Tag Archives: China in Myanmar

Myanmar Round Up: September 2021

September 2021 marks the seventh month of continued demonstrations and protests against the Myanmar military after the coup. The violence has spread to both urban and ru-ral areas. Meanwhile, COVID-19 has surged and this could result into a public health emer-gency. The country is also reeling under economic crises with the lack of financial liquidity and depreciation of the currency. Internationally, no speech was given from the side of My-anmar at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The first in-person QUAD summit was held in the United States (US) and the need for peaceful resolution of the crises was stated.

Political Crises and Coup Resistance

With the National Unity Government (NUG) call for “people’s defensive war” on 07 September 2021, intense protests and fighting between the military and ethnic groups were reported. Duwa Lashi, Vice President of NUG, in his 14-point speech, also urged the members of the military to join pro-democracy groups and ethnic groups to attack the military. [1] However, the Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun dismissed the NUG’s call for revolt. Moreover, false reports were circulated that State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi did not accept armed resistance against the military regime by the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs). [2] The NUG call for the “people’s defensive war” has not been met with much sympathy from the international community.

The situation has been marked by violence, including tit-for-tat killings between the military and the résistance forces. Some of the major incidents during the month were reported. In-tense fighting between the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) and the military was reported at Lungler village. The CDF and CNA cadres attacked the military camp at Lungler. [3] Since the early July, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and the military have been clashing in Mongkoe and Pansai in northern Shan State. During the month, the MNDAA retook control of a strategic hill near Phaung Sai village, which the military had captured earlier. [4]

According to the Human Rights Ministry of the civilian NUG, the military attacked the Sagaing Region and murdered about 112 people within three months. The NUG also reported the military massacres in Kani to the UN Security Council in August. [5] Attacks against civilians were also reported in northern Karen and Kayah States.

The civilian resistance forces have destroyed more than 80 telecom towers owned in a joint venture between the Myanmar military and Vietnam’s Defence Ministry. In addition, the month witnessed the targeting of Mytel telecom masts after the NUG declared a nationwide people’s defensive war against the military regime. The people have been boycotting Mytel services since the coup in protest at the military takeover, and the civilian forces had first targeted their offices in early April. [6]

The violence inflicted by the military has urged the soldiers and police to break ties and nearly 2,500 soldiers and police defected and joined the resistance movement since the coup. However, the military has not yet commented on these developments. On the other hand, the military has offered rewards to whistleblowers and informants who help make arrests of people associated with anti-military groups. [7]

The month also marked the 33rd Anniversary of the National League for Democracy (NLD), born in 1988. However, due to the current crises, there is a question mark over its future existence. Since its formation, the NLD was being persecuted by the then military regime and also ousted by the current military regime. [8] During the month, Aung San Suu Kyi was supposed to appear before a special court in Naypyitaw’s Zabuthiri Township, but was cancelled as it was reported that she fell sick. Later, she attended a hearing at a special court in Naypyitaw’s Zabuthiri Township. The lawyer said arguments in the sedition cases against all three were heard under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code, and the court will give its decision at the next hearing. [9]

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), a military-backed party, released a joint declaration which it said was signed by 23 political parties on 08 September. The joint declaration urged the UN not to approve U Kyaw Moe Tun as the parallel NUG’s Myanmar ambassador to the UN. However, few parties denied that they had not signed such a statement. [10]

Economic Crises

There were massive disruptions in the financial sector, as the military intervened in operations of the Central Bank of Myanmar and restricted internet access. There is a lack of cash liquidity and the currency has been depreciated to its lowest. The US dollar exchange rate rose to a record high of around 2,500 to 2,700 kyats per dollar. [11]

During the month, the Kanbawza (KBZ) Bank branch in the northern Shan State town of Ky-aukme was robbed. In recent months, three other bank robberies were reported. [12] The World Bank and UNDP have projected that the proportion of people living in poverty could double to almost half of the nation’s population by the beginning of 2022. This would reverse the gains made since 2005. Most young people are applying for passports at a recently reopened office in Yankin Township in the Yangon to run away from the political repression. [13]

International Responses

The 76th session of the UNGA closed without the speech from Myanmar. The current representative Kyaw Moe Tun, chosen by former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had been critical of the military coup. However, the military has made two requests to replace him with a former general. But the United Nations has not yet approved the appointment. [14]

In a report, the US and China agreed to defer the decision to November on who would occupy Myanmar’s seat at the UN – the military or the NUG. Both the countries sit on the UNGA Credentials Committee (UNGA-CC), and seven other members, which have the mandate to decide country representation at the organisation. The nine-member committee also includes Russia, which has “informally endorsed” the deal. This means that the sitting representative, Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, will continue to hold the seat and is expected to “hold his tongue” and “keep a low profile”. [15]

On 24 September, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) leaders called for an end to the violence in Myanmar in a joint statement. The Prime Ministers of the four countries – the US, India, Australia and Japan participated in the first-ever in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit, hosted by the US. The leaders also called for the urgent implementation of ASEAN’s Five Point
Consensus on Myanmar. [16] Ear-lier, ASEAN’s Special Envoy for Myanmar, Erywan Yusof, had proposed a four-month cease-fire until the end of this year to the military and the regime had accepted it. However, the parallel NUG has said that to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid, the Special Envoy should have got an agreement from the military regime to cease civilian arrests and provide for meetings with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. [17]

The military also engaged in talks with Pakistan to produce JF-17 Block III fighters, a lightweight, single-engine, fourth-generation multi-role combat aircraft. According to well-informed sources, the Pakistan delegation was in the country from 01-05 September. Myanmar has purchased JF-17 multi-role combat aircraft from Pakistan in the past, and is currently in “advanced negotiations” to build third-generation models under license. The jet fighters can engage in air-to-air battles and have ground-attack capabilities to deliver both dumb bombs and precision-guided munitions. Thus, they are suitable for Myanmar, where armed conflict with ethnic rebels is frequent. [18]

The World Bank proposed a “Refugee Policy Review Framework” (RPRF) to integrate Roh-ingya’s in Bangladesh. The WB has proposed the RPRF for 14 member states, currently hosting refugees. The proposal is to evaluate the effectiveness of the grants for the refugees and host communities under its “soft-loan window” International Development Assistance. The WB offered USD 2 billion to Bangladesh if it integrated Rohingya refugees with economic and social rights. However, Bangladesh rejected the proposal and stated that Rohingya are “forcibly displaced persons”, and Bangladesh only provided temporary shelter. At the end, Rohingya want to return to Myanmar. Such a proposal will further instigate Myanmar to slow the repatriation process. [19]

India’s Engagements with Myanmar

Indian newspapers have reported that the Meitei rebels’ are cooperating with Myanmar’s military regime since April. They have quoted Indian intelligence officers as saying that the PLA-MP and the UNLF were involved in the lethal crackdown in Kale and Tamu in which 12 civilians were killed. In May 2021, Myanmar’s military regime met with some Meitei rebel leaders, which led to the Meitei rebels agreeing to work for the military regime in exchange for cash and a base in Sagaing Region. However, despite widespread reports of Meitei rebel groups cooperating with the regime, not every Meitei rebel is willing to fight for the regime, said ethnic Naga observer Ko Aung Tun. [20]

China in Myanmar

In August 2021, China held a test run of a new overland trade route with Myanmar. Around 60 containers were sent in the first trial by road from Yangon, entering China at the border crossing between Shan State’s Chin Shwe Haw and Lincang in Yunnan Province, before continuing by rail to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. The test comes after the first visit to Myanmar after the visit of Special Envoy for Asian Affairs Sun Guoxiang—since the military junta seized power in February. The new route could help boost trade with Myanmar and link China with the Indian Ocean. Further, the agreement to conduct preliminary field investigation work for the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) Deep Sea Port Project had been signed during the month. [21]

Scholars have argued that China is playing its ‘dictatorship diplomacy’. By promoting the pa-riah regimes and dictators, China’s strategic depth is increased. The regimes are internationally isolated, not accountable to their people and their human rights violations are labelled as “internal matters”. [22]

Conclusion

Myanmar’s military arrested thousands of civil servants, teachers, students, medics and administrators, and have increased violent attacks on civilians and armed organisations. The armed organisations are also waging attacks against the military, especially after the NUG call for “people’s defensive war”. Myanmar’s economic hardship is compounded due to the COVID-19 crises and political turmoil. The international organisations are paying lip service by stating the need to engage in dialogues; however, no constructive efforts are being taken.

References

[1] https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-shadow-government-unveils-new-strategy-oppose-military-rule-2021-09-07/
[2] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-suu-kyi-denies-false-reports-that-she-opposes-armed-resistance-to-junta.html
[3] https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/myanmar-army-civilians-clash-near-border-100-flee-to-mizoram/articleshow/86107391.cms
[4] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/ethnic-armed-group-captures-strategic-hill-from-myanmar-junta-forces.html
[5] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-shadow-government-prepares-evidence-of-junta-war-crimes.html
[6] Mytel is a joint venture that involves a number of companies, including the government-owned Star High Public Co Ltd, which is run by the Myanmar military conglomer-ate Myanmar Economic Corporation, Myanmar National Telecom Holding (MNTH) Public Ltd, a consortium compromising 11 companies, and the Vietnamese telecom company Viettel, a Hanoi-based state-owned enterprise operated by Vietnam’s Ministry of Defence.https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/over-80-myanmar-military-owned-telecom-towers-destroyed-nationwide.html
[7] https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/defect-09022021203230.html
[8] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-nld-marks-33rd-anniversary-facing-abolition-threat.html
[9] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-daw-aung-san-suu-kyi-attends-court-as-health-improves.html
[10] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-military-backed-usdp-accused-of-exploiting-smaller-political-parties.html
[11] Before the military coup, the exchange rate was between 300-1,400 kyats per USD https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-currency-hits-record-low-as-coup-wreaks-havoc-on-economy.html
[12]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/kbz-bank-robbed-in-northern-shan-state
[13] https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/growing-numbers-young-people-seek-flee-myanmar
[14] https://www.manilatimes.net/2021/09/29/news/world/afghanistan-myanmar-left-in-un-meet/1816472
[15] https://barbedwires.substack.com/p/what-to-make-of-the-us-china-deal
[16] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/quad-leaders-call-on-myanmar-junta-to-end-violence.html
[17] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/nug-questions-aseans-ceasefire-agreement-with-myanmar-junta.html
[18] The JF-17 is co-developed by Pakistan Aeronautical Com-plex and China’s Chengdu Aerospace Corporation. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/pakistan-defense-delegation-made-unannounced-visit-to-myanmar-capital.html/amp?__twitter_impression=true
[19] https://www.eurasiareview.com/10092021-rethinking-sustainable-solution-to-rohingya-crisis-limits-of-world-banks-proposal-oped/
[20]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/rebel-fighters-from-india-cooperating-with-myanmar-military-regime.html
[21] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/agreement-moves-myanmars-kyaukphyu-port-project-a-step-forward.html
[22] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/china-tests-new-trade-route-with-myanmar-in-show-of-support-for-junta.html