Daily Briefs

Photo : The Kathmandu Post

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #24, 28 June 2023, Wednesday

Nepal's annual budget passed in the Parliament with a majority

UN states that 1000 civilians have been killed following Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #24, 28 June 2023, Wednesday
By Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Ryan Marcus and Lakshmi Parimala H

Annual budget passed in the Parliament with a majority
On 28 June, the House of Representatives approved the fiscal budget for 2023-24 with a majority vote. Finance Minister Prakash Sharan Mahat presented the appropriation bill, supported by the ruling parties Unified Socialist Party and the Janata Samajbadi Party, the Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre). The main opposition party, CPN-UML and the Rashtriya Swatantra Party voted against the motion, while the Janamat Party also opposed it. Despite initial threats to vote against the bill, the ruling parties eventually voted in favour. ("House endorses annual budget for fiscal 2023-24 by a majority," The Kathmandu Post, 28 June 2023)

The Kuri-Gongri bridge collapses again
On 27 June, the Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam Highway in Trashigang, Bhutan, was been closed after a reconstructed bailey bridge collapsed, resulting in the tragic death of a young couple. The bridge, which connected Gyalpoizhing and Nganglam, collapsed under the weight of a ten-wheeler truck carrying bricks. The incident has sparked public outrage over poor construction and safety standards. While overloading is suspected as a potential cause, experts suggest that the use of incompatible bridge parts, poor material quality, or bridge structural issues could also be responsible. Investigations are underway, and external experts are being called upon to assess the situation. (Neten Dorji, "Kuri-Gongri bridge collapses again, kills a couple," Kuensel, 28 June 2023)

Battalion guarding Myanmar-Thai border check post surrenders to resistance forces
On 23 June, the junta regime's Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 430 including its battalion commander and his deputy surrendered before allied Karenni resistance forces. National Unity Government's (NUG) Defense Ministry Secretary U Naing Htoo Aung said allied resistance forces took control of Maese town in Kayah (Karenni) State where LIB was guarding Border Milepost No.13 on the Myanmar-Thai border. The town was a stage of fierce battle since 13 June and it is the largest surrender ever since the resistance broke out against the regime in 2021. The resistance forces thwarted at least five columns of troops from Loikaw and Demoso to Maese who attempted to cross the Salween River. According to Htoo Aung, battalion guarding the outpost in Nangmar village in the north of Maese also surrendered. ("Dozens of Myanmar troops surrender to Resistance in Kayah" in The Irrawaddy, 27 June 2023)

Four civilians died in junta airstrike in Kayah State
On 25 June, four men died in an airstrike conducted by the Junta regime in Kayah state in Myanmar. According to Free Burma Rangers (FBR) is involved in helping displaced families in the state as a part of the Good Life Club program. Since last week, nearly 6000 civilians including children were displaced because of the clashes that occurred in Hpasawng Township. A video released by FBR showed civilians including children screaming when the fighter jets appeared above the Naakae village. A Karenni Civil Society Network spokesman said: "Some fled to Thailand. Some are hiding along the border. The Thai government does not accept refugees, so they cannot stay in Thailand for long." On 24 June, a civilian died in an airstrike. ("Kayah civilians Killed in Myanmar Junta Airstrikes: Aid groupThe Irrawaddy, 27 June 2023)

House speaker post: MFP postpones meeting with Pheu Thai
On 27 June, the Move Forward Party deputy spokeswoman said that the proposed meeting on 28 June between MFP and Pheu Thai Party to discuss the House speaker post has been postponed for an indefinite period. The meeting planned to be held on 29 June 2023 between all the eight parties in the coalition government has also been postponed. The MFP is standing firm on the decision to hold the Prime Minister post and the House speaker post and has announced Phitsanulok MP Mr Padipat Suntiphada as their candidate for the House speaker post. Cholnan Srikaew who is heading the negotiation team of the Pheu Thai party on the speaker post said that MFP has not made a direct response on the matter. Padipat, still standing on the MFP's position on the post said the issue should not affect the coalition partnership. He emphasized that the issue has to be resolved before the official opening of the House of Representatives on 3 July. (Aekarach Sattaburuth, "Move Forward postpones House speaker meeting with Pheu ThaiBangkok Post, 28 June 2023

Political uncertainty in Thailand leads to the depreciation of Baht
On 28 June, Bangkok Post reported that the Thai Baht depreciated a seven-month low by 0.6 per cent because of the political uncertainty in Thailand. Seoul's equities share declined to the lowest with 0.8 per cent, while the Philippines and China 0.3 and 0.5 per cent. Even though MFP has the highest number of seats in the Parliament with 151, uncertainty looms over Pita Limjaroenrat's premiership as he requires 376 out of 750 seats to secure his post. Alvin Tan, head of Asia FX strategy at RBC Capital Markets, said: "It is unlikely that the (Move Forward) coalition has the necessary votes to go ahead to form a new government." On 27 June, the Bank of Thailand announced that it would further ease the foreign exchange regulations in the second half of the year to facilitate capital outflow as the Thai Baht lost 2.2 per cent this year. Despite the increase in consumer confidence in the US, the possibility of the US Fed raising the interest rates in the US exists. ("Baht at 7 month low on political uncertainty", Bangkok Post, 28 June 2023)

President assures debt restructuring will not bring adverse impacts
On 27 June, President Ranil Wickremesinghe reiterated his stance on implementing the debt restructuring programme. He assured that it would not cause any detrimental impact on both state and private banking sectors. He added that the EPF and ETF would not incur any losses out of this programme. Further, he mentioned that the government plans to restructure USD 17 billion out of USD 41.5 billion of foreign debt within a five-year period. ("Prez reiterates need to go ahead with local debt restructuring," The Island, 28 June 2023)

Opposition alleges govt of using Binveriya scheme for political gains
On 27 June, the opposition coalition PPM-PNC, in a statement, slammed the government over its unfair land allocation under the 'Binveriya' housing scheme. They noted that the government is distributing lands reclaimed by former president Yameen Abdul Gayoom to its close associates. As the land distribution comes with less than 75 days left for the presidential election, they accused President Solih of using the scheme to gain votes. Further, they raised concerns that the land reclamation for the distributed lands was undertaken without an Environmental Impact Assessment. ("PPM alleges 'unfair' land allocation an attempt to influence election," Sun.mv, 27 June 2023)

President supports Putin
On 26 June, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi expressed his support for Russian President Vladimir Putin following the aborted Wagner mutiny. An Iranian official stated that Putin had briefed President Raisi on the events related to the mutiny. President Raisi reiterated that Iran does not support Ukraine in the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia. President Raisi issued a statement that Iran supports Russian sovereignty.("Iranian president gives 'his full support' to Putin in telephone call, Kremlin says," Arab News, 26 June 2023)

Israel seizes million dollars in digital funds for Iran
On 28 June, Reuters reported that Israel had seized millions of dollars worth of digital funds for Iranian-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah and Foreign Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The operation was approved by Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant. This was aimed at identifying and confiscating funds to support Iran. ("Israel seizes millions in digital funds meant for Iranian proxies," Reuters, 28 June 2023)

Pakistan returns 27 Afghan prisoners
On 28 June, the Print reported that Afghan officials have stated that Pakistan has returned 27 Afghan prisoners at the Torkham crossing border, Nangarhar province. The prisoners were held due to lack of legal documents in Pakistan. Taliban appointed consul in Karach stated that over 290 citizens of Afghanistan are expected to be released within the next two months. ("Pakistan hands over 27 Afghan prisoners to Taliban authorities," The Print, 28 June 2023)

UN states that 1000 civilians have been killed following Taliban takeover
On 27 June, the UN stated that more than a thousand civilians have been killed following the Taliban takeover in a report by the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Additionally more than 3,774 civilian casualties were reported. The UN report stated that three-quarter of the attacks have taken place with improvised explosive devices. The killings include 92 women and 287 children. ("Since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, more than 1,000 civilians were killed in attacks, UN says," AP news, 27 June 2023)

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