Tag Archives: India in Myanmar

Myanmar Round Up: October 2021

Despite the announcement of a unilateral five-month ceasefire from 01 October, Myanmar continues to witness intense fighting. This is because the ceasefire was not called with the loose coalition of ethnic armed organisations and civilian militias opposing the military across the country. Ravina Shamdasani, the United Nations (UN) human rights spokesperson, raised concern that there are fears about an imminent attack being planned by the Myanmar military as it is building up heavy weapons and troops in many areas. She documented attacks by the military in the past month in Chin state and other areas.

Another UN’s official, Andrew Kirkwood, said in a virtual briefing that the citizens of Myanmar are reeling under “a severe crisis,” with a total of 20 million or nearly half of the population living in poverty. Around 3 million have been in need of aid since the military takeover and the third wave of COVID-19. In addition to this, there is a serious lack of funds. While there is a need for USD 385 million, the organisation has received only a third. [1]

Domestic Situation

Myanmar’s military chief announced the formation of a new military coastguard comprising of four armed vessels. It was previously operated by Myanmar’s navy. The adoption is part of the strategy to become a first-class force. [2] The military has escalated its raids and acts of violence, including arbitrary killings, burning villages and shelling residential areas. They have used heavy explosives, jet fighters and helicopters in recent clashes with civilian resistance fighters. [3] The country has also witnessed pro-military rallies in the capital and other towns with a strong military presence. However, the demonstrations were only the second time since the coup. Prior to the coup, extreme Buddhist nationalists and their followers regularly organised pro-military rallies, especially after international criticism of the military’s actions against the Rohingya Muslim minority. However, these démonstrations came after the military’s lethal crackdowns on civilian anti-regime protesters. [4]

The military accused six ethnic armed organisations of aiding and abetting ‘terrorist’ attacks in Myanmar. The six organisations include – Karen National Union (KNU), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Chin National Front (CNF), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS). In addition, they are accused of providing military training to People’s Defence Forces (PDFs), getting involved in the illicit drug trade, and having links with foreign organisations.[5]

Thousands of factory workers, students, civil servants and others have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) to oppose the military’s actions. In response, the military has arrested and gunned down thousands of individuals and imposed martial law. The independent media units are shut down and internet and social media blackouts are imposed. Many ethnic armed groups are in active conflict against the military. Further, the resistance forces in Mandalay, Sagaing and Magway regions stated that they used landmines to inflict heavy casualties against the military. The Christian-dominated areas such as Kachin, Kayah, Karen and Chin states also witnessed intense fighting.[6]

At least 152 local administrators in Yangon, Sagaing, and Magway regions have left their posts in recent weeks after the National Unity Government (NUG) demanded they quit and resistance fighters threatened more assassinations of those who continue to serve the coup regime. Around 102 administrators have been killed since the coup.[7] A train engineer accused of informing the military council of other railway staff members taking part in the CDM was also killed in Mandalay Township. The town is a transportation hub and home to one of Myanmar’s primary railway workshops. He was responsible for the arrests of several staff members and for thousands of staff members losing their jobs.[8] On Facebook and Telegram, the defectors run Pyithu Yinkhwin or People’s Embrace program, in cooperation with the NUG, to convince their ex-comrades. From 7 September to 7 October, 429 soldiers and 334 police defected in response to the call.[9] However, the defectors are facing troubles as well. Brigadier-General Phyo Thant, the commander of the military’s North West Command was detained and interrogated by the military regime after his plan to defect was exposed. He fears being used as a scapegoat by the military and being held responsible for the recent attacks.[10]

In the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi corruption case, former Yangon Region Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein testified that he gave seven viss (around 11.4 kg) of gold and USD 600000 to her. [11] Under the charges of breaching COVID-19 rules, State Counsellor and President have pleaded not guilty. Both were charged under Article 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law for violating restrictions while campaigning for the NLD. [12] In another significant revelation for the first time, the circumstances of President U Win Myint’s detention on the morning of 01 February were stated. He stated that on the day of the coup he refused to resign from his post and claimed that he would rather die than to accept the army officers’ condition.[13] Soon after the testimony, the military imposed gagging orders on five lawyers representing Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and barred them from speaking to the media, foreign diplomats and international organisations.[14]

International Responses

In a significant development, ASEAN leaders expressed their discontentment about Myanmar’s military making no progress in implementing the ASEAN five-point consensus roadmap. In response, the ASEAN leaders decided that the military leader, Min Aung Hlaing be excluded from the regional submit. The NUG welcomed the exclusion of military leader from the regional summit, but also stated that it should be the legitimate representative. However, it was decided that the ASEAN will invite a non-political representative from Myanmar to its summit. Brunei had invited Myanmar’s highest-ranking diplomat Chan Aye to participate “non-politically” in the summit.[15]

However, the ASEAN summit was conducted in late October without the presence of any delegate from Myanmar.[16] On the other hand, the military leader claimed that the ASEAN has failed to recognise the responsibility of opposition groups for the ongoing violent unrest. He also announced an amnesty for thousands of people arrested for taking part in protests against the military’s seizure of power.[17] Nevertheless, it was later reported that many were rearrested shortly after their release.[18]

The United States (US) introduced the BURMA Act of 2021 to support a return to democratic governance and cut off the funding for the Myanmar military. The bill directs the US to redouble efforts to push the UN to take stronger action, including a global arms embargo. The act also provides funding for critical humanitarian needs, including the COVID-19 response and supports people displaced by the conflict. The act further requires the secretary of state to decide whether the military has committed genocide and other crimes against humanity. [19]

The NUG is able to harness support among the international community. After being recognised by the French Senate, and setting up representative offices in the US, the UK, the Czech Republic, Australia and South Korea; the European Parliament voted to recognise the NUG and its parliamentary committee as the legitimate representatives of Myanmar. Later the military-controlled Ministry of Foreign Affairs raised objections against the UN, international organisations and foreign government parliamentarians for extending support to the NUG.[20]

India’s Engagements with Myanmar

The Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ) said it has decided to exit its investment in Myanmar by June 2022. Earlier in August 2021, APSEZ had said its investment in Myanmar did not violate any sanction guidelines issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of Treasury.[21]

Justice for Myanmar (JFM) has reported that the Indian arms manufacturer Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) exported a remote-controlled, air-defence station to Myanmar in July 2021. However, the BEL has not responded to the questions. The BEL has made multiple shipments to Myanmar’s military for a coastal surveillance system since the coup. India also abstained from voting on a UN General Assembly resolution in June which called for a ban on arms sales to Myanmar.[22]

Furthermore, India is suffering from a huge influx of refugees from Myanmar. According to the UN, roughly 15000 people in Myanmar have fled for India in the last eight months since the coup. Catherine Stubberfield, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Asia and Pacific bureau, said the agency had tracked some 5000 people who successfully entered India from Myanmar. The recent exodus has been in Chin State, which borders the Indian state of Mizoram and is predominantly Christian. Many of the locals in Mizoram are also ethnic Chin and have close ties to the Chin people in Myanmar.[23]

Conclusion

According to the UN Special Rapporteur Thomas Andrews, more than 1100 people have been killed and over 8000 have been arbitrarily detained. Since the coup, around 230000 have been forcibly displaced. The country is reeling under chaos and violence and it has been suggested that the military leader should step down and return power seized in the February coup to the democratically elected government. The world countries are slowly recognising the NUG, which in a way delegitimises military rule. The ASEAN decision to exclude the military leader from attending the regional summit has also made a dent in the military’s confidence. It is yet to be seen how long the military will continue its rule against the will of thousands of citizens and international condemnations.

References:

[1]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/un-says-poverty-in-myanmar-at-worst-level-in-20-years-following-coup.html
[2]https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20211006-myanmar-junta-leader-inaugurates-armed-coastguard
[3]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-military-evacuates-officers-families-from-conflict-hit-northern-township.html
[4]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-supporters-hold-rallies-in-military-dominated-cities.html
[5]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-media-accuses-eaos-of-terrorism.html
[6]https://www.ucanews.com/news/fighting-rages-despite-unilateral-ceasefire-in-myanmar/94373#
[7]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/dozens-of-junta-appointed-administrators-resign-after-threats-from-resistance-fighters
[8]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/engineer-accused-of-acting-as-military-informant-shot-dead-in-mandalay
[9]https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2021/10/27/military-unity-under-unprecedented-pressure-in-myanmar/
[10]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-military-detains-north-western-commander-for-planning-to-defect-ethnic-insurgent-sources.html
[11]https://www.irrawaddy.com/in-person/interview/myanmar-regime-has-no-evidence-of-corruption-against-suu-kyi.html
[12]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-ousted-civilian-leader-suu-kyi-and-president-deny-covid-19-charges.html
[13]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-ousted-president-told-army-officers-he-would-rather-die-than-resign-on-day-of-coup.html
[14]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-regimes-gagging-of-suu-kyi-lawyers-against-the-law.html
[15]https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-opposition-welcomes-aseans-junta-snub-wants-summit-invite-2021-10-18/
[16]https://www.republicworld.com/world-news/rest-of-the-world-news/myanmar-boycotts-asean-summit-after-bloc-shuts-out-tatmadaw-head-general-min-aung-hlaing.html
[17]https://www.dailyherald.com/article/20211018/news/310189865
[18]https://www.eurasiareview.com/25102021-myanmar-junta-rearrests-scores-of-political-prisoners-released-in-recent-amnesty/
[19]https://thehill.com/opinion/international/575533-in-the-wake-of-burmas-coup-new-us-legislation-offers-a-roadmap-for
[20]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-condemns-foreign-recognition-of-civilian-government.html
[21]https://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/adani-ports-to-exit-myanmar-investment-by-june-next-year-121102701558_1.html
[22]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/indian-arms-exporter-ships-air-defense-weapons-to-myanmars-junta.html?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=pmd_G75MTvVv6zFW0xo2qvPaZ0PnfQAbYTvxJVURDqCwWcc-1634529112-0-gqNtZGzNAnujcnBszQm9
[23]https://www.wionews.com/south-asia/thousands-flee-myanmar-for-india-amid-fears-of-a-growing-refugee-crisis-422205