Daily Briefs

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The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #60, 09 August 2023, Wednesday

Afghanistan: IRC warns of deepening humanitarian crisis

In Pakistan, elections may be delayed, says a minister

The NIAS Neighbourhood Reader Daily Brief #60, 09 August 2023, Wednesday
Immaculine Joy Paul C, Melvin George, Dhriti Mukherjee and Lakshmi Parimala. H

Nepal celebrates International Day for World’s Indigenous People
On 9 August, it was the International Day for World’s Indigenous Peoples. Week-long celebrations began on 9 August, announced by the Nepal Federation for Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), a national umbrella organization of indigenous nationalities. The celebrations come amidst concerns over the weakening of indigenous movements in Nepal. However, three have been a few movements or protests organized by indigenous groups. One of the major ones is the renaming of ‘Koshi’ province. On 1 March, province 1 was named Koshi, after being approved by a majority in the assembly. This gave rise to protests by the indigenous groups of the province, including the Rai and Limbu, who demanded that the province be named reflecting the identity of the indigenous communities residing in it. In parallel, a statement by advocate Bhagwati Pandey stating that there is a practice among the Muslims, Magars and Tamang communities of marriage between brothers and sisters, set off protests. Prison sentences for killing the cow, considered a part of the culture by the indigenous nationalities, have also been criticized. The activists stress the need for a joint movement of all indigenous nationalities. Therefore, considering these movements, the former vice-chair of NEFIN, Chhantyal, stated that “I think the World Indigenous Day is not an occasion to celebrate but an opportunity for the indigenous people to remind themselves of their struggle.” (Tika R Pradhan, “Joint movement of indigenous nationalities essential to safeguard achievements, say activists,” The Kathmandu Post, 9 August 2023)

Rani Yan Yan awarded Global Anti-Racism Champion by the US State Dept. 
On 9 August, The Daily Star reported that Rani Yan Yan, an indigenous human rights defender and women’s rights activist from Bangladesh, was awarded the Global Anti-Racism Champions Awards 2023. Other winners are from Brazil, Tunisia, Peru, Nepal and Moldova. The awards will be given on 9 August by US Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken. Yan Yan, a tribal leader from the Marma Tribe of Bangladesh, advocated the rights of the marginalized and indigenous communities, which captured the attention of the international community. (“Rani Yan Yan recognised as Global Anti-Racism Champion by US State Dept,” The Daily Star, 9 August 2023)

Australian mining firm failed to assess the risk of partnering with Myanmar junta linked company, says a report 
On 09 August, The Irrawaddy reported that the Australian government criticized Australian mining firm Mallee Resources Limited for its failure to assess the impact of partnering with Win Myint Mo Industries Co Ltd (WMM). The firm was functioning in the Bawdwin mine in Namtu Township, northern Shan State of Myanmar. WMM is infamous for funding the junta government and drug trafficking. A report by the Australian National Contact Point for Responsible Business Conduct under the country’s Department of Treasury upheld the complaint raised by the human rights group. Mallee disinvested a 51 per cent stake worth USD 30 million to WMM as the crisis in Myanmar has undermined the confidence of the firm in the markets. In 2018, a fifteen-year licence was given to Mallee in the joint venture started with Myanmar’s EAP Global Mining and WMM had a share of 24.5 per cent each.  The report said: “the gravity of human rights abuses that could be caused, contributed to or directly linked to the Bawdwin mine.” (Hein Htoo Zan, “Australian Govt Report Slams Mining Firm’s Links to Myanmar Junta,” The Irrawaddy, 09 August 2023) 

Political will and diplomatic efforts are needed to solve the Myanmar crisis: Indonesian President 
On 08 August, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said during the anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that the resolution to end the crisis in Myanmar has been dragged into the third year. He emphasized the need for a political will from all parties and diplomatic efforts from the Southeast Asian nations who are divided on how to engage with Myanmar. Mr. Widodo said the efforts of the bloc on the lines of the five point deal should continue. The Myanmar junta which ignored the deal has been barred from the ASEAN’s high level meetings that further stop any actions on the deal. (“Indonesia Says Myanmar Solution Needs ‘Political Will’ From All Sides,” The Irrawaddy, 09 August 2023) 

UN investigators produce evidences for the war crimes in Myanmar since the coup
On 08 August, the United Nations’ Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) presented evidence for the increase in war atrocities in Myanmar. This evidence would bring Myanmar’s military and affiliated militias who were involved in mass executions and sexual violence to justice. The crimes also include attacks by the air force, torching of villages, and massacres of civilian population and imprisoned combatants. The annual report of IIMM stated that, since the coup in February 2021, “the number of incidents bearing the hallmarks of serious international crimes” surged. (“‘Dramatic Increase’ in Myanmar War Crimes: UN Probe,” The Irrawaddy, 09 August 2023) 

Senators divided on the Srettha’s premiership
On 09 August, Bangkok Post reported that senators were divided on whether to support Pheu Thai’s premiership candidate Srettha Thavisin. Senator Wanchai Sornsiri said that Srettha will be getting the support of most of the senators as the Pheu Thai left the coalition led by the Move Forward Party (MFP). If Srettha will be able to gather support from more than 250 MPs, then there will be confidence in his premiership. Mr. Wanchai said that the senators do not want to be an obstacle in the progress of the country and the tax allegation against Srettha can be scrutinized later. Some groups of senators are sceptical of Pheu Thai that the MFP would be given a place in coalition if there would be a cabinet reshuffle in the future. Chairman of the Senate committee on political development and public participation, Senator Seree Suwanpanot said that he would consider the petition filed by political activist Ruangkrai Leekitwattana on tax evasion allegations against Srettha. According to Ruangkrai, the alleged tax evasion makes his premiership candidacy invalid. (Aekarach Sattaburuth, “Senators split over Srettha's bid to be PM,” Bangkok Post, 09 August 2023) 

Six more parties join the PT coalition raising the support to 239 
On 09 August, the Pheu Thai (PT) announced the formation of an alliance with six new parties, raising its support in the house to 239 seats. On 07 August, the Bhumjaithai party who won 71 seats joined with the PT constituting the core of the alliance with 212 seats. Now with the new six parties, 16 more seats were added to the alliance. The new members of the alliance are Prachachart with nine House seats, Pheu Thai Ruam Palang and , Charthaipattanakla with two seats each, Seri Ruam Thai and Palang Sangkhom Mai with one seats each and The Thongtee Thai  Party (The Party of Thai Counties), with one MP a formation of former village chiefs, health volunteers and other civil servants. (“Pheu Thai brings 6 small parties into its alliance,” Bangkok Post, 09 August 2023) 

IRC warns of deepening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan
On 8 Aug, Afghanistan Times reported that the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has issued a warning about the worsening humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. With nearly 30 million people needing urgent assistance, a 60 per cent additional rise is attributed to reduced foreign aid, economic collapse, climate changes, and limited access to services. Despite facing significant challenges, humanitarian efforts have prevented famine, particularly benefiting vulnerable children. IRC’s Director in Afghanistan highlighted the aftermath of the economic collapse since 15 August 2021, pushing millions into dependency on aid. The country’s isolation from global systems left 28.8 million people needing help, with women and girls disproportionately affected. Despite the help of aid organizations, funding shortages have jeopardized their efforts. IRC expressed deep concerns over this situation and urged for international support to prevent a deepening crisis. (“IRC raises alarm on escalating crisis in Afghanistan,” Afghanistan Times, 8 Aug 2023)

Elections may be delayed “on technical grounds,” says Defence Minister Khawaja Asif
On 9 August, amidst speculation over when the elections would be conducted, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif confirmed on separate platforms that a delay in the election was quite possible. Asper the constitution, elections must be held within 90 days after the dissolution of the National Assembly on 9 August. However, Asif stated that “the election commission has the power to delay it.” Many believe that the caretaker government would have “unconventional significance” as it would stay in power for a longer period. Sanaullah said that it has been tasked with carrying out the delimitation as per the new Digital Census 2023, after which “God-willing, elections will be held.” Nonetheless, the duration of the delay is uncertain, with Sanaullah confirming that they would not take place in 2023. (“Ministers admit polls being delayed beyond 2023,” Dawn, 9 August 203)

PPP may face a challenge in balancing census approval and election timing, says a Dawn report
On 9 July, post remarks by federal ministers which hinted at election delay, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) faces a political dilemma. This is in the wake of the decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to approve the 2023 digital census, impacting election timing. Previously advocating for timely elections as they then felt that there was no reason for delay, the PPP now grapples with the practical implications of fresh constituency delimitation. Despite this challenge, PPP lawmakers remain hopeful that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) can navigate the complexities and complete delimitation within the required timeframe. PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari announced the initiation of the election campaign in the coming days, stating: “PPP workers are always ready for the elections.” (Rizwan Shehzad, “PPP’s elections dilemma,” The Express Tribune, 9 August 2023)

Legal challenge over Toshakhana case verdict
On 8 August, a petition was filed by Imran Khan’s lawyers in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) against the trial court's verdict in the Toshakhana (gift repository) case. As per the verdict, while filing Form-B for 2018-19, Khan committed “corrupt practices” as he failed to make truthful declarations regarding his assets, citing only “four goats” while not disclosing the sale and purchase of expensive gifts from Toshakhana. Khan's lawyers contend that the trial court's decision is contrary to the law and are seeking the annulment of the verdict. The former premier has requested the IHC to suspend the sentence and release him pending the central appeal's outcome. While the order stated that “his dishonesty has been established beyond doubt,” legal experts are concerned about the way the court is handling the trial. (“PTI chief challenges Toshakhana verdict in IHC,” The Express Tribune, 8 August 2023)

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