Regional Conflict Insights


          Fighting stress at home , at school and at work

                                              Issues over Soldier Bowe Bergdahl Swap

On Wednesday (US President Barak Obama,  ...gave a major foreign policy address about the limits of US military power. Indeed, the 2009 Afghanistan surge that he ordered has yielded a country in stalemate and still wracked with corruption. If Western governments weren’t funding the Afghan Army, the country could collapse. The Afghan military budget is two times the revenue collected by the entire government annually, Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations told the Monitor.

The Afghan solution must come from within, he suggested, and, like Hekmat Karzai, Obama appears to hope that the “Taliban Five” could be a part of the reconciliation process. A senior Obama administration official told CBS News as much Sunday, saying the Bergdahl swap is part of “a broader reconciliation framework” between the US and the Taliban.

The Afghan High Peace Council, which is tasked with moving the country toward reconciliation, appears to agree. “The council reportedly believes that high-ranking Taliban commanders held at Guantánamo can assist in reconciliation efforts,” according to the Long War Journal.

The Obama administration claims it did not negotiate with terrorists in the prisoner swap. Qatar was an intermediary, and Qatari officials have promised to ban the Taliban leaders from traveling abroad for a year. Yet the Obama administration has in the past shown impatience over what it sees as America’s hard-headed refusal to talk with enemies, whether they are the Taliban or Iran.

http://news.yahoo.com/republicans-slam-obama-over-bowe-bergdahl-swap-why-221600284.html

                                                          Thailand's Constitutional Crisis

 Following Thailand’s democratization wave in the 1990s, an innovative constitution was agreed on in 1997 through a process of wide consultations and an independent drafting body. This constitution had the elements that could provide a sound legal basis for the elaboration of a new common platform that could bring an end to the current political deadlock. In fact, the constitution and the newly established Constitutional Court (modelled on the French Conseil d’Etat and the German Federal Constitutional Court) were introduced with the aim of ending chronic political corruption and instability. Before that, courts shared judicial review with Parliament and the “elites” reserved the de facto right to interpret the law. The new Constitutional Court was largely independent, with sufficient guarantees for the selection of judges. A new electoral system favouring political platforms rather than individual politicians’ personal agendas was also introduced with safeguards against vote buying.

The 2006 coup d’état brought a new constitution in 2007, drafted by the military. The new constitution did in fact include some improvements, such as improved access for citizens to the Constitutional Court and more stringent requirements regarding professionalism. However, other changes had far-reaching negative consequences. Presidents of the Higher Thai Courts now became involved in selecting senators and candidates of independent agencies. Higher Courts were also given the ability to propose bills directly to the House of Representatives. Moreover, they were given the power to dissolve political parties if they were found to be involved in electoral fraud. The main intention of these changes was to weaken the executive, making it much easier for members of parliament to initiate a motion of non-confidence.

The attempts of the Thaksin government to regain control over the Senate and the nomination of judges led to a backlash and an even more active involvement by the Higher Courts in ruling over issues of a moral, public, or political nature bringing about an erosion of the rule of law, as the concept is commonly understood internationally. Examples of the political involvement of the courts are widely cited, starting with the dissolution of the Thai Rak Thai party in 2007, and followed by the dismissal of prime minster Samak Sundarajev and the dissolution of the People’s Power Party (PPP) in 2008.

The empowerment of judges to appoint senators, introduce legislation, and dismiss politicians and political parties cleared the way for a powerful judiciary that can in effect substitute the traditional role of parliament in democratic societies, and which has thus conveniently obviated the need for a coup d’état by the Thai army.

However, with more effective civil mobilization, the traditional elites are increasingly coming under scrutiny. This is coming together with the possibility of a royal succession crisis that may further exacerbate tensions between and among the main stakeholders in Thai politics. The present context renders the need for an inclusive and transparent process of consultations within Thai society even more pressing. The 1997 constitution may provide the basis for such a process.

Read more at:http://phap.org/thematic-notes/2014/january/thailand%E2%80%99s-political-crisis-constitutional-problems#!

 

Has Thailand lost faith in its democracy?

Jan 6th, 2014, Harvard Bergo
Thai protests

Thailand has experienced a surge of anti-government protests that could ultimately threaten the country’s democratic system.

In a region characterized by autocratic and repressive governments, Thailand has been a rare pioneer of democracy. Its experience has been far from stable, however. With 11 successful and 7 attemptedmilitary coups Thailand has witnessed more coup d’états than any country since 1932. But unlike most of its neighbors, domestic politics in Thailand are vocal and dynamic, and the media face minimal censorship, except for the very sensitive issue of the royal family’s role.

Yet, in the current political crisis the democratic system itself has frequently been criticized as ‘broken’ and demonstrators have advocated replacing the government with an unelected People’s Council. The middle and upper class in Bangkok have become increasingly disillusioned with popular elections.

The recent demonstrations are merely the latest development in an escalating power struggle between the political elite in Bangkok and the clan of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the brother of incumbent Prime Minister Yingluck. Ever since he was ousted during the 2006 military coup, Thailand has experienced recurrent unrest between his popular support movement (the Red Shirts) and the anti-Thaksin alliance (the Yellow Shirts).

The anti-government protesters that have paralyzed Bangkok for the last two months are a diverse group: supporters of the Democratic Party and Thaksins political foes are mixed together with leftists, ultra-nationalists and self-proclaimed royalists. They share an intense hatred for the Shinawatra family and its role in Thai politics, and a disdain for the current electoral system that allows ‘uneducated’ voters – farmers and working class people overwhelmingly located in the rural north and northeast – to rule the country by tyranny of the parliamentary majority.

An old Thai saying holds that the government is made in the countryside but destroyed in Bangkok, exposing a deep regional and societal division between the urban elite and the rural agrarian majority. When a charismatic, populist and wealthy Thaksin won a landslide victory in 2001, the power base in Thailand shifted dramatically away from the establishment in Bangkok.

Few figures have been as divisive in Thai politics as the former police officer: the poor idolized him and the elite hated him, alleging that his overwhelming victories were due to a widespread practice of vote-buying in the north. It is telling that his defeat only came about with a military coup, which saw the generals return as key players in Thai politics and strengthen the power of the royalist elite.

 Read more at: http://globalriskinsights.com/2014/01/06/has-thailand-lost-faith-in-its-democracy/

                                                              Thai Army Refuses To Rule Out Coup

Thailand's army chief has urged both sides in the country's bitter political dispute to show restraint, but did not explicitly rule out the possibility of a coup.

Thailand has been wracked by two months of political tensions and occasionally violent street protests pitting the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra against protesters seeking to oust her.

The army has staged 11 successful coups in the country's history, so its intentions are being watched carefully.

"That door is neither open nor closed," the army chief, General Prayuth Chan-ocha, said on Friday in response to questions from reporters as to whether military intervention was likely.

"It will be determined by the situation."

Prayuth also reiterated a request that people stop asking the army to take sides in the dispute.

"Please don't bring the army into the centre of this conflict," he said.

The protesters have been eager for the army to intervene in the crisis.

Late last month, they forced their way onto the grounds of army headquarters to deliver a letter asking the military to support their campaign to topple Yingluck.

The protesters stopped short of calling for a coup, but urged military leaders to "take a stand" in the political crisis. Prayuth responded by insisting that the army would not take sides.

Military security

On Thursday, the protesters, who are seeking to disrupt elections scheduled for February 2, battled with police in clashes that left two people dead and moe than 140 injured. Thirty of the injured remained hospitalised on Friday.

As Thursday's violence unfolded, Thailand's election commission called for a delay in the polls, a blow to Yingluck. The government rejected the call.

Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said on Friday that he would ask the military to provide security for the elections.

Prayuth said the army had shown "red traffic lights to both sides, so things will calm down," and called for an end to street violence.

"You ask, 'Who wins?' Who wins?' No one," he said.

Police have made no move to arrest the protest movement's ringleader, Suthep Thaugsuban, who is demanding the country be led by an unelected council until reforms can be implemented.

Read  more at: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2013/12/thai-army-chief-refuses-rule-out-coup-2013122723322952235.html

                                                    About those protests in Thailand

 Editor's note: Perhaps we may be finding some clarity on the situation in Thailand from this article at the Real Clear World , written by,

Robert Amsterdam:

What has transpired in Bangkok in recent weeks deserves much scrutiny, and only a serious look at what the unrest says about the "deep state" that is operating behind the scenes.

The "deep state," which refers to entrenched networks of power within the official apparatus over which civilian authorities have no real control, is a useful concept to analyze the complex political events presently taking place in Thailand. Behind the current spate of protests, there is coordination at work by the deep state to substitute the democratic process to achieve an outcome suitable to the interests of a minority.

The problem begins with the fact that, for decades, Thailand's democracy was not representative in the truest sense of the word, but rather an exclusionary club.

When the popular leader Thaksin Shinawatra emerged in 2001, he found success in uniting a number of democratic forces that were not aligned to the Thai Army, the traditional "deep state" source of influence. There is little mystery why Thaksin remains popular. Before being ousted by a military coup in 2006, he had delivered massive economic growth, widespread improvements in healthcare for Thailand's poorest citizens and a new sense of enfranchisement and citizenship to millions. Far from being a divisive force, he has managed to put together a national coalition of entrepreneurs and ordinary Thai citizens, which has resulted in five clear election victories over the past twelve years.

Read more at :http://www.realclearworld.com/articles/2013/11/30/the_undemocratic_hand_behind_thailands_protests.html

                    Analysis of Post Election Situation In Pakistan

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More at The Real News

                                                     ANALYSIS OF NORTH KOREA THREATS

Although North Korea is capable of significant levels of destruction in South Korea and possibly even Japan, US and South Korean retaliation would be devastating and would almost certainly end the regime. Also, the North’s biggest ally, China, has no desire for a war to break out in its backyard. The regional devastation that a war would bring, the strain on China’s heavy economic investment in North Korea, open conflict with the United States, as well as the likely influx of refugees into Chinese territory would cause serious problems for Beijing.

If, however, in the unlikely event that North Korea did attack the South, to avoid widespread destruction and to prevent a major war with the United States, it would be in China’s best interest to invade and take control of North Korea and hand over administration of the country to the United Nations.

Open conflict on the Korean Peninsula remains unlikely, and instead North Korea through threatening the United States may be trying to get Washington’s attention so that new dialogue and a possible restructuring of the entire relationship with Pyongyang can take place.

Read more at:http://globalconflictanalysis.com/2013/03/new-sanctions-for-north-korea-in-response-to-nuclear-test/

                    Meddling By Foreign Powers Greates Threat to Afghanistan.

In a recent exclusive interview with the Guardian newspaper Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that the greatest threat to his country was meddling by foreign powers.

Karzai said: "There will not be peace in Afghanistan by having an agreement only between us and the Afghan Taliban. Peace will only come when the external elements involved in creating instability and fighting, or lawlessness in Afghanistan, are involved in talks." He added that he was more optimistic than a year ago that extensive behind-the-scenes contacts between his government and the Taliban would bear fruit, as relations with Pakistan improved.

Read more at:http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/03/hamid-karzai-security-helmand-british-troops?goback=%2Egde_2330349_member_211167256

                Who is Xi Jinping ? China's Communist Party Chief

Two steps forward and one step back: Since assuming power, Xi has put forth one bold policy initiative, only to withdraw and modify it immediately. Xi’s top cop Meng Jianzhu, who heads the Party’s political and legal affairs commission, issued a statement indicating that China’s much despised system of re-education through labor, which has allowed citizens to be arrested and held without trial for up to four years, would be ended. That same day, however, Party-supported media replaced “ended” with “reformed,” leaving a not insignificant amount of confusion over what the leadership actually has planned for the policy’s

 Read more at:  future.http://blogs.cfr.org/asia/2013/01/09/desperately-seeking-xi-jinping/#cid=soc-twitter-at-blogs-desperately_seeking_xi_jinping-010913

 

 

Nespaper's Censorship Sets Off Protest In China

The staff of Southern Weekend, a liberal Chinese newspaper based out of the southern city of Guangzhou, has long clashed with censors in its efforts to produce one of China’s most respected weekly publications. But a dispute over a New Year’s editorial has generated an unusually heated public debate, with some reporters and editors threatening to strike and many readers rallying to their defense. On Monday dozens of supporters gathered outside the newspaper’s headquarters, handing out flowers and carrying signs supporting free speech. The standoff is particularly awkward for China’s new leader, Xi Jinping, as the piece that set off the furor ostensibly supported an issue that Xi has endorsed recently, strengthening rule of law and the primacy of the country’s constitution.

Read more: http://world.time.com/2013/01/07/censorship-of-newspapers-new-year-message-touches-off-protest-in-china/#ixzz2HObQ9hgu

 

Ongoing Concerns on Rule of Law in Sri Lanka


Press Statement

Mark C. Toner
Deputy Spokesperson, Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
December 7, 2012



The United States remains deeply concerned about actions surrounding the ongoing impeachment trial of Sri Lankan Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. As Embassy Colombo’s statement noted earlier today, we urge the Government of Sri Lanka to guarantee due process, and to ensure that all investigations are conducted transparently and in accordance with the rule of law.

These latest developments are part of a disturbing deterioration of democratic norms in Sri Lanka, including infringement on the independence of the judiciary. The United States, along with our partners in the international community, continues to urge Sri Lanka to uphold the rule of law and democratic governance and to continue to address outstanding accountability and reconciliation issues.



 Popular hatred 3

The granting of free speech by a Burmese government attempting to reform – and inexperienced in the attendant complications of doing so – has provoked an unexpected outburst of explicit, popular, legitimized, hatred directed at a single targeted community, the Rohingya.

What are the principles of conflict transformation?

By David B. Kanin

The ongoing communal violence in western Myanmar is an example of public sentiment fomenting killings, burnings, and attempts at forcible expulsion against the wishes of a surprised and unprepared government. The country’s erstwhile military rulers (or at least a critical mass of them) are engaged in an effort to re-enter international good graces and very much have wanted to avoid the sort of atrocities underway in Rakhine State. President Thein Sein has attempted to engage international experts, diplomats, and organizations – to include representatives from concerned Muslim states and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – in conflict management. However, public revulsion of the Muslim Rohingya community has led him to back away from doing much more than send in more troops in an attempt to keep Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya apart.

This inter-communal conflict involves the usual components of economic competition and racism, but is unusual in the level of domestic animus against the Rohingya, a people who have lived in what is now western Myanmar for generations (perhaps for centuries). Rakhine Buddhists and many in the Burman majority ethnicity consider them unwanted Bengali interlopers, and successive governments have denied them citizenship or any lesser political status. The Buddhists insist they are the victims of violence they blame on the beleaguered Rohingya. Spokesmen for the Kachin minority in northern Myanmar – where an insurgency has been underway for more than a year – decry international calls to help the Rohingya and ask why foreigners are so concerned about this benighted people and not about Kachins and other groups at odds with the regime.

The Rohingya certainly cannot look to the sainted Aung San Suu Kyi for any sympathy. This lionized winner of the Nobel Peace Prize says almost nothing about the problem, except to claim that both sides are responsible for the outrages. It is not clear she shares the widespread popular hatred for these people, but she certainly is as insensitive to their suffering as are so many others in the country.

For its part, neighboring Bangladesh disavows these fellow Muslims. In fact, militaries on both sides appear to cooperate in attempting to prevent Rohingya refugees (and smugglers attempting to subsist under horrendous conditions) from moving back and forth across the river that divides the two countries. Some Rohingya continue to live in boats between the two banks.

Open media do not always produce global citizens

To a considerable degree, the continuing virulence of the popular effort to victimize the Rohingya is a direct result of the military regime’s decision to relax the decades-long repression of its citizenry. Lessening of restrictions on the media has led to public expression of – among other things – widespread, hostile opposition to the presence of the Rohingya. This is not a case of the government whipping up atavistic sentiment to distract a population from resentment of long-term tyranny. Once people in Myanmar became aware they could express their views more openly many in Rakhine State and elsewhere used social and traditional media to make clear their distaste for the Rohingya. This led to a variation on the “flash mobs” and ethnic riots phenomena so well analyzed by Donald Horowitz (Duke University). Local Buddhists discovered their hostility toward the Rohingya was legitimate in the Myanmar context. In the wake of the initial violence, Buddhist monks led demonstrations and joined in the collective verbal abuse directed against the country’s 800,000 or so Rohingya.

One way to think about this is to compare the plight of the Rohingya to the rejection of Roma in much of Europe (and not just eastern Europe – recent riots against the Roma took place outside Marseilles). The difference is that the Roma at least have some room for physical movement and can count on the support of some fellow citizens and of various government bodies and NGOs. The Rohingya are hemmed in and are largely on their own.

The media elsewhere served to spark the only significant move to help the Rohingya. Last summer, news organs and social media from Indonesia to North Africa expressed outrage at what often was termed “genocide” (as I have written on this site, that word is invoked so often that it is becoming meaningless). Casualty figures, which at the time actually were in the dozens, were reported to be in the thousands, leading to an outburst of anger in the Muslim world.

Only then did Arab and other Muslim governments take up the cause, demanding that Myanmar’s authorities stop the violence, protect the Rohingya, and accept interventions by Muslim officials and NGOs to help deal with the problem. Iran was the only country in which government outrage preceded and, perhaps, organized popular demonstrations on behalf of the Rohingya. No Muslim voice made any demands on Muslim Bangladesh to help these people out.

For a little while, the plight of the Rohingya became the kind of cause célèbre that Bosnia was in Muslim media of the 1990s. Thein Sein at first agreed to permit the OIC to open an office in Rakhine State, but then reversed himself in the face of fierce domestic public pressure against the idea.

Only after all of this action in the Muslim world did the US, European Union, and other powers mostly focused on doing business with the reforming regime in Myanmar begin to pay serious attention to the problem. China expressed ritual desires for action by the Myanmar authorities, but otherwise remained riveted on its concern that Western governments and businesses could eclipse Beijing’s longstanding dominance of Myanmar’s foreign trade.

The killing seemed to stop by the late summer, but has broken out again over the last couple of weeks. Once more, Buddhist monks have led demonstrations and shared in the spread of inter-communal anger, while Aung San Suu Kyi has continued to celebrate her celebrity and remain aloof from the problem. Once again, Bangladesh has demonstrated it wants nothing to do with the Rohingya.

The difference this time is that – so far – there has been much less outrage expressed in the Muslim world. Al Jazeera and a few other media outlets have paid close attention to the Rohingya, but many others among the national and local media outlets have not yet reset their sights toward a situation they initially helped bring to international attention.

Make no mistake – the usual playbook of Western governments, NGOS, “development” theorists, civic activists, and others concerned with human rights (which has only a mixed record anyway) will not work in Myanmar. This is not a simple case of economic rivalry or an effort of so-called ”ethnic entrepreneurs” to spoil what too often are assumed to be the naturally benevolent relations among neighboring or intermingled religious, ethnic, or otherwise differentiated groups.

In this case, the granting of free speech by a government attempting to reform (and inexperienced in the attendant complications of doing so) has provoked an unexpected outburst of explicit, popular, legitimized, hatred directed at a single targeted community. Rakhine Buddhists, other Burmans, non-Burman peoples in Myanmar, and even the iconic Aung San Suu Kyi do not feel the need for civic education. They know whom they hate, why they hate them, and why it is necessary to disgorge them. International pressure on the regime will continue to amount to pushing on an open door, and the regime likely will improve its ability to control the violence. However (as with the Roma) any effort to inculcate an attitude of acceptance of the Rohingya as fellow citizens – or as people deserving of even a less political status – is going to be a tough slog.

David B. Kanin is an adjunct professor of international relations at Johns Hopkins University and a former senior intelligence analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

To read other articles by David for TransConflict, please click here.

 Post-war Sri Lanka – the challenges of reconciliation, reintegration and rehabilitation

Three years on from the bloody end to its civil war, Sri Lanka remains beset by the challenges of reconciliation, reintegration and rehabilitation, and faces intense scrutiny over allegations of war crimes and widespread human rights violations.

 

 

 

By Zafar Iqbal

Three years on from the end of the civil war, Sri Lanka continues to face a number of multifaceted challenges concerning reconciliation, reintegration and rehabilitation. The country faces intense scrutiny over war crimes allegedly committed by its military in the bloody finale of the war; whilst allegations of widespread human rights violations – such as executions, the shelling of civilians and other atrocities – have echoed to the international arena.

War Crimes

Human rights defenders assert that up to 40,000 civilians died in the final offensive, yet Sri Lanka maintains that its troops did not kill a single civilian. The UN estimates that some 100,000 people were killed in the fighting in Sri Lanka between 1972 and 2009, with more than a million people displaced, many of whom sought refuge abroad.

The Sri Lankan government refuses to allow a UN-led investigation into alleged war crimes, and has instead launched its own

locally-organized investigation, the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). The opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) party and campaigners demand an independent international inquiry to probe accusations of war crimes.

According to critics, the government is becoming ever more autocratic. It has amended press laws to give more powers to the government to inhibit the free flow of information, whilst the country’s media regulator already has the authority to fine and jail journalists who defy its orders. Excessive government measures indicate that Sri Lanka is descending towards dictatorship, which could severely jeopardize rehabilitation and and reconciliation.

Rehabilitation process

In the concluding months of the war, over 11,000 LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) fighters – many of whom were forcibly conscripted by the rebels – surrendered to the army. These former LTTE recruits are at the heart of post-war rehabilitation plans, which aim to reintegrate them into civilian life. These former combatants are required to complete a six-stage rehabilitation program – which could last up to two years – if they wish to receive a general amnesty, otherwise they will face terrorism charges.

On the political side, the opposition Tamil National Alliance (TNA) party continues to refuses to join the Parliament Select Committee (PSC) proceedings. Amidst pressure from its allies, the government has refused to have talks only with the TNA on the basis that they are not the sole representatives of the Tamils.

De-mining

With respect to rehabilitation processes, the major area where the Sri Lankan government’s has a comparatively positive record is that of de-mining. The de-mining process in the North is nearing successful completion, with over 90 percent of the area where land mines are believed to have been laid during the 30-year civil war having been cleared. With the assistance of the international community, 92 percent of the danger area in the north and east of the country has been cleared.

Resettlement

Statistics show that there were about 280,000 internally displaced persons and 11,700 LTTE combatants who surrendered to, or were arrested by, the security forces. In order to resettle these IDPs, the government has secured assistance to renovate over 24,500 houses and to construct 73,044 new ones.

The resettlement of IDPs is not a trouble-free job because during the war years a large amount of property was occupied by squatters or other illegal owners. In this scenario, Sri Lanka has to bring in special property laws to protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the island’s civil war. Existing Sri Lankan laws give squatters rights to claim ownership of a property after occupying it for ten years without legal challenge, but the government has revoked such powers by introducing legal reforms.

Economic development

A post-war reconstruction boom and the restoration of fractured infrastructure has been a blessing for the country’s economy. The IMF and Chinese loans for rehabilitation of the northern railway, roads, housing and small enterprise sector has boosted the economy. As a result, the Sri Lankan stock market has been recognized as one of the best performing markets in the world and the country’s growth rate has crossed eight per cent at a time when the global financial market dwindles. Furthermore, in GDP per capita terms, Sri Lanka is ahead of other countries in the South Asian region.

Conclusion

Although the chances of any early resurgence of a violent movement in the country are very blurred, concerns about integration of the Tamils remain, particularly as the Tamil Diaspora, scattered across the world, continue to raise the separate of their own homeland. During the recent Commonwealth Economic Forum and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, over 3000 Tamil protesters compelled the Sri Lankan president to cancel his speech because of alleged human rights abuses. The seeds of alienation among the minority Tamils remain pertinent, particularly the sense of estrangement felt by victims of violence and civil war. It is therefore the responsibility of the Sri Lankan government and international community to ensure the processes of reconciliation, reintegration and rehabilitation are based upon principals of justice and humanity. This is the only way forward to heal the scars of war.

Zafar Iqbal is the founder of Press For Peace (PFP), a Kashmir-based organisation working to promote peace and sustainable development. PFP is also a member of the Global Coalition for Conflict Transformation.

Sri Lanka , Mayanmar , Post War, Cofnflict Resolution.