Tag Archives: Whats happening in 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 – February 2022

01 February 2022 marks the first anniversary of the military coup. Last year on this day the Myanmar military took over the power in the country and arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and the elected leaders of the National League of Democracy. In the past year following the coup, the military has faced widespread protests and discontent because of its actions. The military has used force and various other tactics to curb the resistance. However, the opposition and resistance continue. Internationally, as the military coup and atrocities continue, countries like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have imposed further sanctions. The Russian actions against Ukraine received mixed responses in Myanmar, which are discussed in the latter part of the article.

Domestic and Political Situation

On the eve of the first anniversary of the military coup, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing proposed to extend the military rule for another six months, which Myint Swe, the military-appointed president, approved. On 01 February, the country witnessed large scale protests and rallies. A nationwide strike marked the first anniversary of the military seizure of power. The photos and videos of ‘silent strike’ were all over the social media. The streets were emptied and businesses were shut in a show of opposition to the military rule. The people also raised the three fingers resistance salute. At places, bombings were carried out targeting a police station and homes of military officers and other sites. Opposition militants carry out daily hit-and-run guerrilla attacks, while the military generally engages in larger-scale assaults that are blamed for many civilian casualties. [1]

To counter these protests and rallies, the military regime organised more than 170 pro-military rallies a week preceding the coup anniversary in 140 towns across Myanmar. The regime also organised sports events, forced shops to open and required people to receive COVID-19 jabs. The regime had earlier warned that anyone who closed their business or shop on the day could face charges carrying sentences of up to life imprisonment, including confiscation of their properties. The military also arrested a few shop owners who notified customers that they would close their businesses on 01 February.[2]

On the anniversary of the coup, Min Aung Hlaing justified the coup for the protection and promotion of Buddhism. He argued that Buddhism declined under the NLD government and criticised the NLD for banning the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion.[3] The group is under attack internationally for its hate speech and was banned by the NLD in 2017. They are known internationally for its hate speech against non-Buddhists. Recently, Min Aung Hlaing visited former chair, Ashin Tilawkar Biwonsa and even conferred a religious title on him. He also criticised the NLD government for prohibiting visits to pagodas and religious buildings, which he re-opened recently. The buildings were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions to prevent crowds.

The following day, Min Aung Hlaing held the first cabinet meeting of the year and highlighted the three sectors that would be prioritised in 2022. These are – to improve the economy; set up a genuine, disciplined multi-party democracy through the general election scheduled for 2023; and form an all-inclusive defence system.[4]

There was also news to dismantle six departments under Myanmar’s police and incorporate the officers into the military to strengthen its fight against the anti-coup resistance movement. These police departments are under the “special departments” of maritime, aviation, tourist, oil field, forestry and highway police forces. The police battalions are combat-trained, and since last year’s coup, they have been involved in crackdowns on protests and clashes with the armed resistance movement. As an institution, Myanmar’s police is part of the Ministry of Home Affairs and under military control as per the 2008 Constitution.

On 08 February, Union Minister for Foreign Affairs, U Wunna Maung Lwin, gave a diplomatic briefing on the recent developments in Myanmar. The Union Minister briefed regarding the formation of the State Administration Council (SAC), transferring three branches of state to the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services and scrutinizing the 2020 electoral process and the SAC’s endeavours to implement a five-point roadmap. He also emphasised establishing friendly relations with foreign nations, Myanmar’s cooperation with the ASEAN countries and Myanmar’s cooperation with the United Nations.

In addition to these, issues regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the incidents of killings and damages of public buildings and infrastructure by PDF, the seizures of arms and ammunition and notifying of NUG and PDF as terrorist groups to UNCTED, ACCT, ASEANAPOL and INTERPOL, positive cooperation in the fight against terrorism, and implementation of democracy and federalism in the country were discussed. Similar issues were discussed by U Khin Maung Oo, member of the Union Election Commission (UEC), Dr Yin Yin Nwe, Member of Advisory Board of the Chairman of the SAC, Dr Salai Ngun Cung Lian, and Police Brig. Gen. Aung Htay Myint of Myanmar Police Force, Ministry of Home Affairs.[5]

During the month, attacks and conflicts were noted across the country. For instance, hundreds of houses were burned down by the military in the northwestern Sagaing region. However, the state-run Myanmar Alinn Daily newspaper claimed that houses were burned by members of the opposite resistance defence force. [6] The allied KIA and Putao PDF seized a base belonging to a military-aligned militia in Putao, and in response, the military opened fire on the area with helicopters. [7] The informal ceasefire between Arakan Army and the military also came under attack as a clash broke out in Arakan State’s Maungdaw Township on 04 February.[8]

According to a United Nations Spokesperson, around 114 children have been killed by the Myanmar military since the 2021 coup. Recently, the military took a group of civilians, including at least 80 children, in the Sagaing region, hostage for two days. The National Unity Government (NUG) accused the army of a “grave violation” of international law. [9] Following the participation of children against the military forces, several parents have posted notices cutting ties with their children. The military has claimed that it would take over the properties of its opponents and arrest people giving shelter to protesters.[10]

In order to help the local economy, the military is planning to release a digital currency. According to a report from Bloomberg, Major General Zaw Min Tun said rolling out a digital currency would “help improve financial activities in Myanmar”. The digital currency is aimed at supporting payments within Myanmar as well as improving the economy. The country’s shadow government announced in December 2021 that it would recognise Tether (USDT) as an official currency.[11]

International Responses

The United States imposed new sanctions on Myanmar officials. The measures freeze any assets the listed officials may have in US jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them. Britain and Canada announced similar measures. At the anniversary of the military coup, several Church leaders have renewed their calls on the UK Government to use diplomacy to ensure that democracy is restored in Myanmar.[12] Further, Myanmar’s shadow government, NUG, stated that it accepted the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hear allegations that the country committed genocide against Rohingya. However, it urged the ICJ to deal with Myanmar’s permanent representative to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun. [13]

In a move to take down the makeshift tents, Thailand deported the refugees back to the Myanmar side. As a result, more than 3,000 Myanmar refugees are now stranded on the Myanmar side of the Thaung Yin River and are residing in temporary huts. Though many have returned home, some of the 20,000 refugees remain on the Thai side and have received support from residents.[14]

Australia’s Foreign Minister called for the “immediate release” of economics Professor Sean Turnell, who was detained by Myanmar’s military in February 2021. He was working as an adviser to civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Australian economist has been charged with violating Myanmar’s official secrets law and faces a maximum penalty of 14 years in prison if found guilty. [15]

During the month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called upon the Japan-based Yokogawa Bridge Corporation to end its partnership with Myanmar military-owned conglomerate, Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). In March 2014, Yokogawa Bridge Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Japanese Yokogawa Bridge Holdings Corp., signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with MEC. MEC is owned by Myanmar’s Defence Ministry and is a “direct source of revenue” for Myanmar’s military. However, in April 2021, Yokogawa Bridge Holdings Corp. stated that construction of the bridge had been halted due to the “situation on the ground” and that it would “conduct business that respects human rights.” But the documents for the same have not been revealed.[16]

Russian actions against Ukraine received mixed responses in the country. The military leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, praised Russia for its actions in a “desire to consolidate Russian sovereignty” and depicted Russia as a force to ensure the balance of power. He also expressed support for Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, the pro-democracy protestors in Myanmar raised slogans against the Russian actions. In Yangon, activists staged a flash mob protest, shouting anti-regime slogans and waving placards with slogans like “In Solidarity with Ukraine.” In Kachin State, a rally to show their support for Ukraine was held. Further, the NUG said that it condemned the Russian war against Ukraine and its people, adding “Myanmar stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.”[17]

Conclusion

Over the past year, there have been mass protests and armed resistance in the country. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners verified that the military has killed around 1500 people. In addition, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 320,000 people have been internally displaced because of the continued conflict over the last year. The solution to the current crises is bringing all the stakeholders together and holding the military accountable first for its actions.

Endnotes :

[1]https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/myanmar-takeover-anniversary-marked-strike-intl-concern-82594623
[2]https://www.irrawaddy.com/opinion/guest-column/myanmar-junta-fails-the-sovereignty-test.html
[3]The group, known as Ma Ba Tha, was formed in 2012 out of the 969 movement, a nationalist campaign that called for a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses, and was rebranded as Ma Ba Tha the following year.
[4] https://www.mizzima.com/article/myanmar-military-junta-discusses-economy-voting-system-and-controversial-conscription
[5]https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/union-minister-for-foreign-affairs-briefs-diplomats-and-un-resident-representatives-in-yangon
[6] https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/myanmar-villagers-army-troops-burned-400-houses-82650389
[7]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/thousands-of-civilians-displaced-by-military-air-offensive-in-ye-u
[8] https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/casualties-reported-junta-troops-clash-arakan-army-maungdaw-twsp
[9] https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-troops-accused-holding-children-hostage-during-clashes-2022-02-28/
[10] https://thewire.in/world/myanmar-fearing-the-ruling-military-junta-hundreds-of-parents-disown-dissident-children
[11]https://cointelegraph.com/news/myanmar-s-military-government-considers-launching-digital-currency-report
[12] https://churchofscotland.org.uk/news-and-events/news/2022/articles/first-anniversary-of-myanmar-military-coup-fresh-calls-for-diplomatic-solution
[13]https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-shadow-government-drops-objections-icjs-rohingya-genocide-case-2022-02-02/
[14] https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/thailand-02012022092914.html
[15] https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/australia-urges-myanmar-to-free-detained-economist
[16] https://www.mizzima.com/article/japan-construction-giant-should-end-myanmar-military-partnership-says-ngo
[17] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-democracy-activists-hold-rallies-in-support-of-ukraine.html

Myanmar Round Up – November 2021

08 November 2021 marked the anniversary of the November 2020 elections, which resulted in the landmark victory of the National League for Democracy party. However, the military coup in February 2021 led to a set-back in this democratic transition process. Under the banner of the Spring Revolution, the citizens of Myanmar are demanding the restoration of democratically elected leaders. Voices are being raised against the violent and forced military rule. The People’s Defence Forces and other Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) are responding to military violence with stronger force. The military is also said to be suffering from losses, and the number of deserters is increasing day by day. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the military has killed more than 1200 civilians. Aung San Suu Kyi has been further pressed with more charges, totalling 11, which could sentence her to 102 years in prison. International reactions have increased and Myanmar’s military leaders are being questioned at the international stage. However, some countries have started negotiating with the military leaders to ensure the continuance of relations.

Political and Domestic Situation

On 24 November, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Administration Council (SAC) stated that the military has taken over the entire responsibilities of the State and is working on the five-point road map. He further stated that the pattern of democratic transition in the country depends on the country’s situation and socio-economic development. He reiterated the provisions stated in the 2008 constitution to transition to a multi-party democracy.[1]

The military rulers are confident they can wipe out armed civilian resistance against them in three months. With the withdrawal of the rainy season, the military regime deployed thousands of troops in the Chin State, Sagaing and Magwe regions of Myanmar. As a result, the Human Rights Watch provided evidence of multiple active fires in Chin State after reviewing thermal anomaly data collected by an environmental satellite sensor (VIIRS). On 29 October 2021, thermal anomalies were detected for the first time. While the human rights groups and media blamed the military, the military spokesperson, Gen. Zaw Min Tun, claimed that the Chinland Defence Force had set the houses on fire. Because of the ongoing fights, Thantlang has been nearly uninhabited since September.[2] On 01 November, the Three Brother Alliance, including the Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and AA, condemned the military artillery strikes on Thantlang region.

Fortify Rights conducted interviews of displaced people and humanitarian workers along with members of the military. The group reported that the military committed war crimes in the Karenni State by arresting humanitarian workers and destroying food stocks meant for displaced people. Further, the military delayed travel authorisation for international aid workers, set up roadblocks, and confiscated aid supplies. Similar accounts have been reported in other parts of the country, especially in Chin and the Sagaing region.[3]

The confrontations were also reported between the military and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State. Villagers reported that the military sent reinforcement troops to the region after the alleged clash.[4] After the armed conflict, the AA released 15 captives arrested on humanitarian grounds. It has been suggested that the release was done after the visit of Yohei Sasakawa, Japan’s Special Envoy to Myanmar. Mr Sasakawa had previously attended a virtual meeting with the AA.[5]

Many assassinations took place during the month. One of the most prominent ones was the assassination of Thein Aung, Chief Finance of Mytel Telecommunications, a military-linked telecommunications company. Mytel provides revenue to the military government and is a major target of the anti-military forces. As a result, it has been boycotted by the consumers and local media have reported that more than 80 of its cellphone towers have been destroyed to date.[6]

As a result of confrontations, the military has suffered its heaviest losses, with 1300 soldiers killed and 463 injured in clashes. The country’s shadow National Unity Government’s (NUG) Defence Ministry reported that the military casualties are almost double the number the regime suffered in September.[7] Further, even though the military defectors are a small percentage, the number of defectors has contributed to a growing crisis among the troops. As a result, the military is unable to recruit new soldiers. The military has recalled all retirees, and the soldiers’ wives have been ordered to provide security for the bases.[8]

To coordinate between civilian resistance forces and allied EAOs, the NUG declared the formation of a command structure. Many members of the People’s Defence Force (PDF) reported a lack of adequate weapons and commanders. The objective of the new command structure will be to control the spread of arms and weaponry in the country.

The NUG also started selling bonds to fund the revolutionary movement with a target to raise at least USD 800 million. On the opening day itself, it raised USD 6.3 million.[9] Further, the NUG blacklisted two military-controlled conglomerates – Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and their subsidiaries. The NUG’s Commerce Ministry stated that the military-owned companies committed high treason and controlled numerous businesses by abusing military power and exerting undue influence.[10]

International Reactions

The civil rights groups have called for a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) meeting to stop escalating violence in Myanmar’s Chin State. The Human Rights Watch released a statement on behalf of 521 international and domestic organisations.[11] The United States (US) also condemned the Myanmar military’s use of violence in Chin State and called for urgent international action to hold the military accountable.[12] As a result, the UNSC expressed “deep concern” over the intensifying armed clashes and violence in Myanmar. The council’s 15 members issued a statement calling for an immediate end to the fighting and for the military to exercise “utmost restraint”.[13] Further, Nicholas Koumjian, head of Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, stated that there is a widespread systematic attack on civilians “amounting to crimes against humanity” which in turn is based on the preliminary evidence collected since the military seized power.[14]

Bill Richardson, the American ex-diplomat, visited Myanmar during the month after the invitation of the military’s foreign minister, U Wunna Maung Lwin. The US State Department welcomed Mr Richardson’s trip. He claimed the visit to be largely successful as US journalist Danny Fenster was released from the prison, and his efforts helped increase access to humanitarian aid and vaccines for Myanmar and resumption of Red Cross visits to the country’s prisons. Previously, Richardson had made numerous visits to Myanmar since the 1990s. However, no promises were made by General Min Aung Hlaing during their talks. Mark Farmaner, Director, Burma Campaign UK, was critical of Mr. Richardson for not securing the release of other prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi.[15]

Senior officials from China, Japan and Thailand also visited Myanmar to meet Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Sun Guoxiang, the Special Envoy of Asian Affairs of the China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yohei Sasakawa, Japan’s Special Envoy for national reconciliation in Myanmar, and Don Pramudwinai, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister visited the country during the month. Mr Sasakawa discussed the current situation and the peace process in Myanmar and Japan’s assistance to the country. He also visited camps for internally displaced Rohingya in Sittwe and met with Arakan National Party representatives. However, the details of the visit were not discussed.[16]

Myanmar’s military leaders’ five-member delegation was refused permission to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP-26. The delegation was led by Ambassador Tun Aung Kyaw of the Myanmar Embassy in London. Myanmar’s shadow NUG attempt to send a delegation was also rejected.[17] Due to the ongoing crises, it has been argued that the country is losing opportunities because of non-participation at meetings on important issues. On the other hand, the military delegation participated in the 89th Interpol General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey. Than Hlaing led the delegation, who was appointed deputy home affairs minister in February. Canada, the EU, UK and US have sanctioned Than Hlaing for his role in overseeing the military’s crackdown on the public, in which more than 1200 civilians have been killed and more than 10000 were arrested.[18]

The United Nations adopted a resolution on Rohingya titled “the Situation of Human Rights of Rohingya Muslims and Other Minorities in Myanmar”. The resolution was jointly tabled by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the European Union (EU). The resolution welcomed the appointment of the new Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar and requested a work plan for her engagements in Myanmar. It also called for effective implementation of the MoU between Myanmar, the UNHCR and the UND[19]P.

Chinese projects in Myanmar are again at high risk as they face protests from the local population. Apart from the issue of maintaining no transparency and accountability in implementing these projects, the issue of forcible land acquisition has surfaced. The preparations have started to seize 250 acres of land in the proposed Kyaukphyu KPSEZ industrial zone. The 250 acres of land belong to more than 70 local farmers from four village tracts. And now it has been revealed that out of those 250 acres of land, 60 acres belong to three unknown people who registered these land plots under Myanmar’s land ownership law. There is an allegation that 22 local farmers are illegally occupying the land. Similar incident was earlier reported during the construction of the offshore Shwe Gas field and pipeline project.[20]

India’s Engagements with Myanmar

Armed militants ambushed the Assam Rifles convoy in Manipur’s Churachandpur district and killed five soldiers, including Colonel Viplav Tripathi, his wife and their eight-year-old son. The Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) and Manipur’s Naga People’s front jointly claimed responsibility for the ambush. It has been argued that fighting the Myanmar military war against pro-democracy resistance groups may have emboldened the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), a Manipur-based extremist group. This also brings into question China’s re-establishment of its links with PLA Manipur and other like-minded groups in the backdrop of the situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).[21] Further, the Moreh Battalion of Assam Rifles recovered a large number of prefabricated Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) weighing approx 250 Kg along with a large quantum of other explosives and warlike stores.[22]

Mizoram governor, Hari Babu Kambhampati, stated that the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMMTTP) is almost nearing completion within the Mizoram side. Despite the pandemic, the Public Works Department completed several works of formation cutting (405 km) and construction of cement concrete pavements (90 km).[23] Mizoram plans to give COVID-19 vaccines to more than 12000 Myanmar nationals who are currently taking shelter in the state. The Mizoram government had also sent delegations to the Centre, seeking assistance for the Myanmar nationals; however, the Centre is yet to respond.[24]

Conclusion

The country is reeling under political, social and economic crises. The continued violence from both sides has increased the number of displaced people and pushed them to live in inhumane conditions. The political crises continue as the military government rule continues to thwart the return of democracy. The NUG claims to be the country’s legitimate leaders as they were democratically elected by the people of Myanmar, whereas the military rulers claim to be the rightful defenders of the country. The economic crises continue and the COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The UNSC states that the solution to the current crises lies in the pursuance of dialogue and reconciliation with the interests of the people of Myanmar.

Endnotes :

[1] https://elevenmyanmar.com/news/five-point-road-map-will-continue-sacs-chair
[2]https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/11/03/satellite-data-raise-fears-myanmars-army-setting-towns-ablaze#
[3]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/11/10/myanmar-military-accused-of-blocking-aid-to-displaced-civilians
[4]https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/locals-report-new-clash-between-arakan-army-military-in-maungdaw
[5] https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/arakan-army-releases-15-captives-arrested-during-armed-conflict-with-myanmar-military
[6] https://apnews.com/article/business-myanmar-telecommunications-assassinations-e244447c0b83e15215524a94a326a3fc
[7]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-loses-1300-soldiers-killed-over-last-month-nug.html
[8]https://indianexpress.com/article/world/myanmar-army-soldiers-abandon-crisis-7633925/
[9]https://www.metro.us/myanmar-opposition-raises-6-3/
[10] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmars-civilian-government-blacklists-junta-conglomerates.html
[11] https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/activists-urge-un-intervention-over-myanmar-army-offensives-2021-11-05/
[12]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-aims-to-wipe-out-armed-resistance-in-three-months.html
[13] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/un-security-council-expresses-deep-concern-as-myanmar-violence-worsens.html
h[14]ttps://globalnews.ca/news/8355169/myanmar-coup-crimes-against-humanity/
[15]https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/07/world/asia/myanmar-bill-richardson.html
[16] https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/japanese-envoy-sasakawa-says-he-told-aa-hold-its-fire-wake-brief-clash-last-week
[17] https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/snubbed-11102021183951.html
[18] https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/national-unity-government-calls-on-interpol-to-review-juntas-invitation-to-89th-general
[19] https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/rohingya-crisis/2021/11/18/united-nations-adopts-resolution-on-rohingyas
[20] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/china-backed-myanmar-infrastructure-project-leaves-farmers-landless.html
[21] https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/manipur-ambush-brings-china-role-in-northeast-back-in-focus-101636891328423.html
[22]https://www.eastmojo.com/manipur/2021/11/09/assam-rifles-recovers-huge-acache-of-explosives-along-indo-myanmar-border/
[23] https://thenortheasttoday.com/states/mizoram/9621-per-cent-work-on-multi-modal-transit-transport-project/cid5812373.htm
[24] https://www.eastmojo.com/news/2021/11/11/mizoram-mulls-covid-jabs-for-12000-myanmar-refugees/