Southeast Asia Mid-Month Report – November 1st – 15th
Incidents in Indonesia â November 1st â 15th. (Click on above image to expand)
The first half of November has seen a continuation of incidents in Tembagapura, Mimika, Papua from the last reporting period. Shooting incidents in the area have persisted since October 21st. The first half of the month has seen 4 shooting incidents and an arson attack, primarily targeting police forces from the Mobile Brigade Unit, as well as company vehicles of the PT Freeport Indonesia mining company. The PT Freeport Indonesia company is an affiliate of Freeport-McMoRan, a major international mining company from the United States. The mine operating in the highlands of Papua, the Grasberg Mine, concentrates on extracting copper and gold. The location of the mine, however, places it in an area where armed groups have been battling the Indonesian government for decades as part of the Free Papua Movement (OPM). The armed groups perpetrating the current spate of shootings in Papua are believed to be factions of OPM in the area. In the most recent shooting, 1 police officer was killed and 1 wounded during a patrol on November 15th, while an employee of PT Freeport Indonesia was shot in the leg when his company patrol car was targeted on the 14th. The other shootings resulted in no casualties, and only damaged vehicles. The most significant incident recorded this month, which is still ongoing, has been the occupation of the villages of Banti and Kimbely by OPM members, who have barred anyone from entering or leaving. Government forces are attempting to resolve the standoff peacefully, but their efforts at communicating or sending relief supplies for the villagers have all been turned away by the militants.
Incidents in Papua, Indonesia â November 1st â 15th
PT Freeport Indonesia area of operation:Source
Intelligence Fusion will continue to monitor progress on the resolution of the standoff in the two villages, as well as keeping a close watch on whether the number of shootings increase, and if this may lead to a stronger response from government forces. The government deployed 2 additional platoons to the area at the start of the month, but no significant movement has come from that. As of now, it does not seem like the activities of the mine have been affected, but a rise in violence could see either a reduction of activity from the mine, but more likely an increase of security personnel around it to protect it and allow activities to continue normally.
Elsewhere in Indonesia, counter-terror operations continue, and on November 2nd, Imam Munandar, a leader of a terrorist group in Bima, West Nusa Tenggara surrendered to authorities in the same area. The man surrendered three days after his accomplices were killed in a shootout with authorities. He is believed to have been involved in the shooting deaths of two police officers in Bima in September. On November 7th, a man suspected of being a sympathizer of the Islamic State was arrested by Densus 88 counter-terror personnel in Bekasi, West Java. In relation to terrorism, the most significant incident in the first half of November was the attack on the Dharmasraya Police Headquarters in West Sumatra by two militants. The men set fire to the main building, and when confronted with police officers, one of them fired a bow and arrow at them. They were promptly shot and killed, and authorities seized a bow, arrows, two bayonets, and a letter calling for jihad from the suspects. Authorities suspect the men are from the Jemaah Ansharut Daulah terror group which are affiliated with the Islamic State. This is the 4th significant attack against police forces this year in Indonesia (Two suicide bombers killed police officers at a Transjakarta bus stop in East Jakarta in May; Police Headquarters attacked in Medan in June; and 2 Indonesian police officers were stabbed at a mosque near police headquarters in Jakarta in June).
Overall, the second half of the month will likely see a continuation of small scale ambushes by armed gunmen in the Mimika area of Papua, and will continue to see a small number of arrests related to terrorism suspects. Other forms of crime will continue, such as drug trafficking from Malaysia and into Indonesia. Several murders were recorded in Jakarta in the first half of November, but these involved family members killing each other, and did not target others. It is likely more will be seen in the near future.
Incidents in Cambodia â November 1st â November 15th. (Click on above image to expand)
Cambodiaâs political disorder has continued since Septemberâs arrest of CNRP leader Kem Sokha. The rhetoric coming from Prime Minister Hun Sen, his administration, and his political allies has continued to be defiant towards the United States, who it blames for trying to upend democracy in Cambodia, and the international community who have shown fears at the crackdown on the main opposition party, NGOs, and the media. On November 5th, PM Hun Sen threatened to impose a 5-year ban on participating in politics for 112 senior CNRP officials, but would allow lower level officials to join the ruling CPP. The move would be made under Article 44 of the Law on Political Parties, which can ban parties for up to 5 years, however does not call for punishments at an individual level, making this statement by the Prime Minister controversial. A day later, there were reports that CNRP members who had already fled Cambodia were seeking asylum in neighboring countries. On November 10th, PM Hun Sen, during a speech to garment factory workers said he did not care about getting the international communityâs endorsement on Cambodiaâs 2018 elections, and that the will of the people was all that mattered. Two days before, during another speech to garment workers, whose votes he is courting, he blamed the U.S. for attempting to destroy democracy in Cambodia by attempting to start a color revolution. Of importance in November will be the countryâs Supreme Court decision on November 16th on the fate of the CNRP, and whether the party will be dissolved or not. Dissolution for the party, may lead to widespread demonstrations and a more severe rebuke by the international community. To attempt to prevent any turmoil based on the decision, the Interior Minister ordered provincial governors to gage the political climates in their provinces. Additionally, the police are blocking some CNRP officials from travelling to Phnom Penh until after the decision is made.
Thefts and Arrests in Cambodia â November 1st â 15th. (Click on above image to expand)
The current administrationâs crackdown on media has also continued. A significant incident was the arrest of two former Radio Free Asia journalists in Phnom Penh on the 14th. The men were allegedly arrested for starting a karaoke production studio without the proper permits, despite not having started operating yet. However, the charges against the two former journalists have now been altered to espionage. The Deputy Police Chief of Phnom Penh has said they were looking to charge the two men under Article 445 of the Criminal Code for providing âa foreign state with information which undermines national defense.â The interior ministry has said the men were operating a broadcasting studio for Radio Free Asia, despite the two men denying the charges and Radio Free Asia having stopped operating in the country. The outcome of the menâs court appearances may have a significant impact for any past, current, or future journalists in the country working for international news outlets, or any that have opposing views to the government.
Regarding criminality, incidents in Cambodia in the first half of the month have been concentrated in Phnom Penh, with another smaller cluster formed in the west. The small cluster in the west is caused by several recorded arrests of gamblers in Battambang province. In Phnom Penh, and a trend thatâs similar across the country, the most common incidents continue to be thefts. Unsuspecting tourists are a target to groups of purse and phone snatchers, while the thefts and robberies of motorbikes more commonly affect residents. The second half of November will see a steady trend of similar incidents, more than likely concentrated on the capital. Other incidents likely to appear are incidents related to illegal logging, as well as the discovery of unexploded ordnance.
The first half of November saw Manila hosting the 31st ASEAN Summit, bringing in regional and world leaders to the country, including President Trump of the United States. Several protests were held in Manila in front of the U.S. Embassy, Trump Tower, and some of the venues that held the events. Additional protests were seen in Cagayan de Oro City and Davao City. The protests involved anti-Trump and anti-Duterte messages. Scuffles between riot police and protesters were reported, with the most significant violence taking place on November 13th in Manila. Water cannons and truncheons were used to disperse the crowd, and reports from the Health Alliance for Democracy, say that 123 protesters were hurt. The day before, 20 protesters and 20 police officers were hurt near the U.S. Embassy as protesters attempted to enter the zone marked off-limits. Also, related to the ASEAN Summit was a security scare due to the arrest of 3 Abu Sayyaf members in Quezon City days before the summit was to begin. Their presence suggested they may have been targeting the ASEAN Summit.
Incidents in Manila â November 1st â 15th.
Shootings have significantly dropped in Manila since the war on drugs was turned over from the Police to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. However, extra-judicial killings by motorcycle-riding gunmen continues to be present nationwide, mostly in large cities.
Incidents in Mindanao â November 1st â 15th.
Elsewhere, while combat operations in Marawi City ended in October, troops have engaged in a handful of smaller firefights with Maute Group stragglers during clearing operations. A dozen Maute Group fighters were killed in these skirmishes at the beginning of the month. These clearing operations have also allowed government troops to dispose of weapons and improvised explosive devices found in the main battle area, to allow for reconstruction and the return of residents to take place. On November 12th, 30 assault rifles were seized in a shallow part of Lake Lanao, having been left there by Maute Group militants. It is important for government forces to ensure no weapon and explosive is left behind, for not only public safety in case an explosive goes off inadvertently, but also so that they do not fall in the hands of current or future militants.
With the siege of Marawi City, the focus of the Armed Forces of the Philippines has now shifted towards other Islamic militant groups, mainly Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu Archipelago, and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao, as well as a focus on communist insurgents in the form of the New Peopleâs Army. In the first half of the month, Abu Sayyaf has remained active in Basilan, with two ambushes killing four militiamen, as well as a significant clash with government soldiers in Sumisip, which led to 6 soldiers being killed and 4 wounded. Further south in Sulu, a skirmish led to the arrest of 2 ASG members, while 8 others surrendered to soldiers a day later. The most significant incident in November thus far, was the rescue of the remaining Vietnamese hostages who had been held in captivity since February. The hostages were rescued from an ASG camp in Languyan town, Bongao, where unfortunately one of the hostages was found dead due to illness. In the last several months, there have been more rescues of hostages than the group has kidnapped, and with the death of Isnilon Hapilon during the Marawi Siege a watchful eye must be kept to see whether the group will attempt to kidnap more foreigners from the Sulu Sea off cargo ships in order to regain some momentum.
Regarding the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, there has been limited incident reporting in the first half of the month besides aerial bombardments in Carmen town, North Cotabato around November 8th, after reports came in that BIFF fighters were present, as well as 10 high value targets. The rocket fire from attack helicopters was supported by on-ground artillery fire from the 7th Infantry Battalion. On the 15th, government forces launched security operations, including artillery fire, in Shariff Aguak and Datu Unsay to capture three BIFF leaders. The second half of the month will likely see an increase in skirmishes between the two groups because of this.
As for the New Peopleâs Army, their activity has remained strong in the beginning of the month. The bulk of incidents related to their activities is concentrated in Mindanao. The areas of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces continue to see the highest numbers of rebels surrendering. Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte saw a spike of activity on November 13th and 14th, with the most significant incident being the kidnapping of two police officers in Placer town. Elsewhere in the country, most incidents involve the killing of militiamen or police officers in ambushes. However, a significant skirmish took place on November 9th in Dupax del Sur, Nueva Vizcaya which killed one rebel and wounded 11 soldiers. Another skirmish took place in the same area 5 days later. Activity for the group is not likely to decrease in the second half of this month or through December unless there is a significant change in attitudes towards the peace talks which have been on hold.
Incidents in Myanmar â November 1st â 15th.
Like previous months, Shan State in the East has seen a number of skirmishes take place between armed groups and the Myanmar Army. Of these, two were between the Myanmar Army and the TNLA, four between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar Army, and one between the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Myanmar Army. Of significance in the first half of the month has been the rise in armed encounters in Chin State, particularly in Paletwa Township. The recorded skirmishes have been between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar Army. The Arakan Army is primarily operating out of Rakhine State, but has also fought in Kachin and Shan State while fighting alongside the Kachin Independence Army. They fight for the self-determination of the Arakan people, among other things. Approximately half a dozen skirmishes have taken place since the beginning of the month between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar Army. The most significant was an incident on the Kaladan River in which 11 Myanmar Army soldiers and a civilian were killed, 14 soldiers and 3 civilians were wounded, when the boat they were travelling on was shot at. The narrative on the incident varies with each side, with the Myanmar Army saying they were ambushed, while the Arakan Army says they were defending their territory. The continuous clashes since early November has displaced over 300 civilians.
Elsewhere, two other significant incidents took place in the country. The first is the imprisonment of a cameraman from Singapore and a reporter from Malaysia, who working to film a documentary for Turkish TV, were arrested just prior to flying a drone over the parliament building. Their local driver and interpreter were both arrested as well. The group was charged for violating the 1934 Burma Aircraft Act, and sentenced to two months in prison. New charges have also been brought, and a hearing is to be held on November 16th to see if the journalists violated the import-export laws by bringing a drone into the country. Being charged under that law could add 3 years to their prison sentences.
The second significant incident was the passing of an order to ban demonstrations and rallies in central Yangon. The order was passed on November 8th and covers 11 townships where protests are banned. Authorities say the ban was passed as protests cause traffic and disruptions, cause nuisances for residents, and raise security concerns. Protesters will be directed to protest in Tamwe township from now on. The ban was passed by the Yangon Region Security and Border Affairs Minister controlled by a military official. Myanmarâs government is split between civilian and military control, and the civilian side has no control over the army and police. Human rights groups have called for a reversal of the ban, as they see this as an attack on free speech. This incident and the jailing of journalists could be indicators of the military side of government tightening its grip, particularly considering the recent violence in Rakhine State where theyâve been accused by Rohingya and some in the international community of having committed violations of human rights.