This page features the latest news and in-depth analysis on armed conflict and security developments across Asia. The Conflict News page is updated several times each month, linking to a select range of content from trusted external sources.
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Philippines Muslim Leaders ‘Tired of Waiting’ for Bangsamoro Law
Leaders of the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group have warned of a growing frustration in the southern island of Mindanao over the delay in the implementation of a 2014 peace agreement it signed with the government. Ghazali Jaafar, vice chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), told a constitutional reform panel on Tuesday, that Muslim groups are “tired of waiting” to achieve real autonomy for their people. “This is precisely why some of our former comrades bolted from us, and how they are fighting with us because they are frustrated, so to speak, with the way the government is handling the negotiation,” Jaafar, who is one of the main authors of a proposed Muslim autonomy law, was quoted as saying by local news.
Read the full article on Al Jazeera (13 March 2018)
Sri Lanka’s Anti-Muslim Violence
Over the past fortnight, Sri Lanka has witnessed a surge in violence targeting Muslims, their properties, and places of worship. It prompted President Maithripala Sirisena to declare an island-wide state of emergency on March 6. Curfew was imposed and the army deployed in some of the areas worst-hit by the violence. However, attacks on Muslims continue and appear to be spreading geographically too. A Muslim-owned restaurant in Putallam district was attacked, for instance, in the early hours of March 11. The current wave of violence was reportedly sparked by an incident of road rage involving a Sinhalese truck driver and a group of Muslim men in Kandy district in the central highlands on February 22. The latter assaulted the Sinhalese driver, which resulted in his death at a hospital a few days later. The day after his death, Sinhalese mobs went on a rampage, attacking Muslims, and burning their homes, shops, and vehicles. The violence has since spread to other districts.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (13 March 2018)
Bangladesh Asks Myanmar to Pull Back Troops from Border
Bangladesh Thursday asked Myanmar to immediately “pull back” security forces and heavy weapons from the border after the troop build-up near a camp housing thousands of stranded Rohingya stirred tension on the troubled frontier. The foreign ministry “summoned” Myanmar’s envoy and conveyed the country’s “concerns” over the “military build-up” amid rising tensions following the influx of nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar. Bangladesh’s acting foreign secretary “conveyed to the Myanmar ambassador in Dhaka that such military build-up will create confusion within Bangladesh and escalate tensions on the border,” the ministry said. Dhaka said the troops were mobilised near a thin strip of land between the two countries where around 6,000 Rohingya have been living since fleeing Myanmar following a brutal military crackdown on the Muslim minority in late August.
Read the full article on the New Straits Times (2 March 2018)
India’s Sitharaman Warns Pakistan After Jammu attack
India has warned Pakistan that it “will pay” for its “misadventure” in Indian-administered Kashmir in the wake of a deadly attack on an army camp in Jammu city. At least six Indian soldiers were killed after fighters stormed the Sunjuwan army camp on Saturday. The three attackers were killed in the ensuing gun battle that continued for more than two days. “Pakistan is expanding the arc of terror … We will be providing evidence to prove that the handlers are back in Pakistan and they are the mastermind, influencing all this … Pakistan will pay for this misadventure,” Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s defence minister, said on Monday. Her comments came as the divided Himalayan region witnessed two deadly attacks in three days, raising tension between the South Asian neighbours.
Read the full article on Al Jazeera (13 February 2018)
Maldives: President Orders State of Emergency to Investigate ‘Coup’
The President of the Maldives said Tuesday he ordered a state of emergency to investigate “this plot, this coup” involving a Supreme Court ruling last week that ordered the release of imprisoned opposition leaders, including many of his political rivals. The island country lies south-west of India and Sri Lanka. “This is not a state of war, epidemic or natural disaster, this is something more dangerous,” said President Abdulla Yameen in a televised address. “This is an obstruction of the very ability of the state to function.” Yameen, who has rolled back a series of democratic reforms during his five years in office, has said that the court overstepped its authority in ordering the politicians released, saying the order “blatantly disrupts the systems of checks and balances.”
Read the full article on The Independent (6 February 2018)
Explaining the Radicalization of Central Asian Migrants
Radicalization in Central Asia has been a long-standing concern. Yet, historically, violence from the region has been relatively rare. While the immediate post-Soviet period was marked by internal conflict, including the civil war in Tajikistan, these conflicts largely remained local. This appears to be changing. The past couple of years have been marked by a noticeable increase in instances of international terrorism linked to Central Asians. A further number have shown up as foreign terrorist fighters. The New York City truck attack, the attack on a nightclub in Istanbul, a vehicle attack in Stockholm, and the bombing of the St. Petersburg metro system were all linked to Central Asians. While the exact reasons for this pattern are still being uncovered by investigators, one feature that appears common among Central Asians who end up in Syria and Iraq, at least, is a history of working as labor migrants in Russia.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (29 January 2018)
How Aung San Suu Kyi Sees the Rohingya Crisis
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has overseen what is said to be the world’s fastest growing refugee crisis, as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. Risking death by sea or on foot, more than half a million have fled persecution in northern Rakhine state since August 2017. The government sees the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Many of those who have fled describe troops and Rakhine Buddhist mobs burning their villages and attacking civilians. But Myanmar’s military says it is fighting Rohingya militants, and denies ever targeting civilians. Ms Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner who lived under house arrest for many years for her pro-democracy activism, is facing allegations that she has failed to speak out over violence against the Rohingyas. So, what has she said?
Read the full article on BBC News (25 January 2018)
Myanmar to Sign Ceasefire with Two Rebel Groups Amid Decades of Conflict
Two armed ethnic groups in Myanmar have agreed to sign a ceasefire with the government, state media reported on Wednesday, as leader Aung San Suu Kyi seeks to revive a stuttering peace process to end decades of conflict. Ending near-perpetual civil war has been Suu Kyi’s stated top priority, but the Buddhist-majority country has seen the worst fighting with rebels in years since she took office 22 months ago. The peace process, which has been eclipsed in world media coverage by the plight of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh, is key to unlocking the resource-rich country’s potential and guaranteeing development for its more than 50 million people. New Mon State Party and the Lahu Democratic Union agreed to sign the National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) after a meeting with Suu Kyi and the military’s commander-in-chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Tuesday, state-run newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar reported.
Read the full article on the New Straits Times (24 January 2018)
Tensions Soar Along India, Pakistan Border in Kashmir
Two civilians and an Indian soldier were killed and twenty more wounded in the latest ceasefire violations in the border villages of Jammu region in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said. State police Chief Shesh Paul Vaid told Al Jazeera that the two civilians, including a 52-year-old woman, were killed in fresh shelling by Pakistani side in RS Pura sector in Jammu region on Friday morning. “One Border Security Force (BSF) trooper has also been killed in the shelling which continues since night,” Vaid said, adding that twenty civilians were also wounded. On Thursday, an Indian soldier and a 17-year-old girl were killed in RS Pura and Arnia sectors of Jammu region, officials said, taking the death toll to five in twenty-four hours from the Indian-side. Despite a 2003 ceasefire, India and Pakistan regularly trade fire across the so-called Line of Control (LoC), the military demarcation between the Indian and Pakistani controlled parts of Jammu and Kashmir.
Read the full article on Al Jazeera (19 January 2018)
The Taiwan Strait After a Second Korean War
One unexpected side effect to the nuclear crisis has been a dampening of tensions elsewhere in the Indo-Pacific. With the prospect for a nuclear catastrophe on the Korean peninsula, other crises or potential conflicts, such as the disputes over the Senkakus or the South China Sea, have receded in urgency. Ironically, this is a good indication that the end of the Kim regime and a collapse of the North Korean state would result in increased tensions between the United States and China. While there have been many studies looking at how North Korea, South Korea, and the United States could end up in war, and many studies of how such a war would play out, there has been little attention paid to the security landscape post-crisis.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (10 January 2018)
Where Is West Papua’s Struggle for Independence from Indonesia Headed?
John Ondawame greatly admired the independence struggle in East Timor, especially its ability to win active support from people in Europe, the United States and Australia. But the exiled former fighter, activist and spokesman for West Papuans also longed for the world to take notice of the plight of his people and to see the shared contours of the two conflicts—two ethnically distinct regions of Indonesia longing to break free. Ondawame did not live to see his dream of West Papua’s independence fulfilled; he died in 2014. But it is more difficult than ever for the Indonesian government to keep the problems of its most restive province out of sight. Long mismanaged by successive administrations in Jakarta, West Papua is pushing harder to have its case for independence heard.
Read the full article on World Politics Review (4 January 2018)
The Assassination That Orphaned Pakistani Politics
“Where were you when Benazir was killed?” is one of the best ways to start a conversation in Pakistan. Most remember the moment when news of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s death spread and parts of the country fell into turmoil. Ten years later, Bhutto has not been forgotten. Her name and face frequently appear on billboards and election materials, as candidates continue to exploit her legacy for votes. Schools, colleges, airports and hospitals are named after her. There are social welfare schemes in her name. She even has a district named after her – Benazirabad. Bhutto was so popular that a crowd of hundreds of thousands greeted her in October 2007, when she returned from self-imposed exile, just three months before she was assassinated.
Read the full article on Al Jazeera (27 December 2017)
How Al-Qaeda Came to Kashmir
On July 27, 2017, Al-Qaeda formally announced it was establishing an affiliate in Jammu and Kashmir – India’s troubled northern state, claimed also by Pakistan. For three decades of the ongoing armed separatist campaign in the state, pan-Islamist religious ideologies struggled to find a toehold. But this year Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, an al-Qaeda affiliate, set up a unit in Kashmir headed by the 23-year-old former Kashmir commander of the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen, Zakir Musa. In a press release issued both in English and Urdu, titled “Statement No 1,” Al-Qaeda said that “the jihad in Kashmir has entered a stage of awakening.”
Read the full article on The Diplomat (20 December 2017)
Myanmar Bars UN Probe as Mass Grave Found in Rakhine
The UN’s investigator into human rights in Myanmar has been barred from entering the country. Yanghee Lee had been due to visit in January to review Myanmar’s human rights, including alleged attacks on Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. The government said it had banned her because she was “not impartial and objective while conducting her work”. Ms Lee said the decision to block her suggested “something terribly awful” was happening in Rakhine. On Tuesday, Myanmar’s authorities said they found 10 bodies in a mass grave in a village there. Ms Lee last visited Myanmar in July, where she raised concerns over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.
Read the full article on BBC News (20 December 2017)
Will the Bangsamoro Peace Process Succeed?
The Moro insurgency is one of the longest-running conflicts in the southern Philippines. Although several peace agreements have been brokered with the help of third parties, progress on implementation has largely stalled due to intermittent ceasefire violations and a lack of political support. But there is now renewed impetus for the peace process. For months, President Rodrigo Duterte has been seen building support for the long-stalled Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), including meeting with various lawmakers to set the bill in motion. While it is still in draft stage, the vision is to create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region and grant the insurgents greater economic and political powers.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (7 December 2017)
Kashmir Conflict Drives Tourists Away
A recent snowfall in the upper reaches of Indian-administered Kashmir came after months of drought. Mountaintops in the valley these days are mesmerising, covered with snow. An early snowfall would normally be a blessing for the local tourism sector, especially in famous winter resort areas, such as Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonmarg. Yet these places appear desolate, with very few tourists around. Tourism is a key sector of Kashmir’s economy. According to local tourism officials, a single visiting tourist typically spends around $775. In 2016, nearly 1.3 million tourists came to the valley, but the tourism department had expected 1.8 million. Last year alone, the industry reportedly lost more than $46m.
Read the full article on Al Jazeera (4 December 2017)
Sri Lanka’s Failure to Confront Its Past and Present Casts a Shadow on Its Future
More than eight years have passed since Sri Lanka declared the end of its nearly three-decade long civil war. Since then, the small island-nation in the Indian Ocean has made significant progress. The country has remained mostly peaceful; tourists have started arriving in droves; and investors, especially from China, have started pouring billions into Sri Lanka, given its strategic location. And yet Sri Lanka’s march toward a stable, peaceful and prosperous future is threatened by two closely related problems: its hesitant approach to dealing with the events of the past, and its reluctance to tackle emerging tensions.
Read the full article on World Politics Review (30 November 2017)
Will Southern Thailand Turn to Jihad?
In a world where the news media focuses on the failed states of the Muslim world, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen, Thailand often escapes attention. Though a Buddhist-majority country, Thailand suffers from one of the longest-running Muslim insurgencies in Asia. Malay irredentists and secessionists describing themselves as Islamists have hit southern Thailand with beheadings and car bombs, nightmarish tactics rarely seen outside the Middle East. Even so, analysts and journalists must appreciate Thailand as an outlier in the history of jihadism.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (20 November 2017)
Myanmar Forces Committed ‘Widespread Rape’ of Rohingya
Myanmar’s security forces committed “widespread rape” against Rohingya women and girls as part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the country’s Rakhine State, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said in a report. A 15-year-old Rohingya girl told HRW that soldiers stripped her naked and dragged her from her home to a nearby tree where about 10 men raped her. “They left me where I was. When my brother and sister came to get me, I was lying there on the ground, they thought I was dead,” said the girl from Hathi Para village in Maungdaw district.
Read the full article on Al Jazeera (16 November 2017)
How a North Korean Soldier Defected Across the DMZ
A North Korean soldier defected to the South by crossing the heavily protected Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) separating the two sides. This is the fourth defection by a North Korean soldier via the DMZ in the past three years. But how do you get over one of the world’s most heavily guarded strips of land without being spotted? The soldier was shot and injured by his own military as he crossed to the South Korean side of the Joint Security Area (JSA) in the village of Panmunjom. North Korean troops shot at him 40 times, and he was hit five times – but he made it across and was found under a pile of leaves.
Read the full article on BBC News (14 November 2017)
After Sharif’s Ouster, How Strained Are Civil-Military Relations in Pakistan?
Since Nawaz Sharif’s ouster as prime minister in August, Pakistan has been abuzz with talk of strained civil-military relations. The situation materially worsened when Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, the army’s chief of staff, publicly lectured the government last month on expanding tax collection to improve the economy. A very public war of words between the government and military ensued, with the interior minister even suggesting on Facebook that Pakistan was on the cusp of another coup d’état, before walking back his comments. While ties between the elected civilian government and the armed forces have frayed recently, Sharif’s removal itself did not tilt the balance any further toward the army. That’s because the army was already in its strongest position since the military-backed rule of President Pervez Musharraf. Rather than a shift, recent events illustrate the extent of the military’s dominant role
Read the full article on World Politics Review (7 November 2017)
Philippine Conflict: President Duterte Says Marawi is Militant-free
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has declared the city of Marawi “liberated” from militants, even as fighting continues. The army said it was battling up to 30 militants left in the city, who were holding about 20 hostages. Marawi has been partly held by fighters linked to so-called Islamic State (IS) since an attack in May. Troops have been trying to root them out in a conflict that has killed more than 1,000 people – mostly militants. Mr Duterte made his announcement while addressing troops in Marawi on Tuesday, saying: ‘‘Ladies and gentlemen, I hereby declare Marawi liberated from the terrorists.’’
Read the full article on BBC News (17 October 2017)
What Is the Tatmadaw’s Plan for the Rohingya?
Despite taking years to plan, history’s worst crimes against humanity appeared to the world as clumsy, hasty, and reactive. The Ottoman Empire organized the Armenian Genocide amid fears of Russian spies during World War I. Nazi Germany raced to implement the Final Solution, the bloodiest phase of the Holocaust, as the Soviet Union and the Western Allies punched through its defenses during World War II. Newcomers to genocide studies might see historic recurrence in Myanmar, whose military, the Tatmadaw, claims that it only started battling the Rohingya, a Muslim minority, after insurgents fighting under the banner of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) conducted operations against security forces in October 2016 and August 2017. However, the Tatmadaw has spent decades engineering the genocide of the Rohingya, a conspiracy that is now coming to fruition and that, in the face of the Western world’s growing complacence and Islamophobia, will likely succeed.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (14 October 2017)
Kurdistan’s Referendum Gamble
Three areas of Iraqi Kurdistan have gone to the polls for a referendum that is intended to add meat to the bone of any future negotiations for secession. The desk minders in Baghdad are fuming; regional power brokers are minding their military inventories. The Reuters news agency noted the words of a man queuing to vote in Irbil. “We have been waiting 100 years for this day. We want to have a state, with God’s help. Today is a celebration for all Kurds.” President of the Kurdish region, Massoud Barzani was unflappably confident on Sunday: “From now on, Kurdistan will be a neighbour of Iraq, but not a part of it.” Iraq remains a construction, an artificial confection of miscellaneous, often murderous groups. It is being held together – barely – and the Iraqi leaders wish to keep it this way.
Read the full article on International Policy Digest (25 September 2017)
Shelling Across Pakistan-India Border Kills Six Civilians, Wounds 30
Shelling along the disputed border between Pakistan and India killed six civilians, and wounded an additional 30 people, officials from the two sides said on Friday, in the latest confrontation between the two nuclear-armed countries. The firing took place across the frontier separating Pakistan’s Punjab province from Indian-administered Kashmir’s Jammu region, and most of the casualties were reported on the Pakistani side. Pakistan’s military said six civilians were killed and 26 wounded. Both countries claim Kashmir, and have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region, which they have disputed since partition and independence from British colonial rule in 1947.
Read the full article on New Straits Times (22 September 2017)
Half a Century of India’s Maoist Insurgency
With the largest Communist guerrilla army in the world — the FARC of Colombia — handing over its guns to the United Nations on June 27 this year and preparing to contest elections in the coming month, a curtain has been drawn on the once ubiquitous phenomenon of “Marxist insurgencies.” Once present all across the globe, Communist guerrillas and their armed offensives against governments had shaped much of the 20th century. From small bands of deadly fighters to full-fledged armies with combatants numbering in the thousands, such groups once held significant firepower and control of land across Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. But as things stand today most of these groups have either been crushed, chosen the ballot over the bullet, or have withered into political irrelevance. Bucking that trend, a protracted people’s war has been running for the past 50 years between Maoist guerrillas and the Indian government with no end in sight.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (21 September 2017)
Is it Too Late to Pull Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis Back from the Brink?
Violence has again engulfed Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine state, killing scores of people and stoking fears that the long-running crisis there has grown more intractable and more likely to foster radicalization. Many had hoped that Myanmar’s democratically elected government, which took over 18 months ago amid a transition from military rule, could take steps to alleviate the conflict and end the underlying human rights abuses of the Rohingya minority. But the rapidly deteriorating security situation has emerged as a key stumbling bloc for Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration, overshadowing recently proposed measures to address grievances.
Read the full article on World Politics Review (31 August 2017)
Sectarian War Is Looming Over Afghanistan
A nightmare is coming true: Afghanistan is falling into sectarian war. On July 22, 2016 twin suicide bombers attacked a rally of the Shiite Hazara community, taking the lives of more than 80 people. More than 250 were injured. In November 2016, a suicide attacker targeted a Shiite mosque in Kabul, killing 27 members of the Shiite Hazara community. On June 6, 2017 in an attack on Herat Jamma Masjid, seven Shiite Hazaras were killed by a suicide bomber. On August 2, in the same city, a suicide attack blew up a Shiite mosque, claiming the lives of 29 worshipers. Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (the group’s outfit in South Asia) claimed responsibility for each of these attacks.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (9 August 2017)
The Political Geography of the India-China Crisis at Doklam
Starting in June, a tiny piece of strategically important and until-now obscure Himalayan territory sitting at the intersection of India, China, and Bhutan became the site of the one of the most serious border standoffs between New Delhi and Beijing in three decades. As of July 12, 2017, the standoff continues, with no end in sight. Scores — potentially hundreds — of Indian Army and Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops remain at an impasse near the Doka La pass in Doklam. Nearly one month after the standoff began, details about the geography of the area and the motivations of all three governments involved remain murky.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (13 July 2017)
Taliban territory: Life in Afghanistan under the militants
Sixteen years after they were ousted in the US-led invasion, the Taliban have fought their way back to control swathes of Afghanistan. The country remains mired in conflict, and recent months have seen a series of bloody attacks. In the south, key towns are now Taliban territory. The BBC’s Auliya Atrafi was invited by the militants to spend four days behind the front line in Helmand province witnessing life under their control.
Read the full article on BBC News (8 June 2017)
Duterte Places Philippine Island of Mindanao Under Martial Law. What Next?
On Tuesday, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law in the southern Philippines after violence broke out in Marawi City between Islamic State-linked militants, local police, and the Philippine military. On Tuesday afternoon in Marawi City, the capital of the Philippine province of Lanao Del Sur on the island of Mindanao, armed militants with the Maute Group carried out multiple explosions around the city, with authorities warning all civilians to remain indoors. Fighting in Marawi continued into the night.
Read the full article on The Diplomat (24 May 2017)