Myanmar Round Up - July 2023
Dr Cchavi Vasisht, Research Associate, VIF

As the civil war continues in the country, nearly 1.9 million civilians have been displaced from their homes, according to the U.N.’s OCHA report update published on 15 July. Of the total displaced persons, the largest number — nearly 800,000 — are in Myanmar’s northwestern Sagaing region. The humanitarian situation remains fragile as the military authorities continue to impose restrictions on the aid organisations and movement of the people.[1] 56th ASEAN Foreign Minister’s meeting along with numerous other regional and bilateral meetings with neighbouring countries were key focus of interest during the month.

Domestic and Political Situation

During the month, the Supreme Court of Myanmar started hearing Aung San Suu Kyi’s appeals under Section 5 of the Anti-Corruption Law and Natural Disaster Management Act, Export and Import Act, and Section 505(B) of the Penal Code.[2] There were also reports of the military government moving Suu Kyi from prison to house arrest in the capital, Naypyitaw. Furthermore, for the first time a foreign official was allowed to meet Suu Kyi. On 09 July, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai met Suu Kyi. [3]

As the country is reeling under economic crisis and west imposed sanctions, the Central Bank of Myanmar decided to issue a new banknote of 20,000 kyats (about $9.50). A report on state-run MRTV television said the 20,000-kyat notes will be issued in a limited number beginning 31 July. The notes are imprinted with an albino elephant on the front and two bridges, a symbol of infrastructure development, on the back. Albino elephants are usually dubbed white elephants, symbols of good luck in several Southeast Asian cultures. The banknotes commemorate the first birthday of one such elephant and the construction of a giant Buddha statue in Naypyitaw.[4] In previous months, Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) also announced the soft launch of its Spring Development Bank (SDB), an online bank that aims to serve the needs of the anti-regime resistance movement. The SDB was established with an initial investment of USD 500,000 and its license was issued by the NUG’s Interim Central Bank. Additionally, NUG Pay, a digital payment system, has gained more than 28,000 users in the year since its launch in July 2022.[5]

The media and telecommunications sector is again under radar. On 09 July, the military claimed that Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) owes around 20 million kyats (about 8,500 Euros) and Mizzima owes around 80 million kyats (around 34,000 Euros) for using the Myanmar Radio and Television platform prior to the coup. However, representatives from both outlets stated that the lawsuit is invalid because it is being brought by a government that illegally seized power. The IPI global network condemned Myanmar’s military decision to sue these two media outlets for broadcasting fees incurred prior to the coup. Soon after the military coup, both these media outlets were shutdown without notice and had their offices raided and licenses officially canceled in March 2021.[6] Additionally, during the month, there were also calls to release Thaung Win, who was arrested in September 2022. On 28 June, the Western Yangon District Court sentenced Thaung Win, The Irrawaddy’s publisher, to five years in prison under Article 124-A of the penal code, which covers penalties for the anti-state crime of sedition along with a fine of 100,000 kyats (about US$47).[7] According to the International Federation of Journalists, at least 176 journalists have been arrested and four killed since February 2021.

International Engagements

At the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Volker Turk said that the Myanmar military was engaging in a “systematic denial” of humanitarian relief to the millions of civilians in need of help since it seized power in 2021. The military has deliberately obstructed supply of life-saving aid, which accounts for a calculated denial of fundamental rights and freedoms of the population.[8] As the Myanmar military continue its human rights violations, the European Union imposed a seventh round of sanctions targeting six persons and one entity, including the ministers for immigration and population, labour, and health and sports. Till date, the EU has imposed sanctions on a total of 99 individuals and 19 entities.[9]

Additionally, the EU released an additional €12.5 million to address the humanitarian needs of people in Myanmar, and Rohingya refugees and their host communities in Bangladesh. The humanitarian situation is worsening in Myanmar due to an escalation of the conflict and to the consequences of Cyclone Mocha. This new EU funding aims to respond to these pressing needs with an allocation of €7 million to ensure critical food assistance in Bangladesh; €4.5 million to provide food and health assistance in Myanmar and mitigate the consequences of the current funding gap; and €1 million to respond to the increasing protection needs of displaced people and refugees throughout the region, including in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and India.[10]


During the month, several meetings were held in Indonesia. ASEAN’s Foreign Ministers Meeting (FMM), was held from 11–12 July 2023. The joint communiqué of the FMM was released which reiterated the need to maintain 5PC as ASEAN’s “main reference to address the political crisis in Myanmar.” The communiqué expressed appreciation for Indonesia as chair, which intensified engagement with all stakeholders in Myanmar in order to arrange “an inclusive dialogue” for “a comprehensive political solution.” Finally, the FMM called for “continued support of the External Partners” including the UN and neighbouring countries of Myanmar (which includes India), “to work with ASEAN for concrete implementation of 5PC.”

However, the communiqué also reflected certain conflicted views within ASEAN on how to deal with the situation in Myanmar. The ASEAN foreign ministers were briefed by Thailand on its recent activities on Myanmar. The Thai government convened meetings of the representatives of Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, and later under the Track 1.5 Track format, with these and other neighbouring countries including India, China and Bangladesh. In July, the military allowed the Thai deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, to have an informal meeting with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Pramudwinai claimed that Suu Kyi favoured dialogue with the military. Following the ASEAN meetings, Thailand hosted BIMSTEC foreign ministers' meeting and Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC) meeting in Bangkok. Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar participated in the ASEAN-India ministerial meeting in Jakarta and related regional conferences. On the sidelines of MGC meeting, Indian counterpart held a bilateral dialogue with Foreign Minister of Myanmar, U Than Swe, where both sides shared importance of expediting infrastructure and connectivity projects, such as the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway (IMT Highway).[11]

In response, Myanmar’s military-led foreign ministry condemned the ASEAN for not mentioning its alleged efforts to restore democracy by “peaceful means”. The regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Myanmar categorically rejected the statement as it only included “unfair and one-sided facts without reflecting the efforts of the member state to restore a genuine democratic system by peaceful means.” The ministry’s statement said Myanmar could not accept “country-specific paragraphs” in any ASEAN statement as this contradicts the bloc’s principle of non-interference in members’ internal affairs.[12]

China-Myanmar Engagements

Chinese power companies are shutting down operations in Myanmar due to financial problems faced by the Myanmar military which is unable to pay dues to the power companies. The kyat’s decline against the US dollar has made generating power from LNG unfeasible under the rates agreed in electricity purchase agreements. Under the electricity purchase agreements, Myanmar agreed to pay a certain percentage of purchased units in US dollars, but as the sanctions are imposed, Myanmar can only pay in the Myanmar’s currency. As reported by the Irrawaddy, three of the four China-backed liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plants in the Kyaukphyu Township in western Myanmar have stopped work. The third power plant came to a stop recently after working intermittently since 2022. Two power plants had stopped operations in 2022. All three were operated by a Hong Kong-listed power generation company – V Power, which continues to operate other plants in Myanmar.[13]

Meanwhile, the data released by the customs department showed that China imports of rare earths from Myanmar had increased in the first six months of 2023. China as the world's biggest processor of the minerals stepped up production for its growing automotive and wind energy sectors. China imported 34,241 metric tons of rare earth ores and compounds from Myanmar in the first six months, 70 per cent more than the second half of 2022. According to Canada-based Adamas Intelligence, Myanmar has become China's biggest supplier of heavy rare earths in recent years, providing about 40% of its supplies of minerals including dysprosium, yttrium and terbium. Though trade was hampered due to COVID controls along its borders, but monthly shipments jumped in December 2022 when China abandoned most of its COVID measures.[14]

India-Myanmar Engagements

During the month, the MEA parliamentary panel in its 22nd report on India’s Neighbourhood First Policy, asked Centre to raise the issue of repatriation of illegal migrants with Myanmar Government and requested the Indian government to ensure that the development projects in Myanmar should not suffer on account of change in its political landscape.[15] Meanwhile, as the conflict and violence continues in India-Myanmar border, there has been new influx of refugees in Manipur and Mizoram. In response to the huge influx of people from across the border, Chief Minister N Biren Singh said construction of temporary houses at Sajiwa in Imphal and Yaithibi Loukol in Thoubal district was nearing completion. Last month, the Chief Minister stated that his government would build 3,000-4,000 pre-fabricated houses to accommodate people who had to flee from their houses because of the ethnic strife.[16]

Furthermore, the Mizoram government commenced the process of collecting biometric details of individuals across 11 districts, following an instruction from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs. With over 30,000 Myanmar nationals finding shelter in Mizoram since February 2021, this pilot project aims to record crucial biometric data to manage the situation effectively. Prior to this official exercise, the Mizoram government had independently conducted a profiling of the Myanmar nationals and had issued identity cards to them.[17] The month also witnessed multiple seizures of drugs across Manipur and Mizoram. Assam Rifles and other law-enforcement agencies in separate operations seized drugs and arrested few people.[18] The smuggling of betel nuts (Supari) from Myanmar to Manipur was also thwarted as security forces seized a total of 22.38 tons of contraband worth Rs 67.14 lakh. [19]


The month witnessed major developments in regional sphere. With the conclusion of ASEAN meeting and interactions with regional players, such as, Thailand, China and India, Myanmar remained the key focus of interest. Though Myanmar military continues to rule despite resistance from opposition forces yet the rise of opposition forces cannot be ignored. Myanmar continues to face armed conflicts, particularly in the northwest and southeast, with heavy fighting and air strikes killing civilians and destroying civilian properties, and the worsening humanitarian situation. ASEAN members concluded their foreign ministers meetings with a focus to end the violence in the country and implementation of FPC. There is a need to engage with all stakeholders to ensure the cessation of violence and return to normalcy.



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