Vincent Fevrier

Vincent Fevrier

Senior Analyst

18/10/2017

18/10/2017

Southeast Asia Mid-Month Report – October 1st – 15th


Philippines
The first half of October in the Philippines has continued to see the bulk of incidents reported in Manila. The concentration of incidents in the Metro Manila area are due to the ongoing war on drugs. The first half of the month has seen a reduction in the number of police shootings against drug suspects, but there has been a continuation of extrajudicial killings, of those currently and formerly involved in drugs, by vigilantes. While President Duterte’s war on drugs remains popular for most people, a dip in the President’s satisfaction and trust ratings has led him to order the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency to become the primary agency involved in the war on drugs, relegating the Philippine National Police to a role of intelligence provider rather than a force of action. This has led all Drug Enforcement Units from regional police offices to local police stations to be dissolved. The Philippine National Police will now attempt to rectify their public image by tackling the scourge of extrajudicial killings, which are mostly undertaken by motorcycle-riding gunmen, often involving two or more people.
Extrajudicial killings, murders, and small arms fire incidents - Metro-Manila – October 1st – 15th
Elsewhere in the Philippines, much of the security related incidents are due to the persistent action of the New People’s Army, the Maute Group, and Abu Sayyaf, and are concentrated around the southern island of Mindanao. While the international focus has been on Islamic State militants in Marawi City, the New People’s Army has continued a steady campaign of violence against government forces and businesses on a national scale. The group has been responsible for four arson attacks in October thus far, against mostly construction and agricultural companies, such as Del Monte Inc. The most significant attack took place in Bauko, Kalinga in northern Philippines, where a group of NPA rebels attacked the 14-megawatt Savangan Hydroelectric Power Plant, destroying a control room leaving several areas of the province without power. The group averages 4 arson attacks per month this year, but attacks have steadily climbed through September and October after the decline in July and August. Two other significant incidents by the group in October has been an ambush on government forces in Janiuay, Iloilo which wounded 6 soldiers, and an attack on an Army convoy in Cauayan town, Negros Occidental which wounded 2 Swedish nationals and their local driver. The activity of the group has picked back up since slowing down when the Marawi siege began in May and June, and a resumption of peace talks or a ceasefire do not seem to be on the horizon despite several dozen NPA fighters surrendering in various parts of the country.
NPA related incidents in northern Luzon – October 1st and 15th
NPA related incidents in Visayas and Mindanao – October 1st – 15th
In Marawi City, fighting continues between government forces and members of Maute Group and Abu Sayyaf Group. The fighting which began on May 23rd, is now concentrated on a few city blocks near Lake Lanao, and the Army had given October 15th as the deadline for the government forces to have re-taken the city, but that deadline was missed. Authorities say that around 40 militants are left, but those numbers have been known to fluctuate. Government forces have continued to take losses during the first half of the month, as sniper fire and IEDs continue to slow their progress in capturing or killing militants. Dozens of hostages have also been rescued in October, but some have also been killed as some have been forced to join the ranks of the militants. A significant incident that took place at the midpoint of the month was the killing of the leader of ISIS forces in southeast Asia, Isnilon Hapilon, and Omar Maute, the leader the Maute Group. Both leaders were killed in a raid on October 16th, and this is a significant blow for the militants in Marawi City and Islamic State affiliates in the Philippines and the region, but is by no means the end of Islamic insurgencies in the country or region.
Elsewhere, Abu Sayyaf in the province of Sulu has continued to be active despite several members surrendering to authorities. The four Abu Sayyaf fighters were part of a group led by Alhabsy Misaya who was killed in late April. The most significant incident by the group, took place on October 14th when they kidnapped 5 fishermen in the port of Poblacion, Pangutaran town, Sulu. The fishermen were kidnapped by armed men onboard two speedboats, who fled immediately after. Clashes between the group and government forces have not been as significant this first half of the month, but a clash did take place on October 8th in Barangay Pula Pansul, Patikul, Sulu, with no casualties on either side being reported.
Malaysia
The first half of October has seen Malaysia continue to record several incidents classified as murders, armed robberies, and drug and human trafficking. The most significant incidents in the first half of the month have been related to the police’s counter-terror raids which have led to the arrests of several suspected terrorists. The arrests included an Albanian national teaching at a local university, who was arrested on October 1st in Selangor State for having ties to Islamic State militants overseas, as well as 2 men arrested in Perak State on October 6th for recruiting others to join Tandzim Al-Qaeda Malaysia (TAQM), and planning attacks on Muslim, Christian and Hindu places of worship. These arrests were made in connection to the arrests of 5 individuals with links to Abu Sayyaf, on September 27th in Sandakan, Sabah.
Incidents in peninsular Malaysia – October 1st – 15th
Questions have been asked of authorities on how militants have been able to travel from Sabah to peninsular Malaysia, particularly Filipino militants belonging to Abu Sayyaf. The arrests of 5 Filipinos in a home in Sandakan, Sabah on October 5th, sheds some light on this issue. The individuals were arrested for creating fake identification cards, as well as a variety of other documents making it easy for militants or other types of criminals to travel through Malaysia without any issues. Police recovered dozens of forged IDs and documents from the home. Later in the month, on October 11th, 3 men were arrested in Pasir Puteh, Kelantan, leading to the recovery of three IEDs packed with ball bearings with a blast radius of 30 meters, as well as a pipe bomb and other materials that could be used for the production of IEDs. Authorities say the men had planned to target the Better Beer Festival which had been cancelled earlier in September, as well as targeting non-Muslim places of worship. Since the beginning of the year, 45 foreign terrorist fighters have been arrested in counter-terror raids across the country. Of these, 13 have been charged under the country’s Security Offenses Act, and 12 have been deported to face charges in their respective countries. With the siege of Marawi City in the Philippines coming to a close, as well as the continued activity of Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Basilan provinces, the curfew put in place on the eastern coast of Sabah bordering the Philippines has been extended until October 26th to continue its efforts to prevent more militants from entering Malaysia.
Incidents in Sabah, Malaysia – October 1st – 15th
Regarding other types of incidents, trafficking of goods, drugs, and humans continues to impact Malaysia. Authorities have made strides to stop these incidents, particularly through increasing security at border checkpoints on the northern border with Thailand. During the first half of the month, significant incidents regarding such crimes involved the seizure of 50kg of Ketum leaves from a car in Ipoh on October 6th. The leaves are popular for drug addicts to get high when cannabis or heroin are not available. On October 3rd, 19 slabs of cannabis worth RM45,800 were seized from a home in Kempas, Johor. Besides drugs, police were also successful in seizing RM1.1million worth of cigarettes in Bachok, not far from the Thai border, as well as arrested 3 Thai nationals for attempting to smuggle subsidized fuel back to Thailand through the Rantay Panjang border crossing. Nonetheless, the most significant incident was the arrest of 22 ‘Geng Pak Su’ members in Kubang Pasu district, who were arrested for their role in smuggling activities on the Malaysia-Thailand border.
Incidents in Kuala Lumpur – October 1st – 15th
Cambodia
The first half of October has seen a continuation of the crackdown by the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), the ruling party, on its main opposition, the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), as well as its tightening grip on non-governmental organisations. Regarding the continued crackdown on the CNRP, there were reports on October 11th that the CNRP put on hold a registration education campaign in Battambang town because local authorities had forbidden them of such activities. According to reports, similar actions have taken place in other CNRP-held communes, but no such restrictions are in place in CPP-held communes. On October 13th, leaked documents showed that the CPP were proposing amendments to the country’s election law to allow the CPP to be eligible to receive CNRP commune chiefs’ seats if the CNRP were dismantled. These amendments were passed without opposition on October 16th by the national assembly. There is a chance that this happens as several smaller parties, particularly allies of the CPP, have filed documents with the courts and government to dissolve the CNRP. Also, taking place on the 13th, the Interior Minister instructed provincial governors, police chiefs and officers to stop people from traveling to Phnom Penh to protest during the trial of Kem Sokha, the CNRP leader on trial for treason. The order was given as the government fears the possibility of unrest by opposition supporters.
Incidents in Phnom Penh – October 1st – 15th
Regarding the government’s tightening grip on NGOs, on October 14th an NGO was stopped from conducting an agricultural training in Romeas Hek district, Svay Rieng, because of an apparent directive that the NGO must ask provincial, district and local authorities for permission three days prior to conducting any activity. The Law for NGOs and Associations of Cambodia does not require NGOs to ask for such authorization. The actions of the authorities could have been taken to stop any sort of large gatherings from taking place, in fear of any anti-government rhetoric.
Incidents in Cambodia – October 1st – 15th
Other incidents in Cambodia for the first half of October have included the seizure of two illegal sawmills, the seizure of illegal timber and arrests of illegal loggers particularly in Kratie and Ratanakkiri provinces, drug arrests, and occurrences of theft, particularly of motorbikes and cellphones. Similar crimes are expected to be reported in the second half of the month in equal numbers, as has been the trend with previous months.
Of importance has been the discovery of several unexploded chemical bombs (tear gas bombs) in Koki commune, Svay Rieng province. The bombs were remnants from those dropped by the U.S. during the Vietnam War. On October 2nd, the Cambodian Mine Action Group began to dismantle two bombs that had been discovered earlier in the year. The process took 10 days and led to 162 families being relocated out of Romeas Hek district for their safety. During the weekend of October 7th, 4 more bombs were found near the site of the first ones, and led to several villagers being sent to the hospital after being exposed to some of the chemicals. On October 10th, 14 new bombs were discovered in the same area. Cambodia, like many countries around it such as Laos and Vietnam, continue to deal with unexploded ordnance dating back from the Vietnam War, and there have been several instances in 2017 of civilians being wounded from such ordnance exploding.
Indonesia
Incidents in Indonesia – October 1st – 15th
Indonesia has seen a significant amount of volcanic activity since mid-September and into the first half of October. The highest profile incident has been the continuous activity surrounding Mount Agung on the island of Bali. The country’s authorities raised the alert level of the volcano to its highest in mid-September, and authorities decided on October 12th to extend the alert status through October 26th. The threat the volcano poses has led to the evacuation of over 100,000 people in its vicinity, as well as livestock. Elsewhere, Mount Karangetang, on October 10th, spewed sulphuric smoke 200 meters into the air. The volcano is located on Siau Island in North Sulawesi. In North Sumatra, Mount Sinabung, on October 12th, spewed a pyroclastic flow and volcanic ash for six minutes in the early hours of the morning. No damage was reported, but authorities are keeping a close watch to ensure appropriate safety precautions are taken for the populations around it.
Incidents in Jakarta – October 1st – 15th
The most common type of incident in Indonesia in the month of October thus far, is drug trafficking. Eight incidents have been recorded, with almost one a day being recorded since October 4th. Three of the incidents involved the smuggling of marijuana, while the rest involved crystal methamphetamine, with one incident also involving ecstasy.
Drug trafficking incidents – Indonesia – October 1st – 15th
On October 4th, 2 drug traffickers were arrested for transporting 2kg of crystal methamphetamine. The men informed police they had more drugs at their home in Simpang Pemda, Medan Selavang, Sumatra. The police officers took the suspects to the home, but while in the home, the suspects grabbed a gun and a knife, prompting officers to immediately shoot and kill the men. Further south on Sumatra Island, on October 5th, police foiled an attempt to smuggle 25kg of crystal methamphetamine and 25,000 ecstasy pills in Kandis sub-district, Siak district, Riau province. Drug trafficking arrests taking place on Sumatra usually involve individuals moving drugs by boat from Malaysia by crossing the narrow Malacca Strait into Aceh or Riau. Other significant incidents involved 3 men arrested on October 9th at the Juwata Tarakan International Airport attempting to smuggle 30 packets of crystal meth, hidden on the inside of their thighs, to South Sulawesi. A day later, a man was arrested at the Lombok International Airport for smuggling close to 229g of crystal meth by hiding it in sachets in his rectum. Similar to other countries in the region, Indonesia continues to fight the scourge of drugs, with the killing of drug traffickers slowly on the rise.
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