Southeast Asia Theater

Malaysia: 10 dead in stand-off with Sulu partisans

The Sultanate of Sulu, an autonomous kingdom within the Philippines, claimed March 1 that 10 members of the royal army were killed and four more injured in an attack by Malaysian authorities on Lahad Datu, the village seized by the Sulu partisans in Sabah state on Borneo. Malaysian authorities deny any reports of violence. Sultanate spokesman Abraham Idjirani told reporters in Manila that he was informed of the attack by Raj Muda Agbimuddin Kiram, who is leading the royal army partisans at Lahad Datu. Kiram is the brother of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III. Idjirani said Malaysian officials are seeking "to cover up the truth." (Philippine Star, Reuters via Malaysia Chronicle, March 1)

Borneo stand-off: whither Sulu sultanate?

Malaysian security forces remain in a stand-off with some 100 men they say are armed insurgents from a rebel faction in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao, who are accused of having taken over a village in a remote part of Sabah state on Borneo Feb. 14. But the Philippine government maintains the men are unarmed Filipino peasant migrants who had been promised land in the area. The Malaysian inhabitants of the village, named as Kampung Tanduao, have reportedly been forced to flee. Malaysian police forces say the invaders procialmed themselves the "royal army" of the Sultanate of Sulu, which has an historic claim to the area. By some accounts, the men have raised the Philippine flag in the village, which is now surrounded by Malaysian troops. The Philippine military has meanwhile deployed naval vessels and an aircraft to the coast of Malaysian Borneo. 

Thailand: insurgents launch Army of Pattani?

Thai soldiers killed at least 17 insurgents who attacked Bacho military base, Narathiwat province, in an audacious pre-dawn raid Feb. 13—the deadliest episode since the conflict flared nine years ago. Authorities say some 100 insurgents were involved in the attack near the Malaysian border, and the rebels displayed a greater degree of military organization than ever before—dressed in army fatigues of the same kind worn by Thai soliders, and armed with AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles. One unnamed "military source" told Thai media the insurgents have formed a "Pattani Army."

Burma: Kachin rebels agree to peace talks

Burmese government negotiators and representatives from the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) this week agreed to hold talks at Panghsang in northern Shan state, territory under the control of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), another rebel group that has entered into a peace deal.  The KIO, the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), accepted the plan Jan. 29. No official date has been set for the talks as government troops inch closer to Laiza after taking a key KIA hill station over the weekend, which served as the last line of strategic defense for the Kachin stronghold.

Burma: new airstrikes on Kachin rebels

The Burmese military on Jan. 2 claimed responsibility for several air-strikes against Kachin rebel positions in the country's north—less than a day after the government denied that the strikes had taken place. The military statement said that "an assault mission, utilizing air-strikes, was carried out" in the strategic Lajayang region, less than 13 kilometers from the rebels' headquarters in Laiza. This contradicts an earlier government claim that it was only using air forces to "deliver food supplies to its troops" and "to provide security for the workers who are repairing roads and bridges."

Burma: repression of anti-mine protesters

Burma’s President Thein Sein asked opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Dec. 1 to head an investigation into violence over the planned expansion of the Chinese-owned Latpaduang copper mine at the northern town of Monywa (Sagaing region, see map). The move comes two days after riot police cleared protesters from the site with baton charges, water cannons, tear gas, smoke bombs and—acording to Buddhist monks on the scene—some kind of incendiary devices. At least 50 people were injured, including more than 20 monks. Acitivsts put the number of injured at nearly 100. Images from Monywa's hospital of burned monks appeared in social media and drew condemnation from around the world. 

Burma frees 452 (political?) prisoners

Burma announced on Nov. 14 that it has freed 452 prisoners ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama. Burma's state-run media reported that the government has released the prisoners on humanitarian grounds and as a goodwill gesture by the nation. However, Burma's main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD) criticized the government's move, saying that the government has not released any of the estimated 330 political prisoners currently incarcerated in Burma. It is unclear if any of the 452 prisoners released are political ones because the government has not provided details on which prisoners have been freed. Obama is scheduled to visit Burma on Nov. 19.

Mindanao: fighting despite new autonomy deal

New fighting was reported from the southern Philippines island group of Mindanao Oct. 29, despite a recent deal on regional autonomy aimed at ending the decades-long insurgency. Former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels accused the Philippine military of attacking its members in western Sulu province, sparking a gun battle that left four soldiers dead and several more wounded. The MNLF said marine troops attacked its followers at a village in Patikul municipality, who were only harvesting coconuts. But the military's Western Mindanao Command insisted that troops had clashed with militants of the jihadist group Abu Sayyaf. The army was reportedly sent into the area after reports that Abu Sayyaf's kidnap victims had been spotted. The military said two militants were also killed in the clash. (See map.) (Mindanao Examiner, Oct. 29)

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