In a dismal turn of events, Myanmar’s military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing extended the state of emergency by another six months. The violence and conflicts continue in the country, especially in the central and western regions. The month also marked the 55th anniversary of ASEAN nations and the nations conducted several meetings from 31 July to 06 August. However, there was no representation from the side of Myanmar. During the month, the Russian Foreign Minister also visited the country to strengthen ties between the two countries. Several international organisations published reports on the deteriorating conditions in the country with increasing violence, arrests and detentions and conditions of journalists and prisoners. The following article highlights the major events during the month of August 2022.
Political and Domestic Situation
During the month, Myanmar’s military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing extended the state of emergency by another six months and stated that elections could only take place when there was “stable and peaceful”. He had previously stated that the state of emergency would be lifted by August 2023 and thereby the elections would be held. He also stated that there is the possibility of introducing “reform” to the electoral system, including combining the first-past-the-post system with proportional representation. Further, since the takeover in February 2021, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has repeatedly insisted that his action last year was not a coup, but the takeover was in line with the law. However, during a press conference, the military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun departed from that line and stated that the National League for Democracy (NDL) had forced the military into staging a coup.
On 11 August, the regime introduced further restrictions on political parties by barring them from speaking with international organisations or foreigners without permission from the electoral body. Earlier, it required foreign organisations to report to the regime’s foreign ministry through their embassies if they are to meet a political party in Myanmar. The UEC had accused the foreign embassies, international NGOs and domestic organisations of intervening in the 2020 general election. If the political parties fail to follow the instruction, the parties may face dissolution under Articles 407(c) and 408 of the 2008 Constitution, and Article 6(f) of the Political Parties Registration Law.
As the Chairman of the State Administration Council (SAC), Senior General Min Aung Hlaing conducted Second Peace Talks in Naypyidaw. The peace delegation was led by Chairman of Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO) Khun Thurein, Chairman of Lahu Democratic Union (LDU) Kyar Solomon and Vice-Chairperson of the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) Saw Mra Razar Lin. The SAC Chairman briefed the participants on the regime’s efforts to exercise the multiparty democracy system, building the Union based on democracy and federalism, and the need for more ethnic representatives to join the political platform. The Senior General also discussed efforts in fulfilling the development of the ethnic regions, the development of the Union State and most importantly, the allotment of Ks 330 billion from the State economic enhancement fund for the development of the ethnic regions.
The Myanmar military has filed an incitement lawsuit against eight residents in Arakan State’s Mrauk-U Township under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code at the Mrauk-U District Court; according to family members of the accused. The Arakan Army has detained multiple junta soldiers, police and security personnel in Arakan State over recent weeks. The Myanmar military has also arrested some residents of Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun and Sittwe on suspicion of having ties to the Arakan Army, charging some detainees with various counts.
Myanmar junta naval fleet attacked by PDFs in Katha, Sagaing
On the other hand, the violence in the country is rising from both sides. For instance, on 18 August that a Myanmar army fleet sailing upstream from Sagaing Region to Kachin State was attacked by missiles, according to Katha PDF. The attack was led by the All Burmese Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF) and was carried out by local coalition forces of the Katha Township PDF and other local defence forces. While, the Myanmar military burned down 28,434 houses in 645 locations since last year’s coup, with Sagaing Region suffering the heaviest damage, according to the ‘Data For Myanmar’. They have also committed arson attacks in 11 states and regions, with Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin State bearing the heaviest brunt against civilians. The research is based on reports from the media, rights groups and refugee organisations. However, there are chances that the actual number of houses burned down may be higher than the reported figures.
There are also reports that the military has been restricting the transport of humanitarian assistance. The internally displaced people (IDPs) are receiving much fewer relief supplies from donors, with food prices soaring and unemployment also rising. For instance, since three months the regime’s Arakan State Disaster Management Department has not supplied rice to a few IDP camps. On 20 August, the police stopped the Sittwe-based Metta Yaungchi philanthropic foundation from collecting donations to provide emergency supplies to people displaced.
The military is also expanding the use of facial recognition technology to increase its public surveillance capabilities. The cameras are sourced from Chinese tech conglomerates – Huawei, Dahua and Hikvision. The cameras are equipped with artificial intelligence technology that scans faces and vehicle license plates and alerts the authorities regarding those on wanted lists. The expansion of surveillance has raised fresh concerns about the safety of activists and resistance groups in Myanmar. In March 2022, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report warning serious threat to human rights with regard to Myanmar’s use of Chinese-made facial recognition systems. Earlier, in 2020, Myanmar launched a security initiative, a “safe city” in Naypyidaw, even before the military took power in a coup.
The military also gave orders to form “public security forces” on 10 August, during the meeting between Min Aung Hlaing, Vice Chair Soe Win and several chief ministers. Currently, the orders are to form such units in the Rakhine State. Following this, there were records of meetings conducted by local administrators issuing directives to every village or ward to form a seven-member security team. Since March, the military has been forming public security forces across the country. Whereas, the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) offered cash rewards to soldiers who would defect with anti-aircraft weapons. The price of a Chinese-manufactured FN-6 portable air defence system missile was estimated at USD 75,000-90,000 on the international weapons market in 2019. Earlier, the NUG also offered huge monetary incentives to regime soldiers who desert the military in order to encourage more defections.
On 27 August, the value of the Myanmar Kyat (MMK) to the US Dollar (USD) hit a record low at 3,400 MMK/USD1. The change in the monetary regulation, the printing of money in Myanmar and the dwindling supply of foreign currency cannot keep up with the demand. On 05 August, the military changed the kyat to the dollar exchange rate from 1,850 to 2,100 and instructed traders to change 65 per cent of their export earnings into kyats. Further, on 26 August, the US Federal Reserve stated that it will raise the interest rates, which could mean that the exchange rates could go as high as 5,000 MMK. On 27 August, the major gold market players were summoned to meet with authorities tasked with monitoring gold and currency prices.
Even the merchants who trade goods across the border with China stated their miseries as they are no longer able to stay in business due to the depreciating value of kyats. The traders reported that the yuan was valued at around 420 kyats. The declining value of the kyat is making Chinese goods too expensive to acquire, and many traders say they are now facing losses. Khun Thein Maung, the Shan State economic minister, told RFA that he is having talks with Chinese and Myanmar district-level officials regarding the exchange rate at the border and other trade issues.
On 17 August, during a press conference, the military spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun stated that the Central Bank’s financial policies aim to address the issue of high commodity prices and economic development. He also added that traders failed to keep up with the military council’s changing systems and its monetary policy to help economic growth. The price of basic commodities has increased, such as the price of rice went to 3,900 kyats per viss, almost a rise of 44% from before the takeover. The loss of currency value has also pushed the prices for imports. For instance, the price of Palm oil has jumped to 9,500 kyats per viss (equivalent to 1.6 Kg) at the wholesale level, more than triple what it was before the takeover. Further, from January 2021 to early August 2022, cooking oil prices rose 3.2 times and prices for household goods such as mosquito coils and candles jumped 2.4 times and toiletries 2.2 times. 
Amid serious fuel shortages, the military regime formed a committee to import fuel from Russia. The committee will be led by former Lieutenant General Nyo Saw, chairman of the military-owned conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), and will look into the purchase, storage and distribution of Russian fuel to the domestic market.
The regime also plans to ban Facebook and replace it with a homegrown social media platform. Since 2018, Facebook has barred Min Aung Hlaing and also took down the official page of the Myanmar military. Following the coup, the accounts of senior military leaders have also been taken down. Military-owned businesses were also barred from advertising on Facebook. As a response, the Myanmar military shut off the internet and cut access to major social media sites including Facebook. It also amended the Cyber-security Law to include a punishment of three years in prison for using a virtual private network (VPN) to access the internet. Moreover, the regime checks phones for VPNs or any content deemed to be anti-military. 
On 17-18 August, Ms Noeleen Heyzer, Special Envoy of the United Nations on Myanmar visited the country and met Chairman of the State Administration Council (SAC) Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. The visit aimed to make a request to the leaders to halt the aerial bombing and to stop burning the villages and houses of the people. However, Min Hlaing dismissed the allegations and clarified that the military targeted the location of the insurgents only, who attack security forces and countered them.
However, Myanmar’s shadow NUG and more than 850 civil society groups called on the United Nations to remove its appointed envoy to the country after her visit last week. The opponents warned that it risked giving legitimacy to the regime. Soon after the visit, the military resumed setting fire to homes and conducting airstrikes and shelling attacks on civilian targets. The groups also urged the UN to transfer the Myanmar case from the Security Council to the International Criminal Court and called for the formation of a special tribunal to carry out an investigation of the situation in the country.
The month also witnessed the conduct of ASEAN’s 55th Foreign Minister Meeting in Phnom Penh from 31 July to 06 August. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen raised concerns about the worsening situation in Myanmar with the military failing to adhere to the Five Point Consensus and the 25 July execution of four democracy activists. Nevertheless, Cambodia, as the chair of ASEAN, assured its continuous willingness to continue to work and find a solution acceptable to all parties. Furthermore, at the ASEAN’s 55th anniversary, Amnesty International urged the regional bloc to acknowledge the failure of its five-point plan and increasing human rights violations in Myanmar. Amnesty International’s Indonesia office was joined by a number of Indonesian civil society groups as the message was projected onto the organisation’s Jakarta HQ.
However, Myanmar’s foreign ministry issued a statement objecting to a reference in the ASEAN joint statement about the “lack of progress” in implementing the 5PC because “it neglects Myanmar’s efforts on its implementation.” They also justified the recent executions by stating that the four were “found guilty of masterminding, inciting, supporting, arming and committing terrorist activities which caused tremendous loss of innocent lives.”
On the sidelines of ASEAN-related foreign ministerial meetings, Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi met the Cambodian Prime Minister and stated that Japan will support efforts by the ASEAN nations to improve the situation in Myanmar. In response, Hun Sen stated that Cambodia will work together with Japan to break the deadlock in Myanmar.
The month also saw the visit of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to Myanmar. Russia backs the Myanmar military’s efforts to ‘stabilise’ the crisis-ridden country, foreign minister Lavrov said during talks. The Russian foreign minister also met the foreign ministers of the ASEANin Cambodia. The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also attended the foreign ministers’ meeting of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh. Blinken urged the international community to reject the Myanmar military’s “sham elections” planned for 2023.
The Myanmar military was invited to the four-day Tri-Service Asian Defence and Security Exhibition, Conference and Networking Event (Defense & Security 2022) in Bangkok. The event is supported by Thailand’s Ministry of Defence. Countries such as Australia, the Czech Republic, Canada, Japan, France, Spain, Germany, Poland, and South Korea also participated. The US has a “partnership pavilion” at the event. Justice for Myanmar (JFM), reported that the event was organised by a joint venture of the London Stock Exchange-listed company Informa Plc and thereby demanded that Informa ban the Myanmar military from all of its events. Earlier in 2019, Myanmar leader Min Aung Hlaing personally attended the event.
During the month, the Myanmar military detained a Japanese video journalist Toru Kubota while covering a protest against military rule inYangon. He has been charged under section 505 (a) and under immigration law. Japan’s foreign ministry immediately released a statement appealing to the Myanmar authorities for the early release of the Japanese man. Last year as well a Japanese freelance journalist was freed in Myanmar after being arrested. The release was in recognition of the close relations between the two countries.
Amnesty International in its report ’15 Days Felt like 15 Years’ reported how the prison authorities and interrogation centres subjected detained individuals to torture and other cruel or degrading treatment. The organisation conducted 15 interviews in March 2022 with former detainees, lawyers of prisoners and experts, and also reviewed over 100 news reports and briefings. Since the 2021 coup, Myanmar’s military has arrested more than 14,500 people and killed more than 2,000, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). The report also suggested that the United Nations Security Council must increase the pressure on the Myanmar military and further refer its case to International Criminal Court.
During the month, Justice for Myanmar (JFM), called on Singapore to take action against 116 companies based in Singapore who have brokered the supply of weapons and other equipment worth many millions of US dollars to around 78 Myanmar-based companies. JFM called on Singapore to impose immediate sanctions to ban the use of its territory, including its banks and ports, for the supply of arms and equipment to the Myanmar military. Even the Western nations have imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s top generals and arms brokers; however, they have left the most lucrative of those companies, the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise. Projections by the World Bank and Norway’s international aid agency Norad before the coup, using Myanmar government data, pegged annual oil and gas revenues at some USD 1.5 billion. It is said those revenues accounted for about a tenth of the government’s total income. However, a few energy companies have started their exits, such as US energy giant Chevron and Total Energies of France. However, a lot is still out of the purview
On the one hand, the UK announced the imposition of more sanctions on Myanmar and also stated its willingness to join the case against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice. On the other hand, the Myanmar military detained the UK’s former ambassador to the country. Vicky Bowman, who runs the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business (MCRB), and her artist husband Htein Lin were detained in Insein prison. Bowman was the British ambassador to Myanmar from 2002-2006. Her husband Htein Lin was also a veteran activist who spent almost six years in prison for opposing an earlier junta. She urged him to let her take the paintings for his own security.
In Australia, the struggle has begun to recognise Myanmar’s democratically elected national unity government (NUG). A shadow embassy has been set up in Yarralumla with the NUG’s representative, Dr Tun-Aung Shwe. The Labour MP Peter Khalil, Greens senator Jordon Steele-John and new independent MP Zoe Daniel joined officials at the opening. The Burmese diaspora in Australia donated huge amounts to the embassy, as well as rent and office furniture.
During the month, a bomb attack took place in Muse town, a Myanmar-China border town, along with a spate of shootings. However, no group has so far claimed the attacks. Muse is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which involves a proposed USD 8.9 billion high-speed rail link from China’s Yunnan province to Myanmar’s west coast. But the same region is also inflicted with problems of drugs and arms trade and EAOs. Furthermore, many Chinese-speaking people were being kidnapped from Thailand to Myanmar for scam activities. Many victims are kept in Myawaddy, Karen State, which is controlled by the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF) affiliated with the Myanmar military.  In the turn of dismal situations, Myanmar’s ambassador to China, Ambassador U Myo Thant Pe, died on 07 August, according to diplomatic sources. He was appointed ambassador to China in late 2019 and continued to serve even after the coup.
Across Indian borders, the Assam Police arrested three persons and drugs worth of Rs 15 croreat Dillai in Karbi Anglong district. The official has reported that the drugs were smuggled from Myanmar, which shares an unfenced border with India’s northeastern states. Furthermore, the Mizoram Police detained two persons and rescued nine exotic wildlife animals which are suspected to have been smuggled from Myanmar. A case has been registered under the Wild Life Protection Act. A similar incident was also reported during the month when the city police arrested two persons on the charge of smuggling elephant tusks. A case was registered against them under various sections of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972.
And finally, the Rohingya still await justice and protection since the attacks in northern Rakhine State on 25 August 2017. Human Rights Watch claimed that more than 730,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh, while about 600,000 remain under the oppressive rule in Myanmar. Numerous organisations and countries issued statements in this regard. Meanwhile, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the statements issued on the anniversary of the August 2017 incidents and stated that the contents and facts in their statements lack authenticity and are based on unverifiable sources. The Ministry also accused the statement of presenting just one-sided views and interfering in the internal affairs of Myanmar.
The Way Forward
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Michelle Bachelet, reported that Myanmar’s military continues to escalate operations against civilians, especially with the use of air power. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners has listed that around 2,138 civilians have been killed by the security forces and 14,917 arrested since the military takeover. Myanmar’s United Nations representative, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, appointed during the previous NLD government National Unity Government (NUG), called on the international community for “concrete help” to fight the military. He gave certain solutions, such as suspension of all international representation of the military, cutting off the revenue streams for the military, its leader and affiliates, and stepping up efforts, especially by ASEAN. The UN High Commissioner also said that the UNSC will act swiftly with all possible measures by adhering to the principle of R2P. He also proposed immediate recognition of the NUG as a legitimate partner. To conclude, it is important to have all the stakeholders on board to bring out a resolution to the current crisis in Myanmar.
Law 505 (a) criminalises encouraging dissent against the military and carries a maximum three-year jail term. Kubota is the fifth foreign journalist to be detained, after US citizens Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster, who worked for local publications, and freelancers Robert Bociaga of Poland and Yuki Kitazumi of Japan, all of whom were eventually expelled. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/japanese-video-journalist-detained-myanmar-protest-march-87702713