For the night of 15 May 2014
Vietnam: Update. At least 21 people were killed and 100 injured in yesterday's anti-China riots in central and southern Vietnam. A mob of some 1,000 Vietnamese attacked a Taiwan-owned steel mill in central Vietnam, killing 5 Vietnamese and 16 Chinese workers.
News services reported that hundreds of Chinese nationals have begun fleeing to Cambodia or are seeking flights from Ho Chi Minh City to destinations outside Vietnam.
Comment: China has lived with anti-Chinese sentiment in Southeast Asian states for centuries. Chinese Chief of General Staff General Feng made it clear in his statements at the Pentagon today that China will make no concessions on issues of sovereignty, regardless of regional costs and hostility.
Thailand: Unidentified, probably pro-government, militants attacked an anti-government protest camp in Bangkok today. The attack left three people killed and at last 20 injured.
The attack prompted General Prayuth, the Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Thai Army, to issue a statement in which he warned the protestors that the army would intervene unless the violence stopped.
Comment: Prayuth is considered a strong supporter of the monarchy and a political foe of ex-prime ministers Yingluck and Thaksin Shinawatra. A military takeover of the government is not likely, but population controls are, if the violence continues. They would include curfews, restrictions on public assembly and raids to destroy militant hideouts and seize weapons caches.
The democratic political system is adrift because the elected prime minister has been removed under the Constitutional Court's orders and the opposition is pressing for an unelected government to be appointed.
The public confrontations are manifestations of the deeper struggle for Thailand's political identity. This pits traditional power holders in Bangkok, including the monarchy, against wealthy newcomers with populist programs and who are supported by rural farmers. There will be more tests of political strength before a path towards compromise emerges.
India: Update. During this Watch, vote counting began and preliminary results were announced. At midnight EDT, in the 220 seats that have posted results, the Hindu-nationalist BJP is ahead in 112 and Congress is ahead in 35.
In the nine-phase election, more than 8,250 candidates contested 543 seats in the lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha. More than 551 million people voted, making this the largest election in history. The election commission reported the turnout at 66.38% of registered voters.
Afghanistan: Update. The Independent Election Commission posted the final results of the first round of the presidential election. The top two candidates are Dr. Abdullah, who received 45% of the votes and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai who received 31.56%.
Comment: An analysis of provincial results shows Afghanistan remains strongly polarized, based on tribal allegiances, which also means region. That judgment should surprise no one.
Dr. Abdullah, a Tajik with Pashtun blood, won an outright majority in 15 provinces, all but one of them in the Tajik and Uzbek north and in the Hazara regions of central Afghanistan. In the south he won by a cleear majority only in Ghazni Province.
Ashraf Ghani won nine provinces outright; seven of them are in the Pashtun region of the south. However, two other Pashtun candidates prevented him from making a stronger showing. The Pashtuns remain fractured and fractious so that their most appealing candidate came in a distant second. They have a second chance in the run-off election, but the Taliban spring offensive will help ensure they will not win the presidency.
The northern tribes have not forgiven the Pashtuns for the brutality and repressive policies of the Taliban. The results announced today confirm tthat attitude remains strong and was manifest in the voting.
The significance of this is that in the past 13 years, the tribal factors that promote insurgency remain strong. Abdullah is likely to win the runoff election next month. His prospects improved after the Taliban announced their spring offensive this week.
Ukraine: Update. For weeks, Western media described the situation in Ukraine as chaotic. Those descriptions were designed to grab headlines then, but have become accurate now. The two separatist regions now labor under two administrations, two sets of security forces and competing media outlets.
Today's news included reports of different groups stealing voter rolls; theft of official documents; and kidnappings. In Mariupol, on the southeast coast, thousands of workers from the steel workers' union got fed up and reportedly took control of the city from forces of both regimes. Some sources suggested this movement was spreading to other towns.
Comment: The unions are emerging as a political third force. If the workers' movement spreads and shows durability, a measure of order will be restored, but the secession effectively will end. The unions seem aligned with the Kyiv regime.
Russia: For the record. A defense ministry spokesman announced that Russian armed forces will be holding military drills near the Ukrainian border on 25 May, the date for Kyiv regime's presidential elections.
End of NightWatch for 15 May.
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