Tag Archives: NUG

VIF Neighbourhood News Digest – November 23, 2022

Afghanistan
Exhibit Held in Kabul to Display Domestic Products: Tolo News

The Ministry of Industry and Mines (MoIC) said that efforts are underway in support of the private sector and that such exhibitions will be held outside the country to promote markets for Afghan products. “We are hoping for a day that such exhibitions will be held in Arabic countries like the UAE, and other countries like China and Central Asia as well as neighboring countries,” said Nooruddin Azizi, acting Minister of the MoIC. Click here to read…

Afghan Families Sell Belongings to Make Ends Meet: The Khaama Press

According to Martin Schuepp, Director of Operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), an average Afghan family can only afford 82% of basic food commodities, expressing concerns over the economic and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan. Click here to read…

DABS Says Uzbekistan Technical Issues Caused Rolling Blackout in Afghanistan: The Khaama Press

During a press conference on Monday, November 21, Engineer Safiullah Ahmadzai, Chief Operating Officer of DABS, stated that the cause for the shortage of electricity and subsequent power outages is due to a technical difficulty in Uzbekistan’s gas system. Click here to read…

Bangladesh
BNP’s Dec 10 Dhaka rally: Cops, AL to be on high alert – The Daily Star

Law enforcers have taken all-out measures, including keeping Dhaka city BNP leaders and activists under close watch, to pre-empt “potential subversive activities” centering on the BNP’s Dhaka rally on December 10. Click here to read…

Dhaka should focus more on Indo-Pacific’ – The Daily Star

The Indo-Pacific region has become a focus for the world powers. Dealing with them has become challenging for many countries. How should Bangladesh handle such a situation? Ali Riaz, a distinguished professor at the Department of Politics and Government at Illinois State University, yesterday shared his views with The Daily Star’s Porimol Palma…Bangladesh, and South Asia as a whole, always looked at West Asia and Central Asia, which were the gateways to the world. It is no longer the case now. The whole economy has shifted towards the Indo-Pacific. Also, the geopolitical importance of the region has increased manyfold because of the rise of China. Click here to read…

Military diplomacy: A vital tool to mend Myanmar-Bangladesh ties – Dhaka Tribune

The military cooperation between Myanmar and Bangladesh has a lot of promise. There are several areas where the two countries may engage and work together, with the most essential being the improvement of relations. In a fresh turn of events, a three-person delegation from the Myanmar army met with the Bangladesh army in Dhaka. The two sides talked about promoting regional security and stability as well as the prompt repatriation of the Rohingyas. The Myanmar Army was reminded by the Bangladesh Army to exercise caution when undertaking any operations in the border regions. Click here to read…

Bhutan
ISRO to launch satellite developed by Bhutan – The Tribune

The ISRO is gearing up to launch the next PSLV mission from the spaceport at Sriharikota on November 26, which will carry a Oceansat-3 satellite and eight nano-satellites, including one developed by Bhutan scientists. India had, in September last year, signed an agreement with Bhutan for the joint development of the satellite, which was initiated following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Thimphu in 2019. Click here to read…

Buddhist confederation, monastic body hosting delegation of Bhutanese monks from Nov 22 to 30 – The Print

Kolkata (West Bengal) [India], November 22 (ANI): The International Buddhist Confederation (IBC) in coordination with the Central Monastic Body of Bhutan is hosting a 24-member delegation of Bhutanese monks who are visiting India from November 22 to 30, said officials.During this tour, the monks are scheduled to visit various religious and Buddhist heritage sites in India including Nagarjuna Konda, Buddhavanam, Amravati, National Museum, and Sankissa, among others. Click here to read…

Maldives
Discussions held on expanding Maldives-Sri Lanka relations in investment, trade – Raajje

The discussions were held between Vice President Faisal Naseem and High Commissioner of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to the Republic of Maldives, Adam Maznavee Jaufer Sadiq. They discussed the exchange of technical and professional expertise between Maldives and Sri Lanka. Discussions have been held on ways to further expand relations in investment and trade, between the governments of Maldives and Sri Lanka. Click here to read…

India retains lead as top tourism market of Maldives this year – NewsOnAir

India has retained its lead as the top tourism market of Maldives this year. Close to two lakh Indian tourists visited Maldives in 2022 so far. The Indian mission in Maldives in a tweet said that India has been the biggest contributer to tourism in Maldives since 2020. The High Commission of India in Male also congratulated Maldives on securing World’s leading destination title for 2022 at the world travel awards earlier this month. Click here to read…

Myanmar
Myanmar’s Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Denies Latest Corruption Charges in Court Appearance – The Irrawaddy

Myanmar’s ousted leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi denied further corruption charges when she testified on Tuesday in a junta-controlled court, according to a source with knowledge of the matter. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been a prisoner since the military toppled her government in February 2021, ending the Southeast Asian nation’s brief period of democracy. Click here to read…

NUG Suggests How ASEAN Can Get Meaningful Changes From Myanmar Junta – The Irrawaddy

Myanmar’s military regime released 402 political prisoners last week as part of its amnesty for nearly 6,000 inmates. The move was hastily embraced by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) special envoy for Myanmar, who said the release was a sign of good will and an important gesture suggesting that the ruling junta is ready to change, despite the fact that Myanmar has been in turmoil since last year’s coup. Click here to read…

Siem Reap ADMM Retreat in full swing without Myanmar – Khmertimeskh

The ASEAN defence ministers, except Myanmar, discussed the rapid changes in global security environment as they convened for the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Retreat (ADMM Retreat) in Siem Reap yesterday. Besides the ADMM Retreat, held under the theme ‘Solidary for Harmonised Security’, Cambodia is also hosting the 9th ADMM-Plus, the ASEAN-US Defence Ministers’ Informal Meeting and the ASEAN-India Defence Ministers’ Informal Meeting from November 21-23. Click here to read…

Nepal
Vote count update: NC wins 12 seats; RSP 4 and UML 3 – Khabarhub

In the initial vote count of the election held on Sunday, Nepali Congress (NC) has taken the lead followed by CPN-UML so far. Till now, NC has won in 12 constituencies and the UML in three constituencies. As of now, NC is leading in 45 constituencies followed by UML, which is leading in 43 constituencies. The Rastriya Swatantra Party (RSP), which has already won four seats, is leading in five constituencies. Likewise, the Unified Socialist Party led by Madhav Kumar Nepal has won one seat and is leading in five constituencies. Click here to read…

Poor transfer of Congress votes weighing down coalition partners – The Kathmandu Post

Congress voters seemed reluctant to back other coalition candidates. But they voted for the UML in some places. Preliminary results of the federal and provincial polls held on Sunday suggest the votes of Nepali Congress have not been transferred to other coalition partners. This had been long feared. The transfer from Nepali Congress to CPN (Maoist Centre) was thought to be particularly hard; Congress leaders were among the main Maoist targets during the decade-long bloody insurgency. Nonetheless, an electoral alliance was forged between the Congress, the Maoist Centre, the CPN (Unified Socialist) and the Rastriya Janamorcha. Click here to read…

After ballot paper mix-up, calls grow for shift to electronic voting – The Kathmandu Post

In Ilam constituency 1, some 100 ballot papers of the first-past-the-post (FPTP) elections for the House of Representatives were found dropped into the boxes meant for FPTP votes for the provincial assembly. Similar thing happened at a polling centre in Rukum East. In the press meet after the conclusion of the voting on Sunday, Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Thapaliya had said they had received several complaints of ballot paper mixup. Following such complaints, the commission decided to count the votes under all four categories—FPTP and proportional representation of both the lower house and provincial assemblies—simultaneously. Click here to read…

Pakistan
PM Office receives summary for top military appointments: Dawn

The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said on Wednesday morning that it has received the summary from the Ministry of Defence with a “panel of names” for the appointment of the new chief of army staff (COAS) and the chairman joint chief of staff committee (CJCSC). Click here to read…

Govt shares revised budget framework with IMF: The Express Tribune

Despite the worst flood in the country‘s history and hundreds of billions of rupees in unbudgeted subsidies, Pakistan has initially projected only Rs990 billion fiscal slippages in this financial year, hardly showing a negative impact of Rs55 billion on its revenues. Click here to read…

Row over sugar export further delays crushing: The Express Tribune

In what appears to be a deliberate move, the sugar mills in Punjab have refused to start the sugarcane crushing season from November 25, as a deadlock between the government and mills over permission to export the sweetener persists. Click here to read…

Sri Lanka
Second Reading of Budget 2023 passed with majority of 37 – The Island

The second reading of Budget 2023 was passed with a majority of 37 votes in Parliament yesterday. The vote taken at 6 pm received 121 votes in favour and 84 votes against. The SJB, JVP, SLFP and SLPP dissidents voted against the Budget. Click here to read…

P627 Patrol Vessel commissioned as Vijayabahu – Daily News

The Offshore Patrol Vessel P627 the most recent addition to the Sri Lanka Navy fleet received from the United States (U.S.) Coast Guard was commissioned as Vijayabahu under the patronage of President Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday (22). The commissioning ceremony was held at the Colombo Port. The Vessel P627 began her home-bound journey from the Port of Seattle on September 3, 2022 and arrived in Colombo on November 2 after about 10,656 nautical miles (19,734 km) of sea passage. The President as Chief Guest was accorded a Guard of Honour by the Sri Lanka Navy. The President boarded the, SLNS Vijayabahu Vessel accompanied by Navy Commander Vice Admieal Nishantha Ulugetenna and unveiled the ship’s name board. Click here to read…

China Spy Ship Row: Sri Lanka FM Ali Sabry says New Delhi’s sensitivities will be kept in mind – WION

In the backdrop of the visit of Chinese spy ship, Sri Lankan foreign minister Ali Sabry has said that Indian “Indian sensitivities will be kept in mind” so that it doesn’t lead to any “unpleasantries” for both the countries. Remember Chinese spy ship or as Beijing has been terming it research vessel research vessel Yuan Wang 5 had visited the Sri Lankan port of hambantota raising concern for New Delhi. Speaking exclusively with our diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Colombo, FM Sabry said, “everyone who will be entitled will be known in advance, we will have a known procedure in place so that no one is surprised, so therefore it is important we also have the freedom of navigation in the Indian ocean.” Click here to read…

Myanmar Round-Up: October 2022

The month witnessed a rise in conflict between the military and the opposition forces, especially the air strikes as the rainy season was receding. The preparations for elections have started as the Union Election Commission called for bids for the supply of equipment. Internationally, the ASEAN special meeting was an event, to mark the developments prior to the 10-13 November meeting. During the month, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) put Myanmar on the ‘High-Risk Jurisdictions subject to a Call for Action’ category – commonly known as blacklist countries on 21 October.[1] India pushed further for speedier completion of the Kaladan Multi-Modal project and is also witnessing increases in refugees from Myanmar as well as the problem of drug supply is on the rise.

Political and Domestic Crisis

In the latest push for the general election, Myanmar’s military-appointed Union Election Commission called for bids to supply polling equipment i.e. plastic ballot boxes, voting booths, pens, envelopes, ballot papers, ropes, ink and badges. Holding an election is part of the military’s five-point roadmap released after the 2021 coup. In the process, the regime plans to replace the current first-past-the-post electoral system with proportional representation. The change is seen as favouring the military and its allied political parties.[2] It is also widely believed that Min Aung Hlaing wants to be “elected” president and will probably be nominated for the presidency by the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party. In early October, the USDP chose Khin Yi, one of Min Aung Hlaing’s right-hand men, as its new leader. The Myanmar military also plans to include a large number of retired officers, either as candidates or to help with campaigns.[3]

On the one hand, detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s last five remaining cases of corruption were filed at Naypyidaw Prison Court. She has been charged with 19 cases since the military coup and has been sentenced to a total of 26 years in prison for 14 of them.[4] On the other hand, the military released former planning and finance minister U Soe Win of the NLD government, singer Po Po and beauty blogger Win Min Than.[5] Further, the country’s scenario is marred by repeated fighting in Kachin (except in Chipwi, Panwa and Phimaw townships), Chin, Rakhine, Karenni, Karen and Mon states. There is currently no fighting in southern and eastern Shan State. Furthermore, as the rainy season is ending, the military has started increasing airstrikes. The regime has used helicopters, jet fighters and surveillance drones to indiscriminately attack civilians. The aerial bombing campaign is concentrated in Sagaing and Magway regions and Kayah, Karen and Chin states.

According to data collected by the Irrawaddy, a total of 28 aerial attacks were launched in five regions from 01-28 October, leaving 111 dead and injuring at least 126 civilians. Sagaing Region was worst-hit, suffering 18 of the 28 junta airstrikes this month. On the other hand, there are also reports that the military is losing its strength due to daily clashes and is vulnerable to mine attacks by resistance forces. There are also reports that the military is undermanned and has been forced to form companies out of combat support units. The military is struggling to recruit both officer cadets and privates, forcing the junta to field firefighters, police and administrative employees as security personnel, as well as the pro-regime Pyu Saw Htee militias. [6] Therefore, the regime is increasingly relying on aerial attacks. As a result, the NUG Defence Minister U Yee Mon warned the People’s Defense Forces to remain on high alert.[7]

Economic Crisis

In an attempt to gain foreign currency, military chief Min Aung Hlaing claimed that the domestic travel and inbound tour industries are re-starting in Myanmar. On the occasion to mark World Tourism Day, the military organised an event, which was attended by Russian and Japanese ambassadors and the heads of the diplomatic missions of a number of other countries, including India. Myanmar is also planning to launch direct flights to and from Moscow and arrange Russian-language courses. At the same time, regime-backed documentaries on Myanmar have been aired by a Thai military-owned broadcaster to attract travellers from the neighbouring country.

However, on the one hand, the regime is opening up its economy; on the other hand, the military is imposing pre-broadcast censorship on local and foreign television serials. The military-controlled Information Ministry stated that it will ban any content it deems politically or religiously dangerous, or that it believes undermines the culture and national solidarity or arouses sexual desire. In addition, the regime has banned the online news outlet The Irrawaddy and charged the outlet’s registered publisher for violating national security laws. Post the military coup, the Irrawaddy stopped operating from Myanmar and moved production and editorial staff outside the country. Therefore, the impact of the ban on The Irrawaddy was limited. However, before declaring the ban, the news outlets and their reporters faced immense harassment. [8] Furthermore, Myanmar’s military jailed Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota for “seven years imprisonment for breaching an electronic communications law, and three years for encouraging dissent”. Kubota arrived in Myanmar in July 2022 and was filming a “documentary featuring a Myanmar person”.[9]

Amid the military shutdowns, the NUG’s communications minister U Htin Lin Aung asked Elon Musk to offer satellite internet firm, Starlink, to Myanmar. They asked the provider to give uncensored internet across the country. According to Access Now, at least 54 of Myanmar’s 330 townships have internet blackouts. Justice for Myanmar also reported that the military aims to build a digital dictatorship and is taking control of all mobile networks, directly and through proxies.[10]

Finally, as the country faces an upsurge in the prices of food and fuels, drug consumption has increased. In the months preceding the coup, Chinese triad groups operating in the Greater Mekong region began expansion in narcotics production. Recent entrants, Wan Kuok-kui’s 14K Triad and She Zhijiang’s Yatai International, have spread the reach of Chinese organised crime deeper into Myanmar’s borderlands. These chemicals “disappear into eastern Shan State under the control of the [United Wa State Army] and other insurgent groups,” Mr. Michael Brown, former US Drug Enforcement Administration attaché to the Myanmar government from 2017 to 2019, told Frontier. The UWSA is Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic armed group, which controls two autonomous enclaves on the Thai and Chinese borders, and has long been accused of involvement in the narcotics trade.[11]

International Engagements

The United States added another round of sanctions on Myanmar’s military government, targeting three individuals and one entity. The reason for this round of sanctions was “their roles in the procurement of Russian-produced military arms from Belarus for the Burmese regime.”In his statement, Blinken also referenced the military government’s execution in July of four political prisoners and the 16 September helicopter attack on a school in the Sagaing Region that killed at least 11 children. [12] The EU had last imposed sanctions seven months ago, and Justice for Myanmar (JFM) called upon the EU to take concrete steps and impose sanctions on 31 companies, that have procured weapons for the regime since the 2021 coup. Currently, only the Htoo Group of Companies is facing EU sanctions. All of the businesses have been sanctioned by the US and UK, and some face sanctions from Canada. [13]

On 27 October, a Special meeting of ASEAN was held in Jakarta, because Indonesia will take on the chairmanship of ASEAN in November 2022. The meeting was held ahead of the ASEAN and East Asia Summits in Cambodia from 10-13 November. There have been increasing calls for Jakarta to take decisive steps to address the Myanmar political crisis. On 26 October, Cambodia issued a statement about the airstrike in Kachin State and other airstrikes in Karen State. However, the statement fails to identify the military directly but instead notes that “all parties concerned, in particular, one with significant power on the ground” must commit to an “immediate cessation of violence.” During the month, a military airstrike unlawfully killed at least 60 people at a music concert in Kachin State. From the meeting, Malaysian foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah, one of the strongest advocates on pressing ASEAN to take firmer measures on Myanmar was absent from the meeting as Malaysia is due for a general election in November.[14]

However, Myanmar was not invited following its failure to honour the peace plan. The military’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that as the meeting was held without Myanmar, it would not be bound by its outcomes. The regime also said renewed pressure from ASEAN to implement a peace plan would “create more negative implications.” While a renewed push to bring about reforms within ASEAN is being pursued, Human Rights Watch expressed “huge disappointment”, stating that ASEAN had remained committed to the stalled consensus. [15] Further, NGO Fortify Rights, noted that the ASEAN should scrap the “five-point consensus” on Myanmar and enact emergency measures such as forming an agreement on protecting Myanmar refugees, authorising cross-border humanitarian aid, and coordinating with other UN member states to deprive the Myanmar military of weapons, aviation fuel, revenue, and political recognition.[16]

As the conflict continues in Myanmar, an estimated 70,000 have fled to neighbouring countries and more than one million have been internally displaced, according to the High Commissioner’s Office, OHCHR. Yet, regional actors are forcing Myanmar refugees and other nationals back. For instance, Malaysian authorities accelerated deportations to Myanmar, returning over 2,000 people since April. Thai authorities have similarly pushed asylum seekers back without verifying their protection needs.[17] Following Malaysia’s latest round of deportations on 06 October, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk called for a moratorium on the forced returns of refugees and migrants to Myanmar. In addition, UN Special Envoy Noeleen Heyzer also said she would continue to urge the ASEAN to develop a regional protection framework for refugees and forcefully displaced persons. [18]

As international organisations get criticised for their limited actions and normalising relations with Myanmar’s military regime, various agencies have made an effort to justify their actions. Using social media, they deployed infographics and other tools to demonstrate how international aid organisations are working in the country.On 03 October, for instance, the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU), which operates under the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), published a map that shows areas covered by “projects under implementation” by international nongovernmental organisations (INGOs) and the Red Cross. Another graphic tweeted by OCHA Myanmar on 06 October, claims that its “partners reached 3.1 million people with assistance at least once in the first half of 2022”. However, a closer look reveals that these figures do not provide an accurate picture of the actual situation on the ground. For instance, the disclaimer from MIMU: “This map shows the presence of organisations and does not indicate the volume of assistance, the number of beneficiaries, or the extent to which needs are met or unmet.” In short, these facts and figures are highly misleading.[19]

Following weeks of border tension caused by Myanmar military operations across the border regions, on 26 October, a three-member delegation of the Myanmar military met Bangladesh Army in Dhaka. The two sides discussed working on regional peace and security, the exchange of training and relevant information and the quick repatriation of the Rohingya. The Myanmar delegation led by Lt Gen Phone Myat, Command Bureau of Special Operation, also made a courtesy call to Bangladesh Army Chief Gen SM Shafiuddin Ahmed. The Myanmar delegation reiterated that they are interested in enhancing friendship and communication with Bangladesh and solving bilateral problems. [20] In another development on Rohingya, Tom Andrews, the UN Human Rights expert on Myanmar, said that the extremist Rohingya organisation Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) was involved in the massacre of Hindus in Myanmar and should be held accountable. An Amnesty International investigation confirmed that “up to 99 Hindu women, men, and children” had been massacred by ARSA fighters, who also abducted Hindu villagers in August 2017 in Rakhine State.[21]

Finally, another major giant sold its operations to a locally owned company. Switzerland’s Trafigura’s Puma Energy, the main supplier of aviation fuel in Myanmar, announced that it had sold its operations in the country to a locally owned company. The company agreed to sell its stake in Puma Energy Asia Sun (PEAS) and its minority share in National Energy Puma Aviation Services (NEPAS). NEPAS was a joint venture between Puma Energy and the state-owned Myanmar Petrochemical Enterprise under the military’s Ministry of Energy. Puma had initially suspended its operations following the military coup but later resumed distribution for civilian purposes.[22]

India’s Engagements with Myanmar

During the month, the Indian government earmarked a corpus of Rs 17.8 billion to complete the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project in Myanmar. The remaining part is a two-lane highway measuring 109 km from Paletwa in Chin State to Zorinpui at the border of the two countries. The other parts of the project have been completed in Myanmar, including the construction of the Sittwe Port, a river terminal at Paletwa and the dredging of the Kaladan River. A new agreement was inked by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs with IRCON International Limited as the project implementing agency (PIA). According to the agreement, the highway will be constructed by local sub-contractors to be decided by IRCON and completed within 40 months. The project was commenced 12 years ago and the next deadline is 2023. But completing the highway in the existing circumstances could be challenging for the implementing agency.[23]

In another push to India’s Act East Policy, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia announced that flights would soon begin between Manipur’s capital Imphal and Mandalay in Myanmar under the UDAN scheme.[24] In addition, a Myanmar delegation led by its Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Minister Tin Htut Oo visited the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, to acquire seeds for a variety of beans and pulses, including green gram (mung beans). The delegation met with representatives of the India Pulses and Grains Association (IPGA) and the Overseas Agro Traders Association (OATA) to discuss the addition of green gram to Myanmar’s bean and pulse export list, and to invite more Indian investment in Myanmar. They also met with other private companies to buy seeds for cotton and sunflower.[25]

At present, more than 30,300 Myanmar nationals have taken shelter in different parts of Mizoram since the coup. To accommodate the people, the Young Mizo Association (YMA) urged the Mizoram government to establish relief camps in a “compact” area. According to the Home Department, as of 22 October 2022, 30,385 Myanmar nationals, including 10,013 females and 11,650 children, have taken shelter across all 11 districts of Mizoram. Of them, 13,210 people have been lodged in 160 relief camps, while 17,157 people live outside the relief camps.[26] During the month, India also successfully rescued 45 of its nationals trapped in fake job rackets in Myanmar. Out of them, 13 Indian citizens reached Tamil Nadu.[27]

The month witnessed the continuation of the seizure of drugs smuggled from Myanmar. The Assam Rifles troopers seized 92,550 highly addictive Methamphetamine tablets worth around Rs 31 crores and arrested one person in this connection in Mizoram.[28] Further, sources in Assam Rifles said more than 20 Myanmar nationals had been arrested in the past few months in Mizoram. The security agencies in the region have been recently claiming that rebel groups of Myanmar are using Mizoram to arrange and transport arms and equipment to aid their fight against the military.[29]

Conclusion

Since the coup, the UN reports that more than one million were displaced, and 28,000 civilian properties were razed. According to data collected by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) as of 4 October 2022, there are 12,563 political prisoners are being held by the Military Council in Myanmar.[30] On 30 October, global protests against the Myanmar military were recorded. In the US there was a demonstration in support of those fighting the military in Myanmar. There was also an anti-Myanmar military demonstration led by the Buddhist monk, Daegu Sayadaw, in South Korea.[31] Even organisations such as Progressive Voice, Kachin Women’s Association Thailand and Women’s League of Burma raised concerns and called upon UNSC to stop evading its responsibility in Myanmar.[32] Further, Fortify Rights believes that constructive engagement with the Myanmar military is impossible at this stage, and ASEAN must isolate the military and engage the NUG, Myanmar civil society, and ethnic armed organisations. However, to conclude, any constructive resolution to the current crisis must involve all stakeholders, the military, NUG and the EAOs.

Endnotes :

[1]https://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/fatf-called-for-enhanced-due-diligence-on-myanmar-following-blacklist-rbi-122102701123_1.html
[2]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-invites-bids-for-election-equipment.html
[3]https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Myanmar-Crisis/Myanmar-s-Gen.-Min-Aung-Hlaing-set-sights-on-presidency-sources
[4]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/corruption-suu-kyi-10182022060206.html
[5]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-frees-nld-finance-minister-and-two-political-prisoners.html
[6]https://www.irrawaddy.com/opinion/analysis/myanmar-military-unable-to-fight-without-air-and-artillery-support.html
[7]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/losing-the-ground-battle-myanmar-junta-takes-to-the-skies.html
[8]On 29 September, the news agency’s former director, Thaung Win, was arrested and charged with violating the Publishing and Distribution Act. Further, local reporters from two media outlets, BBC Burmese and The Irrawaddy online news journal, went into hiding. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/irrawaddy-10312022181138.html
https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/journalists-in-hiding-10172022174501.html
[9]Kubota is the fifth foreign journalist to be detained in Myanmar, after US citizens Nathan Maung and Danny Fenster, Robert Bociaga of Poland and Yuki Kitazumi of Japan — all of whom were later freed and deported. https://www.rfi.fr/en/international-news/20221006-myanmar-jails-japanese-filmmaker-for-10-years-diplomatic-source
[10]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/elon-musk-asked-to-provide-satellite-internet-for-myanmar-fight-against-junta.html
[11https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/they-use-it-to-find-some-relief-drug-use-on-the-rise/
[12]The sanctions target the Myanmar businessman Aung Moe Myint, the son of a military officer whom the US Treasury Department claims “has facilitated various arms deals and weapons purchases on behalf of Burma’s military.” The Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has also targeted Aung Moe Mying’s company, Dynasty International Company Limited, and two of its directors: Hlaing Moe Myint, his twin brother, and Myo Thitsar. https://thediplomat.com/2022/10/us-announces-sanctions-on-myanmar-military-linked-arms-broker/
[13]Few of the groups are Dynasty Group and its subsidiaries founded by Aung Moe Myint, KT Group, Ky-Tha Group and its subsidiaries owned by Jonathan Kyaw Thaung, Mega Hill General Trading, Miya Win International Myanmar Chemical and Machinery (MCM) run by Aung Hlaing Oo, International Gateways Group, Star Sapphire Group of Dr. Tun Min Latt, Sky Aviator and Synpex Shwe. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/asia/thai-court-rules-suspended-pm-prayut-can-resume-office.html
[14]https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3197734/will-asean-norms-absence-malaysias-top-diplomat-doom-myanmar-peace-plan
[15]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/the-world-myanmar/myanmar-regime-rebuffs-asean-pressure-to-implement-peace-plan.html
[16]https://www.mizzima.com/article/fortify-rights-asean-five-point-consensus-myanmar-should-be-scrapped
[17]https://asianews.network/indonesia-told-to-prioritise-myanmar-indo-pacific-analysts/
[18]https://news.un.org/en/story/2022/10/1129907
[19]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/un-agencies-myanmar-pr-campaign-raises-more-questions-than-it-answers
[20]https://www.thedailystar.net/news/bangladesh/armed-forces/news/myanmar-army-delegation-pays-courtesy-call-bangladesh-army-chief-3154231

Myanmar Generals Welcomed by Bangladesh Military Chiefs


[21]https://thecommunemag.com/un-special-rapporteur-says-rohingya-extremists-should-be-held-accountable-for-massacre-of-hindus-in-myanmar/
[22]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-main-supplier-of-aviation-fuel-withdraws-from-country.html
[23]Early in 2022, the Indian government terminated the contract with a joint venture of Engineers Projects India Limited (EPIL) and C & C Construction Co. Ltd, which was tasked to construct the highway in Myanmar. In 2019, 10 people, including four Indians and a Myanmar lawmaker, were abducted by the Arakan Army from two boats between Paletwa and Kyauktaw. https://www.irrawaddy.com/opinion/guest-column/challenges-await-new-contractor-as-india-rejigs-plan-for-completion-of-kaladan-project-in-myanmar.html
[24]https://www.deccanherald.com/national/east-and-northeast/tripura-manipur-to-get-international-flights-to-bangladesh-myanmar-under-udan-scheme-1157910.html
[25]https://www.irrawaddy.com/specials/junta-watch/junta-watch-coup-leader-woos-tourists-tv-censorship-revived-and-more.html
[26]https://indianexpress.com/article/north-east-india/mizoram/yma-mizoram-govt-compact-camps-myanmar-nationals-8236400/
[27]https://newsonair.com/2022/10/06/india-rescues-45-nationals-trapped-in-fake-job-rackets-in-myanmar/
[28]https://hubnetwork.in/smuggled-drugs-from-myanmar-worth-rs-31-cr-seized-in-mizoram-1-held/
[29]https://www.deccanherald.com/national/east-and-northeast/myanmar-rebels-moving-arms-via-mizoram-to-fight-junta-say-security-forces-in-northeast-1158287.html
[30]https://mizzima.com/article/myanmar-army-brutally-arrest-civilians-mandalay
[31]https://www.mizzima.com/article/global-protests-against-myanmar-junta
[32]https://www.mizzima.com/article/ngos-call-un-security-council-stop-evading-its-responsibility-myanmar

Myanmar Round-Up: August 2022

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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

Economic Situation

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.[11]

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.[12] 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. [13]

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. [14]

International Relations

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.[15]

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.[16]

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.[17] 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.[18]

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.”[19]

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.[20]

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.[21] The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also attended the foreign ministers’ meeting of the East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh.[22] Blinken urged the international community to reject the Myanmar military’s “sham elections” planned for 2023.[23]

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.[24]

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.[25]

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.[26]

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.[27] 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[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

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.[31] 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. [1] 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.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34]

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.[35] 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.[36]

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.[37] To conclude, it is important to have all the stakeholders on board to bring out a resolution to the current crisis in Myanmar.

Endnotes :

[1] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-extends-state-of-emergency.html
[2] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-imposes-new-restrictions-on-political-parties.html
[3] https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/sac-chairman-holds-second-peace-talks-with-ethnic-peace-delegation-in-npt
[4]https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/myanmar-military-charges-eight-mrauk-u-men-incitement
[4] https://www.mizzima.com/article/myanmar-junta-naval-fleet-attacked-pdfs-katha-sagaing
[5] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/over-28000-homes-torched-by-myanmar-junta-forces-since-coup.html
[6]https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/idps-arakan-state-call-regime-lift-restrictions-aid-delivery
[7] https://www.business-standard.com/article/international/myanmar-s-junta-using-chinese-face-recognition-tech-to-eliminate-opponents-122080300096_1.html
[8] https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/junta-orders-formation-of-militia-in-southern-rakhine-state
[9]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/nug-offers-rewards-for-myanmar-regime-defectors-with-anti-aircraft-weapons.html
[10]https://www.thaipbsworld.com/myanmar-kyat-exchange-rate-reaches-record-low/
[11]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/currency_woes-08232022174208.html
[12]https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Myanmar-Crisis/Myanmar-inflation-crushing-consumers-since-military-takeover
[13]https://www.irrawaddy.com/specials/junta-watch/junta-watch-plans-for-facebook-substitute-unveiled-military-admits-coup-and-more.html
[14]https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/sac-chair-denies-military-burning-civilian-homes
[15]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/heat-08232022184518.html
[16]https://asianews.network/asean-five-point-consensus-achieves-little-in-myanmar-hun-sen/
[17]https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/08/myanmar-asean-approach-requires-a-reboot-to-end-horrific-crimes-by-the-myanmar-military/
[18]https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/asean-special-envoy-myanmar-warns-executions-88026237
[19]https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/08/06/national/politics-diplomacy/yoshimasa-hayashi-hun-sen-myanmar/
[20]https://nenow.in/neighbour/myanmar/russian-foreign-minister-sergei-lavrov-myanmar-backs-junta.html
[21] https://morungexpress.com/stopping-myanmar-violence-tops-meeting-of-asian-diplomats
[22]https://www.mizzima.com/article/us-urges-rejection-myanmar-junta-sham-elections
[23]https://www.nationalheraldindia.com/international/india-running-out-of-options-in-myanmar-as-a-civil-war-rages-and-china-backs-the-junta
[24]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
[25]https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/08/myanmar-detainees-tortured-to-crush-opposition-to-coup/
[26]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/singapore-told-to-clampdown-on-companies-supplying-myanmar-military.html
[27]https://www.voanews.com/a/myanmar-s-sanctions-hit-junta-still-netting-vast-oil-gas-profits/6697189.html
[28]https://www.telegraphindia.com/world/myanmar-arrests-former-united-kingdom-ambassador-reports/cid/1882382
[29]https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/aug/07/myanmar-shadow-embassy-opens-in-canberra-to-champion-aung-san-suu-kyis-ousted-government
[30]https://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/3187518/myanmar-china-border-town-hit-bomb-blast-and-shootings?module=perpetual_scroll_0&pgtype=article&campaign=3187518
[31]https://thediplomat.com/2022/08/as-myanmar-coup-intensifies-regional-human-trafficking-how-will-china-respond/
[32]https://www.channelnewsasia.com/asia/myanmar-ambassador-china-died-sunday-sources-2866271
[33]https://www.mangalorean.com/drugs-smuggled-from-myanmar-seized-in-assam-3-held/
[34]https://www.timesnownews.com/mirror-now/crime/mizoram-2-held-for-smuggling-exotic-animals-from-myanmar-article-93785667
[35]https://www.hrw.org/video-photos/video/2022/08/23/myanmar-no-justice-no-freedom-rohingya-5-years
[36]https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/myanmar-strongly-condemns-and-rejects-statements-issued-on-the-anniversary-of-august-2017
[37] https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/myanmars-un-rep-calls-resistance-aid-fight-junta

Myanmar Round-Up: July 2022

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.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]

Economic Situation

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.” [13] Many real estate development projects in the country also stand incomplete because of the post-coup conflicts.[14]

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.[15] 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. [16]

International Responses

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.[17] However, in response, China pushed back efforts to intervene in Myanmar, saying Beijing adheres to a “policy of non-interference.”[18]

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).[19]

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.[20]

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.[21]

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”.[22]

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”.[23]

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.[24] 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.[25] 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.[26]

India-Myanmar Relations

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. [27] 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.[28] 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.[29]

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).[30]

Conclusion

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.

Endnotes :

[1]https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/political-situations-have-arisen-due-to-improper-use-of-political-outlets-sacs-chairman
[2]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/myanmar-militarys-proxy-party-convenes-central-assembly
[3]https://www.vifindia.org/article/2022/july/28/what-lies-ahead-of-the-military-executions-in-myanmar
[4]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-anti-regime-resistance-vows-to-step-up-attacks-after-executions.html
[5]https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/vox-pop-reactions-arakan-state-deadly-junta-air-raid-aa-camp-near-thai-myanmar-border
[6]https://www.thestar.com.my/aseanplus/aseanplus-news/2022/07/06/myanmar-conducts-naval-exercise-off-rakhine-coast
[7]bnionline.net/en/news/juntas-imprisonment-two-sittwe-men-under-controversial-law-draws-criticism
[8]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/myanmar-army-soldiers-defect-to-knu-to-side-with-anti-coup-protesters
[9]https://www.narinjara.com/news/detail/62bf0bc621f2d423422dc77c
[10]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/
[11]https://www.irrawaddy.com/specials/junta-watch/junta-watch-military-bends-rules-to-fill-ranks-loyal-monk-promoted-and-more.html
[12]https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/the-pdfs-marching-to-their-own-tune/
[13]https://thediplomat.com/2022/07/military-ruled-myanmar-facing-second-year-of-negative-growth/
[14]https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Myanmar-Crisis/Myanmar-building-projects-worth-1.3bn-frozen-since-army-took-power
[15]https://www.channelnewsasia.com/world/yellen-vows-tough-us-measures-against-countries-abusing-economic-order-2820026
[16]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/regimes-foreign-currency-restrictions-push-myanmar-towards-bankruptcy.html
[17]https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/26/myanmar-executions-us-presses-china-to-rein-in-junta-saying-it-cannot-be-business-as-usual
[18]https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/china-says-no-interference-in-myanmar/2646205
[19]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/7/3/chinas-top-diplomat-arrives-in-myanmar-on-first-trip-since-coup
[20]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-regime-sorry-for-junta-jet-intrusion-into-thai-airspace.html
[21]https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-07-21/australian-embassy-myanmar-foi-spending-hotel-linked-to-military/101247374
[22]https://www.eurasiareview.com/27072022-myanmar-regimes-brutality-began-long-before-the-coup-analysis/
[23]https://asianews.network/myanmars-sac-refuses-to-allow-sokhonn-to-meet-aung-san-suu-kyi/
[24]https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501108353/asean-chairs-special-envoy-welcomes-myanmars-year-for-peace-in-2022/
[25]https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501107914/barred-again-myanmar-junta-fm-not-allowed-to-attend-upcoming-asean-meetings/
[26]https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/asean-chair-calls-timing-myanmar-executions-highly-reprehensible-2022-07-26/
[27]https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/two-indians-shot-dead-in-myanmar-near-border-report-101657056012723.html
[28]https://www.telegraphindia.com/north-east/protest-over-indian-youths-death-in-myanmar/cid/1873479

Manipur : Security Tightened In Moreh; After Mob Torches ‘Myanmar Army Sentry Post’ Over Killing Of 2 Tamils 


[29]https://nenow.in/north-east-news/mizoram/mizoram-mdf-rebels-held-siaha-myanmar.html
[30]https://www.zeebiz.com/india/news-india-signs-mous-with-myanmar-other-countries-to-increase-pulses-import-190121

Myanmar Round-Up: June 2022

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released its latest report on the increasing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar due to the escalation of fighting.[1] The report states that the number of displaced people has exceeded one million for the first time. The report further highlights the economic and social crisis, such as increasing prices of essential commodities, the coming of monsoon season, and the lack of funding for relief efforts.

Political and Domestic Crisis

Political analyst Ye Myo Hein published a report, “One year On: The Momentum of Myanmar’s Armed Rebellion”, which reported that clashes and fighting continue in 266 townships out of the 330 townships in Myanmar. However, the number and magnitude of clashes may vary from place to place. [2] The incidents of fighting have increased, especially in Sagaing, Chin and Rakhine states.[3] Clashes are also reported in Shan State, and the military has also extended the deadline for the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) to withdraw from three camps in southern Shan State.[4]

Following the clashes and in reaction to the detainment of military troops, the military detained several people in Chin State’s Paletwa Township for interrogation. The military has also restricted water transport between Paletwa and Kyauktaw in Rakhine State. It was also reported that a submarine and other navy vessels arrived at Danyawaddy naval base in Kyaukphyu Township. [5] There are also reports that over 100 soldiers have defected from the Myanmar military to the Arakan Army (AA) since last year’s coup. [6] Conversely, pro-military groups have also been carrying out bloody attacks, primarily targeting those opposed to last year’s coup.

On 11 June, the military asked resistance fighters to surrender and return to civilian lives, saying they would be “welcomed” to rejoin society. However, the PDFs and other resistance fighters have rejected the proposal to lay down arms and join them.[7] Further, the acting president of Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), Duwa Lashi La, called for an escalation in the fight against the military to wipe out the military dictatorship. He also called for people to prepare to put an end to the election planned by the junta for 2023.[8]

During the month, the military announced that Aung San Suu Kyi had been transferred to Naypyidaw Prison. Myanmar’s National League for Democracy (NLD) condemned the decision citing poor conditions and lack of access to health care at the facility. She has been charged in 19 cases since her arrest and sentenced to 11 years in prison for six of them.[9] Further, the military also announced that it would go ahead with the prosecution of the Australian economics professor Sean Turnell for breaching the Official Secrets Act. Before the coup, he worked as an economic policy advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi. On the anniversary of his arrest, the Australian government called for his immediate release.[10]

Furthermore, the military announced that it would execute two opposition political activists, Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zayar Thaw, for treason and terrorism. Subsequently, the UN and many western nations decried the decision and urged the military to drop the charges.[11] Even Cambodia’s Prime Minister urged the military to reconsider the death sentence.[12] However, the military regime condemned the UN and various Western governments for their criticisms. It defended the sentences, saying that the pair “were proved to be masterminds of orchestrating full-scale terrorist attacks against innocent civilians to instill fear and disrupt peace and stability.”[13]

Economic and Social Crisis

Despite the continuing humanitarian crisis, the military during the month awarded more than 1.32 billion kyats (over USD 700,000) to Myanmar athletes who won medals at the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam in May. The military chief also held a separate event for military personnel among the medalists to honour them. On the other hand, the NUG launched its digital currency, Digital Myanmar Kyat or DMMK, which will be available through its mobile payment system. The currency will have its value linked to the Kyat and can be used in the country and abroad through NUGPay. Currently, the NUGPay payment system is available in Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. [14]

The teachers in Myanmar continue to serve the Civil Disobedience Movement. Despite the call to reopen the schools, the teachers refused to go back to the schools. Only 2,960 teachers have so far contacted the regime about returning. At the same time, the NUG is running virtual and physical classrooms with the help of striking teachers.[15] The military also ordered the closure of rice warehouses and restricted sales of food in Palaw Township.[16]

Further, on 19 June, Duwa Lashi La during the round table on “End Sexual Violence on the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict”, stated that they had evidence that the military was committing sexual violence against women and children. NUG has documented 49 women, 20 youth, two men and one LGBT person brutally tortured and gang-raped by regime soldiers. Also, evidence suggests that women, children and men are used as human shields during battles.[17] In addition, Tom Andrews, UN special reporter on human rights in Myanmar, stated that the military attacks on children are “crimes against humanity and war crimes”. It said that since the coup, the military had killed at least 142 children, around 250,000 children displaced and over 1,400 detained without reason.[18]

As a result of the crisis, the OCHA report states that around 40,200 people have fled to neighbouring countries, and more than 12,700 “civilian properties” are estimated to have been destroyed. However, the humanitarian aid reached only 2.6 million people in Myanmar or approximately 41 per cent of the 6.2 million people targeted. Also, concerns are raised as the Humanitarian Response Plan has received only 10 per cent of funding this year.

International Responses

On 21-22 June, Cambodia hosted the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting with the participation of Myanmar’s Minister of Defence delegation. Following the meeting, a joint declaration included a statement of support for the five-point consensus. Malaysia’s defence ministry called the meeting useful but said in a statement that the attendance of the military’s defence minister does not mean Malaysia recognises Myanmar’s ruling military council as the country’s valid government. However, many rights groups criticised the conduct of the meeting. [19] On 29 June, the ASEAN Special Envoy on Myanmar, Prak Sokhonn, started his second official visit to follow up on the country’s peace plan and humanitarian assistance. The visit aimed at meeting with all stakeholders; however, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing stated that the envoy would not meet Suu Kyi or U Win Myint. [20]

During the month, Bangladesh and Myanmar held virtual discussions on issues related to the voluntary and sustainable repatriation of the Rohingya. This was the fifth meeting of the Joint Working Group (JWG), with Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Myanmar Chan Aye. As a result, both sides agreed to work on addressing verification-related problems and holding regular meetings of the JWG and technical working group for the early commencement of repatriation. [21]

Further, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Thailand government to provide rescued Rohingya asylum seekers with assistance and immediate access to procedures to determine their refugee status. On 4 June 2022, the Thai navy detained 59 Rohingya from Myanmar who was stranded on Koh Dong Island in southern Thailand. Thailand treats Rohingya arriving at the border as “illegal immigrants” and detains them.[22]

India in Myanmar

During the month, a vacuum was created in the Taga areas of Sagaing as the military left the region, which it had captured after the 2019 Operation Sunrise with the Indian army. The operation led to the arrest of dozens of insurgent cadres, including seven top functionaries, thereby forcing the insurgents to leave the area. According to analysts, Taga is a crucial place for Indian-origin insurgent groups to get arms from China. Moreover, it is also essential for the Myanmar Army to control the Kachin Independent Organisation (KIO) and its armed wing, Kachin Independent Army (KIO). Pallav Bhattacharya, former Special Director General of the Special Branch of Assam Police, stated that withdrawing Myanmar military troops is conducive to militant activities in Northeast India.[23]

Further, India did not invite the military’s foreign minister to the upcoming Special India-ASEAN foreign ministers meeting celebrating the 30th Anniversary of relationship. According to India’s The Economic Times, ASEAN has taken the position that Myanmar should be engaged at a nonpolitical level in multilateral forums.[24] Since 2018, there has been a Free Movement Regime between India and Myanmar, which has led to sometimes illegal activities at the border. In Manipur’s Churachandpur district, eighty illegal immigrants from Myanmar were apprehended. [25]

Progress has also been made in the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport (KMMTT) project. The Indian government has recently appointed IRCON as implementing and executing agency for expediting the work. The agency can now hire local Burmese contractors to construct the pending stretch of 109 km road between Paletwa (Myanmar) and Zorinpui (Mizoram). This stretch of road is in Chin State, and the post-military coup faces challenges in terms of safety and security. [26]

Way Forward

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, during the 50th Session of the Human Rights Council, gave an update on Myanmar and stated that despite losing optimism, they still hope for a democratic transition.[27] The people of Myanmar are suffering from devastating consequences and are trapped in a cycle of poverty and displacement, human rights violations and abuses. Since February 2021, around 1900 killings by the military have been reported. In addition, the economic crisis has led to the decline in the national currency and prices of essential goods have surged. The flow of information is also limited with numerous internet shutdowns, and there has been harassment and prosecution of journalists and individuals reporting on human rights. The solution to the current crisis lies in the involvement of all stakeholders for effective decision-making and peace in the country.

Endnotes :

[1] https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/un-report-over-1-million-displaced-in-myanmar-amid-violence/2022/06/02/30977470-e25f-11ec-ae64-6b23e5155b62_story.html
[2] Ye Myo Hein, the executive director of the Tagaung Institute of Political Studies and a public policy fellow with the Woodrow Wilson International Center’s Asia Program, published a research report: “One Year On: The Momentum of Myanmar’s Armed Rebellion.” https://www.irrawaddy.com/in-person/interview/military-is-weaker-since-coup-and-momentum-is-with-the-armed-resistance.html
[3] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/nearly-90-myanmar-junta-soldiers-killed-in-clashes-with-resistance-in-north.html
[4] https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/burma-army-extends-deadline-sspp-southern-shan-state https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/local-leader-of-myanmar-militarys-proxy-party-shot-dead-in-southern-shan-state
[5] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-detains-villagers-following-clash-with-arakan-army-in-chin-state.html
[6] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/over-100-junta-soldiers-defect-to-arakan-army-in-western-myanmar.html
[7] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-resistance-rejects-junta-calls-to-surrender.html
[8] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/nug-acting-president-calls-for-people-to-put-an-end-to-juntas-planned-election.html
[9] https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/transfer-06282022191446.html
[10] https://thediplomat.com/2022/06/myanmar-junta-to-move-forward-with-trial-of-australian-economist/
[11] https://thediplomat.com/2022/06/myanmar-junta-to-carry-out-death-sentences-against-activist-nld-lawmaker/
[12] https://asia.nikkei.com/Spotlight/Myanmar-Crisis/Cambodia-s-Hun-Sen-asks-Myanmar-to-call-off-political-executions
[13] https://thediplomat.com/2022/06/myanmar-military-junta-says-criticisms-of-executions-irresponsible-and-reckless/
[14] https://www.laprensalatina.com/parallel-government-in-myanmar-creates-own-digital-currency/
[15] https://www.irrawaddy.com/specials/junta-watch/junta-watch-defying-the-world-on-executions-splashing-cash-while-urging-frugality-and-more.html
[16] https://www.mizzima.com/article/junta-restricts-food-sales-tanintharyis-palaw-township
[17] https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/nug-burma-army-using-rape-weapon-war
[18] https://www.persecution.org/2022/06/19/myanmars-military-targeting-children/
[19] https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501098895/cambodian-defence-minister-myanmar-defence-minister-holds-bilateral-talks/
https://apnews.com/article/asia-myanmar-global-trade-19a0dddfa8eae60443c9b5fd9914235e
[20] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/asean-special-envoy-on-second-visit-to-myanmar-no-meeting-with-suu-kyi.html
[21]https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2022/06/14/rohingyas-dhaka-asks-nay-pyi-taw-to-expedite-verification-for-early-repatriation
[22] https://www.mizzima.com/article/hrw-calls-thailand-allow-rohingya-access-asylum
[23] The Army carried out the operation against North-East insurgent groups. In Taga, Yung Aung-led National Socialist Council of Nagalim (NSCN-K), Paresh Baruah-led United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I), B Swaraigra-led National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Jeevan Singha Kuch-led Kamatapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), IK Sangbijit-led People’s Democratic Council for Karbi Longri (PDCK) and other Manipur-based insurgent groups operated their headquarters (HQs) with the help of Naga rebel group NSCN-K. https://www.news18.com/news/india/myanmar-army-abandons-taga-headquarters-of-northeast-insurgent-groups-after-three-years-5450287.html
[24] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-not-invited-to-india-meeting-with-asean-foreign-ministers.html
[25] https://www.theweek.in/wire-updates/national/2022/06/28/cal28-mn-immigrants-myanmar.html
[26] https://www.awamkasach.com/india-myanmar-kaladan-project-s-completion-hangs-in-limbo/
[27] https://www.ohchr.org/en/statements/2022/06/50th-session-human-rights-council-oral-update-myanmar

Myanmar Round-Up: May 2022

The country is reeling under political and economic crisis. The military initiated peace talks during the month in its efforts to meet the Ethnic Armed Organisations, but most of the armed groups that have been active in the fight with the military since the coup have refused participation. The National Unity Government (NUG), on the other hand, marked the celebration of the first anniversary of the People Defence Forces (PDF) on 05 May; they also called out to the international community to support them with funds and arms. Internationally, the United States-ASEAN summit was a landmark event, and the Malaysian Foreign Minister called upon the Myanmar military leaders for taking sufficient steps to resolve the crisis.

Economic Conditions

Myanmar is facing fuel shortages partly because of the Central Bank of Myanmar’s change in regulations in April 2022 and partly because of the regime’s orders that the fuel will be sold at fixed rates. The Central Bank of Myanmar announced that foreign earnings must be deposited with licensed banks and exchanged for kyats within one working day at the official rate. The restricted access to dollars has blocked fuel imports.[1]

The cash shortage is also starkly visible as the military regime has not been able to pay dividends from its businesses since the 2021 coup. The dividends are usually paid at the end of the financial year. It’s mandatory for all ranks to buy MEHL shares. For instance, a captain is required to invest 3 million kyats in MEHL and lower ranks 1.5 million kyats. In the past year, MEHL profits have tumbled amid boycotts of beer and cigarettes, the main income sources.[2]

Myanmar’s military regime has cancelled tenders invited under the previous National League for Democracy (NLD) government for 26 solar power projects. Chinese companies and their consortia won the bids to build 28 out of the 29 plants, but the military cancelled the tenders due to repeatedly post poking of signing power purchase agreements. However, only three solar projects are being implemented, and Chinese firms have stalled on the other projects. Just before the blacklisting of firms, the electricity and energy Minister U Aung Than Oo was replaced with U Thaung Han, the former chairman of the Mandalay Electricity Supply Corporation, amid severe power outages in Myanmar.[3] Further, on 11 May, the military charged Bo Bo Nge, former Central Bank’s deputy governor, with corruption offences. He was arrested on the day of the military coup.[4] The military has also removed Lt General Than Hlaing as chief of the military’s police force and deputy minister of home affairs, with Major General Zin Min Htet, the military’s Joint Adjutant General, since 2019.

Domestic and Political Situation

During the month, Aung San Suu Kyi was tried in a new corruption case, accusing her of receiving money from Maung Weik in 2019 and 2020. She is charged under the country’s Anti-Corruption Act with up to 15 years in prison and a fine. She has already been sentenced to 11 years imprisonment under different cases of corruption, sedition and violation of coronavirus restrictions. In another case of corruption, she was charged with receiving USD 600,000 and seven gold bars from Phyo Min Thein, the former chief minister of Yangon.[5]

During the month, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing held the first face-to-face peace talks since the military coup with Yawd Serk, chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS). Myanmar has 21 ethnic armed organisations, out of which ten have accepted the invitation to the peace talks. But there is scepticism that the talks will do much to advance peacemaking because none of the groups attending are currently in armed conflict with the government. The major ethnic minority groups, such as Kachin Independence Army, the Karenni National Progressive Party and the Chin National Front, currently in armed conflict with the military, have not attended the peace talks.

Regions such as Kachin, Chin, Sagaing and Karen continued to witness clashes. In the first half of the month, regular interceptions by the military were recorded in Chin State. Casualties were reported on both sides. The Chin Defence Forces, on the other hand, claimed success in several clashes with the military. In the Sagaing region, the regime launched air strikes as local resistance forces attacked an army camp in a pro-regime village in the township.[6] The military has further cut mobile phone service to eight townships in the Sagaing region.[7] The military has also increased security in Yangon as it remains a hotbed of anti-regime resistance. The military aims to wipe out the urban resistance groups.[8]

Further, the Karen National Union (KNU) stated that troops engaged in more than 500 clashes with regime forces in May 2022. In the statement released by the Union, they claimed to have killed around 356 junta forces and 194 injured.[9] During the month, however, the military reclaimed the Maw Khee base. Waw Lay and Maw Khee, in the KNLA’s Brigade 6 territory.[10] The KNU, on the other hand, is consolidating its control of Kyaukkyi and Mone townships in the eastern Bago Region.[11] In a march from Hpa-An Township in Kayin (Karen) State to Bilin Township in Mon State, the regime forces used more than 100 civilians as porters and human shields earlier this week.[12]

Major-General Tun Myat Naing, chief of the Arakan Army (AA) based in Rakhine State, issued a public warning about the prospect of renewed fighting in Rakhine. The military has attempted to counteract the AA with the increasing presence of regime troops inspecting villages and tightening security checks. Further, on 31 May, a submarine arrived at Kyauk Phyu Township.[13] The regime has also again started detaining and interrogating people it suspects of having ties to the AA, which was done before the 2020 ceasefire. The AA has also not responded to the regime’s proposal for peace talks. [14] The fight erupted between the military and AA near Abaung Thar village, Chin State.[15] Further, Major Aye Tun, an AA leader, warned through his social media posts to boycott military council products and not buy homes from the Shwe Yati beach project in Gwa township of Rakhine State.[16]

Overall, boths ides, the pro-military and anti-military, continued with targeted assassinations of the opposite sides. For instance, local military council members in the Mandalay Region were shot by unidentified gunmen. On the other hand, the pro-junta militia claimed responsibility for slaying opposition party members and threatened to kill journalists and their families. During the month, eight members of the NLD and their supporters were found brutally murdered. However, the military deputy minister of information, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun stated that the military has no ties to the Thway Thank, the pro-junta militia taking responsibility for the murder. He also accused seven media outlets of being “destructive elements” in Myanmar, including RFA, Khit Thit Media, The Irrawaddy, Mizzima, DVB and The Irrawaddy Times.[17]

The NUG and PDFs

May 6 marked the PDF anniversary, a paramilitary group formed to protect Myanmar’s civilians against military forces. The NUG Ministry of Defense said the PDF has expanded to 257 units, with 80,000 and 100,000 PDF troops spread across 250 townships and maintains links with more than 400 local guerrilla groups. A statement claimed that around USD 30 million was spent on arms training and military equipment for the PDF since its formation.[18] However, PDFs are facing cash and arms shortages. Four local PDFs based in Sagaing publicly reported that they were struggling with insufficient arms and other logistics issues. These groups have so far relied on donations from local people.[19] Under such circumstances, the defence chief of NUG, Yee Mon, called for international help to arm its resistance forces. [20] On the other hand, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing urged the United Wa State Party (UWSP) not to supply arms to the PDFs. However, the UWSP liaison officer Nyi Rang denied discussing PDFs or Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the meeting.[21]

During the month, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), the legislative body of NUG, enacted its People’s Police Force Law to regulate law enforcement in areas controlled by resistance forces. Under the law, the People’s Police Force will be established under the civilian Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration to upgrade law enforcement from accepting complaints to prosecuting. The ministry has so far received more than 400 complaints against military atrocities against civilians. The CRPH said the law would take legal action against the military leaders who seized power illegally and expose the crimes committed by the regime against civilians.[22]

The National Unity Government (NUG) also conducted an online meeting with AA to engage with armed groups. The shadow government’s Alliance Relations Committee, its foreign minister Daw Zin Mar Aung and prominent ’88 Generation leader U Min Ko Naing spoke to AA chief Major General Tun Myat Naing and his deputy Brigadier General Nyo Tun Aung. The two sides discussed the political landscape and current situation in Myanmar. However, the AA has avoided direct involvement in armed revolt against the military regime; it supports the PDFs by providing training and weapons.[23]

International Responses

In yet another move to issue a statement at United Nations Security Council, China and Russia blocked the attempt to push the military leaders to take steps to resolve the crisis and express concern about the violence and humanitarian situation in the country. The proposed statement was drafted by the United Kingdom, which had expressed concern at the “limited progress” in implementing a five-point plan for ending the crisis.[24]

On 05-06 May, the ASEAN leaders held a meeting in Cambodia to discuss plans to deliver aid to Myanmar. The regime was represented by its Minister for International Cooperation, Ko Ko Hlaing. However, the military blocked the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, from attending the meeting. Though no reason was stated, her exclusion is believed to come after her recent discussions with the parliamentary body of Myanmar’s NUG and its relief and resettlement minister, Dr Win Myat Aye. However, the NUG criticised ASEAN’s decision to provide humanitarian aid to the Myanmar people via the military regime as it flouts the fundamental humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.[25]

The United States (US) hosted the two-day US-ASEAN Special Summit. A host of issues were discussed, from COVID to the current situation in Myanmar. Out of the total ten, eight ASEAN leaders attended the summit; the Philippines declined to attend due to the presidential elections, and Myanmar’s military chief, Min Aung Hlaing, was barred from the summit. At the summit, Malaysia slammed the military for refusing to engage with the country’s shadow government, NUG. Instead, the US State Department officials met with the foreign minister of the National Unity Government, Myanmar’s shadow government of deposed leaders and other junta critics working to regain control of the country.

Earlier in the month, Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah proposed that ASEAN engage informally with the NUG to discuss humanitarian aid. Still, the regime rejected the remark as “irresponsible and reckless”. Thereby, the Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah called out Myanmar military officials in a series of tweets for failing to honour the Five Point consensus and refusal to allow the United Nations special envoy to attend an ASEAN meeting on humanitarian aid to Myanmar.[26] He also became the first minister from the ASEAN to publicly meet a NUG minister.

Furthermore, the Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen urged Myanmar’s military to allow the ASEAN special envoy to visit and meet deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Hun Sen requested “further cooperation in facilitating the second visit to Myanmar by the ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy, possibly at the end of May”. He also urged the military chief to release political prisoners, reduce excessive force use and facilitate humanitarian assistance delivery. [27] However, during the month, Cambodia organised a three-day meeting of senior defence officials, including Myanmar military representatives. This contrasts with the earlier decisions to exclude military representatives from ASEAN meetings.[28]

The advocacy groups Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Justice for Myanmar again called on the Government of Japan to cease training Myanmar military officers after it emerged that a Japanese-trained air force commander took part in bombing raids in the country. According to HRW, Japan accepted two cadets and two officers to participate in the training programme in 2021, after the coup. This was followed by a further two cadets and two officers in 2022. [29] In the month, Japanese energy conglomerate ENEOS Holdings said it would withdraw from the Yetagun gas project in Myanmar, which has been operational for two decades.[30] Also, to not legitimise the military regime, the Australian government said it would replace its ambassador to Myanmar, Andrea Faulkner, with a lower-ranked representative. Several western countries have downgraded their diplomatic relations since last year’s coup.[31]

Way Forward

The Institute for Strategy and Policy (ISP Myanmar) reported that at least 5,646 civilian deaths have occurred since the coup till 10 May 2022.[32] Given the humanitarian losses and the accompanying economic and political crisis, the military leaders must take steps to bring in all stakeholders and resolve the current situation. The country is sliding back into poverty, and there are cash and fuel shortages. Mainly Sagaing and Chin’s regions are suffering severe casualties in their fight against the military. Internationally, more efforts and concrete steps are required to address the crisis than mere statements.

Endnotes :

[1] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-fuel-importers-blame-shortages-on-junta-dollar-controls.html
[2] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/military-owned-corporation-fails-to-pay-dividends-to-myanmar-troops.html
[3]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-cancels-chinese-backed-solar-power-projects.html
[4]https://www.centralbanking.com/central-banks/governance/people/7947586/myanmar-junta-brings-charges-against-former-deputy-governor
[5]https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/myanmars-suu-kyi-charged-bribery-trial-opens-84447854
[6]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-military-calls-in-air-strikes-to-keep-village-from-falling-to-resistance.html
[7]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/phone-05242022160146.html
[8]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-tightens-security-in-commercial-capital-yangon.html
[9]https://myanmar-now.org/en/news/resistance-forces-strike-myanmar-army-convoys-on-chin-state-roads
[10]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/myanmar-military-reclaims-control-of-maw-khee-base-seized-by-karen-forces
[11]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/ethnic-karen-fighters-take-control-of-lower-myanmar-townships.html
[12]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/knu-accuses-myanmar-military-of-abducting-civilians-for-use-as-as-human-shields
[13]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/warships-06022022102800.html
[14]https://www.irrawaddy.com/opinion/analysis/military-tensions-rise-in-western-myanmar-as-arakan-army-chief-warns-regime.html
[15]https://www.narinjara.com/news/detail/62919b0721f2d423422dc735
[16]https://www.narinjara.com/news/detail/628878df21f2d423422dc720
[17]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/threats-05022022233600.html
[18]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/anniversary-05112022202816.html
[19]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/we-need-guns-myanmar-resistance-forces-tell-shadow-govt.html
[20] https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-resistance-urges-west-provide-arms-fight-against-junta-2022-05-17/
[21] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/clashes-expected-in-chin-state-as-junta-deploys-more-troops-to-western-myanmar.html
[22]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-civilian-government-passes-police-law-for-its-controlled-areas.html
[23]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-civilian-government-holds-talks-with-arakan-army.html
[24] https://www.dw.com/en/china-russia-reportedly-block-un-statement-on-myanmar-crisis/a-61961339
[25]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/aseans-plan-to-deliver-aid-to-myanmar-via-junta-condemned.html
[26] https://www.eurasiareview.com/13052022-myanmar-crisis-center-stage-at-us-asean-summit/
[27]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/cambodia/myanmar-talks-05022022220938.html
28]https://www.khmertimeskh.com/501077177/bucking-the-trend-asean-chair-cambodia-invites-myanmar-junta-reps-for-adsom/
[29]https://thediplomat.com/2022/05/japan-trained-myanmar-air-force-officer-took-part-in-bombing-raids-activists/
[30] https://dailytimes.com.pk/929547/japans-eneos-withdraws-from-myanmar-gas-project/
[31]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/australia-downgrades-diplomatic-ties-with-myanmar-junta.html
[32]https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/toll-05172022210115.html

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

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