal-Moist rebels carry out their annual Tactical Counter-Offensive Campaign, increasing recruitment and offensive activities before the onset of monsoon season. The escalation in violence also comes when the Central Reserve Police Force has established several new forward operating bases in former rebel strongholds.17Neeraj Chauhan, ‘Maoist attack in Chhattisgarh is a sign of desperation: Security officials,’ Hindustan Times, 27 April 2023
Indonesia: Civilians at risk amid deadly clashes in Papua
Clashes in Indonesia between state forces and the West Papua National Liberation Army (TPNPB) in Central Papua and Highland Papua provinces continued at elevated levels in April as the government seeks to rescue a New Zealand pilot held captive by the rebels since February. The authorities announced at least seven soldiers died in the recent clashes,18Tribunnews, ‘Private First Class F was found dead, TPNPB involved women and children to attack the Indonesian military,’ 23 April 2023; Alex Loen, ‘4 Indonesian soldiers reported missing in the Mugi-Mam District were found dead,’ Jubi, 20 April 2023 while the rebels claimed to have killed 15 military officers.19Jubi, ‘TPNPB Spokesperson: The Indonesian military commander did not take responsibility for the deaths of his soldiers in Mugi,’ 20 April 2023 Since the beginning of the year, ACLED has recorded more than a dozen armed clashes between state forces and the TPNPB. The violence in Papua has also directly impacted civilians, with the TPNPB implicated in over a dozen events targeting civilians in 2023. The TPNPB has stated that it would target all non-Papuans and foreigners entering Papua until the Indonesian government grants independence to Papua.20BBC, ‘New Zealand pilot kidnapping: Indonesia’s West Papua conflict explained,’ 18 April 2023 Meanwhile, military and police forces have raided villages in Papua looking for TPNPB members, causing many villagers to flee their homes.21Suara Papua, ‘The Intan Jaya government distributed food aid to the evacuation sites,’ 22 April 2023 Civilians suspected of involvement in the TPNPB’s activities have been targeted by state forces, with state forces carrying out at least 10 separate attacks targeting Papuan civilians in 2023.
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