Tag Archives: NUG

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