Tag Archives: Suu Kyi

Myanmar Round Up: August 2021

It has been six months since the declaration of the military coup, protests and demonstrations have continued. During the month, week, anti-coup demonstrations were reported in Kachin and Shan states, Magway, Mandalay, Sagaing, Tanintharyi, and Yangon regions. The protests on 08 August referred to the “8-8-88” democracy uprising on 08 August1988, which the then-military regime crushed.

On 01 August, Senior Army General Min Aung Hlaing announced himself as the Prime Minister and pledged to hold elections by 2023. However, Ms Schraner Burgener stated that Myanmar’s Permanent Representative in New York, Kyaw Moe Tun, remains its legitimate UN Ambassador, while Ms Suu Kyi and President Myint are its leaders. Recently, international media reported a plot was uncovered to kill Ambassador Tun, who denounced the coup in the General Assembly Hall in New York.1 Ms Burgener also said the situation in Myanmar “is still very worrisome”. The third wave of COVID-19 infections has also hit the country.

Political Situation

Senior General Min Hlaing announced the formation of a caretaker government and took on the role of Prime Minister. He also announced that the elections would be held by 2023. 2 The “Provisional Government” replaces the State Administration Council (SAC) chaired by Min Hlaing that has run Myanmar since the coup. The National League for Democracy (NLD) members shadow government, National Unity Government (NUG) condemned the military ruler’s decision to take on the role of the Prime Minister in a caretaker government and said the move was designed to win legitimacy.3 Later on 03 August, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken dismissed the military’s elections plan.4

Military authorities forced one of the lawyers representing Aung San Suu Kyi to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This was done to stop statements of Suu Kyi from reaching the public. Suu Kyi has a five-member defence team, out of which one was forced to sign the agreement promising not to talk to local or international media. The court hearings were postponed at the start of July as the third wave of COVID-19 infections hit the country.5 Further, columnist Sithu Aung Myint and BBC Burmese presenter Htet Htet Khine were tracked down and arrested on 15 August. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned these latest arbitrary arrests, and called for their immediate release.6

During the month, the military faced protests, strikes and a resurgence of armed conflicts. The military authorities have branded their opponents as terrorists. In the Karen state, fighting between the military and the armed wing of the Karen National Union (KNU), known as the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), occurred on a near-daily basis in Hpa-pun Township. The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said the military was responsible for all the shootings between 03 to 08 August. The KIA opposed the regime and attacked junta troops and police stations in Kachin and northern Shan states since 11 March.7

On the other hand, at least 1,130 Myanmar soldiers were killed and 443 wounded in more than 700 clashes between junta forces and local militias across the country from June 1 to July 31, Myanmar’s shadow NUG said in a report. Moreover, more than 350 civilians were killed and nearly 140 wounded during the same period.8 In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Myanmar’s UN envoy Kyaw Moe Tun — described the incidents as “clearly amounting to crimes against humanity,” calling on the UN Security Council and the international community to impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar’s military.9

During the month, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing signed an amendment to the Counterterrorism Law, introducing harsher penalties for supporting anti-regime activities. Under the amendment, the jail term is increased from three to seven years for “acts of exhortation, persuasion, propaganda and recruitment of any person to participate in any terrorist group or activities of terrorism”.10

The United League of Arakan (ULA) is advancing steadily towards its objective of assuming administrative control in Rakhine State, and has seen a high level of compliance from the state’s residents with the stay-at-home order it issued on 20 July in response to the third wave of COVID-19. The ULA has also announced that it will set up a judiciary in Rakhine State. Since the coup the ULA and its armed wing, the Arakan Army, have accelerated their effort to expand their ability to govern the state and be seen as its legitimate governing body. Further, on 05 August, it announced plans to implement household registrations throughout the state and introduction of day and night patrols as a response to the COVID-19 outbreak and its state’s security. The ULA has also been punishing people for flouting the stay-at-home order.11

The latest wave of COVID-19 has made the country vulnerable to a health crisis. Myanmar’s army has carried out at least 252 attacks and threats against health workers since the coup. More than 190 health workers have been arrested and 86 raids on hospitals carried out since the coup, said the report by Insecurity Insight, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), and Johns Hopkins University Center for Public Health and Human Rights (CPHHR). In addition, they identified 15 incidents in which the response to the COVID-19 outbreak had been obstructed – including confiscation of personal protection equipment and oxygen supplies for the exclusive use of the army. 12

International Scenario

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) appointed Brunei’s Erywan Yusof, as a special envoy. The appointment of a special envoy is part of a five-point consensus between ASEAN and Myanmar military leader Min Aung Hlaing in April. However, the decision has invited criticism. Aaron Connelly, an analyst with International Institute for Strategic Studies, stated that Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore had “pushed for tougher language”, though it was vetoed by the military representative Wunna Maung Lwin.13 ASEAN also failed to recognise NUG formed CPRH. As a result, the body was excluded from the ASEAN 42nd assembly Inter Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) held in Brunei. The NUG members condemned ASEAN for excluding it and inviting a military representative as an observer. In April, the NUG’s representative was not invited to ASEAN’s special summit on Myanmar. Instead, the military leader attended the meeting.14 ASEAN has to date, not recognised the NUG government and representatives.

Another international investor retreated from Myanmar and sold all its businesses to a local partner finding it challenging to operate under military rule. Australian mining company Myanmar Metals Limited (MYL) has divested its entire stake in a mining project in Myanmar’s northeast. The company stated that the political situation in Myanmar had undermined the confidence of markets. MYL disposed of its 51-percent stake in the Bawdwin project to its local partner Win Myint Mo Industries Co Ltd for a total of USD 30 million.15 However, Indian Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Limited (APSEZ) have claimed that the company believes that its investment in a port in Myanmar is not in violation of any sanction guidelines issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Department of Treasury and therefore, continued its investments.16

Nevertheless, few countries continued to provide emergency aid. The US announced USD 50 million to support relief groups dealing with the fallout from a surge in Covid-19 cases. The US funding will aid “those forced to flee violence and persecution” as well as help groups provide healthcare services in addition to essentials such as food, shelter and water, the State Department said.17

China has continued to provide its support by entering into agreements and helping the country via vaccines. China will transfer around USD 6 million to Myanmar’s government to fund 21 development projects. A Myanmar Foreign Ministry statement said the funds would be transferred from China for projects within the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation framework. It said those included animal vaccines, culture, agriculture, science, tourism, and disaster prevention.18 Since the military coup, the mining of rare-earth metals has increased in the Kachin state. Multiple sources told Frontier and Danwatch, a Danish investigative outlet that collaborated on this investigation, that the rare earth mining in Kachin is extracted illegally by Chinese or Chinese-backed companies in areas of Chipwi Township under the de facto control of an armed group and militia led by Kachin warlord Zahkung Ting Ying.19

The two countries, China and Myanmar also faced issues due to increased incidents in the bordering area with China. The Chinese authorities have sent a complaint letter to the Myanmar military demanding an investigation. In the letter, Chinese authorities said they were highly concerned about the recent incidents, describing them as breaches of the China-Myanmar border agreement. China also warned the incident repeats, it would “make the necessary response”. Moreover, the Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned Myanmar Ambassador U Myo Thant Pe on 05 August and urged the regime to stop immediately fighting in border areas. In response, the regime claimed the artillery shell and bullets were fired by the MNDAA. The military rather stated that the military would attack armed groups that threatened the lives of people and the stability of the border areas. It urged China to collaborate with the Myanmar military to fight against armed groups and prevent them from occupying bases in border areas.20

India Myanmar Engagements

On 10 August, few members of the Manipur extremist group, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), were killed in a factional fight in Myanmar. The incident occurred near the Nanyang Wakathan camp of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Khaplang-Yung Aung) in the Sagaing region of Myanmar. According to intelligence officials, tensions rose because the Myanmar military was forced to either pay for lying low in the country or join the soldiers in fighting the pro-democracy forces. Moreover, the PLA cadre, short of money was also being pressured to fight the People’s Defence Force, the armed wing of Myanmar’s NUG in exile.21

On the other hand, Myanmar has conveyed its apprehension over the deployment of the Border Road Organisation (BRO) for the completion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway and Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport (KMTT) project, the Union government informed the parliamentary committee on home affairs.22

In a successful operation, Assam Rifles recovered a huge cache of arms, ammunition and other war-like stores in Mizoram’s southernmost Lawngtlai district near the Indo-Myanmar border. The operation was carried out jointly by Assam Rifles troopers posted at Zorinpui, the southern tip of Mizoram on the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP) road and state police from Bungtlang. However, no person was arrested in connection with the recoveries. In another major achievement, Assam Rifles and Customs department also seized 502 cases of smuggled foreign cigarettes on Ruantlang and Kelkang- Khaungleng road in Champhai district near the Myanmar border during a joint operation.23

The issue of Rohingya was again raised in Lok Sabha. Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai, informed that Rohingya Muslim migrants indulge in illegal activities for which the respective governments have been asked to take action. Rai also said that instructions had been issued to capture their biographic and biometric particulars and cancel fake Indian documents. Furthermore, steps have been taken to initiate deportation proceedings under provisions of law.24

Rohingya Crises

As the Rohingya crisis enters its fifth year, it is essential to reflect on the dismal situation of the refugees living and their continued repression. For the first time in five years, Rohingya refugees expelled from Myanmar testified in court on 17 August. According to activist group Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, five survivors of sexual violence testified to the Federal Criminal Appeal Court in Buenos Aires remotely from refugee camps in Bangladesh, according. However, the details of it were not shared.25

Bangladesh has been hosting over 1.1 million Rohingya since military crackdowns in 2017. Recently, World Bank initiated talks with Bangladesh to integrate Rohingya into the Bangladesh community. However, Bangladesh was against any long-term programme by the World Bank (WB) to integrate Rohingya into Bangladesh. Bangladesh has raised concerns as it faces problems of drug dealing, illegal human trafficking, prostitution, expansion of illegal markets. Also, serious damage to resources, lands, deforestation is now common in Chittagong. Bangladesh also claimed that such proposals hamper the initiatives taken by Bangladesh for Rohingya repatriation.26

Despite the NUG unveiling plans to amend the country’s constitution, and give citizenship to the Rohingya, the authorities in Myanmar currently have no plan to include minority Rohingya Muslims living in camps as they begin vaccinating priority groups against COVID-19 in western Rakhine State. Local administrator Kyaw Lwin told Reuters from Sittwe township that the rollout had begun with 10,000 vaccinations for priority groups such as the elderly, healthcare workers, government staff and Buddhist monks. However, he said there were no current plans for vaccinating any Muslims living in camps in Sittwe. Following an outcry from the human rights group, the Myanmar military backtracked on its plans to withhold Covid-19 vaccinations from the Rohingya minority in Rakhine. Instead, the military’s spokesman said in a news conference on 27 August that vaccinations will be offered to Rohingya in Rakhine.

The Way Forward

The fighting between Myanmar’s military and ethnic armed groups increased in August and is expected to intensify in the coming days as the military has sent reinforcements to rebel-held territories. The military has asked its unit commanders and other senior officers to be combat ready in a recent order. On the other hand, around 1500 soldiers have defected from Myanmar’s military since the coup and have joined the troops created by the political opposition to fight the military. The number of vulnerable refugees has increased. It is time to bring all stakeholders to the table and resolve the current crisis. Furthermore, it is important to cease all attacks from the side of the military and gain the trust of the citizens.

Endnotes
  1. https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/08/1097452
  2. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/fears-of-another-long-dictatorship-as-myanmar-coup-maker-appoints-himself-pm.html
  3. https://www.euronews.com/2021/08/03/us-myanmar-politics
  4. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/us-dismisses-myanmar-juntas-election-plan.html
  5. https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/suu-kyis-lawyer-forced-to-sign-pledge-not-to-speak-to-the-media
  6. https://rsf.org/en/news/two-more-journalists-arrested-myanmars-military-junta-0
  7. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-military-shells-kachin-civilians.html
  8. https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/killed-08132021181109.html
  9. https://edition.cnn.com/2021/08/06/asia/myanmar-bodies-found-army-crackdown-intl-hnk/index.html
  10. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-coup-chief-amends-counterterrorism-law.html
  11. https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/arakan-army-extends-administrative-grip-on-rakhine-state/
  12. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-army-attacks-medics-hampering-covid-response-rights-groups-say-2021-08-10/
  13. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3143809/asean-appoints-brunei-diplomat-erywan-yusof-envoy-myanmar
  14. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-ousted-mps-condemn-asean-for-inviting-junta-to-parliamentary-summit.html
  15. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/australian-mining-company-sells-stake-in-myanmar-project.html
  16. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/australian-mining-company-sells-stake-in-myanmar-project.html
  17. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/beijing-to-transfer-82m-to-myanmar-junta-to-fund-development-projects
  18. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/beijing-to-transfer-82m-to-myanmar-junta-to-fund-development-projects
  19. https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/weapons-power-and-money-how-rare-earth-mining-in-kachin-enriches-a-tatmadaw-ally/
  20. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/china-complains-after-shell-gunfire-from-myanmar-hit-border-town.html
  21. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/six-of-manipur-extremist-group-killed-in-myanmar-say-officials/article35872422.ece
  22. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/economy/infrastructure/myanmar-objects-to-bro-presence-in-trilateral-road-project/articleshow/85282213.cms
  23. https://nenow.in/north-east-news/mizoram/mizoram-security-forces-recover-arms-and-ammunition-from-lawngtlai-near-india-myanmar-border.html
  24. https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/govt-says-rohingyas-indulging-in-illegal-activities-101628601441879.html
  25. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/rohingya-to-give-first-testimony-in-push-for-myanmar-army-probe
  26. WB has undertaken a long-term program for 16 countries hosting refugees and they will provide money from a Tk2,000 ( Bangladesh Taka) crore fund. https://www.eurasiareview.com/04082021-world-banks-proposal-local-integration-of-rohingyas-in-bangladesh-possible-oped/
  27. https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-covid-vaccination-rollout-leaves-rohingya-waiting-2021-08-11/
  28. https://www.ucanews.com/news/rohingya-receive-covid-jabs-as-myanmar-junta-extends-rollout/93922#
  29. https://www.laprensalatina.com/some-1500-soldiers-have-deserted-myanmar-army-since-coup-media/

Myanmar Round Up: July 2021

During the month, Myanmar faced a double crisis – political turmoil and COVID-19. The country’s health care system has collapsed, and the number of cases reported is vastly underestimated because of limited testing. At an informal Security Council discussion, Barbara Woodward, Britain’s UN Ambassador, warned that half of Myanmar could be infected with COVID-19 by the end of July. Myanmar is struggling with a surge in infections and the military ruler is calling for greater cooperation with the international community to contain the COVID-19 wave. The military has assured that six million Chinese vaccines and two million Russian vaccines would be delivered. With COVID-19 deaths rising in Myanmar, allegations are growing from residents and human rights activists that the military government is using the pandemic to consolidate power and crush the opposition.

Economic and Political Crises

World Bank’s Myanmar Economic Monitor stated that the economy is expected to contract around 18 percent in Myanmar’s 2021 Fiscal Year (Oct 2020-Sep 2021). The ongoing political turmoil and a rising third wave of COVID-19 cases have a damaging impact on lives, livelihoods, poverty and future growth. It also predicted that the country’s economy is around 30 percent smaller than it would have been in the absence of COVID-19 and the military takeover of February 2021.

Economic activity has been hit by reduced mobility and incomes, protests and labour shortages, as well as the ongoing disruption of critical business services, including logistics and telecommunications, and public services such as health and education. In addition, the physical currency remains in short supply and access to banking and payment services remains limited. As of mid-July, the Myanmar Kyat had depreciated by around 23 percent against the US dollar since late January, which combined with trade disruptions has led to rapid price increases for some imported products, including fuel. These shocks have weakened consumption, investment, and trade, and disrupted businesses’ operations and the supply of labour and inputs.1

In further development, two statements issued by the National League for Democracy (NLD) has been accepted as evidence against Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and Naypyitaw Mayor Myo Aung, who are charged under Section 505 b of the Penal Code. The statements, released by the party’s central executive committee on February 7 and 13, were submitted as part of the incitement case. The 07 February statement urged the international community not to recognise the coup regime. And the 13 February statement stated that all regulations, rules and laws enacted by the military were illegal. Judge Maung Maung Lwin ruled out the defence team’s objection to the submitted evidence.2 During the month, Myanmar security forces searched Suu Kyi’s house without a search warrant, according to her lawyer.3

Clashes Continue

The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) attacked three military bases in the Kachin State towns of Mogaung and Waingmaw on 29 July, and launched an assault on the junta’s Waingmaw-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 58. Later, the KIA also attacked two military bases between Kutkai and Muse townships in northern Shan State. In addition, the KIA intercepted and attacked seven naval vessels belonging to the military on the Irrawaddy River near Shwegu in Kachin State.4 Clashes have been breaking out between the military and the KIA in Kachin State since April.

Despite last month’s peace talks, clashes between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF) are continuing. The KNLA’s Brigade 1 clashed with a BGF battalion led by Major Saw Tin Win near the village of Kontangyi in northern Hpa-an Township in Karen State. Between 15 to 22 July, there were 29 clashes between the military forces and Brigade 5 of the KNU’s armed wing, the KNLA. The military-backed Karen Border Guard Force (BGF) joined junta soldiers in attacks against the KNLA, clashing with the group’s Battalion 1 in Thaton, across the border in Mon State.5

Fighting erupted between Chinland Defence Force (CDF) and Myanmar military in Mindat Township for the first time since a temporary ceasefire. The peace agreement brokered between the military council and CDF (when CDF in Mindat was called Mindat People’s Administration) expired on 12 May, after the former refused to release all of the youths it arrested. On 13 May, the military council imposed martial law. The military sent troops to Mindat and shelled CDF positions, and the civilian resistance group retreated to the jungle. A second temporary ceasefire was brokered from 20 June to 04 July, which was extended until 16 July.6

Organisations like the KIA, Karenni Army and KNLA have shown solidarity in their position against the military. To counter these, pro-military social media users spread disinformation to cause rifts between the groups or discourage other prospective trainees from entering the ethnic-controlled territory. Many Facebook posts have accused ethnic armed organisations of killing or mistreating civilian trainees. However, the posts provide no evidence to support the allegations, and both People’s Defence Forces and the armed organisations have denied the incidents.7

Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch have accused that dozens of journalists have fled from Myanmar to Thailand since the military seized power to escape a crackdown on the country’s free press. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, around 98 journalists have escaped the country since the military crackdown.

In addition, the Taa’ng National Liberation Army (TNLA) ordered businesses operating within its territory to stop selling products made by military-owned companies. Merchants were given the order at meetings held in TNLA-controlled townships and villages. Products banned under the new rules include Myanmar Beer, Red Ruby and Premium Gold cigarettes, and tickets for buses run by Shwe Mann Thu, Parami, and other military companies. This will promote the nationwide campaign to boycott military products. The ousted National Unity Government has also endorsed the order.8

International Responses

Damian Lilly, the author of the report, published by the New York-based International Peace Institute (IPI), accused the UN of doing little and being directionless in taking any coherent steps to control Myanmar’s crises. Lilly also accuses China and Russia of their role in obstructing efforts to hold the Generals to account. 9

In another striking move, Myanmar’s military rulers seek to replace the country’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, who condemned the coup and refused to recognise the military regime. Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated that he had appointed Aung Thurein as Myanmar’s UN ambassador. Lwin stated that the Kyaw Tun was terminated on 27 February 2021, due to his failure to perform his assigned duty and mandate. This was the second attempt to remove Kyaw Tun; earlier on 12 May also a letter was sent to the UN, but no action was taken.10

On 02 July, the United States announced sanctions on seven military personnel and 15 individuals in the family of previously sanctioned officials and businesses related to the Myanmar military. Additionally, the US Commerce Department restricted trade exports to four companies, which provide services to the Myanmar military. 11

Despite the call for the imposition of the arms embargo by the international and civil society groups, Russia has delivered a consignment of Sukhoi Su-30SME multi-role fighter jets and military training aircraft to Myanmar. In addition, Myanmar has been using Russian Mig-29 and Jak-130 aircraft for a long time; and the two countries have established close cooperation in the defence field. 12

Given the surge of COVID-19 cases, China has closed its border with Myanmar. In addition, it is adding a barbed-wire fence spanning around 600 kilometres between Ruili, Lijiang, and the Gaoligong mountains in its southwestern province of Yunnan. China is also constructing walls to block soldiers, ethnic militias, drug, and gun-smuggling from entering in the country.13

Amid Myanmar’s COVID-19 spike, the developer of the controversial China-backed Shwe Koko new city project near the Thai border in Karen State has been recruiting staff, prompting fears over a rise in cross-border crime. The Irrawaddy has been told Yatai International Holding Group (IHG), which Chinese investors run, has been recruiting a manager for a five-star hotel, human resources manager, an accountant and gardeners this month. The project is also controlled by the Karen State Border Guard Force (BGF), an armed group backed by Myanmar’s military. The project was suspended after the National League for Democracy government formed a tribunal to investigate irregularities. However, following the February coup, activity at Shwe Koko appeared to revive, including hiring new staff and restarting gambling. 14

The Thai army seized face masks illegally imported into Myanmar from Maw Taung-Singkhon pass on 22 July, according to Thai media. They found 44 packings of KF94 face masks manufactured by South Korea, 17 packings of three-ply masks. According to Article 167 of the 2017 Thai Ordinance, these items are part of a controlled substance that prohibits the availability of adequate medical supplies in the country and their export.15

Myanmar’s military government banned telecommunications company executives from leaving the country without authorisation. Before the coup, Myanmar’s primary telecom and internet service companies, Telenor, Ooredoo, MPT, and Mytel were pressured in 2020 to install a “lawful intercept” without any legal processes in place to protect citizens’ privacy. Telenor, a Norwegian telecoms firm and one of two foreign operators in the telecoms sector of Myanmar, flagged the plans publicly and expressed concern for citizens’rights to privacy and freedom of expression on 03 December 2020.

Telenor sold its Myanmar business to the Lebanese investment firm M1 Group after the military’s travel ban on telecom executives. Activists in Myanmar fear that the exit of Telenor will cause further obstructions to their free expression as they relied on the company as a protector of human rights. The Western company’s decision to sell its Myanmar business likely reflects the increasing difficulty of continuing operations under principles of free communication and expression. 16

The civil society organisations have filed a formal complaint with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) accusing Norwegian telecoms giant Telenor of “irresponsible disengagement” from the country. The Netherlands-based Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) submitted the complaint on behalf of the 474 Myanmar groups. They alleged that the Telenor Group’s sale of its Myanmar operations to the Lebanese M1 Group is in violation of OECD standards outlining the requirements for a responsible exit from the country. The OECD complaint described M1 Group, a Mikati family enterprise, as an unsuitable partner for Telenor’s handover. The Mikati’s are accused of having a history of businesses in authoritarian countries including Syria, Sudan and Yemen, as well as face allegations of corruption and terrorist financing. 17

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) adopted a resolution on 12 July 2021 titled the “Human Rights Situation of Rohingya Muslims and other Minorities in Myanmar” a powerful message to the regime for its gross violations of human rights, specifically against the stateless Rohingyas. Bangladesh has played a crucial role in the approval of the resolution. The resolution condemned human rights’ violations by Myanmar military against the Rohingya and other minorities, and called for a reconciliation process. The resolution was approved without a vote in the Geneva-based council. China, one of the 47 council members, told it could not join the consensus but did not insist on bringing the text to a vote.18 However, Myanmar’s military rejected the resolution, and stated that the resolution is “based on false information and one-sided allegations”. 19

India’s Engagement in Myanmar

A Singapore-based Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) report titled, “Myanmar Coup, Resistance and India’s Response: Fractured Between Words and Deeds” has stated that a possible full-scale armed revolt in Myanmar will have a spill-over effect on India. The report also said India has an opportunity to build on the “reservoirs of goodwill” with many of the Myanmarese citizens. The Indian Border States that share religious, kinship and historical affinities with people in Myanmar are supporting Myanmar people; for instance, Mizoram is hosting more than 15,000 Myanmar refugees. However, the report underlined India’s fears that condemning the military publicly would result in alienating Myanmar and pushing it closer towards China. 20

However, India has come under the radar of Myanmar anti-coup activists who are opposed to the idea of any relationship between the Indian government and Myanmar military. Justice for Myanmar (JFM) condemned the awarding of a contract by the Indian government-owned Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port, Kolkata to A to Z EXIM Ltd—a unit of the Mumbai-based Bharat Freight Group—to operate, maintain and develop the port and inland water transport terminals at Sittwe, Rakhine State and Paletwa, Chin State. 21

Assam Governor Prof Jagdish Mukhi has raised concerns about the illegal smuggling of arms, gold, drugs and liquor through Myanmar via Moreh and requested the Indian Army to play a more dominant role in controlling the inter-state movement.22 In another incident, fifteen Rohingya immigrants, including six minors and three women, have been held by Railway Police Force (RPF) in Assam’s Karimganj district. According to reports, the RPF personnel had intercepted 15 people sitting in Badarpur railway station after observing some suspicious activities. 23

Conclusion

Over recent days, the country has rapidly descended into the most severe public health crisis. The hospitals are struggling with a shortage of oxygen supplies and lack of intensive care capacity while just a small percentage of the population has been vaccinated against the virus. Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) are playing a crucial role in addressing COVID in the territory where they have control, such as the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) carried out extensive COVID-19 tests and restricted entry to Laiza and Maijayang, since the first week of July. The KIA has also vaccinated some 30,000 people with COVID-19 vaccines donated by China. 24

Due to political crises and continued clashes, thousands have been displaced by military attacks in recent months, placing them at even greater risk. Myanmar urgently needs international support to address the unfolding tragedy. Right now, the humanitarian response from UN agencies and international organisations is inadequate.