“starkly diminished lives”

A grim recent NY Times overview of Sri Lanka’s grinding economic disaster:

“The part of the economic crisis that they have felt deepest was self-inflicted by the government. Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the president toppled by the protests, banned chemical fertilizers on a whim in the spring of 2021 to push the country into organic farming.

The effect was catastrophic, with the United Nations estimating a 50 percent drop in agricultural production. By the time the government reversed its ban in the face of protests, it had run out of foreign reserves to import fertilizer.”

4 recent pieces on Myanmar’s war

1. Frontier Myanmar on the Northern Alliance, China, and the broad political-military contours of the war:

“the regime’s overtures appear to have caused a bit of a schism within the FPNCC. The UWSA, NDAA and SSPP have become increasingly open to negotiations with the junta, meeting with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing twice in 2022. The UWSA and NDAA demanded greater autonomy and political recognition of the territories they control, while the SSPP made the slightly stranger request to consolidate all Bamar-majority regions into one state, to put it on an even playing field with the ethnic minority states.

The KIA, which is the second largest force in the FPNCC, has been the main outlier in the other direction. The KIA has openly aligned itself with the National Unity Government, a cabinet appointed by elected lawmakers in defiance of the 2021 coup, and fought alongside People’s Defence Forces against the military.

The KIA has also defied China and the UWSA, declining to attend an FPNCC meeting in Wa State in September last year, citing COVID-19 and heavy fighting”

2. Human Rights Watch on the state of human rights and political repression two years after the coup:

“During expanded military operations, junta forces have been responsible for attacks on civilians that amount to war crimes against ethnic minority populations in Kachin, Karen, Karenni, and Shan States. The military has used “scorched earth” tactics, burning villages in Magway and Sagaing Regions.

The junta has blocked humanitarian aid from reaching millions of displaced people and others at risk in conflict areas. In Rakhine State – where Rohingya have long faced systematic abuse and discrimination that amount to crimes against humanity, including persecution and apartheid – security forces have imposed new restrictions on movement and aid. The restrictions have worsened food and water shortages and increased the risk of preventable diseases and severe malnutrition.”

3. Emily Fishbein in Foreign Policy on how armed groups are pursuing local state-building projects:

“Thantlang’s trajectory reflects a transformation across much of Myanmar, as resistance forces manage to drive the military out of rural areas—despite weapons and funding shortages—and replace its administration with their own. In a paper published last June, independent researchers Naw Show Ei Ei Tun and Kim Jolliffe found that the military had “lost effective control of most of the country” and that resistance groups were able to take responsibility for critical governance functions even in areas where they hadn’t achieved decisive battlefield victory.

In some cases, ethnic armed organizations are expanding public services they already offered in their territories. In others, resistance groups are establishing services from the ground up, with varying degrees of support from the anti-coup National Unity Government, made up of ousted lawmakers, other leaders, and activists. These resistance-led administrations often function in areas of mass displacement and humanitarian need amid ongoing risks of military attacks. Their locally led design carries political significance: Replacing Myanmar’s centralized governance system with a federal model has become a rallying cry for the pro-democracy movement.”

4. Frontier Myanmar (again) on the Arakan Army’s bid to control swathes of the Myanmar-Bangladesh border:

“Seizing Myanmar’s borders with Bangladesh and India has become central to the Arakan Army’s dream of autonomy and has driven its strategy during times of war and peace.”

The Politics of Opposition in South Asia

For the last year or so, Milan Vaishnav and I have been fortunate enough to ask a set of insightful contributors to write essays on the politics of opposition (very broadly defined) across South Asia as part of a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace project. We’ve now compiled them into a single volume, and added our own introductory essay, available here on the Carnegie South Asia Program site. The full publication in PDF form can be found here.

Nepal’s political state of play

This article by Santosh Sharma Poudel in The Diplomat is an excellent breakdown of who the players are and where they stand after Nepal’s 2022 general election. It’s a couple weeks old so doesn’t include the most recent developments (like the vote of confidence in the parliament a week or so ago) but is extremely valuable as a big-picture overview of the results of both the election itself and the consequent coalitional wrangling that have returned Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda) as PM for the third time.