08 November 2021 marked the anniversary of the November 2020 elections, which resulted in the landmark victory of the National League for Democracy party. However, the military coup in February 2021 led to a set-back in this democratic transition process. Under the banner of the Spring Revolution, the citizens of Myanmar are demanding the restoration of democratically elected leaders. Voices are being raised against the violent and forced military rule. The People’s Defence Forces and other Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) are responding to military violence with stronger force. The military is also said to be suffering from losses, and the number of deserters is increasing day by day. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the military has killed more than 1200 civilians. Aung San Suu Kyi has been further pressed with more charges, totalling 11, which could sentence her to 102 years in prison. International reactions have increased and Myanmar’s military leaders are being questioned at the international stage. However, some countries have started negotiating with the military leaders to ensure the continuance of relations.
Political and Domestic Situation
On 24 November, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Administration Council (SAC) stated that the military has taken over the entire responsibilities of the State and is working on the five-point road map. He further stated that the pattern of democratic transition in the country depends on the country’s situation and socio-economic development. He reiterated the provisions stated in the 2008 constitution to transition to a multi-party democracy.
The military rulers are confident they can wipe out armed civilian resistance against them in three months. With the withdrawal of the rainy season, the military regime deployed thousands of troops in the Chin State, Sagaing and Magwe regions of Myanmar. As a result, the Human Rights Watch provided evidence of multiple active fires in Chin State after reviewing thermal anomaly data collected by an environmental satellite sensor (VIIRS). On 29 October 2021, thermal anomalies were detected for the first time. While the human rights groups and media blamed the military, the military spokesperson, Gen. Zaw Min Tun, claimed that the Chinland Defence Force had set the houses on fire. Because of the ongoing fights, Thantlang has been nearly uninhabited since September. On 01 November, the Three Brother Alliance, including the Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and AA, condemned the military artillery strikes on Thantlang region.
Fortify Rights conducted interviews of displaced people and humanitarian workers along with members of the military. The group reported that the military committed war crimes in the Karenni State by arresting humanitarian workers and destroying food stocks meant for displaced people. Further, the military delayed travel authorisation for international aid workers, set up roadblocks, and confiscated aid supplies. Similar accounts have been reported in other parts of the country, especially in Chin and the Sagaing region.
The confrontations were also reported between the military and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State. Villagers reported that the military sent reinforcement troops to the region after the alleged clash. After the armed conflict, the AA released 15 captives arrested on humanitarian grounds. It has been suggested that the release was done after the visit of Yohei Sasakawa, Japan’s Special Envoy to Myanmar. Mr Sasakawa had previously attended a virtual meeting with the AA.
Many assassinations took place during the month. One of the most prominent ones was the assassination of Thein Aung, Chief Finance of Mytel Telecommunications, a military-linked telecommunications company. Mytel provides revenue to the military government and is a major target of the anti-military forces. As a result, it has been boycotted by the consumers and local media have reported that more than 80 of its cellphone towers have been destroyed to date.
As a result of confrontations, the military has suffered its heaviest losses, with 1300 soldiers killed and 463 injured in clashes. The country’s shadow National Unity Government’s (NUG) Defence Ministry reported that the military casualties are almost double the number the regime suffered in September. Further, even though the military defectors are a small percentage, the number of defectors has contributed to a growing crisis among the troops. As a result, the military is unable to recruit new soldiers. The military has recalled all retirees, and the soldiers’ wives have been ordered to provide security for the bases.
To coordinate between civilian resistance forces and allied EAOs, the NUG declared the formation of a command structure. Many members of the People’s Defence Force (PDF) reported a lack of adequate weapons and commanders. The objective of the new command structure will be to control the spread of arms and weaponry in the country.
The NUG also started selling bonds to fund the revolutionary movement with a target to raise at least USD 800 million. On the opening day itself, it raised USD 6.3 million. Further, the NUG blacklisted two military-controlled conglomerates – Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and their subsidiaries. The NUG’s Commerce Ministry stated that the military-owned companies committed high treason and controlled numerous businesses by abusing military power and exerting undue influence.
The civil rights groups have called for a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting to stop escalating violence in Myanmar’s Chin State. The Human Rights Watch released a statement on behalf of 521 international and domestic organisations. The United States (US) also condemned the Myanmar military’s use of violence in Chin State and called for urgent international action to hold the military accountable. As a result, the UNSC expressed “deep concern” over the intensifying armed clashes and violence in Myanmar. The council’s 15 members issued a statement calling for an immediate end to the fighting and for the military to exercise “utmost restraint”. Further, Nicholas Koumjian, head of Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, stated that there is a widespread systematic attack on civilians “amounting to crimes against humanity” which in turn is based on the preliminary evidence collected since the military seized power.
Bill Richardson, the American ex-diplomat, visited Myanmar during the month after the invitation of the military’s foreign minister, U Wunna Maung Lwin. The US State Department welcomed Mr Richardson’s trip. He claimed the visit to be largely successful as US journalist Danny Fenster was released from the prison, and his efforts helped increase access to humanitarian aid and vaccines for Myanmar and resumption of Red Cross visits to the country’s prisons. Previously, Richardson had made numerous visits to Myanmar since the 1990s. However, no promises were made by General Min Aung Hlaing during their talks. Mark Farmaner, Director, Burma Campaign UK, was critical of Mr. Richardson for not securing the release of other prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.
Senior officials from China, Japan and Thailand also visited Myanmar to meet Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Sun Guoxiang, the Special Envoy of Asian Affairs of the China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yohei Sasakawa, Japan’s Special Envoy for national reconciliation in Myanmar, and Don Pramudwinai, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister visited the country during the month. Mr Sasakawa discussed the current situation and the peace process in Myanmar and Japan’s assistance to the country. He also visited camps for internally displaced Rohingya in Sittwe and met with Arakan National Party representatives. However, the details of the visit were not discussed.
Myanmar’s military leaders’ five-member delegation was refused permission to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP-26. The delegation was led by Ambassador Tun Aung Kyaw of the Myanmar Embassy in London. Myanmar’s shadow NUG attempt to send a delegation was also rejected. Due to the ongoing crises, it has been argued that the country is losing opportunities because of non-participation at meetings on important issues. On the other hand, the military delegation participated in the 89th Interpol General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey. Than Hlaing led the delegation, who was appointed deputy home affairs minister in February. Canada, the EU, UK and US have sanctioned Than Hlaing for his role in overseeing the military’s crackdown on the public, in which more than 1200 civilians have been killed and more than 10000 were arrested.
The United Nations adopted a resolution on Rohingya titled “the Situation of Human Rights of Rohingya Muslims and Other Minorities in Myanmar”. The resolution was jointly tabled by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the European Union (EU). The resolution welcomed the appointment of the new Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar and requested a work plan for her engagements in Myanmar. It also called for effective implementation of the MoU between Myanmar, the UNHCR and the UNDP.
Chinese projects in Myanmar are again at high risk as they face protests from the local population. Apart from the issue of maintaining no transparency and accountability in implementing these projects, the issue of forcible land acquisition has surfaced. The preparations have started to seize 250 acres of land in the proposed Kyaukphyu KPSEZ industrial zone. The 250 acres of land belong to more than 70 local farmers from four village tracts. And now it has been revealed that out of those 250 acres of land, 60 acres belong to three unknown people who registered these land plots under Myanmar’s land ownership law. There is an allegation that 22 local farmers are illegally occupying the land. Similar incident was earlier reported during the construction of the offshore Shwe Gas field and pipeline project.
India’s Engagements with Myanmar
Armed militants ambushed the Assam Rifles convoy in Manipur’s Churachandpur district and killed five soldiers, including Colonel Viplav Tripathi, his wife and their eight-year-old son. The Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) and Manipur’s Naga People’s front jointly claimed responsibility for the ambush. It has been argued that fighting the Myanmar military war against pro-democracy resistance groups may have emboldened the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), a Manipur-based extremist group. This also brings into question China’s re-establishment of its links with PLA Manipur and other like-minded groups in the backdrop of the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Further, the Moreh Battalion of Assam Rifles recovered a large number of prefabricated Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) weighing approx 250 Kg along with a large quantum of other explosives and warlike stores.
Mizoram governor, Hari Babu Kambhampati, stated that the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP) is almost nearing completion within the Mizoram side. Despite the pandemic, the Public Works Department completed several works of formation cutting (405 km) and construction of cement concrete pavements (90 km). Mizoram plans to give COVID-19 vaccines to more than 12000 Myanmar nationals who are currently taking shelter in the state. The Mizoram government had also sent delegations to the Centre, seeking assistance for the Myanmar nationals; however, the Centre is yet to respond.
The country is reeling under political, social and economic crises. The continued violence from both sides has increased the number of displaced people and pushed them to live in inhumane conditions. The political crises continue as the military government rule continues to thwart the return of democracy. The NUG claims to be the country’s legitimate leaders as they were democratically elected by the people of Myanmar, whereas the military rulers claim to be the rightful defenders of the country. The economic crises continue and the COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The UNSC states that the solution to the current crises lies in the pursuance of dialogue and reconciliation with the interests of the people of Myanmar.