On 25 July, the military carried out executions of four political prisoners, making it the country’s first use of capital punishment in decades. This led to widespread condemnation both domestically and internationally. The fighting continues within the country in major regions, and investigations by Amnesty International and BBC highlight the continuing crisis prevailing in the country. Internationally, the ASEAN Special Envoy, Prak Sokhonn’s visit marked significant development along with the visit of Chinese Ambassador Wang Yi, for the first time since the coup. Relations with India faced a new challenge with the killing of two of Indian origin people in Myanmar’s Tamu region.
Domestic and Political Situation
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Chairman of the State Administration Council (SAC) said at the Union Government Meeting that political situations have arisen due to improper use of political outlets. He stated the five-point roadmap and nine objectives to implement a multiparty democratic system and to build a Union based on democracy and federalism.
In addition, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) the proxy party of Myanmar’s military convened its annual central committee meeting in Naypyitaw. There was heightened security as there have been attacks on the party leaders. According to a May 24 article by a pro-junta media outlet, more than 1,600 individuals affiliated with the USDP, including party members and supporters have been killed by anti-junta guerrilla groups since last year.
The month witnessed the execution of the National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmaker Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, pro-democracy veteran Kyaw Min Yu, widely known as ‘Ko Jimmy’, Ko Hla Myo Aung and Ko Aung Thura Zaw, which led to widespread condemnation. As a reaction, the opposing forces vowed to eradicate the military and bring justice for the execution of four activists. The Karen National Union, Karenni National Progressive Party, Chin National Front and All Burma Students’ Democratic Front released a statement with the National Unity Government (NUG).
They condemned the executions as acts of terrorism and vowed to fight the fascist dictatorship by all means in the people’s revolution. The Kachin Political Interim Coordination Team also condemned the executions. However, the United Wa State Party, the New Mon State Party, the Restoration Council of Shan State and the Shan State Progressive Party remained silent. Several people’s defence forces conducted revenge attacks on regime forces and informants, which killed about 20 junta personnel.
The military also increased its attacks, especially via airstrikes. For instance, the military carried out airstrikes on an AA outpost in the territory of the Karen National Liberation Army’s Brigade 5 killing six members of the Arakan Army. In reaction, the AA has vowed retaliation for the attack. In a show of its valour and defence capabilities, the Myanmar Navy conducted a naval exercise, Sea Shield -2022, on 06 July, in the seas off Rakhine State. The training included the participation of naval ships, including two submarines and helicopters.
In addition, the month marked an increase in arrests and detentions by the Myanmar military under The Myanmar Police Act. Especially in the Arakan State, the military arrested many residents. Furthermore, the military also transferred a number of political prisoners to different sites for undefined reasons. More than 30 other political prisoners in the Mon State detention centre were relocated to Thayawady, where the living conditions are worse. Such a trend was also practiced by prison authorities before the coup.
The month also recorded an increase in landmines explosions. Within the two months, at least seven landmines exploded in six Rakhine townships and Paletwa township of Chin State. Amnesty International investigated the indiscriminate use of antipersonnel landmines in villages in Kayah (Karenni) State. From 25 June to 08 July, Amnesty International researchers interviewed 43 people in Kayah State as the state has been at the centre of fighting between the military and Karenni armed groups since May 2021. The Karenni Human Rights Group (KnHRG) also documented at least 20 civilians killed or seriously injured by landmines in Kayah State since June 2021.
As the military is losing its legitimacy, there has been a decrease in the number of people joining the military institutes. Therefore, the military has decreased its age limit to increase the number of recruiters. Previously, applicants to the military’s Defense Services Academy, Defense Services Technological Academy and Defense Services Medical Academy could not be older than 18. But the regime recently announced in newspapers that it had loosened the age limit to 18 years and six months.
On the other hand, the biggest challenge that anti-military armed groups face is the lack of funds and weaponries. The NUG’s acting President Duwa Lashi asked the international community to provide weaponry, technological assistance and financial aid to the revolution. Further, U Htin Linn Aung, the NUG’s Minister of Communications, Information and Technology during a press conference on 22 June stated that the resistance groups not allied with the NUG typically don’t receive any funds directly from the NUG to support their activities. Certain groups have distanced themselves from the National Unity Government. For instance, the Anti-Dictatorship People’s Revolutionary Army formed in April 2021 mostly operating in the Sagaing Region has distanced itself from the NUG. Another such group is the Bamar People’s Liberation Army.
Fitch Solutions, in its latest Myanmar Outlook, projected a shrink of 5.5 per cent in the current financial year, which ends in September 2022. The negative growth projection is due to the ongoing post-coup conflict and compounded impact of high global commodity prices, and it forecasts no immediate end to the country’s economic travails. The group said that it predicted real GDP growth would return to positive growth of 2.5 per cent in FY2023, as global commodity prices and inflation begin to ease, “reducing some of the pressure on real household disposable income.” But given the low statistical base, it described this projected recovery as “meagre.”  Many real estate development projects in the country also stand incomplete because of the post-coup conflicts.
Myanmar’s central bank ordered companies with up to 35 per cent foreign ownership to convert foreign exchange into the local currency, extending a rule aimed at relieving pressure on the kyat to include more businesses. The new restrictions on US dollars have come as a blow to businesses already struggling in an economic recession. The new restrictions saw the bank revoking the exemption from mandatory currency conversion given to companies with a minimum of 10 per cent foreign ownership.
Further, according to Bloomberg, companies in Myanmar have at least USD 1.2 billion in outstanding dollar-denominated loans. Business owners said the CBM’s capricious directives are making it difficult for them to continue their business operations. The exchange rate was further hit by more than 2,400 kyats per dollar. Many foreign firms have stalled their operations in Myanmar since the coup amid international pressure. And it is predicted that many more firms will likely be forced to leave Myanmar because they are no longer commercially viable in the current business environment. 
The military executions led to widespread international condemnation. A joint statement from the European Union, Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, Britain and the United States called the killings “reprehensible acts of violence that further exemplify the regime’s disregard for human rights and the rule of law”. The United Nations also condemned the executions, with human rights chief Michelle Bachelet calling them “cruel and regressive”.
The United States State Department spokesperson Ned Price urged China to do more to rein in Myanmar’s military after its execution of four people. US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who met activists from Myanmar in Bangkok in July, also raised voice saying that the killings would not hinder the country’s democracy movement. The remarks came after China, a longtime ally of Myanmar’s military, refused to comment on the executions. However, in response, China pushed back efforts to intervene in Myanmar, saying Beijing adheres to a “policy of non-interference.”
Earlier during the month, on 02 July, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Myanmar for the first time since the military seized power. He attended the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group meeting with his counterparts from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The grouping is a Chinese-led initiative that includes the countries of the Mekong Delta. The region is crucial as an increasing number of hydroelectric projects are altering the flow and raising concerns of ecological damage. China has built 10 dams along the upper stretch of the Mekong, the part it calls the Lancang. The meeting was held under the theme “Solidarity for Peace and Prosperity” in the central city of Bagan, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Military government spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun announced that the attendance of the foreign ministers at the meeting was a recognition of Myanmar’s sovereignty and its government. However, the foreign minister of Myanmar’s NUG, protested against the Bagan meeting, saying any such efforts in partnership with Myanmar’s military violate the will of the people as well as is in direct opposition to a peace plan by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
During the month, Senior-General Min Aung Liang met Lieutenant General Apichet Suesat of the Royal Thai Army in Myanmar where the two discussed the issues of border stability. The Thai delegation was in the country to attend the 34th meeting of the Thailand-Myanmar Regional Border Committee in the Shan State, and later he was invited to meet Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw. However, the subsequent day a MiG-29 from the Myanmar Air Force intruded into Thai airspace while attacking Karen EAOs on the border. In response, the Royal Thai Air Force responded by initiating two F-16 fighter jets to patrol the border district. Later, Myanmar’s Air Force Chief, General Htun Aung, apologised to his Thai counterpart.
Australia received criticism from human rights organisations, such as Justice for Myanmar. The organisation revealed Australia’s embassy expenditure of more than USD 750,000 at a Lotte hotel in Yangon which has links with the country’s military. The Lotte Hotel is built on land owned by Myanmar’s Defence Ministry Quartermaster-General Office, which has been sanctioned by the US, UK and Canada. Further, the activists say Australian taxpayer dollars should not be spent at the hotel, which is built on land owned and leased by the country’s military. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) released invoices under Freedom of Information disclosures to activist group Justice for Myanmar. Lotte investors pay USD 1.87 million annually in rent, which goes to the Ministry of Defence.
During the month, a BBC investigation was published, which recorded confessions of members of the armed forces. The investigation reveals narratives of defecting soldiers. It also recorded crimes against women. The BBC spoke to some of the women who were attacked, and they attest to the violence they suffered. The investigation also points out the new alliances formed since the military seized power. Members of minority ethnic groups, including in Shan and Rakhine states, ally with and train the PDF in its battle with the military. However, the military denied the BBC report and declared that they didn’t attack the civilian population, and rather fought the “terrorists”.
Fortify Rights and the Schell Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School also published a detailed report on the first six months of military rule. The report argues that those acts amount to crimes against humanity. Meanwhile, the atrocities continue. More than 100 children have been killed by the military. And, more than 1.1 million people have been displaced in the country, according to the UN’s latest humanitarian assessment, including nearly 760,000 since February 2021.
ASEAN and Myanmar
The Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar, Prak Sokhonn, visited Myanmar from 30 June to 02 July. This was his second visit to the country, and he met SAC chairman Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to discuss Myanmar’s progress in implementing the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus. Sokhonn also met with Uko Ko Hlaing, the SAC-appointed Minister for International Cooperation and chairman of the Myanmar Task Force on ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance. The Myanmar Task Force on ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance welcomed Cambodia’s willingness to dispatch vaccination teams to administer Covid-19 vaccines to its population. However, he was denied meeting with former civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi due to unspecified “judicial procedures”.
Sokhonn also welcomed the State Administration Council (SAC) declaration of Myanmar’s Year for Peace in 2022. After this meeting, Sokhonn had another talk with the representatives of seven ethnic armed organisations, which have signed the NCA with the SAC. They exchanged views on the political situation in Myanmar. Sokhonn also met with the foreign diplomats from France, the US, the EU and Australia to exchange views on the progress of 5PC, including the provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar. Furthermore, in Bagan, the Chinese foreign minister met Sokhonn and expressed his support to help encourage the process of democratisation in Myanmar.
However, ASEAN also took strong steps to ensure the military takes course to the five-point consensus. For the second time, the Myanmar military Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin was barred from attending ASEAN-related meetings in Cambodia because there has been little progress on a “Five-Point Consensus (5PC)”. Earlier this year, Wunna Maung Lwin was barred from attending the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat (AMM Retreat) held in February. Cambodia hosted the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM), ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference (PMC), 12th East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (12th EAS FMM), 29th ASEAN Regional Forum (29th ARF) and related meetings from 31 July to 06 August in Phnom Penh.
Though the invitation was sent and they had asked the military to send a “non-political representative” instead. However, on the first day of the series of meetings, Skhonn called Sen Gen Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw, where the two sides exchanged views on situational updates and challenges in implementing some key documents. Moreover, the ASEAN leaders strongly reacted to the military executions. ASEAN chair Cambodia has called the timing of the Myanmar junta’s execution of four activists “highly reprehensible” and said it had presented a gross lack of will to support the bloc’s peace efforts in the country.
In a shocking incident, two Indian citizens were shot dead in the Tamu area of Myanmar, bordering Manipur. They were identified as P Mohan and M Iyarnar.  According to reports, the members of the pro-military Pyu Saw Htee militia shot them. Due to the incident, protests arouse in India demanding the return of bodies. The protestors further attacked the border checkpoint. One of the mobs from Manipur entered Myanmar and torched a small army sentry post.
As a result, security was heightened, and the authorities in India’s Manipur State temporarily closed the Indo-Myanmar border. Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh demanded the return of the bodies on humanitarian grounds and stated that no innocent Indians should be killed in Myanmar. The Myanmar military has also tightened security checks on locals and travellers.
Furthermore, Assam Rifles apprehended two cadres of a Myanmar-based Maraland Defence Force (MDF) with ammunition in south Mizoram’s Siaha district near the Myanmar border. Earlier on 06 July, Assam Rifles in a joint operation with state police had apprehended a top leader of the outlawed National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) in Aizawl.
Economically, the Indian Government has announced an increase in import of Tur and Urad pulses from Myanmar, Malawi and Mozambique. In a bid to ease the supply side pressure amid rising inflation, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry issued a notification stating that India will import 2,50,000 MT of Urad and 1,00,000 MT of Tur of Myanmar origin through private trade over the next five financial years (2021-22 to 2025-26).
According to data compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, around 12,000 people have been imprisoned, and more than 1,200 had been convicted and sentenced. The four executions have created outrage in the country, and the resistance forces have vowed to overthrow the military. The military on the other hand aimed to increase its presence and control law and order situation via force. This has resulted in human rights violations, as reported by various organisations. It is important that the world countries stand in support of the people and address their concerns of the people with the involvement of all stakeholders.
The organisation interviewed landmine survivors and other witnesses, as well as health professionals who treated landmine injuries and people who had discovered and deactivated landmines in villages. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/07/myanmar-militarys-use-of-banned-landmines-in-kayah-state-amounts-to-war-crimes/