As the country proceeds with the election year 2023, the military and its part Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP) are gearing up for elections in 2023, while the National Unity Government is refusing to recognise the elections. The conflict continues between the military and opposition forces, and there is an increasing number of casualties and human displacement. The military court sentenced Aung San Suu Kyi to another seven years of prison for corruption charges, with a total of 33 years in prison. During the month, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution asking the military to end violence and release all political prisoners. In the United States, both houses of the legislature passed the BURMA Act, which now awaits President’s approval. Further, due to “no visible progress” on the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus, ASEAN excluded the Defence Minister from ASEAN Defence Minister’s meeting. Though, Thailand hosted an informal meeting with Myanmar’s military leaders, along with Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos. Finally, after an informal ceasefire between Arakan Army and Myanmar military, India is speeding up the implementation of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Project, but there are increasing concerns because of human and drug trafficking across India-Myanmar borders. The major national and international developments in December 2022 are discussed in the article below.
Domestic and Political Situation
Myanmar’s military replaced village tract and ward administrators in Yangon with members of the military-backed USDP. The move comes after USDP chair U Khin Yin introduced a security framework for party members. Yangon has been the centre of conflict and has witnessed brutal crackdowns and mass arrests of protesters. The details of the replacement were leaked from the Yangon General Administration Department, which stated the department had permitted to replace 72 village tract and ward administrators and 292 hundred-household heads. China has also launched an outreach to assist the USDP ahead of the elections.
On the other hand, Duwa Lashi La, the acting president of the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG), in an interview with Khmer Times, refused to recognise the elections and claimed that NUG is in control of 60 per cent of the country. He condemned the military Government’s acts of violence and called for ASEAN and other international communities to give them the same support they have been providing to Ukraine. However, he also added that there is room for negotiation and political dialogue but only when the military recognises its fault and “there is punishment for those who committed the hideous crimes”.
Major clashes were reported during the month. The military carried out a three-day attack on Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) base located in Laukkai Township, Shan State. The troops blocked roads and set up checkpoints to search vehicles entering and exiting Laukkai. In 2021, the MNDAA—as part of the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee—met with representatives of the Myanmar military, but the agenda and results of the meeting were not disclosed. However, a few days later, the military launched a major offensive against the group in Muse Township. 
The opposition forces also carried out attacks on the military. On 17 December, the resistance forces attacked a military air base in Yangon’s Hmawbi Township. Hmawbi People’s Defence Force (PDF) and allied resistance groups claimed responsibility for the attack. Since the coup, the military regime has escalated its airstrikes against PDFs, ethnic armed organisations and civilian targets. As the PDFs lacked anti-aircraft missiles, they started targeting military air bases in Yangon, Mandalay and Magwe regions. Incidents were also reported in Kachin and Mon states and Sagaing, Magwe and Mandalay regions. The military also suffered heavy casualties in clashes with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in Shan State starting on 07 December. After six days of fighting, TNLA gained control of four villages from the military. Later, Myanmar clarified that it was targeting the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs), not the TNLA, and on 17 December, the two sides reached an agreement
In addition, the military is reportedly resupplying its troops in Rakhine State despite an informal ceasefire between the Arakan Army and the military. Furthermore, despite lifting travel restrictions, the regime continues to block the Ponnagyun-Rathedaung and Minbya-Myebon roads and waterways in Ann Township.  The NUG, on the other hand, invited more people to join the revolution. In the latest call to soldiers, police and civil servants, the NUG asked them to join the revolution as informants if they can’t defect. The NUG issued the invitation because intelligence needs are growing as the revolution accelerates. NUG’s statement promised protection of the Ministry of Defence and rewards for informants depending on the level of information sent. However, this also raises concerns as now the regime would further tighten restrictions on telecoms and closely monitor phone and internet use among its members.
While the conflicts and violence continue, the military has extended its ceasefire agreement with Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) until the end of 2023. The agreement was extended to boost the peace process in Myanmar. On the contrary, the seven ethnic armed organisations, which are signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), failed to arrange an informal meeting with Myanmar’s regime. The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), New Mon State Party, Karen National Union/Karen National Liberation Army Peace Council (KPC), Arakan Liberation Party, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, Pa-O National Liberation Organisation (PNLO) and Lahu Democratic Union on 07 December proposed a meeting with Lieutenant General Yar Pyae, Chairman of the National Solidarity and Peace Negotiation Committee. Meanwhile, the Karen National Union (KNU), which is a signatory to the NCA but fighting the regime, said it has no plans to hold talks.
During the month, the final hearings of the Aung San Suu Kyi case were held, and she was sentenced to 33 years of prison in total. In the recent hearing, she was sentenced to seven years on five charges of corruption, thereby totalling 33 years in prison.  Meanwhile, in her first public comments, she said she was proud of young Burmese people and all those struggling to defend and fight for democracy. The message was shared via her Australian former economic adviser, Sean Turnell, who was released by the regime in November 2021. In an interview with News 10, he said he met Suu Kyi when they were sentenced.
The month also marked the celebration of the founding of the Myanmar Air Force and Navy. The Chairman of the State Planning and Administration Council, Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, General Min Aung Hlaing, opened the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Myanmar Air Force and Navy, in which new aircraft and helicopters were commissioned into service. The major attraction this year was the acquisition of the Sukhoi Su-30SME fourth-generation multi-purpose fighter aircraft. In addition to the 75th anniversary of Myanmar’s independence celebrations in January 2023, the State Administration Council issued two types of new gold coins; a tical and a half-tical (one tical is approximately equivalent to 16.33 grams).
Economic and Social Situation
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group, divested from Yoma Bank after its business with military companies was exposed, according to Justice For Myanmar (JFM). In 2020, Yoma Bank extended a loan to Pinnacle Asia, a Myanmar company owned by Khin Thiri Thet Mon, daughter of military chief Min Aung Hlaing. The loan funded the company’s construction of telecom towers for the military-owned mobile operator, Mytel. IFC has now sold its 4.5 percent stake in Yoma Bank to First Myanmar Investment (FMI) for USD 5 million.
As a result of the Russia-Ukraine war, there has reportedly been a rise in the cost of fertilisers leading to a shortage in the production of food in Myanmar. Myanmar farmers rely on imported fertiliser, and its rising international prices, along with the devaluation of the kyat, have driven up the prices of agricultural inputs. The International Food Policy Research Institute reported that Myanmar’s rice productivity dropped 2.1per cent during last year’s monsoon season. Yields declined significantly in Kayah and Chin states, both affected by conflict and high costs of inputs. IFPRI said the prices of fertiliser based on urea increased by 56per cent and the mechanisation costs rose by 19 per cent, while the paddy prices at the farm rose by just 8per cent. In a separate survey of millers, IFPRI reported that 91per cent of the millers stated limited access to electricity and affordable fuel as their most significant disruptions, leading to a decline in output by 20per cent. However, the regime’s Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation said that the country was sufficiently producing, and the country expects to grow over 17 million acres of paddy in the current fiscal year.
As a result of continued violent attacks, Myanmar nationals have travelled across waters to reach a safe place. This month Sri Lanka Navy rescued 104 distressed Myanmar nationals aboard a passenger vessel in Sri Lanka’s waters. The distressed vessel is reported to have trespassed due to a mechanical failure while it was carrying passengers from Myanmar to Indonesia. Malaysia, on the other hand, lifted the stay on deportation of Myanmar nationals. The court lifted a stay on the deportation of 114 Myanmar nationals, clearing the legal obstacles to their deportation and raising concerns about the likely threats to their safety if sent back to Myanmar. In February 2021, the Malaysian court imposed a stay to delay the deportation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals, which the government ignored. Despite the High Court imposing a temporary stay, the government deported 1,086 people. The 114 were left behind in immigration detention because they had tested positive for COVID-19.
During the month, three more Burmese journalists were sentenced to prison. The latest victim is Soe Yarzar Tun, a Yangon-based freelancer who was sentenced by the special court inside Yangon’s Insein prison on 16 December to four years in prison with hard labour under Section 52 (a) of the Counter-Terrorism Law. While the cases of human trafficking have increased across Myanmar borders, Brigadier General Aung Htay Myint, head of the Transnational Crime Division, reported that they successfully prevented 81 cases of human trafficking, helping a total of 840 people between 2020 and 2021. He revealed the information during the 5th inter-ministerial meeting of the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative against Trafficking – COMMIT, which took on via video link at the Myanmar Police Force headquarters. The meeting was attended by representatives from COMMIT countries — Cambodia, China, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam and officials from the COMMIT Secretariat. The meeting was chaired by Thailand, and the member countries discussed the development of the Transn,ational Referral Mechanism (TRM) and the designing of a Mekong sub-regional work plan.a href=”#_edn19″ name=”_ednref19″>
The major development during the month was the adoption of the resolution on Myanmar by the United Nations Security Council. On 21 December, the 15-member council adopted a resolution which demanded an end to violence and called on the country’s military rulers to release all political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi. 12 members voted in favour, but India, China and Russia abstained. The resolution was first tabled in September 2021 by the United Kingdom. The language of the resolution was widely debated to avoid any veto against it from Russia and China.
The Myanmar military, however, rejected the resolution and accused the UNSC of trying to “destabilise” the country. The military released a statement which stated that the resolution includes “several intrusive elements on Myanmar’s internal affairs that contravene the principles and purposes of the United Nations” and instead claimed that the situation in Myanmar was “solely internal affairs” of the country and “in no way poses any risk to international peace and security.”  During the month, the United Nations General Assembly Credentials Committee agreed to uphold the status of Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun as the permanent representative of Myanmar to the United Nations. Kyaw Moe Tun was appointed to his position in 2020, but since the military takeover, the military has made numerous attempts to remove him from this position.
Another major international development was the passing of the BURMA Act by both houses of the United States (US) legislature as part of the National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA). The act aims to provide non-military aid to the parallel National Unity Government (NUG) and its affiliate organisations, including the National Unity Consultative Council, the People’s Defence Forces (PDF) and ethnic armed organisations (EAO). The Burma Act also authorises measures to prevent the military regime from acquiring weapons and expands sanctions against military businesses. The act authorises political support for establishing federalism, as well as humanitarian aid and technical support for anti-military forces. It also promises action against perpetrators of war crimes. The NDAA will help the Myanmar people if brought into law after signing by US President Joe Biden. The US also included Myanmar on the list of 12 countries that are of “particular concern” for religious freedom violations. They reported that the Christian minorities now face persecution similar to what the Rohingya have faced. 
Canada became the first country to impose sanctions on Myanmar military jet fuel suppliers, Asia Sun Group, a Myanmar conglomerate. Asia Sun Group is a local partner of the Myanmar military and is involved in procuring, storing and distributing jet fuel. Asia Sun Group’s role in the Myanmar military’s jet fuel supply chain was detailed in the Amnesty International report, Deadly Cargo, with research supported by Justice For Myanmar. In the past few months, the military conducted indiscriminate airstrikes to wage war against anti-military revolutions. Canada also sanctioned key Myanmar military arms brokers, Dynasty International Company Limited and International Gateways Group. The groups have also been sanctioned by the US and UK.
The European Union also excluded Myanmar from the representation at the meeting in Brussels with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 14 December. Since the coup, the EU has imposed rounds of sanctions on Min Aung Hlaing and military-controlled conglomerates and companies, the latest ones being in November 2022. In addition, the EU has allocated around 6.5 million Euros for the support of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in its efforts to tackle the humanitarian food crisis in Myanmar.
Furthermore, ASEAN excluded Myanmar from the ASEAN Defence Minister’s meeting. Defence Minister from major ASEAN events due to “no visible progress” on the implementation of the 5PC< Even Prak Sokhonn, ASEAN’s Special Envoy on Myanmar, cancelled his third announced trip to the country. While it is reported that the visit is cancelled due to time constraints as he has to attend the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit in Brussels, it rather reflects growing tensions between the regional bloc and Myanmar’s military regime. However, Thailand, in contrast, has tried to maintain relations with the military as usual. Thailand hosted interested members of ASEAN to an open-ended consultative meeting on the situation in Myanmar on 22 December. Government ministers of Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam met with military representatives to “find pathways towards a return to normalcy”. Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin attended along with Kan Zaw, Minister for Investment and Foreign Economic Relations, and Ko Ko Hlaing, Minister for International Cooperation. However, the meeting was not attended by Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Later the NUG strongly urged ASEAN not to waver from its policy of excluding the country’s military leaders from its meetings.
Furthermore, Thailand’s newly appointed Ambassador to Myanmar, Mongkol Visitstump, presented his credentials to the State Administration Council and Prime Minister Min Aung Hlaing on 07 December. He discussed a wide range of issues in bilateral ties, including trade, investment and tourism. The ambassador later met with Soe Win and discussed the long-delayed Dawei Deep Sea project. Thailand also did not officially open any temporary safe zones along the border and did not make any official records of new refugees arriving from Myanmar, further pushing back the Myanmar nationals into the country.
China’s engagement with the Myanmar military gets closer as China delivered six FTC-2000G fighter jets to the regime’s air force. The six fighter jets are currently being checked over at Meiktila airbase in Mandalay Region. The deal for the fighter jets was signed in January 2022, with each fighter plane costing about USD 9 million. Pilots, engineers and armament officers of the Myanmar Air Force visited China in June 2022. These visits relate to the training of the MAF personnel. The month also witnessed the visit of Pakistan Colonel Imran Khan to Myanmar to discuss military cooperation. The two-day visit was from 29 November-01 December. A 10-member team from the Myanmar Air Force (MAF) is currently in Pakistan undergoing training on precision targeting in air operations and on the JF-17 jet fighter.
Moreover, on 02 December, a forum on China-Myanmar economic cooperation was held to enhance economic and investment cooperation between the two countries. The forum was organised by the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) with the theme “China’s New Development and China-Myanmar Cooperation”. According to Myanmar’s Ministry of Commerce, during the first half of the 2022-23 fiscal year, China was Myanmar’s largest trading partner. Also, the China-funded Kyaukphyu Anargat (Future) Mobile Clinic project in Myanmar’s Rakhine State entered its final stage in December. The project is already providing free healthcare services to around 1,500 villagers.
During the month, the second Russian trade delegation visited Myanmar to boost bilateral economic ties. Russian economic development minister Maxim Reshetnikov met Min Aung Hlaing and his ministers and signed seven agreements. Min Aung Hlaing and Reshetnikov discussed technical cooperation in arable and livestock farming and iron and steel, pharmaceuticals, mining and energy production. They also discussed the formation of Myanmar-Russian Friendship and Cooperation Associations in Myanmar and plans to boost bilateral cultural cooperation. In addition, the third Intergovernmental Russian-Myanmar Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation was held in Naypyidaw.
India and Myanmar
After the informal ceasefire between Arakan Army and Myanmar military, India is pushing for the finalisation of its transport project linking the two countries. Indian Consul Jay Krishna met military-appointed Rakhine State Chief Minister Dr Aung Kyaw Min and discussed the official opening of the Sittwe seaport and its Kaladan River route inland through Rakhine’s Kyauktaw to Paletwa in Chin State. They also discussed the incomplete section of the project — a two-lane highway running 109 kilometres from Paletwa to Zorinpui on the Myanmar-India border. The sea-river-road transport route will link Kolkata with Sittwe Port over the Bay of Bengal.
During the month, the Assam Rifles seized 600 Kg of Brown Sugar in Manipur’s Chandel district bordering Myanmar. Given the rise in the number of seizures along the India-Myanmar border, the Manipur government stated that it set up more outposts. Manipur Chief Minister inaugurated the Sangaithel police outpost in Imphal West district and said that more outposts would also be set up along the India-Myanmar border to check illegal immigration, smuggling activities, and cross-border crimes. The Indian Government is also planning to fence a few spaces of the India-Myanmar border, but several local organisations from Manipur are raising objections against the scheme. The issue was raised in the Indian Parliament on 14 December by Manipur’s representative, Leishemba Sanajaoba. The United Committee Manipur (UCM), an apex body of 32 civil society organisations in Manipur, warned that an agitation opposing the move would be launched if the government goes ahead with the fencing project. The UCM alleged that Myanmar had encroached around 5 km into Manipur along Border Pillar 103 after a visit to the spot by a team of the apex body. According to the annual report of the Indian Home Ministry, only 136 km at the Lohit sub-sector in Arunachal Pradesh and 35 km at Kabaw Valley in Manipur are “undemarcated”.
Marking World Human Rights Day, 08 December 2022, Tom Andrews, the UN Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar, urged the world countries to take robust actions for the people of Myanmar. There have also been calls for the British government to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, as it did with Ukraine.  As Myanmar inches closer to the elections in 2023, it is important that all stakeholders are involved in the discussion to conduct free and fair elections. The increasing violence and conflict between the military and opposition forces are creating humanitarian loss and economic and social harm to citizens, which needs immediate attention. Myanmar itself needs to find solutions within its own social and political structures to address this crisis.
 he MNDAA is also a member of the Brotherhood Alliance, which includes the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army. https://www.myanmar-now.org/en/news/military-launches-major-assault-on-kokang-base-on-china-myanmar-border
The other eleven countries on the blacklist are China, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua and North Korea for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act 1998. https://www.ucanews.com/news/myanmar-remains-on-us-religious-freedom-blacklist/99631
Designed and manufactured by Guizhou Aviation Industry Corporation under the supervision of state-owned aerospace and defence firm Aviation Industry Corporation of China, the FTC-2000G is a light multi-role trainer and combat aircraft. It is capable of carrying up to 3 tons of missiles, rockets or bombs and is tasked mainly with airstrikes against ground targets, according to aerospace news portal Defence World. It can also be used for flight training, aerial surveillance, patrol missions, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, close-in air support, and air escort missions. The FTC-2000G is in service with the Navy and Air Force of the People’s Liberation Army and costs US$8.5 million per unit. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-takes-delivery-of-ftc-2000g-fighter-jets-from-china.html
The training is believed to be an attempt to fix the problems that have left the MAF’s JF-17s grounded due to technical malfunctions. Myanmar bought 16 JF-17s from China. The first batch of six aircraft was delivered in 2018, but details about the delivery date for the other 10 remain unclear. Myanmar was the first country to buy the JF-17. https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-junta-and-pakistan-boost-military-ties.html
Designed by the China International Trust Investment Corporation (CITIC) Consortium and funded by the Yunnan Aid, the mobile clinic project was being implemented by the local civil society organisation Kyaukphyu Socio-Economic Development Assistance Association (KSEDAA) https://english.news.cn/20221225/901aae31441645598734361054399504/c.html