Myanmar Round-Up: September 2022

The United Nations Special Envoy on Myanmar has warned of a “multi-dimensional catastrophe” hitting the country since last year’s military coup. The country is reeling from a politicaland economic crisis. The regime is still struggling with nationwide popular armed resistance against its rule. The month also marked a year anniversary of declaring the People’s War against the military and the recent report by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar concluded that the military had control of only 17 per cent of the country. During the month, Aung San Suu Kyi was found guilty of electoral fraud and sentenced to three years in jail with hard labour. She now faces 20 years imprisonment on eleven counts.[1] India-Myanmar relations received attention during the month due to the presence of Indian hostages across the Myanmar border and the rising number of refugees entering Mizoram due to the ongoing conflict between the Arakan Army and the military in the Rakhine State.

Political and Domestic Situation

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing stated that the elections will be held in 2023, and the crisis in the country was under control. However, the UN special rapporteur on the rights situation in Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, warned that the election would be “fraud.” [2] In addition, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, an independent group formed by former United Nations envoys to Myanmar, released a report that concluded a decline in control by the military. The report claimed the military had control of just 17 per cent of the country. Out of the total 330 townships, the regime only has full control over 72.The civilian National Unity Government (NUG) and resistance groups have effective control over 52 per cent of the country and challenge the military in another 23 per cent.[3] Further, the military has lost nearly 90 bases since the coup in fighting with resistance forces and ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) according to EAOs and conflict monitors.[4]

Marking the one-year anniversary of the declaration of a people’s defensive war against the military, the NUG’s acting president Duwa Lashi La said the territorial dominance and military capabilities of PDFs have significantly strengthened and improved. Over 300 PDF battalions have been formed nationwide. According to their data, over 20,150 military soldiers have been killed and another 7,000 wounded, while 1,500 resistance fighters have died in the clashes. An increasing number of regime troops are also defecting. The NUG has also established public administration and judicial systems in 24 townships. Education, health, municipal and social services have also been established.[5] Major attacks and clashes were reported in Sagaing Region, Kayah, Kain and Chin states.

Another region in which clashes were intensified is the Rakhine State. The military launched airstrikes with warplanes and helicopters.[6] As a result, around 9600 people have been displaced in various parts of Rakhine and Chin State. The UNOCHA report titled Escalation of Conflicts in Rakhine and southern Chin State was released and concerns were expressed about the rising tensions between the two armed forces.[7] In another incident, the military helicopters attacked a school and village in Mandalay, killing at least 13 people including seven children.[8]

On the other hand, the military is installing anti-drone guns. The resistance’s drone warfare has bombed military targets on both land and water. At the 16th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime, the military’s deputy home affairs minister, Major General Zin Min Htet, admitted that PDF groups are using improvised explosives and drones to create ever more powerful explosions. The military spokesperson also warned that those who donate to the NUG, its parliamentary wing or its armed wing could face the death penalty. In addition, netizens who like and share Facebook posts of the NUG and its affiliates may face charges of up to 10 years in prison. Nearly 100 people have been prosecuted under the Counterterrorism Law, Penal Code and Electronic Transactions Law for their alleged ties to the groups. [9]

The EAOs are also initiating talks to arrive at negotiations. Leaders of the United Wa State Army (UWSA) and deputy commander-in-chief of the Arakan Army Brigadier General Nyo Tun Aung met during the month. The UWSA has held similar meetings with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). [10]

Economic and Social Crisis

To control inflation, the central bank has decided to influx over USD 200 million worth of foreign currency into the forex market. Usually, such operations are capped at around USD 50 million.[11] Apart from the currency and fuel crisis, the country could soon be under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) blacklist. Because of the unsatisfactory progress in tackling organised crime and money laundering, FATF’s cooperation review groupwill likely recommend that Myanmar be blacklisted during the October meeting. Currently, Myanmar is on the FATF’s grey list of “monitored jurisdictions.”[12]

Joining the list of companies exiting Myanmar, Qatar’s telecom giant Ooredoo sold its operation to the Singapore-based Nine Communications firm. The company reached an agreement to sell 100 per cent of its equity to Nine Communications which is owned by the conglomerate Link Family Office and U Nyan Win.[13] Further in a response to the report released by the International Labor Organisation (ILO) in August 2022, warning about the existential threat faced by the trade unions and civil society organisations (CSOs) following the takeover; the military’s Labour Ministry issued a statement rejecting these claims. However, an official from the Federation of General Trade Unions of Myanmar (FGWM) told RFA that trade unions are being systematically “uprooted” in the country and can no longer protect workers.[14]

With the rise in the prices of medicines, many in the country are left without treatments. There is a short supply of basic drugs. The prices are also impacted due to the chaos in the foreign exchange market caused by dollar restrictions imposed by Myanmar’s Central Bank. According to the 2021 survey by the UK-based website, they ranked Myanmar’s development status at 133 out of 167 countries, with its healthcare ranking at 106.[15]

There are also reports of Myanmar emerging as a human trafficking hub. Shwe Kokko New City in Myanmar’s Karen State has allegedly become a people-trafficking hub.[16] The incidents of drug trafficking and money laundering have also increased. In the month, the Royal Thai Police arrested four arms dealers to the Myanmar military regime suspected of trafficking drugs and money laundering. Myanmar national Dr Tun Min Latt, 53, was arrested along with three Thai nationals in Bangkok. Over USD 5.4 million worth of drugs and other items were confiscated from them.[17]

Even the journalists are increasingly under attack with over 70 journalists currently in prison in the country according to Reporters Without Borders estimates. At least four journalists have died at the hands of the military junta, including two while in custody. Unreliable electricity and internet blackouts have further complicated the risks such as contacting sources. The military also raids houses in Yangon to check that all household members and overnight guests are registered with the government on the household registration list. The World Press Freedom Index ranked Myanmar 176 out of 180 countries.[18]

International Responses

During the month, Myanmar regime leader Min Aung Hlaing visited Russia for the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF-2022), an annual meeting in Vladivostok to encourage foreign investment in the Russian Far East. He met Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the event. This was the first meeting with Putin, though nothing substantial was stated during the meeting.[19] The Myanmar military, however, achieved major success on the sidelines of the event as they signed an agreement with Russian state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom for further atomic energy cooperation including the possible implementation of a modular reactor project in Myanmar. The Russian atomic energy agency said the roadmap would guide cooperation in the field of “peaceful use of atomic energy” for 2022-23.[20]

During the month, Bangladesh summoned Myanmar ambassador fourth time since last month as the fighting intensified between the AA and the military. Concerns were raised over mortar shells landing inside Bangladesh territory and indiscriminate aerial firing from Myanmar and most importantly, air space violations. During the meeting, Bangladesh raised its voice against the violation of the border agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar, and the concern for again movement of internally displaced persons from Rakhine.[21] Also, patrolling across borders has increased.

Bangladesh has expressed its concern in a letter to the UN Security Council. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that Rohingya refugees are a “big burden” on Bangladesh. She also reiterated how India could play a major role in resolving the issue.[22] The ASEAN envoys stationed in Dhaka stated that they will relay Bangladesh’s concerns over the situation along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border to their country.[23] The United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that the United States has allocated more than USD 170 million in additional humanitarian assistance for Rohingya living both inside and outside of Myanmar. The latest allocation brings the total humanitarian aid to the Rohingya refugee crisis to nearly USD 1.9 billion since August 2017.[24]

During the month, Japan announced that it will suspend the military training of Myanmar military officers from the next year 2023. The decision was triggered after the military executed four political prisoners in July. Japan’s National Defence Academy conducted training programmes since 2015, where they receive both academic and military training. However, the Japanese program continued even after the military took power in the country. Human Rights Watch (HRW), reported that Japan accepted two cadets and two officers to take part in the training program in 2021. This was followed by another two cadets and two officers in 2022.[25]

India Myanmar Engagements

During the month, the officials of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) stated that the railway line from it would construct a broad gauge line from Sairang, near Aizawl, to Hmawngbuchhuah in Mizoram’s Lawngtlai district, near the Myanmar border. The 223-km Sairang-Hmawngbuchhuah railway project had been abandoned earlier due to “economic non-viability”. The construction of the Bairabi-Sairang broad-gauge railway line was started in 2015 and is expected to be completed by March 2023. Another section, the 111 km Imphal-Moreh section final survey is already underway for construction.[26]

In a shocking incident, more than 300 Indians have been held hostage in Myanmar after they were lured to Thailand by a job racket. These hostages are being forced to work in the cybercrime industry. It is also alleged that people from other countries are also being held hostage by the racket. The incident came to light when captives from Tamil Nadu sent a video in which they are seen pleading Central and Tamil Nadu governments to make efforts for their release. Earlier, on 05 July, the Indian embassy in Myanmar’s Yangon issued an advisory for people to be cautious of ‘unscrupulous elements offering jobs’. In response, political leaders in Tamil Nadu urged the Centre to work for the safe release of the Indian hostages in Myanmar.[27]

The Ministry of External Affairs has been trying to use available resources in Myanmar and Thailand to help rescue the Indians. After investigation, it has been reported that the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), a rebel group fighting the military junta in that country, is suspected to be providing “protection” to an organised Malaysian-Chinese gangs which continues to hold at least 150 Indian IT professionals trapped at a location on the Myanmar-Thailand border. The KNLA and the Arakan Army have traditionally “favoured” using Myawaddy as an important part of the route used by the outfits to bring in heavy weapons from China.[28]

The ongoing fight between the Myanmar military and AA has led to a further 30,401 people from Myanmar crossing the international border and taking refuge in Mizoram.[29] Further, the Mizoram State education department reported that 6195 children from Myanmar were enrolled in various schools across the state. According to the education director, in 2021, 6,195 children from Myanmar were enrolled in various schools across Mizoram. Recently, Mizoram University (MZU) and the Institute of Chin Affairs (ICA) announced the introduction of a diploma course in Burmese language and communication skills at MZU.[30] During the month, Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga met Union home minister Amit Shah in New Delhi to discuss the influx of refugees from neighbouring Myanmar. He also stated the need to negotiate with military authorities in Myanmar and various ethnic groups.[31]


The Human Rights Council held a dialogue with Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism on Myanmar. Koumjian stated that the crimes in the country had intensified. Thomas Andrews too presented a grim assessment of 1.3 million displaced people; 28,000 destroyed homes; villages burned to the ground; more than 13,000 children killed and a looming food crisis.[32] Noleen Heyzer, the special envoy of the UN secretary-general, has also raised concerns regarding the failure of the United Nations and ASEAN, especially in negotiating with the NUG.[33] While the forces continue to fight, it is important to negotiate with all the stakeholders to bring stability to the country. Dr Zaw Oo says there is a need for “good civil-military relations”.[34]


[4] The regime has lost at least 20 bases in Kachin State, three in Chin State, 19 in Kayah State, 12 in Karen State and 36 in Rakhine State.
[17] Dr Tun Min Latt runs the Star Sapphire Group of companies, which brokered imports of Israeli reconnaissance drones and aircraft parts for the Myanmar Air Force. Star Sapphire Group is partnered with the military-owned business conglomerates — Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). The UN report said that the group was one of 45 companies that made donations to the Myanmar military following the brutal 2017 clearance operations in Rakhine State.