Can the Philippines end its bloody communist insurgency?


The arm of a dead soldier is seen after Communist rebels killed four policemen and wounded seven people in a well-planned ambush in Antipolo, northeast of Manila on April 20, 2010.


Noel Celis

Though armed communist uprisings have profoundly transformed Asia, images of Maoist guerrilla fighters seem largely resigned to history. The days of overthrown governments, and America's own war in Vietnam (as well as lesser-known interventions in Indonesia, Laos and Thailand), evoke bygone decades recorded on washed-out 16mm film.

But one pocket of communist resistance continues today: the New People's Army, an armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Having fought since the late 1960s, they're no joke. The conflict has left 40,000 insurgents, soldiers and civilians dead. The U.S. classifies the group as a "foreign terrorist organization."

After last year, which saw an increase in communist attacks, the government is now meeting the communists in Norway to negotiate peace. Since the communist party's stated objective is to overthrow the government, that may be tricky. The talks began with communists' demand to free its "political prisoners."

The government is hoping assurances to address the needs of poor Filipinos will satisfy the insurgents, who would like to oversee a capatalism-free Philippines.

For a rebellion that has dwindled in forces since the 1970s-80s, the New People's Army has effectively routed government control from small parts of the island nation. A 2007 amnesty for insurgent crimes waged in the name of ideology largely flopped and the guerrillas have since regrouped.

Outside the Philippines, only a few armed communist hold-out insurgencies remain, namely in India, Nepal and Peru.