The month witnessed a rise in conflict between the military and the opposition forces, especially the air strikes as the rainy season was receding. The preparations for elections have started as the Union Election Commission called for bids for the supply of equipment. Internationally, the ASEAN special meeting was an event, to mark the developments prior to the 10-13 November meeting. During the month, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) put Myanmar on the ‘High-Risk Jurisdictions subject to a Call for Action’ category – commonly known as blacklist countries on 21 October. India pushed further for speedier completion of the Kaladan Multi-Modal project and is also witnessing increases in refugees from Myanmar as well as the problem of drug supply is on the rise.
Political and Domestic Crisis
In the latest push for the general election, Myanmar’s military-appointed Union Election Commission called for bids to supply polling equipment i.e. plastic ballot boxes, voting booths, pens, envelopes, ballot papers, ropes, ink and badges. Holding an election is part of the military’s five-point roadmap released after the 2021 coup. In the process, the regime plans to replace the current first-past-the-post electoral system with proportional representation. The change is seen as favouring the military and its allied political parties. It is also widely believed that Min Aung Hlaing wants to be “elected” president and will probably be nominated for the presidency by the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party. In early October, the USDP chose Khin Yi, one of Min Aung Hlaing’s right-hand men, as its new leader. The Myanmar military also plans to include a large number of retired officers, either as candidates or to help with campaigns.
On the one hand, detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s last five remaining cases of corruption were filed at Naypyidaw Prison Court. She has been charged with 19 cases since the military coup and has been sentenced to a total of 26 years in prison for 14 of them. On the other hand, the military released former planning and finance minister U Soe Win of the NLD government, singer Po Po and beauty blogger Win Min Than. Further, the country’s scenario is marred by repeated fighting in Kachin (except in Chipwi, Panwa and Phimaw townships), Chin, Rakhine, Karenni, Karen and Mon states. There is currently no fighting in southern and eastern Shan State. Furthermore, as the rainy season is ending, the military has started increasing airstrikes. The regime has used helicopters, jet fighters and surveillance drones to indiscriminately attack civilians. The aerial bombing campaign is concentrated in Sagaing and Magway regions and Kayah, Karen and Chin states.
According to data collected by the Irrawaddy, a total of 28 aerial attacks were launched in five regions from 01-28 October, leaving 111 dead and injuring at least 126 civilians. Sagaing Region was worst-hit, suffering 18 of the 28 junta airstrikes this month. On the other hand, there are also reports that the military is losing its strength due to daily clashes and is vulnerable to mine attacks by resistance forces. There are also reports that the military is undermanned and has been forced to form companies out of combat support units. The military is struggling to recruit both officer cadets and privates, forcing the junta to field firefighters, police and administrative employees as security personnel, as well as the pro-regime Pyu Saw Htee militias.  Therefore, the regime is increasingly relying on aerial attacks. As a result, the NUG Defence Minister U Yee Mon warned the People’s Defense Forces to remain on high alert.
In an attempt to gain foreign currency, military chief Min Aung Hlaing claimed that the domestic travel and inbound tour industries are re-starting in Myanmar. On the occasion to mark World Tourism Day, the military organised an event, which was attended by Russian and Japanese ambassadors and the heads of the diplomatic missions of a number of other countries, including India. Myanmar is also planning to launch direct flights to and from Moscow and arrange Russian-language courses. At the same time, regime-backed documentaries on Myanmar have been aired by a Thai military-owned broadcaster to attract travellers from the neighbouring country.
However, on the one hand, the regime is opening up its economy; on the other hand, the military is imposing pre-broadcast censorship on local and foreign television serials. The military-controlled Information Ministry stated that it will ban any content it deems politically or religiously dangerous, or that it believes undermines the culture and national solidarity or arouses sexual desire. In addition, the regime has banned the online news outlet The Irrawaddy and charged the outlet’s registered publisher for violating national security laws. Post the military coup, the Irrawaddy stopped operating from Myanmar and moved production and editorial staff outside the country. Therefore, the impact of the ban on The Irrawaddy was limited. However, before declaring the ban, the news outlets and their reporters faced immense harassment.  Furthermore, Myanmar’s military jailed Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota for “seven years imprisonment for breaching an electronic communications law, and three years for encouraging dissent”. Kubota arrived in Myanmar in July 2022 and was filming a “documentary featuring a Myanmar person”.
Amid the military shutdowns, the NUG’s communications minister U Htin Lin Aung asked Elon Musk to offer satellite internet firm, Starlink, to Myanmar. They asked the provider to give uncensored internet across the country. According to Access Now, at least 54 of Myanmar’s 330 townships have internet blackouts. Justice for Myanmar also reported that the military aims to build a digital dictatorship and is taking control of all mobile networks, directly and through proxies.
Finally, as the country faces an upsurge in the prices of food and fuels, drug consumption has increased. In the months preceding the coup, Chinese triad groups operating in the Greater Mekong region began expansion in narcotics production. Recent entrants, Wan Kuok-kui’s 14K Triad and She Zhijiang’s Yatai International, have spread the reach of Chinese organised crime deeper into Myanmar’s borderlands. These chemicals “disappear into eastern Shan State under the control of the [United Wa State Army] and other insurgent groups,” Mr. Michael Brown, former US Drug Enforcement Administration attaché to the Myanmar government from 2017 to 2019, told Frontier. The UWSA is Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic armed group, which controls two autonomous enclaves on the Thai and Chinese borders, and has long been accused of involvement in the narcotics trade.
The United States added another round of sanctions on Myanmar’s military government, targeting three individuals and one entity. The reason for this round of sanctions was “their roles in the procurement of Russian-produced military arms from Belarus for the Burmese regime.”In his statement, Blinken also referenced the military government’s execution in July of four political prisoners and the 16 September helicopter attack on a school in the Sagaing Region that killed at least 11 children.  The EU had last imposed sanctions seven months ago, and Justice for Myanmar (JFM) called upon the EU to take concrete steps and impose sanctions on 31 companies, that have procured weapons for the regime since the 2021 coup. Currently, only the Htoo Group of Companies is facing EU sanctions. All of the businesses have been sanctioned by the US and UK, and some face sanctions from Canada. 
On 27 October, a Special meeting of ASEAN was held in Jakarta, because Indonesia will take on the chairmanship of ASEAN in November 2022. The meeting was held ahead of the ASEAN and East Asia Summits in Cambodia from 10-13 November. There have been increasing calls for Jakarta to take decisive steps to address the Myanmar political crisis. On 26 October, Cambodia issued a statement about the airstrike in Kachin State and other airstrikes in Karen State. However, the statement fails to identify the military directly but instead notes that “all parties concerned, in particular, one with significant power on the ground” must commit to an “immediate cessation of violence.” During the month, a military airstrike unlawfully killed at least 60 people at a music concert in Kachin State. From the meeting, Malaysian foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah, one of the strongest advocates on pressing ASEAN to take firmer measures on Myanmar was absent from the meeting as Malaysia is due for a general election in November.
However, Myanmar was not invited following its failure to honour the peace plan. The military’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that as the meeting was held without Myanmar, it would not be bound by its outcomes. The regime also said renewed pressure from ASEAN to implement a peace plan would “create more negative implications.” While a renewed push to bring about reforms within ASEAN is being pursued, Human Rights Watch expressed “huge disappointment”, stating that ASEAN had remained committed to the stalled consensus.  Further, NGO Fortify Rights, noted that the ASEAN should scrap the “five-point consensus” on Myanmar and enact emergency measures such as forming an agreement on protecting Myanmar refugees, authorising cross-border humanitarian aid, and coordinating with other UN member states to deprive the Myanmar military of weapons, aviation fuel, revenue, and political recognition.
As the conflict continues in Myanmar, an estimated 70,000 have fled to neighbouring countries and more than one million have been internally displaced, according to the High Commissioner’s Office, OHCHR. Yet, regional actors are forcing Myanmar refugees and other nationals back. For instance, Malaysian authorities accelerated deportations to Myanmar, returning over 2,000 people since April. Thai authorities have similarly pushed asylum seekers back without verifying their protection needs. Following Malaysia’s latest round of deportations on 06 October, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk called for a moratorium on the forced returns of refugees and migrants to Myanmar. In addition, UN Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer also said she would continue to urge the ASEAN to develop a regional protection framework for refugees and forcefully displaced persons. 
As international organisations get criticised for their limited actions and normalising relations with Myanmar’s military regime, various agencies have made an effort to justify their actions. Using social media, they deployed infographics and other tools to demonstrate how international aid organisations are working in the country.On 03 October, for instance, the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU), which operates under the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), published a map that shows areas covered by “projects under implementation” by international nongovernmental organisations (INGOs) and the Red Cross. Another graphic tweeted by OCHA Myanmar on 06 October, claims that its “partners reached 3.1 million people with assistance at least once in the first half of 2022”. However, a closer look reveals that these figures do not provide an accurate picture of the actual situation on the ground. For instance, the disclaimer from MIMU: “This map shows the presence of organisations and does not indicate the volume of assistance, the number of beneficiaries, or the extent to which needs are met or unmet.” In short, these facts and figures are highly misleading.
Following weeks of border tension caused by Myanmar military operations across the border regions, on 26 October, a three-member delegation of the Myanmar military met Bangladesh Army in Dhaka. The two sides discussed working on regional peace and security, the exchange of training and relevant information and the quick repatriation of the Rohingya. The Myanmar delegation led by Lt Gen Phone Myat, Command Bureau of Special Operation, also made a courtesy call to Bangladesh Army Chief Gen SM Shafiuddin Ahmed. The Myanmar delegation reiterated that they are interested in enhancing friendship and communication with Bangladesh and solving bilateral problems.  In another development on Rohingya, Tom Andrews, the UN Human Rights expert on Myanmar, said that the extremist Rohingya organisation Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) was involved in the massacre of Hindus in Myanmar and should be held accountable. An Amnesty International investigation confirmed that “up to 99 Hindu women, men, and children” had been massacred by ARSA fighters, who also abducted Hindu villagers in August 2017 in Rakhine State.
Finally, another major giant sold its operations to a locally owned company. Switzerland’s Trafigura’s Puma Energy, the main supplier of aviation fuel in Myanmar, announced that it had sold its operations in the country to a locally owned company. The company agreed to sell its stake in Puma Energy Asia Sun (PEAS) and its minority share in National Energy Puma Aviation Services (NEPAS). NEPAS was a joint venture between Puma Energy and the state-owned Myanmar Petrochemical Enterprise under the military’s Ministry of Energy. Puma had initially suspended its operations following the military coup but later resumed distribution for civilian purposes.
India’s Engagements with Myanmar
During the month, the Indian government earmarked a corpus of Rs 17.8 billion to complete the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project in Myanmar. The remaining part is a two-lane highway measuring 109 km from Paletwa in Chin State to Zorinpui at the border of the two countries. The other parts of the project have been completed in Myanmar, including the construction of the Sittwe Port, a river terminal at Paletwa and the dredging of the Kaladan River. A new agreement was inked by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs with IRCON International Limited as the project implementing agency (PIA). According to the agreement, the highway will be constructed by local sub-contractors to be decided by IRCON and completed within 40 months. The project was commenced 12 years ago and the next deadline is 2023. But completing the highway in the existing circumstances could be challenging for the implementing agency.
In another push to India’s Act East Policy, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia announced that flights would soon begin between Manipur’s capital Imphal and Mandalay in Myanmar under the UDAN scheme. In addition, a Myanmar delegation led by its Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Minister Tin Htut Oo visited the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, to acquire seeds for a variety of beans and pulses, including green gram (mung beans). The delegation met with representatives of the India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) and the Overseas Agro Traders Association (OATA) to discuss the addition of green gram to Myanmar’s bean and pulse export list, and to invite more Indian investment in Myanmar. They also met with other private companies to buy seeds for cotton and sunflower.
At present, more than 30,300 Myanmar nationals have taken shelter in different parts of Mizoram since the coup. To accommodate the people, the Young Mizo Association (YMA) urged the Mizoram government to establish relief camps in a “compact” area. According to the Home Department, as of 22 October 2022, 30,385 Myanmar nationals, including 10,013 females and 11,650 children, have taken shelter across all 11 districts of Mizoram. Of them, 13,210 people have been lodged in 160 relief camps, while 17,157 people live outside the relief camps. During the month, India also successfully rescued 45 of its nationals trapped in fake job rackets in Myanmar. Out of them, 13 Indian citizens reached Tamil Nadu.
The month witnessed the continuation of the seizure of drugs smuggled from Myanmar. The Assam Rifles troopers seized 92,550 highly addictive Methamphetamine tablets worth around Rs 31 crores and arrested one person in this connection in Mizoram. Further, sources in Assam Rifles said more than 20 Myanmar nationals had been arrested in the past few months in Mizoram. The security agencies in the region have been recently claiming that rebel groups of Myanmar are using Mizoram to arrange and transport arms and equipment to aid their fight against the military.
Since the coup, the UN reports that more than one million were displaced, and 28,000 civilian properties were razed. According to data collected by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) as of 4 October 2022, there are 12,563 political prisoners are being held by the Military Council in Myanmar. On 30 October, global protests against the Myanmar military were recorded. In the US there was a demonstration in support of those fighting the military in Myanmar. There was also an anti-Myanmar military demonstration led by the Buddhist monk, Daegu Sayadaw, in South Korea. Even organisations such as Progressive Voice, Kachin Women’s Association Thailand and Women’s League of Burma raised concerns and called upon UNSC to stop evading its responsibility in Myanmar. Further, Fortify Rights believes that constructive engagement with the Myanmar military is impossible at this stage, and ASEAN must isolate the military and engage the NUG, Myanmar civil society, and ethnic armed organisations. However, to conclude, any constructive resolution to the current crisis must involve all stakeholders, the military, NUG and the EAOs.
On 29 September, the news agency’s former director, Thaung Win, was arrested and charged with violating the Publishing and Distribution Act. Further, local reporters from two media outlets, BBC Burmese and The Irrawaddy online news journal, went into hiding. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/irrawaddy-10312022181138.html
Kubota is the fifth foreign journalist to be detained in Myanmar, after US citizens Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster, Robert Bociaga of Poland and Yuki Kitazumi of Japan — all of whom were later freed and deported. https://www.rfi.fr/en/international-news/20221006-myanmar-jails-japanese-filmmaker-for-10-years-diplomatic-source
The sanctions target the Myanmar businessman Aung Moe Myint, the son of a military officer whom the US Treasury Department claims “has facilitated various arms deals and weapons purchases on behalf of Burma’s military.” The Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has also targeted Aung Moe Mying’s company, Dynasty International Company Limited, and two of its directors: Hlaing Moe Myint, his twin brother, and Myo Thitsar. https://thediplomat.com/2022/10/us-announces-sanctions-on-myanmar-military-linked-arms-broker/
Few of the groups are Dynasty Group and its subsidiaries founded by Aung Moe Myint, KT Group, Ky-Tha Group and its subsidiaries owned by Jonathan Kyaw Thaung, Mega Hill General Trading, Miya Win International Myanmar Chemical and Machinery (MCM) run by Aung Hlaing Oo, International Gateways Group, Star Sapphire Group of Dr. Tun Min Latt, Sky Aviator and Synpex Shwe. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/asia/thai-court-rules-suspended-pm-prayut-can-resume-office.html
Early in 2022, the Indian government terminated the contract with a joint venture of Engineers Projects India Limited (EPIL) and C & C Construction Co. Ltd, which was tasked to construct the highway in Myanmar. In 2019, 10 people, including four Indians and a Myanmar lawmaker, were abducted by the Arakan Army from two boats between Paletwa and Kyauktaw. https://www.irrawaddy.com/opinion/guest-column/challenges-await-new-contractor-as-india-rejigs-plan-for-completion-of-kaladan-project-in-myanmar.html