Myanmar Round Up: February 2024
Dr Cchavi Vasisht, Research Associate, VIF

01 February 2024 marked the third anniversary of the military coup led by Min Aung Hlaing, which overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. To continue its rule, the military extended the state of emergency. On the third anniversary of Spring Revolution, the National Unity Government (NUG) and revolutionary organisations, released a joint statement aiming to end military rule and establish a democratic federal union. The introduction of conscription law has created chaos in the country with people criticising the law and fleeing the country. Internationally, the imposition of additional sanctions by the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, aimed to cut off support for Myanmar's military regime and condemned its human rights violations. Thailand on the other hand, tried to address the crisis through diplomatic channels, humanitarian aid, and security measures. Furthermore, India's internal security concerns are rising as it is critically linked to the situation in Myanmar, including the potential withdrawal of the Suspension of Operations agreement with Kuki insurgent groups in Manipur and the suspension of the Free Movement Regime along the India-Myanmar border to curb smuggling and insurgency activities. This article below provides an overview of the complexity of the crisis, detailing the domestic turmoil, regional implications, and international responses.

Domestic and Political Situation

01 February marked the continuation of three years of military rule in Myanmar. The country has been engulfed in chaos and violence since Min Aung Hlaing, overthrew the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Min Aung Hlaing announced a further extension of the state of emergency and vowed to "crush" all resistance. This extension marks a continuation of the military's tight grip on power amidst increasing armed resistance from anti-coup forces and ethnic armed groups. The situation in Myanmar has deteriorated significantly, with the military losing control over territories and facing fierce opposition across the country.

With the extension of the emergency, the regime has further delayed the prospects of holding elections. The regime also dismissed its election body chief, Thein Soe, citing health reasons, and replaced him with Ko Ko. Thein Soe, known for his role in the undemocratic 2010 general election, was replaced amidst a cabinet reshuffle that also saw changes in the Shan State chief minister and other key positions within the government's civil service board and advisory bodies. [1] These moves reflect the ongoing efforts by the military regime to strengthen its hold on power amid widespread resistance and calls for democracy.

On the third anniversary of the Spring Revolution in Myanmar, on 01 February 2024, the country continued to resist the military coup. The National Unity Government (NUG) and three revolutionary organisations issued a joint statement, expressing their united aim to abolish military dictatorship, ensure all armed forces are under the control of an elected civilian government, and prevent the reinstatement of the 2008 military-drafted constitution. The statement highlighted six key objectives, including overturning the military's usurpation of power, revoking the 2008 constitution, drafting a new constitution that supports federalism and democracy, establishing a federal democratic union, and implementing transitional justice measures. The statement emphasised that elections held under the 2008 constitution would only perpetuate military rule and that the 2020 election results should be seen as a mandate for revolutionary change, not as support for the 2008 political framework. It outlined a vision for a post-revolutionary Myanmar led by all relevant revolutionary parties, firmly rejecting any future political role for the military.

The statement also suggested that if the military accepts these objectives, negotiations could begin to end military rule and transition peacefully to civilian governance. Despite some dissatisfaction over the limited number of groups involved in the statement, NUG officials have expressed confidence that the statement's positions are widely supported among revolutionary organisations. They aimed for broader representation in the future and have outlined a plan for continued resistance against the military, including forming a Transitional National Unity Government and establishing federal unit governments. [2] The statement underscored the groups' commitment to cooperation and collaboration to achieve their vision for Myanmar.

Additionally, the military activated the 65-year-old People’s Military Service Law, which mandated conscription for the first time since its coup. This law requires men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve in the armed forces for a minimum of two years, with the service period extending up to five years during emergencies. [3] The announcement sparked widespread fear among Myanmar's citizens, leading to early shop closures in major cities and some considering fleeing the country or joining resistance forces to avoid service. Critics argue that the military’s move could further alienate the public and strengthen the resistance by driving more individuals to voluntarily join opposition groups. Armed resistance groups have already reported a surge in voluntary recruitments following the conscription announcement.

Meanwhile, the NUG and its allies condemned the conscription law as illegal and a desperate attempt to cling to power, and vowed to take serious action against those enforcing it. [4] Few of the major achievements of the NUG and other ethnic armies include, capture of Myanmar military base in Si Kham Gyi village, Kachin State's Mansi Township, after a four-day battle starting on February 16. The base, strategically located on the border of Kachin and Shan states and used for logistical support by the regime, had been under military control for 30 years. Despite over 60 regime air strikes, the allies took the base, reporting ongoing clearing operations and continued air attacks. [5] The Arakan Army (AA) also significantly advanced its objectives in Myanmar's Rakhine State, capturing key locations including Mrauk-U, a historically symbolic city, alongside other territories in Rakhine and southern Chin State since November. [6] On the other hand, a market explosion in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state in Myanmar, resulted in civilian casualties, with the country's military and the Arakan Army (AA) blaming each other for the incident. [7]

Furthermore, Myanmar's State Administration Council declared martial law in Momeik and Mabein townships in Shan state to enhance security, law enforcement, and stability. [8] This move, part of the ongoing state of emergency since February 2021, grants extensive powers to the northern command's military commander amid rising tensions and unrest following the military coup. Martial law has raised international concerns regarding human rights and democracy in Myanmar.

International Responses

The United States imposed additional sanctions on Myanmar's military regime, targeting four individuals and two entities linked to the regime's military activities and arms production. The sanctions, announced by the U.S. State and Treasury Departments, aimed at cutting off revenue sources and material support for the military. The targeted entities include the Shwe Byain Phyu Group of Companies and Myanma Five Star Line, both connected to the military-controlled Myanma Economic Holdings Public Co. Ltd. (MEHL). [9]

Additionally, the UK imposed sanctions on two military divisions known for committing serious human rights violations and two state-owned enterprises that support the Myanmar security forces economically. The sanctioned military units are Light Infantry Divisions 77 and 101, both involved in attacks against civilians, including the use of excessive lethal force and engaging in practices like arbitrary arrests, torture, and sexual violence. The entities, Mining Enterprise 1 (ME1) and Mining Enterprise 2 (ME2), are sanctioned for their affiliation with the Myanmar Security Forces and for providing them with funds or other economic resources. To date, the UK has sanctioned 25 individuals and 33 entities under the Myanmar Sanctions Regime. Also, three individuals have been sanctioned under the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime. [10]

Alongside the sanctions, the UK, eight countries, and the EU issued a joint statement condemning the military regime's violence and repression, calling for international efforts to secure a peaceful and democratic future for Myanmar. The EU criticised the military's use of violence against civilians, including extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, and suppression of freedoms, which have led to over 2.6 million internally displaced people and continued discrimination against the Rohingya and other minorities. The statement emphasised the obstruction of inclusive dialogue by the Myanmar military, reiterated the EU's commitment to humanitarian assistance, and supported ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus for resolving the crisis. The EU also called for international preventive action, including an arms embargo, and expressed readiness to adopt further sanctions against those violating human rights and undermining democracy, reaffirming its support for Myanmar's democratic future. [11]

Furthermore, Australia announced fresh sanctions targeting five entities, including two banks (Myanma Foreign Trade Bank and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank) as well as three companies (Asia Sun Group, Asia Sun Trading Co Ltd, and Cargo Link Petroleum Logistics Co Ltd) involved in supplying jet fuel used in military airstrikes against civilians. This action adds to the list of 16 individuals previously sanctioned by Australia since 2021. Australia's decision reflects a shift from its initial hesitancy to impose further sanctions due to concerns about affecting its relationship with ASEAN members. As Australia prepares to host a special summit with ASEAN members in Melbourne, it is urged to advocate for the enforcement of these sanctions within the bloc and to consider additional measures against individuals and companies in Myanmar's extractive industries, which remain significant revenue sources for the military regime. [12] But despite imposition of sanctions, Amnesty International reports new evidence of the military’s tactics to evade sanctions and import aviation fuel, highlighting the need to halt all jet fuel imports to prevent lethal airstrikes.

Thailand, on the other hand, announced its commitment to intensify efforts towards resolving the crisis in Myanmar, expanding its engagement with a range of stakeholders, including regional officials, ethnic resistance organisations, and nations such as China, India, and the United States. Thailand has advocated for speeding up the establishment of a strategic partnership between Thailand and India, which has been under discussion for 12 years. This proposal will be a focus in the upcoming bilateral joint commission meeting co-chaired by Thai Deputy Prime Minister Parnpree Bahiddha-Nukara and India's External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. [13] In an interview with Nikkei Asia, Thai Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sihasak Phuangketkeow, detailed Thailand's accelerated initiatives to provide humanitarian support to those displaced within Myanmar. This includes the establishment of a coordination centre along the Thai-Myanmar border, which, with the collaboration of both the Myanmar and Thailand Red Cross Societies, will initially distribute food and medical supplies. He also stressed the importance of implementing ASEAN's five-point consensus to restore peace and democracy in Myanmar. Phuangketkeow critiqued ASEAN's policy of non-interference, arguing it should not prevent the bloc from addressing critical issues like the situation in Myanmar. [14]

While the crisis looms in Myanmar, Thailand planned to open a humanitarian aid corridor with Myanmar, aiming to provide aid through the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing. The initiative targets 20,000 internally displaced people. But these efforts are met with scepticism due to its limited scope and lack of engagement with ethnic minority forces. Critics argue that effective aid requires engaging with all parties, including ethnic armed forces and civil society, not just the Myanmar Red Cross. The National Unity Government stressed the importance of collaborating with ethnic resistance forces to effectively assist those fleeing conflict. [15]

The recent escalation of fighting near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border has prompted fear among local residents as bullets crossed into Bangladesh, resulting in numerous injuries. Two individuals were killed in Bangladesh when mortar shells from Myanmar, amid ongoing clashes there, struck Jalpaitoli village near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) reported treating a significant number of patients at Kutupalong Hospital due to the conflict. Bangladesh has heightened its border security in response and increased border patrols and restricted civilian ship movement on the River Naf since February 10. [16]

Additionally, the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) has disarmed and is holding 95 members of Myanmar's Border Guard Police (BGP) who crossed into Bangladesh amid the conflict. To repatriate the total of 330 defeated Myanmar military personnel back to Myanmar, Bangladesh is planning a covert operation by ship this week. The repatriation effort involves discussions between Bangladesh's foreign ministry and the Myanmar regime, with the Bangladesh Navy and Coast Guard being prepared for the task. Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud has confirmed the repatriation plans but has not provided a specific timeline due to security reasons. [17] Furthermore, Bangladesh has requested China's help in addressing the tensions along its border caused by clashes between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army rebel group. Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader conveyed this appeal during a meeting with Chinese Ambassador Yao Wen in Dhaka. The discussion also covered the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, with the Chinese ambassador promising support. [18]

India-Myanmar Engagements

The ongoing violence in Manipur has led the Indian Union Home Ministry to consider significant actions, including the potential withdrawal of the Suspension of Operations (SoO) agreement with 24 Kuki insurgent groups due to violations of its terms. The agreement currently mandates that these groups restrict their activities to designated camps and securely store their arms. The Manipur government has reported breaches of these rules, amidst a backdrop of ethnic clashes and missing arms and ammunition. This situation has prompted calls from state legislators for the termination of the SoO and for security forces to take action against insurgents, placing pressure on the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as it aims to sustain peace efforts in the region.

The Government of India has also announced the suspension of the Free Movement Regime (FMR) on the India-Myanmar border due to continued challenges from insurgent groups smuggling arms and drugs across the porous boundary. Despite resistance from tribal groups in Nagaland and Mizoram, the FMR remains suspended, similar to measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts are underway to address the complex task of fencing the porous India-Myanmar border, with discussions on land acquisition, jungle clearance, and contract awards ongoing. [19]


The situation in Myanmar remains deeply troubling, marked by ongoing violence, and military's extension of the state of emergency. The military attempts to solidify its power through actions such as the conscription law have only intensified the resolve of anti-coup forces and ethnic armed groups. Since the coup, over 4,468 civilians have been killed, and nearly 20,000 people are detained on political charges, as reported by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The UN and human rights organisations have accused the junta of crimes against humanity, including attacks on civilians, medical facilities, and schools. Despite sanctions from the EU, UK, US, and others, the military has found ways to import jet fuel through intermediaries, prompting calls for a more effective embargo and accountability measures against Myanmar's military leaders. Therefore, there is a need to engage with all stakeholders to ensure the cessation of violence and return to normalcy.



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