Tag Archives: WhatshappeninginMyanmar

Myanmar Round-Up: October 2022

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

Political and Domestic Crisis

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

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

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

Economic Crisis

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

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

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

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

International Engagements

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

India’s Engagements with Myanmar

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

Endnotes :

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

Myanmar Generals Welcomed by Bangladesh Military Chiefs


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

Myanmar Round-Up: June 2022

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

Political and Domestic Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

Economic and Social Crisis

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

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

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

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

International Responses

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

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

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

India in Myanmar

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

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

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

Way Forward

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

Endnotes :

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

Myanmar Round-Up: May 2022

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

Economic Conditions

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

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

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

Domestic and Political Situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NUG and PDFs

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

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

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

International Responses

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

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

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

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

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

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

Way Forward

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

Endnotes :

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

Myanmar Round Up – December 2021

The ongoing conflict in the country between the military and opposition forces has resulted in a number of deaths and causalities and increasing human rights violations. The military forces are accused of killing around 1300 people and arresting more than 10,000 individuals. The UN Security Council has called for an end to violence in Myanmar. More than 500 rights groups have urged the United Nations (UN) to stop Myanmar army offensives. The military is also accused of blocking aid to displaced civilians. During the month, Myanmar also confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Domestic and Political Situation

On 10 December, Human Rights Day, a “silent strike” was organised to shutdown towns and cities as a sign of rejection of the military rule. Earlier also, a silent strike was organised on 24 March to disapprove of the military’s coup. In addition, a “Black Campaign” was also staged as individuals posted their pictures wearing black and flashing three-finger salutes of resistance. [1]

Myanmar’s many regions, such as the Sagaing region, Karen State, Shan State, and Kayah State, witnessed violent clashes between the military and ethnic parties.[2] The Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) released a report outlining human rights abuses; including helicopter gunship attacks against civilian targets, arbitrary abductions and use of civilians as human shields in Mutraw district.[3] The ethnic Kokang army clashed with Myanmar’s military in Shan State. The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) is also fighting around Kokang, Mongkoe and Hsenwi to gain control to the west of Salween River.[4]

The military is also resorting to old tactics and creating anti-Muslim and anti-Christian tensions. [5] According to International Christian Concern (ICC) reports, many incidents against Christians in Chin State are recorded, comprising 90 per cent of the Christian population. Myanmar is positioned at 19 on Open Doors 2021 World Watch List of places that are most difficult to be a Christian.[6] Myanmar military continues to burn houses and churches in the Chin State. The Chin Human Rights Organisation reported burning of the Thantlang town in Myanmar’s Chin State. According to Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), the Assembly of God Church and one of the Thantlang Association of Baptist Church buildings and many others were burned down by the military on 30 December. Further, a township court in Rakhine State sentenced 199 people (most of whom are Rohingya Muslims) to five years in prison under the Immigration Act for “illegally trying to migrate” to Malaysia. [7]

On the one hand, the military is attacking EAOs, and on the other hand, the military regime met with members of the Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee (FPNCC), excluding a few, in Shan State. The meeting was with a view to re-establish links with the EAOs. It has also been reported that China had aided in negotiations between the Myanmar military and members of the FPNCC. A representative from China was present at the meeting. [8] However, the same day, the military attacked the Karen peace town Lay Kay Kaw in Myawaddy Township, controlled by the Karen National Liberation Army Brigade 6. Earlier, the FPNCC member group MNDAA was attacked by a helicopter in Muse District in northern Shan State. [9]

The NUG is also taking steps to cooperate with different EAOs and providing them with military training and support. For instance, on 12 December, Duwa Lashi La, the acting president of the NUG, stated that they would like to work with the Arakan National League (ULA/AA) to overthrow the military dictatorship. Earlier, on 10 December, the Arakan Army (AA) warned the people that fighting could break out in Rakhine State and therefore, the people should be alert.[10]

The military recalled former service members to military duty as many soldiers are defecting. Former military dictator Senior General Than Shwe, rejoined the military, who had stepped down in 2011. [11] The country is also reeling under economic crises. During the month, it has been reported that the military is printing notes to address the monetary deficit. According to sources, an Uzbekistan Airways plane carried paper to print banknotes. [12] Further, on 24 December, the Myanmar military leader commissioned airplanes and helicopters marking the 74th anniversary of Myanmar Navy. Within this, Myanmar commissioned China’s Type 35B Ming-class submarine aka ‘UMS Minye Kyaw Htin’.[13] Myanmar’s military has also sought China’s assistance to build an internet firewall to curb the spread of information against the military.

This month, Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to a four-year jail on the first of the series of charges filed against her. However, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing reduced the four-year sentence to two years of house arrest. She faces ten other charges that could sentence her for the rest of her life. [14] In the case of possession and illegal importation of walkie-talkies, the verdict has been postponed until 10 January 2022. Further, during the month, another letter claimed to be by Suu Kyi was leaked, which stated that neither the CRPH nor the NUG is entitled to use the name of the NLD. But the authenticity of the letter is hard to prove.

International Responses

Justice For Myanmar called for an investigation and a global arms embargo over arms and military aircraft being sold to the Myanmar military. The report highlighted the involvement of the UN Security Council members including France, Russia, China, Holland and Italy in supporting the Myanmar military. [15] In addition, the United States with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, and the United Kingdom called for the international community to “suspend all operational support to the military”. The US is also exploring additional sanctions against the ruling military rulers in Myanmar.[16] Further, the European Union (EU) has stopped renting its official ambassador’s residence from the family of late Myanmar dictator General Ne Win after eight years. [17]

A UK-based NGO submitted evidence to the International Criminal Court (ICC) under Article 15 of the Rome Statute. The evidence proves that Myanmar military leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is guilty of crimes against humanity. Under the Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP), the organisation urged the court to open a criminal investigation into the widespread and systematic use of torture as part of the regime’s violent crackdown against the protest movement in the country. Similarly, the NUG is also working to prosecute Myanmar’s military at the ICC. Furthermore, despite the military ruling authority numerous attempts to replace envoy of the previous NLD government at the UN, the nine-nation Credentials Committee of the General Assembly deferred a decision on applications.[18]

During the month, Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Senmet Myanmar’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Wunna Maung Lwin, in Phnom Penh on 07 December. Hun Sen will assume the chairmanship of ASEAN next year, and he stated that he would visit Myanmar in the year 2022. ASEAN members denied Myanmar’s military attendance at the ASEAN Summit and the ASEAN-China Summit due to “insufficient progress” on implementing the peace plan. However, Hun Sen justified his engagement stating that Myanmar is a “family member of ASEAN” and therefore, it is essential to work with authorities of Myanmar. Hun Sen’s adoption of “cowboy diplomacy”, a term referring to risky and harsh diplomatic tactics, has worried the regional partners.[19]

Following the explosion that landed on the Thailand side, Thailand warned that it would return fire if more artillery shells by the Myanmar military landed again in Thailand. Thailand has also deployed troops along the Thai-Myanmar border and is conducting regular patrols. [20] Further, due to the increasing fleeing of individuals from Myanmar, Thailand has sent over 600 Myanmar refugees back across the border. [21] To date, around 2500 people have fled due to intense fighting between the Myanmar military and Karen National Union (KNU). [22]

Further, Japan has been condemned by Human Rights Groups for training Myanmar military cadets. According to the Defence Ministry Official, the National Defence Academy of Japan was still hosting eight cadets from Myanmar. The Human Rights Watch has suggested that the Japanese government cut ties with the Myanmar military and immediately suspend military study-abroad program involving Myanmar cadets.[23] Also, Japan’s Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa has said that Japan will continue to work for the repatriation of Myanmar nationals who have been forcibly displaced from Bangladesh. [24]

India in Myanmar

In the first such outreach since February 2021, India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla visited Naypyitaw and Yangon and met State Administration Council (SAC) chaired by General Min Aung Hlaing. As part of humanitarian support, India has provided 10 lakh doses of ‘Made in India’ COVID-19 vaccines and grant of 10,000 tonnes of rice and wheat to Myanmar. He also met members of civil society and political parties, including the NLD. However, the request to meet Aung San Suu Kyi was denied. [25] Before the visit, the Myanmar military handed over five militants of banned Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) to India. RPF is the sister wing of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). A police official, on condition of anonymity, said that a special flight brought the five Manipur-based RPF militants from Myanmar and handed them over to Manipur police. [26]

However, varied accounts were reported about the visit outcomes. The State-run Myanmar News Agency reported that the two discussed how the Myanmar military could discharge its State responsibilities, take efforts for counter-terrorism, and ensuring peace and stability in the border regions of both countries. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs stated that the Foreign Secretary had “emphasised India’s interest in seeing Myanmar’s return to democracy at the earliest; release of detainees and prisoners; resolution of issues through dialogue; and complete cessation of all violence.” However, no comment was made on the difference between the statements issued in Yangon and New Delhi.[27]

Conclusion

Data from ACLED, analysed by Altsean Burma, shows a 632 per cent increase in armed clashes and attacks compared to 2020. However, the prevalence of violence cannot be the answer to the current crisis. Myanmar is experiencing one of the worst crises since its independence. Furthermore, the new variant of COVID-19 can expose the country’s health care system to risks. According to the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, three million people across Myanmar need life-saving humanitarian assistance because of rising conflict and insecurity, the pandemic, and a failing economy. The military is also accused of blocking humanitarian aid from reaching displaced people. The military has imposed new travel restrictions on humanitarian workers, blocked access roads and aid convoys, destroyed non-military supplies, attacked aid workers and shut down telecommunications services. Therefore, the military must reverse its actions and engage in constructive dialogue with all stakeholders.

Endnotes:

[1]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-set-to-shut-down-with-silent-strike-to-defy-junta.html
[2]https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/dec/09/eleven-villagers-shot-and-burned-alive-by-myanmar-soldiers-reports-say
[3]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/1/myanmar-army-helicopter-attacks-force-thousands-to-flee
[4]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/kokang-armed-group-reports-escalating-fighting-with-myanmar-junta.html
[5]https://www.smh.com.au/world/asia/divide-and-rule-myanmar-junta-weaponising-racial-tensions-20211203-p59eid.html

Burmese Army Fires Weapons Targeting Churches in Chin State


[6]https://thealabamabaptist.org/two-pastors-killed-christians-targeted-by-burmese-army/
[7]https://myanmar-now.org/en/news/more-than-100-rohingya-fleeing-persecution-in-rakhine-state-sentenced-to-five-years-in-prison
[8]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/china-facilitates-myanmar-junta-and-ethnic-armies-talks.html
[9]Other members of the FPNCC include the United Wa State Army and the Arakan Army. None of the seven groups has signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. However, the KNLA’s political arm, the Karen National Union, signed the peace agreement in 2015 and the Burma Army is still attacking its troops. https://www.bnionline.net/en/news/junta-meets-fpncc-mongla
[10]https://www.mizzima.com/article/national-unity-government-nug-makes-overtures-aa-overthrow-military
[11]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/junta-watch-coup-leaders-wife-draws-public-ire-suu-kyis-new-charge-and-more.html
[12]https://www.irrawaddy.com/business/economy/uzbek-plane-supplies-myanmar-junta-with-banknote-paper.html
[13] https://www.naval-technology.com/news/myanmar-commissions-type-35b-submarine/
[14]https://www.irrawaddy.com/opinion/guest-column/a-new-politics-is-taking-shape-in-myanmar.html
[15]https://www.mizzima.com/article/un-security-council-members-complicit-arms-sales-myanmar-military-junta-ngo
[16]https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/15/the-us-is-exploring-additional-steps-against-myanmars-military-leaders-blinken-says.html
[17]https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/eu-stops-renting-residence-from-former-myanmar-dictators-family.html
[18]https://www.nytimes.com/2021/12/01/world/americas/united-nations-taliban-myanmar.html
[19]https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/12/22/cambodias-cowboy-diplomacy-in-myanmar-isolates-asean
[20]https://www.mizzima.com/article/thailand-warns-myanmar-it-will-return-fire-if-more-artillery-shells-land-its-territory-again
[21]https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/thailand-sends-refugees-back-myanmar-clashes-continue-2021-12-19/
[22]https://www.thestar.com.my/aseanplus/aseanplus-news/2021/12/18/more-than-2500-flee-to-thailand-as-rebels-clash-with-myanmar-army-gets-more-heated-up
[23] https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/12/21/japan-cut-defense-ties-myanmar-military
[24]https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/japan-assures-repatriation-displaced-citizens-myanmar-337921
[25]https://theprint.in/world/india-provides-10-lakh-doses-of-covid-19-vaccines-10000-tonnes-of-rice-and-wheat-to-myanmar/786263/
[26]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/rest-of-world/myanmar-army-hands-over-5-militants-to-manipur-police/articleshow/88304702.cms
[27]https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/myanmar-statement-on-shringla-visit-differs-from-indian-line-on-restoring-democracy/article38030897.ece