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Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Imana Gunawan discuss the challenges facing a post-coup Myanmar, plus more on the UK hosting a G7 summit, Palestinian local elections, Colombia and Ecuador reopening land borders and a meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
These stories and more are also available in our weekly Forecast email and you can subscribe for free.
This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jess Fino, Ahmed Namatalla, Irene Villora, Jimmy Lovaas and Imana Gunawan. Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:
Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.
Today is December 9th.
In this week’s forecast we’ve got the UK hosting a G7 summit, Palestinian local elections, Colombia and Ecuador reopening land borders, a meeting between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan and a look at the uncertain future facing Myanmar.
You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.
UK hosts G7 summit of foreign and development ministers in Liverpool
Information compiled by Jess Fino
JIMMY: The United Kingdom, which holds the G7 Presidency for 2021, will welcome foreign and development ministers from the seven member states and the EU at a three-day meeting in Liverpool starting Friday.
Representatives from the UK, the US, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Japan and the EU are all expected to attend.
The weekend meeting follows a number of other summits that took place this year in the U.K., including the UN climate change conference in Glasgow last month, and the G7 Leaders’ Summit hosted by Prime Minister Johnson in Cornwall in June.
British Foreign Minister Liz Truss said Liverpool was chosen as the host city for the event due to its “thriving cultural, musical and sporting heritage.”
Now, in addition to G7 member states and the EU, countries from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will also attend the summit for the first time, including those from Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
And the inclusion of those representatives from Southeast Asia aims to show the U.K.’s growing Indo-Pacific tilt as the country looks to strengthen ties with non-EU countries after its departure from the union.
The British foreign minister has said the meeting will discuss how to “build closer economic, technology and security ties globally.”
The summit comes just weeks after a terror attack outside a Liverpool hospital. Police, however, have reassured a robust security plan has been put in place to ensure the safety of the delegates.
Palestinian local elections
Information compiled by Ahmed Namatalla
JIMMY: The Palestinian Authority will hold the first round of municipal elections in parts of the West Bank on Saturday. It’s the latest bid by President Mahmoud Abbas to preserve legitimacy in the face of mounting domestic opposition to his 16-year rule.
President Abbas’ Fatah party is almost completely disarmed and coming under increased criticism of not doing enough to curb expanding Israeli occupation in the West Bank or defending Palestinian interests in the wake of last May’s deadly confrontations with Israel in the territory and in Gaza.
Abbas canceled national elections earlier this year on the basis of Israel not allowing the vote to take place in East Jerusalem, though he’s allowing Saturday’s polls to move forward, despite the restriction remaining in place.
Now, Hamas — a militant organization that controls the Gaza Strip — won’t allow voting in its territory, stripping the elections of even more value.
What remains are candidates from Fatah and loosely organized opponents vying for positions that exert little authority within the confines of Israeli occupation and the Palestinian Authority’s control.
Still, depending on the level of irregularities, the elections could serve as a measure of Abbas’ ability to continue to hold on to power, with opinion polls showing an increasing majority of Palestinians want to see him resign.
The second round of the vote is scheduled for March.
Colombia-Ecuador reopen land borders
Information compiled by Irene Villora
JIMMY: Colombia and Ecuador will reopen their land borders on Wednesday after 21 months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The border’s closure has had an impact on both countries’ economies at a transnational and local level.
The crossing is important in the Andean region as a busy route for trucks carrying goods for international trade and due to its regular transit of Colombian migrants looking for work in Ecuador.
In turn, the local economies of cities on both sides of the border benefit from the constant activity.
The reopening of the border, which was meant to happen on December 1st, was postponed amid fears over the new omicron coronavirus variant.
Now, the reopening protocol for Wednesday is expected to be the same as originally announced for December 1st.
The reopening will be carried out in three stages, allowing the transit of trucks carrying imports and exports first.
The two remaining phases will consist of opening pedestrian routes and then allowing for the transit of private vehicles.
Health authorities from both countries will have to approve the advance to each stage until full reopening is achieved.
Still, it’s uncertain if a spike in omicron cases could potentially delay the plan again, in which case a fresh round of protests are highly likely.
Armenia-Azerbaijan leaders meet in Brussels
Information compiled by Jimmy Lovaas
The leaders are expected to discuss border tensions that have led to recent clashes.
The two countries reached a ceasefire on November 16th after clashes at their shared border that each side has blamed on the other. Both sides have claimed casualties and Armenia has said 13 of its soldiers were captured.
Now, the recent fighting saw the most intense clashes since the end of 2020’s war for control of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which killed some 6,000 people.
And some analysts believe that the recent clashes are ultimately the result of failing negotiations linked to last year’s conflict, meaning any headway the two leaders make may go a long way in not only avoiding small border clashes, but also preventing another armed conflict between the two nations.
Meanwhile, European Council President Charles Michel said Aliyev and Pashinyan have also agreed to establish a direct communication line at the defense minister level to serve as an “incident prevention mechanism.”
Myanmar faces multiple battles after coup
Information compiled by Imana Gunawan
JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is a look at the uncertain future facing Myanmar. For more on that, I recently spoke with Factal Editor Imana Gunawan.
JIMMY: Hi Imana.
IMANA: Hey, Jimmy.
JIMMY: You know, before we jump into what’s happening in Myanmar now, can you maybe give folks a bit of a refresher on, you know, what exactly has been going down there over the past year?
IMANA: Yeah, so in February of this year, Myanmar’s military ousted the democratically elected civilian government and detained many of the leaders including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. And her party actually won the November 2020 elections. Since then, Myanmar, basically, has seen battles on the legal and military and political fronts. Earlier on there were near daily protests as part of the peaceful civil disobedience movement, but that has pretty much gotten more sporadic as of recent in the face of increasingly violent military crackdowns. And instead, these protesters have formed local armed militias that engage in guerrilla warfare against the military, basically adding to the ongoing conflict between the military and the ethnic minority fighters in the remote border regions.
JIMMY: Can you talk a little bit about the different sides wielding power in this?
IMANA: Yeah, so there’s a lot of sides at play. Obviously, on one side you have the Myanmar junta, which includes the country’s powerful armed forces and the government that they set up after the coup. On the other side, many of the politicians deposed in the coup have actually established the parallel National Unity Government, or the NUG, and its armed wing the People’s Defense Force. The military junta back in May actually declared both the NUG and its armed wing as terrorist organizations. Now what’s interesting is unlike previous governments, the NUG have so far sought alliances with the powerful ethnic minority rebels who have been fighting for autonomy over their resource rich regions for a long time. The NUG has even called for an uprising by everyone, including the local armed militias formed by protesters — to fight the military, basically.
JIMMY: What’s the situation in Myanmar like right now?
IMANA: So in many aspects the country has come to a near standstill just given these various ongoing battles. There are still protests every now and then, especially in response to the recent conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi. But there are also armed clashes going on across the country, with the brunt of it in the countryside and rural areas. On the political and the legal side, the junta is also prosecuting many of the former civilian leaders, including Suu Kyi and the former president.
JIMMY: What’s the international response been to the coup and, you know, for that matter, how have they reacted to the national unity government and local militias?
IMANA: So I would say it’s been a mixed bag. Generally, everyone has urged more broadly for, you know, the secession of violence and return to civilian-led democracy. Some regional alliances, like for example, the Southeast Asia focused ASEAN, they’ve been a bit more politically confrontational against the junta. But for bodies like the UN Security Council, it’s a little bit harder to come to a consensus on, you know, how to respond to the junta or the NUG. And as for the NUG, no foreign government has officially recognized it yet, but it has established representative offices in various countries, including the US, the United Kingdom and even South Korea.
JIMMY: Final question, Imana. What Should folks be watching for next?
IMANA: So I think the highest profile event that a lot of people are watching is really the trial of Aung San Suu Kyi. She has had lots of charges filed against her in closed door legal proceedings, all of which really have prompted lots of outcry from rights groups, and she was recently convicted of two of those many charges filed against her. The junta has promised new elections before 2023. So really any political goings-on with the NUG or Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, will be really interesting to watch. And then lastly, folks should really just keep an eye out for more international responses to both the junta and the NUG to see if, you know, we will come to a consensus either way in terms of how to respond to this whole coup.
JIMMY: Yeah, certainly something we’ll want to keep following. Thank you for the insight, Imana. Always appreciate it.
IMANA: Thanks for having me.
JIMMY: Take care.
JIMMY: Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Jess Fino, Ahmed Namatalla, Irene Villora and myself, Jimmy Lovaas. Our interview featured editor Imana Gunawan and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.
Until next time, thanks for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. You can, of course, subscribe for free. And if you have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing email@example.com
This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed.
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Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe