Myanmar Round Up: June 2021
Dr Cchavi Vasisht, Research Associate, VIF

According to the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a non-profit venture that tracks conflict, some 58 defence forces have been formed across the country. The announcement of the ceasefire by the military was mere eyewash as the conflicts have arisen in the rural areas and reaching country’s urban areas. As a consequence of the continued clashes, around 1, 20, 000 individuals have been displaced.

Myanmar is reeling under the third wave of COVID-19 and further added to the existing humanitarian crises and economic hardship since the military coup. Since the military coup, thousands of doctors and government services have taken part in the civil disobedience movement. Moreover, the military charged health care workers involved in protests under Section 505-A of Myanmar's penal code, which criminalises joining the civil disobedience movement or calling on others to do so. Currently, only army medical officers and doctors are working at COVID-19 treatment centers. Being run by the military, very few volunteers are participating in these centers. The community-based fever centers which helped contained the virus last year have been mostly shut due to the restrictions. Only 3.3% of the population had received at least one vaccine dose due to the current crises and limitations in receiving vaccines from India.1

Protests and Ethnic Conflicts Continue

Many parts of Chin State, Kayah State and Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay regions are struggled with clashes and violent outbreaks. These areas had not experienced conflicts in the past however, several factors have facilitated armed resistance. First, the hunting tradition helped the households with locally made flintlock rifles or shotguns, and knowledge of the local terrain. Second, the gunpowder required for flintlock rifles is widely available in these parts and can also be used to make improvised explosive devices. Third, north-western Myanmar is a conduit for weapons destined for insurgent groups in north-eastern India, and therefore, with the right contacts, the purchase of arms is feasible. 2

In one of the deadliest attacks, a military truck with soldiers on board was hit by a large explosion in Yangon’s Tamwe Township. More explosions went off near the Tamwe Market and the Tamwe traffic junction. However, no group has claimed responsibility. Another blast happened at the 68 Residence, a high-end condominium project owned by the family of the military cabinet member Thet Thet Khine. 3

On the other hand, the Arakan Army (AA) released six military personnel captured in clashes with the Myanmar military, signalling closer ties with the military. And on 27 June, the Arakan Army (AA) disarmed 20 police officers deployed around Mahamuni Buddha Temple in Kyauktaw, Rakhine State, without harming any individual. It was done as the villagers were afraid to visit the temple because of the military police presence. 4

During the month, the military also seized a large cache of weapons on a truck bound for Mandalay. Due to increased resistance and clashes, the military response with overwhelming force and deployed artillery barrages, airstrikes and helicopter gunships. As a consequence of attacks from the KIA and the military in northern Myanmar, a shell landed in their internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, Magar Yang camp. The military is using a “four cuts” counter-insurgency strategy in these areas, depriving insurgents of food, funds, recruits and intelligence on troop movements. For instance, the military isolated Chin’s Paletwa Township, restricting the movement of people and leading to a rise in food prices.

However, on 15 and 20 June, the military brokered a deal with the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) and Civilian Defence Force (CDF) to maintain a temporary ceasefire. 5 Many military officers are also joining the CDM. The Thanakha Global Alliance, during an online discussion, stated that around 800 military personnel had joined the CDM. Due to the increasing call to socially punish military personnel and their families, the discussion specifically aimed to create a feeling of trust between military personnel's who joined the CDM. 6

The military is also accused of corruption charges in Myanmar’s jade industry, according to the UK-based NGO Global Witness report. Even before the coup, the military tightened its grip on the lucrative jade trade, despite attempts to reform it. The resurgence of violence in these areas, for example, near the mines in Hpakant, Kachin state, is contributing to the region's instability. The report reveals that money from Hpakant is directly channelled into the trade in arms, fuelling violent conflict in northern Myanmar. The report also estimates that up to 90 percent of Myanmar’s jade is smuggled out of the country, mainly to China. Therefore, the report calls on the international community “to immediately ban the import of all jade and gemstones mined in Myanmar.” It further noted that China, as the main driver of demand for jade, has a vital role to play in addressing its role in corruption and conflict linked to the trade. 7

Rohingya Crises Gains Attention

The issue of Rohingya’s crises gained attention during the month as June 20 marks World Refugee Day. However, more than three years have passed, and they continue to face problems. It is interesting to note that on 03 June, the National Unity Government (NUG) released a three-page document on the country’s Rohingya community. It laid down a set of pledges and positions that mark a clear break from the past in the relationship between the Myanmar state and the stateless Rohingya community. It claimed that “all ethnic groups who are native to the Union have full enjoyment of individual rights held by individual people and collective rights held by ethnic groups.” The indirect implication of the document is to classify the Rohingya as a legitimate ethnic group of Myanmar and include it in the list of “national races” (taingyintha). The statement also accepts the violence and gross human rights violations inflicted by the military and guarantee “justice and reparation” for the community. 8

On the other hand, the military restructured the committee to present its case in the Rohingya genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The new team will now be led by the military regime’s foreign minister U Wunna Muang Lwin and will have eight members. Among the eight members, two are former military officers – U Wunna Muang Lwin and U Win Shein and two serving lieutenant generals - Yar Payae and Adjutant General Myo Zaw Thein. The remaining are U Ko Ko Hlaing, Daw Thida Oo, U Kyaw Hyo Htut, and Daw Khin Oo Hlaing. 9

International Responses

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that condemned the military’s use of lethal force and violence and supported the Special Envoy and regional bloc ASEAN efforts. Out of 193 Member States, 119 voted in favour of the resolution while, Belarus, voted against it, and 36 abstained. 10 However, before drafting the resolution, the Southeast Asian states urged the UN to reconsider its decision of arms embargo on Myanmar. They suggested the need to lead diplomatic efforts in handling the crisis and stopping the violence by promoting dialogue. The ASEAN leaders – minus regional bloc member Myanmar – sent a letter to Liechtenstein, which drafted the resolution on Myanmar for the UN General Assembly, proposing a watered-down version that would omit the clause on suspending weapons sales to the military junta. 11

Later during the month, Myanmar military leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing attended the International security conference in Moscow. During the visit, Min Aung Hlaing met Russian Security Council Secretary, Nikolai Patrushev and Defence Minister, Sergey Shoygu. 12

In Japan, the civil society organisations protested outside the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo to mark the four-month anniversary of the coup in Myanmar, and 42 civil society organisations, signed a petition criticising the lack of clarity in Japanese policy concerning Myanmar. They demanded the country “immediately sever the connection between military businesses and economic cooperation from Japan.” Japanese development assistance also came under fire for supporting projects that benefit the military. 13

The South Korean Shwe Natural Gas Project is also under scrutiny by civil society organisations. A consortium of six companies runs the project, two of which are South Korean private and public enterprises, POSCO International and Korea Gas Corporation (KOGAS), which hold 51 percent and 8.5 percent of the consortium’s share, respectively. The controversy arose as one of the shareholders is Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) – Myanmar’s national Oil and Gas Company. This prompted concerns that the gas business is financing the illegitimate military regime. As a result, around 104 South Korean NGOs called for the South Korean energy firms to immediately suspend dividend payments to the Myanmar military. 14

The European Union imposed a third round of sanctions targeting eight government officials and state-owned corporations, Myanmar Gems Enterprise, Myanmar Timber Enterprise and the Forest Products Joint Venture Corporation Limited. The Myanmar War Veterans Organization, an NGO that supports former Myanmar military members, was also sanctioned. 15

Impact on India

Gautam Adani-owned Adani Ports has been facing global scrutiny over its project to build a container terminal in Yangon on land leased from military-owned conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). The Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone limited received a setback as Norway’s largest pension fund KLP stated that it would divest because the container terminal is being built on land owned by the Myanmar military and there is an “imminent danger” the armed forces could use the port to import weapons and equipment, or as a naval base. In May, Adani Ports stated that they could abandon the Myanmar project if it were found to be in violation of sanctions imposed by the US. On 23 June, the company reiterated this stand and stated that it discussed with its US-based counsels to ensure that the company complies with the OFAC [Office of Foreign Assets Control] sanctions programs. 16

Following the military coup, cross border movements have increased. During the month, the chief minister of Myanmar's Chin state, Salai Lian Luai, has taken refuge in Mizoram. Mizoram police's Crime Investigation Department (CID) data showed that a total of 9,247 people of Myanmar are currently staying in at least 10 districts of the Mizoram.17 For the first time in four years, the Assam Rifles arrested five activists of the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) along with arms and ammunition. The operation was carried out by a joint team of the Lunglei Battalion of 23 Sector Assam Rifles and the Mizoram police based on specific information. 18

Justice for Myanmar (JFM) released a report stating that India continued to forge ties with the Myanmar military. Indian company Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) supplied seven shipments between February and March of military technology to Myanmar’s coup regime for coastal surveillance. The report was released by Justice for Myanmar (JFM). The items included electro-optic systems, radar video extractor receivers, VHF communications systems, graphics processors, workstation hardware, server storage, and batteries. 19


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concern that violence in Myanmar was intensifying and condemned the army's use of heavy weapons while urging a wider international diplomatic effort to pressure the military rulers. Michelle Bachelet said the junta had shown no willingness to implement a five-point consensus it agreed with the ASEAN in April to halt violence and start a dialogue with its opponents.

The military announced the suspension of all military activities from 01 to 30 June, except when security and administrative machinery of the government, State defence and administrative units are attacked. It also stated that the unilateral ceasefire would be used to facilitate the peace process with ethnic armed organisations. Nevertheless, the month marked an escalation in conflicts between EAOs and the military forces.

Internationally, the country is facing sanctions and international support and projects are under scrutiny. In addition, the cross-border movement of people from Myanmar seeking refuge in neighbouring countries has become an emerging problem for the overall region. Therefore, it is important that the military start negotiations with all the stakeholders, as the approach adopted since February is not reaping results.

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