Gavroche has selected for you some salient news in Burma during this past week. An essential news overview for anyone interested in this Southeast Asian country.
Myanmar’s military junta has declared martial law in 37 townships in eight of the country’s 14 states and regions, giving regional commanders absolute authority over areas where it faces strong resistance to its rule. The move was announced Thursday, February 2, a day after the regime extended the national state of emergency in place since taking power two years ago. Nearly a third of the affected communes are in the Sagaing region, where resistance forces allied with ethnic armed organizations continue to challenge the regime’s power. A total of 11 municipalities in the region are now subject to martial law.
On Saturday February 5, at the end of a two-day meeting in Indonesia, Southeast Asian ministers urged the Burmese junta to implement a five-point peace plan, adopted two years ago. years, in order to pave the way for a way out of the crisis in the country. Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, holds the chairmanship of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2023 and will host leaders’ meetings later during this year. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Jakarta had offered ASEAN members a plan to implement the “five-point consensus” agreed with the junta in April 2021, which called for an end to violence and dialogue between the military and representatives of the ousted government.
On February 1, 2023, on the 2nd anniversary date of the military coup, the United States released a new sanctions list covering the Union of Burma Election Commission, 2 public entities in the mining sector, and 6 individuals (including the Minister of Energy, 2 leaders of MOGE – the Burmese public oil and gas company, soldiers and leaders of private companies). Concomitantly, the United Kingdom adopted sanctions against two companies and two individuals linked to kerosene, while Canada announced additional sanctions against 6 individuals and a ban on exporting or selling kerosene to the army. Burmese. Australia announced sanctions against 16 individuals (all SAC members) and 2 military economic entities (MEC and MEHL).
The recent World Bank report on Burma (MEM – Myanmar Economic Monitor January 2023 – “Navigating Uncertainty”) anticipates a very modest recovery of 3% in economic activity for the fiscal year 2022/23 running until September next, after +3% in 2021/2022 and a sharp contraction of 18% in 2020/2021. Economic activity continued to be disrupted by ongoing conflict, power shortages, increased political uncertainty, and a sharp currency depreciation against foreign currencies. In this difficult context, recent economic indicators have been mixed: improvement in retail sales to return to the levels observed in the pre-pandemic period, recovery of the transport sector despite high costs, recovery of 3% in agriculture, but discouraging expectations for the industry. After peaking at 16.5% in 2021/2022, inflation should return to an annual average of 7% in 2023 in a context of falling world commodity prices. The current deficit (-4.7%) like the budget deficit (-6.7%) will widen during the 2023 fiscal year and the public debt should reach 62.3% of GDP against 37% in 2018/2019.
Divestment of the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund in a Chinese company and an Indian company. The Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund has announced that it has excluded two companies from its portfolio, a Chinese company AviChina Industry & Technology and an Indian company Bharat Electronics due to arms sales to the Burmese military government. At the end of 2021, this fund, valued at USD 1.3 billion, held 0.37% of the Chinese group and 0.32% of the Indian company.
PTTEP, the Thai public oil and gas group, has announced that it has delayed the development of block M3 “Aung Sinkha”, located in the Gulf of Martaban, of which it is the operator with 80% of the shares with its partner Mitsui Oil Exploration Company. The investment project, worth 2 billion USD, consists of the exploitation of this block and its connection by a 370 km offshore and onshore gas pipeline to a 600 MW combined cycle power plant, itself connected to an electrical transmission line.
The regime suspended issuing passports in December, although Burmese migrant workers could still obtain them under the memorandum of understanding between the Burmese government and relevant foreign governments. But since January 17, the junta has completely suspended the issuance and renewal of passports, as well as the acceptance of new passport applications. The reasons for this suspension and its duration were not specified by the regime. Workers’ rights advocates say the move is politically motivated, with the junta seeking to cut funds paid by overseas Burmese workers to the armed resistance known as the People’s Defense Forces. The suspension of the passport constitutes a violation of human rights, the union activists have said.
At a meeting of Burma’s National Defense and Security Council (NDSC) in Naypyitaw on Tuesday (January 31st), its members decided to extend the country’s state of emergency and the mandate of the Min Aung-led junta Hlaing for another six months. The junta leader submitted a report to council members taking stock of two years of military rule, as required by the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, which he used to justify his seizure of power during the coup d’etat of February 1, 2021. Section 425 of the charter states that “if the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services submits the extension of the prescribed term giving reasons why he has been unable to perform assigned duties,” the NDSC may “normally allow two extensions of the prescribed term for a period of six months for each extension.” The military declared a state of emergency for a year when they took power and have since extended it twice for six months each time. The most recent expired Wednesday, February 1.
A 12-hour shootout and burning of a refugee camp in a turf war along the Bangladesh-Burma border has brought back the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, a former armed insurgent group , under the projectors. Last month’s fighting between RSO members and Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgents left at least one person dead and forced hundreds of Rohingya refugees to flee the encampment. The violence was the first known act of open combat between the two militant groups, both of which claim to support the cause of the Rohingya against the Myanmar military.
More than 17,000 people have been detained by the Burmese junta since the coup, and more than 13,000 remain in detention. 143 of them have been sentenced to death, and the junta doubled down on its execution policy this week – indicating that many of those sentences will not be subject to appeal.