27 March 2022 marked the 77th Armed Forces Day, and the military celebrated the day with the display of its might, with troops, tanks, missiles and aircraft. This day marks the Burmese army’s resistance to Japanese occupation in 1945. However, the current role of the military is being widely criticised. Internationally, two reports have condemned the role of the military. The Ukraine crisis that started in the last week of February got mixed reactions from two opposite forces in Myanmar. The protesters have outrightly spoken against the Russian actions, but the military has shown its support for Russia. The following article presents a detailed analysis of the events that happened in March 2022.
On the Armed Forces Day, Senior General, Min Aung Hlaing claimed that the military would not negotiate with “terrorist” opposition forces and vowed to annihilate them. The military celebrated the day with a parade of troops and weapons in the capital, Naypyitaw. However, the anti-coup protesters came out on the streets with slogans such as “uproot the fascist military.”  The month marked increased clashes between the military forces and Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) and People Defence Forces (PDFs).
Fresh clashes broke out between the military and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in Mongkoe region, Shan State. It must be noted that the Mongkoe region is crucial to border trade with China. The military has been accused of increasing reinforcements since February 2022, when its founder died. More than ten people were killed in a military raid on three villages in Gangaw Township in northwestern Myanmar’s Magway Region.
Further, a Myanmar military convoy consisting of 80 vehicles, including artillery and armoured vehicles, arrived in the Mindat region, Chin State, according to the Chinland Defence Force (CDF). The regime has already shut down phone and internet services in Mindat and many other townships across Chin State, and blocked supply routes into the region.  Some 35 junta troops from Reed military outpost in Falam Township on the India-Myanmar border fortified their positions, according to the CDF. However, the CDF claimed that the military expansion would have little impact as they ran the local administration. The Karen National Union (KNU) offices also called on non-striking government employees working for the regime in KNU-controlled areas to resign. To overthrow the military rule, in addition to attacks on the military, it is important to target its administrative mechanism.
The military is also under attack for targeting the churches and the Christian communities. Two military aircraft attacked the Sisters of Reparation convent in the Kayah State during the month. It has been reported that since fighting began in May 2021, eight Catholic churches in Kayah State have been hit by artillery shelling or airstrikes. Kayah has around 300,000 people and a relatively large Christian population, including around 90,000 Catholics.
To enhance its fight against the protestors, the Myanmar military regime has enacted a new law making it compulsory for law enforcement officers to fight alongside soldiers on the front lines. It has been argued that the military is facing huge casualties in urban and rural areas and also struggling with an increasing number of defectors and a drop in recruitments. Furthermore, the new police law gives authority to law enforcement officers to take action without a warrant against anyone who bangs pots and pans, which has been a popular method of protesting against the regime. According to reports in the Australian media, given the increasing number of defectors, Australia has begun granting protection to those who have escaped Myanmar. The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age have spoken to two former members of the military whose pleas for asylum have been accepted by the Australian government.
Furthermore, the state-run MRTV television announced that the military had terminated the citizenship of eleven opposition leaders because they allegedly fled the country and harmed the national interest. The eleven members include eight National Unity Government members and three other activists.
On March 15, the ousted Religious Affairs Minister Thura Aung Ko from the National League for Democracy (NLD) government was sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption, awarding Buddhist titles to people in exchange for bribes, and keeping a gold plate that was supposed to be donated to a pagoda. He was a former Brigadier General and was appointed deputy minister of religious affairs under the former military regime. He later joined the NLD government in 2016 and was again appointed as religious affairs minister. During his tenure, he drew the ire for abolishing the anti-Muslim and pro-military Buddhist radical group Ma Ba Tha and was a key figure in the move to prosecute the hate-preaching monk Wirathu. He was also in support of amending the military’s 2008 constitution
Domestic Situation – Economic and Social
Due to the rising fuel crisis, reports have emerged that Myanmar seeks help from its neighbours. During the month, reports highlighted Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs asking the police to escort a convoy of fuel being delivered from Thailand and entering through the Myawaddy border. Furthermore, the Myanmar-owned commercial airlines have announced that they will add fuel surcharges to the price of tickets to compensate for rising costs, and the Myanmar Container Truck Association (MCTA) announced that fuel fees would be added to freight costs from 14 March. In order to reduce dependence on US Dollar, the military approved the use of the Thai baht as an official currency in border trade dealings. Earlier this year, Myanmar had allowed direct currency settlements using the Chinese Yuan with its kyat. The military plans a similar arrangement for the use of India’s rupee. 
According to sources, the Myanmar military is building a new headquarters for Myanmar Economic Holding Ltd (MEHL) in the country’s capital Naypyitaw out of safety concerns. Currently, its headquarters are in Yangon. According to one of the sources, the military was concerned about resistance attacks on regime targets in Yangon. However, despite security concerns, the People’s Defence Forces have bombed many government offices in the Yangon, and the headquarters of MEHL and MEC have been not attacked as of today.
On the Peasants’ Day, Senior General stated his deep attachment to improving the socio-economic conditions of the country’s farmers. However, these are considered to be false claims. Farmers in Myanmar’s Magway and Sagaing regions have emerged as the fiercest fighters against the military rule and therefore, faced wrath of the military. The impact of COVID-19 and the rise in inflation have further added to their worries. Farmers are concentrated in Magway and Sagaing, which has seen maximum fighting between the military and People’s Defence Force (PDF) para-militaries. Therefore, many farmers in Magwe and Sagaing regions marked Peasants Day by expressing their opposition to the military regime.
On 15 March, Myanmar’s Ministry of Health issued an order to increase the maximum size of public gatherings from 200 to 400 people. The Ministry said the maximum ceiling of 400 people is allowed at public gatherings as COVID-19 cases and the death toll has declined. As of 15 March, Myanmar has recorded 606,910 confirmed coronavirus cases with 19,414 deaths.  The military announced that Thingyan (Burmese New Year Festival) events in Naypyitaw, Yangon and Mandalay and some major towns would be organised and the public would be allowed the public to set up pavilions upon request. In the previous two years, the country could not celebrate because of COVID-19 and military rule. 
In addition to this, the military stated that a COVID-19 vaccine called Myancopharm would be produced with Chinese help. The drug was developed in collaboration with China’s Sinopharm CNBG Pharmaceutical Plant in July 2021. In addition to transferring vaccine production technology, it says China also provided two experts to provide training in vaccine production and production supervision.
Norwegian telecommunications firm, Telenor, is still awaiting final approval on sale of its Myanmar-based subsidiary to Lebanese investment firm M1 Group, with an 80 percent controlling stake to Myanmar conglomerate Shwe Byain Phyu. The subsidiary has been under pressure from the military to install intercept technologies that would give authorities access to users information. However, the anti-military activists are worried that their safety would be at risk if the military had access to phone records. Therefore, an anonymous Myanmar citizen and Norwegian law firm SANDS, supported by the Netherlands-based Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, filed a complaint with the Norwegian Data Protection Authority alleging Telenor’s sale violates the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The complaint asked Norway’s privacy regulator to investigate and intervene to ensure the sale does not violate the right to privacy of its customers and put them at risk of exposure to military surveillance.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, raised concerns over the new report that warned the international community of serious human rights abuses in Myanmar which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. She appealed to the international community to take “concerted, immediate measures to stem the spiral of violence” in Myanmar. The report, released at the 49th UN Human Rights Council session, upheld that Myanmar’s military and security forces have shown “a flagrant disregard for human life”. The report is based on interviews with more than 155 victims, witnesses, and advocates, whose accounts were corroborated using satellite imagery, verified multimedia files, and credible open-source information. Besides the killings and mass detentions, at least 440,000 have been displaced, with 14 million in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, military forces have largely blocked the delivery of humanitarian aid.
A week after the UN report, another report was released on 24 March by Fortify Rights and Yale Law School’s Schell Center, which also confirmed that Myanmar’s military is involved in deploying snipers to kill protesters and soldiers are instructed to commit crimes and given a “field-craft” manual that contained no guidance on rules of war. The 193-page report analysed leaked documents and 128 testimonies from various sources, including survivors, medical workers, witnesses and former military and police personnel during the first six months of the coup. The report, called “Nowhere is Safe: The Myanmar Junta’s Crimes against Humanity Following the Coup d’ État”, also identified 61 military and police commanders who should be investigated for crimes against humanity.
On 21 March, at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, the Secretary of State Antony Blinken formally determined that violence committed against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar’s military amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity. The step comes after two State Department examinations – one initiated in 2018 and the other in 2020 – failed to produce a determination. As a result, Blinken had ordered his own “legal and factual analysis”. He also announced USD 1 million of additional funding for the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM).  However, in response to the determination, Myanmar’s military-ruled Ministry of Foreign Affairs categorically rejected the US Secretary of State’s determination. The Ministry reiterated that Myanmar, as a party to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is fully committed to all the existing obligations. The statement clearly stated that Myanmar has never engaged in any genocidal actions and does not have any genocidal intent against any racial or religious group.
In addition to the determination, the United States imposed new sanctions targeting alleged arms dealers and companies involved in procuring weapons for Myanmar’s military. They also imposed sanctions on the Myanmar military’s 66th Light Infantry Division, which was accused of massacring civilians in the towns of Pyay and Hpruso in December 2021, and two military commanders. Canada also announced it was taking action against four individuals and two companies responsible for procuring and supplying arms to Myanmar’s military. In addition, the United Kingdom has imposed sanctions on arms dealers and companies linked to the Burmese Air Force’s supply. The list also includes newly-appointed Air Chief General Hutun Aung. 
The Burma Campaign UK reported that 55 British Parliamentarians from nine different political parties and Independent MPs joined the call for aviation fuel sanctions against the Burmese military. The report issued during the month said the Parliamentarians are backing Early Day Motion 908, which calls on the British government to introduce sanctions to stop aviation fuel from reaching the Myanmar military. The Myanmar military is increasingly using airstrikes against civilians and forcing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. The motion also calls on the British government to support a referral of Burma t the International Criminal Court (ICC) and to join the Rohingya genocide case at the ICJ.
To further affirm its position on the Myanmar crisis, the European Parliament passed a resolution on 10 March and provided an additional €1m to the UN Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar to collect evidence on human rights violations. In addition, it has been announced that the EU had allocated €65m for aid to Myanmar, of which €23m was provided in 2021. It was also announced that the EU will present a resolution to the Human Rights Council to ensure the “human rights situation in Myanmar remains high on the agenda of the international community.” 
During the month, ASEAN Special Envoy on Myanmar, Prak Sokhonn, Cambodian Foreign Minister, visited the country. Though the visit did not make any significant breakthroughs, the visit was the first by the ASEAN representative.  Preceding the ASEAN’s envoy visit, a Myanmar delegation led by the military’s Chief of Military Security Affairs, Lt-Gen Ye Win Oo, attended the 19th ASEAN Military Intelligence Meeting-AMIM-19 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The theme for the conference was “Solidarity for Harmonised Security”. On 03 March 2022, the Myanmar Police Colonel Zaw Lin Tun was appointed as the Executive Director of the ASEAN Police Secretariat and he and a delegation from the Myanmar Police Force attended the 40th ASEANAPOL Conference held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
In a special emergency session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) voted on a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Of the 10 ASEAN members, eight – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand – voted in favour. Vietnam and Laos were the only abstentions. However, Myanmar’s vote does not represent the current regime as the country’s UN seat is still held by Kyaw Moe Tun, who was appointed by the civilian government ousted in last year’s coup. Myanmar’s military, however, has offered firm support for Russia’s actions.
On 30 March, the Fifth BIMSTEC virtual summit was conducted and was attended by the seven-member countries, including Myanmar. India’s Ministry of External Affairs defended Myanmar’s participation, given its geographical importance to the region. 
Following the fresh armed conflict, over 1000 people from Myanmar’s Chin State took shelter in the neighbouring Champhai district of Mizoram. Lalmuanpuia, village council president (VCP) said that while several refugees stayed with their relatives and friends, the rest of them are lodged in the commerce and industries department buildings and other government facilities, as Zokhawthar is the centre for Indo-Myanmar border trade where several buildings, including warehouses, were already constructed. The Mizoram Government has provided around Rs 380 lakhs as humanitarian aid. According to official statistics, around 24,289 refugees have entered the state since the coup.
Expressing concern over the situation in Myanmar, India and Japan called for an immediate cessation of violence throughout Myanmar and a return to the path of democracy. Prime Minister of Japan Kishida Fumio and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi reiterated their stance on Myanmar and called for the release of all political detainees in a joint press statement. They also reaffirmed their support for ASEAN efforts to seek a solution in Myanmar and welcomed Cambodia’s active engagement. In addition to this, the Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar met separately with several ethnic armed groups fighting the military in Thailand. On 10 March, Yōhei Sasakawa held talks with Karenni National Progressive Party leader Khu Oo Reh, the party’s second secretary, Aung San Myint and Ko Nelneh Plo, head of the Karenni Emergency Rescue Team, and discussed the issues of humanitarian aid. The Special Envoy also met with Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) leader Gen Yawd Serk.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, security forces have killed at least 1600 people and detained more than 12000 since the coup. The UNHCR data have stated that over 500,000 people have been internally displaced; as a result of this, thousands have fled as refugees to Thailand and India. Due to the current Ukraine crisis, the focus has been shifted away from the conflicts in the Asian region. The reports and determination will remain mere words until the military is held accountable for its actions.
MEHL is one of the Myanmar military’s two major holdings, the other being Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). Both are involved in nearly all of the country’s lucrative business sectors including oil and gas, copper and gemstone operations. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-military-conglomerate-shifts-hq-to-capital-amid-juntas-security-fears.html
Since the Cold War, the State Department has formally used the term six times to describe massacres in Bosnia, Rwanda, Iraq and Darfur, the Islamic State’s attacks on Yazidis and other minorities, and most recently last year, over China’s treatment of Uyghurs and other Muslims. China denies the genocide claims. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/exclusive-biden-administration-rules-myanmar-army-committed-genocide-against-2022-03-20/