Daily Briefs

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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #55, 03 August 2023, Thursday

Iran: The new draft bill on hijab introduces harsher terms and measures

China faces challenges in extending CPEC into Afghanistan

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #55, 03 August 2023, Thursday
Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Dhriti Mukherjee and Lakshmi Parimala. H

Indian FM to visit Kathmandu for seventh Joint Commission meeting
On 2 August, Wion News reported that the Foreign Minister of India, Dr S. Jaishankar, is expected to visit Nepal, likely in October, to hold the seventh meeting of the India-Nepal Joint Commission. It is a bilateral mechanism at the level of foreign ministers aimed at reviewing the entire spectrum of Nepal-India bilateral relations." The countries are expected to discuss various issues such as connectivity, economy and trade, energy cooperation, and water resources. The sixth meeting was held in 2021 at New Delhi. (Saloni Murarka, “Indian FM Jaishankar to visit Nepal for 7th Joint Commission meeting,” Wion News, 2 August 2023)

A group of Nepal’s citizens issue statement over the violence in Manipur
On 3 August, The Wire reported on a statement issued by a group of Nepali citizens on the violence in Manipur. The signatories of the letter include writer Meena Acharya and publisher Kanak Mani Dixit. The signatories blamed the Manipur and Union governments for fulfilling their responsibility of protecting human rights, ensuring law and order and promoting mediation efforts. Stating that South Asian countries are populated by “multiple and cross-cutting identities,” they further emphasized the responsibility of the government to ensure security and inclusion. They further underlined the importance of federalism and the media’s role in polarising society all over South Asia. They concluded by highlighting the importance of state mechanisms and civil society in India to halt the deteriorating situation in Manipur. (“Manipur Violence: Nepali Citizens Express Concern, Call for 'Government Accountability'',” The Wire, 3 August 2023)

US has no position on the demand for a non-partisan government, says Haas
On 3 August, the US Ambassador for Bangladesh, Peter Haas met with the leaders of Awami League. In a media briefing following the meeting, he stated that the US does not favor any one party over another, reiterating its emphasis on holding free, fair and peaceful elections. He further stated that everyone has a responsibility in ensuring the same, including the government, the media, other political parties, civil society, the judiciary, the security services, and the voters. On the question of his position on the opposition’s demand for a  non-partisan caretaker government for the elections, he stated that the US has no position. (“Everyone has a responsibility to contribute to free, fair polls: Haas,” The Daily Star, 3 August 2023)

JFM launches hashtag campaign to pressurize Singapore to expel junta’s cronies
On 02 August, an advocacy group named Justice For Myanmar (JFM) launched a twitter campaign with the Hashtag #DoMoreSingapore to pressurize the Singaporean government to expel those who associate with the junta government. The Singapore banks were used by arms traffickers for the transactions between the junta for the weapons and equipment trade. In July, a study conducted by Tom Andrews, a UN Special Rapporteur to Myanmar along with the Singapore government had found that the number of Singapore based entities involved with junta has risen from 47 to 138. Singapore, which has bilateral trade relations worth USD 4.3 billion, has not imposed a general trade embargo on Myanmar.  (Hein Htoo Zan, “Singapore Urged to Stop Aiding War Crimes in Myanmar,” The Irrawaddy, 03 August 2023)

Junta government’s ten senior members resign following the emergency extension 
On 03 August, the Junta issued an announcement stating the forced retirement of ten senior members in power on health grounds. Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo, Auditor-General Tin Oo, Myanmar Anti-Corruption Commission chairman Htay Aung and Myanmar National Human Rights Commission chairman Hla Myint were among those who were forced to step down following the extension of the emergency for another six months. Religious Affairs and Culture Minister Ko Ko, Electricity Minister Thaung Han, Energy Minister Myo Myint Oo and Labor Minister Pwint Hsan are the rest of the ministers who were forced to resign. Two members of the State Administration Council (SAC), Maung Ko and Aung Kyaw Min were also forced to retire. (“Chief Justice, Ministers Among Those Forced to Resign from Myanmar’s Military Government,” The Irrawaddy, 03 August 2023)

Thailand confirms highest number of monkeypox cases in Southeast Asia
On 03 August, Chulalongkorn University said that more than 120 people contracted monkeypox (mpox) in Thailand. Dr Yong Poovorawan, chief of the university's Centre of Excellence in Clinical Virology, said: “More than 120 people were found to have contracted mpox in Thailand, which is the highest in Southeast Asia. The infection rate peaked in June.” In the month of June, the Department of Disease Control gave an alert for more monkeypox cases, especially among the LGBTQ community. Dr. Yong said that out of 90,000 mpox cases worldwide, the highest number of cases were confirmed in the United States.  (“Chula Uni raises the alarm on mpox,” Bangkok Post, 03 August 2023)

Chinese embassy cautioned about cyber force threatening Sino-thai relations
On 03 August, the Chinese embassy in Thailand urged the Thai government to take action against the online group identified as a “cyber force” who attempts to destroy the Thai-Chinese relations. This was a response to the online websites and social media accounts that made claims about Chinese business people and tour guides robbing jobs from Thais. The embassy said that the illegal activities done by Chinese citizens in Thailand should not be generalized in order to spark conflict between Thais and Chinese citizens in Thailand.  (“Cyber force is 'out to destroy' Sino-Thai ties,Bangkok Post, 03 August 2023)

The parliament president postpones voting for PM 
On 03 August, Parliament President Wan Muhamad Noor Matha said that the voting for prime minister has been postponed citing the court’s ruling on Mr Pita’s renomination rejection which is still pending. . He said:  “The court has yet to rule on the complaints about the prime ministerial vote and a request (by the Ombudsman) to postpone the next vote for prime minister.” On 03 August, the constitutional court expected to make a decision on 16 August and ordered its staff to examine the relevant information as the petitions involve issues concerning the constitutional monarchy. (“Vote for PM postponed,” Bangkok Post, 03 August 2023)

Nationwide shutdown declared citing rising temperatures
On 1 August, the government of Iran announced a nationwide shutdown citing a request from the health ministry, concerning a rise in people affected by the rising temperatures. While Fridays are the weekend in Iran, the authorities are considering declaring Saturday as a holiday as well. Government offices and private businesses, with few exceptions, were seen closed on 2 August. Besides the cited reason of rising temperatures, there are speculations that the government’s difficulty generating hydroelectric power, the major source of electricity for Iran, was a reason. However, the government denies the same, stating that there are no issues in generating electricity. (Maziar Motamedi, “Iran’s surprise ‘unprecedented heat’ shutdown raises questions,” Al Jazeera, 3 August 2023)

The new draft bill on hijab introduces harsher terms and measures
On 2 August, CNN reported on the draft bill on hijab-wearing. The 70-article draft law, which is set to be submitted to the Board of Governors on 6 August, following which it will be presented in the parliament, sets out many new proposals. This includes “longer prison terms for women who refuse to wear the veil, stiff new penalties for celebrities and businesses who flout the rules, and the use of artificial intelligence to identify women in breach of the dress code.” Despite the mass protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, under police custody for not wearing Hijab, the government is continuing on its actions and measures against women not wearing hijab. Further, the morality police, who vanished for a long time after the rise of protests last September, were back on the streets earlier this month. (Celine Alkhaldi & Nadeen Ebrahim, "Iran proposes long jail terms, AI surveillance and crackdown on influencers in harsh new hijab law,” CNN, 2 August 2023)

US reduced aid to Afghanistan due to Taliban policies
On 2 Aug, Afghanistan Times reported on Thomas West’s announcement on a substantial reduction in aid to Afghanistan for 2023. Thomas West, US Special Envoy for Afghanistan, stated that USD 2 billion was cut as the US and its allies disapproved of the Taliban’s policies, particularly on women's and girls’ rights. Further, Thomas alerted the Taliban that unless certain policies are changed, humanitarian aid will be completely halted. In response, Zabihullah Mujahid, the Islamic Emirate’s spokesman, asserted that humanitarian crises and aid should not be politicized. He emphasized that assistance should be provided based on the human spirit rather than influenced by political agendas. (“US cuts $2B in aid to Afghanistan over Taliban policies,” Afghanistan Times, 2 August 2023) 

China faces challenges in extending CPEC into Afghanistan
On 2 Aug, Afghanistan Times reported on China’s challenges in extending CPEC into Afghanistan. The expansion faces multiple obstacles, including ongoing terrorism and border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The recent Taliban’s return further complicated the process of implementation. These talks came over in the backdrop of a recent meeting of the foreign ministers of China, Pakistan and Afghanistan in Islamabad. China's interest in investing in Afghanistan's natural resources through various agreements is tempered by concerns about the region's security situation. China worries as Uyghur militants from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) were seeking and establishing alliances with terrorist groups in Kabul. Further, the CPEC projects are hindered by financial instability in the region. (“China’s CPEC projects in Afghanistan hit skids,Afghanistan Times, 2 August 2023)

Pakistan cautions Afghanistan to control terrorist activities in the region
On 2 Aug, Afghanistan Times reported that Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari cautioned the Taliban to effectively address terrorist organizations operating from Afghanistan. Otherwise, he emphasized that Pakistan would take military measures under international law to protect its security and interests if necessary. Previously, this deal was made during the 2020 Doha agreement with the international community. Further, Zardari alleges that terrorist groups have taken over the arms and ammunition left by foreign forces in Afghanistan, which he believed to be used against Pakistan now. (“Pakistan warns military action if Taliban don’t halt abetting terror,” Afghanistan Times, 2 August 2023)

Deadly ambush in Tirah valley; TTP claims responsibility
On 3 August, a militant ambush in the Tirah valley. led to the death of two Frontier Corps personnel and inflicted injuries upon three others. The location of the incident is surprising, given the proximity of the Dwa Thoey military check post wherein all individuals are checked before entering the valley. Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed responsibility. (Ibrahim Shinwari, “Militant attack in Tirah claims two soldiers’ lives,” Dawn, 3 August 2023)
Bajaur bombing goes on to claim 63 lives
On 2 August, a senior health official claimed that the number of victims of the Bajaur suicide bombing rose to 63. A medical superintendent of the District Headquarters Hospital in Khar, Dr Liaqat Ali Khan, stated that the bodies were taken to different hospitals surrounding Bajaur, while some had been claimed by the families. The number of wounded people stands at 123. Following this shooting, there was another round of firing that led to the death of a man and injury of four children in their home located in Babar Shah. Police have begun investigating this. (“Death toll from Bajaur bombing climbs to 63,” Dawn, 3 August 2023)

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