Myanmar Round Up: April 2021
Cchavi Vasisht, Research Associate, VIF

It has been three months since the military takeover, and the protest movements and civil unrest continues. More than a hundred protestors were killed in the violence inflicted by Myanmar’s military, and the military further expanded the internet shutdown curbing access to information and freedom of expression. The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a body formed of lawmakers elected in the November 2020 elections, appointed Myanmar’s acting vice president as an interim prime minister. To give itself structural and functional recognition, CRPH announced its interim cabinet members, including a president, state counsellor, vice president, prime minister, 11 ministers for 12 ministries and 12 deputy ministers and thereby formed a National Unity Government (NUG). Internationally, the country faced condemnation. Few western nations have imposed further sanctions, and multinational companies face pressure to cut off ties from the military-led companies.

Changes in Domestic Political Situation

The CRPH finalised the composition of the interim cabinet after conducting a series of meetings between CRPH members and the leaders of ethnic political parties and EAOs. Out of the total 26cabinet members, 13 belong to ethnic nationalities. The cabinet would function in accordance with the political roadmap outlined in the Federal Democracy Charter, published on 31 March 2021, which abolished the military-drafted 2008 Constitution. Under the charter, there are also plans to establish a National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) to coordinate cooperation among federal democracy forces.

Many ethnic political parties and EAOs have joined NUG, such as the Karen National Union (KNU), the Restoration Council for Shan State (RCSS), and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).1 Despite receiving an invitation from CRPH, the Arakan Army refused to participate. The All Arakan Students’ & Youths’ Congress (AASYC) welcomed the formation of the NUG.2 To gain the trusts of EAOs, the CRPH removed all “ethnic armed revolutionary organisations” from the lists of “terrorist groups” and “unlawful associations” on 10 March.3

The court hearings of Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint were further postponed due to a lack of internet service at the Naypyitaw court. It has been reported that the military had cut off all mobile data and few Wi-Fi services nationwide to curb communication and protest activities. Earlier, in March, twice the hearings were cancelled for the same reason. The military has accused Aung San Suu Kyi under four charges; including incitement, using unlicensed walkie-talkies in violation of the Export and Import Law, breaching public health restrictions during the 2020 election campaign period breaching the Natural Disaster Management Law, and violating the Telecommunication Law’s for possessing or using restricted communication equipment.

Protest and Social Unrest Continues

The military continues to resort to violent attacks against the protestors. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) stated that at least 738 people had been killed since the 01 February coup, and more than 3,300 people put under detention, including 20 who have been sentenced to death. The military, however, has disputed the numbers, putting the figure at "merely" 248.

The protestors called for a “flower strike” at bus stops where security forces killed demonstrators. The protestors also launched a Blue shirt campaign on social media, wearing blue shirts and holding up a hand with an arrested person’s name written on it. The shirts are a tribute to pro-democracy activist Win Tin, who was imprisoned by the military for 19 years and died on 21 April 2014. After his release, he pledged to wear a blue shirt until all political prisoners were freed.

In the North, the Kachin Independence Organisation launched a series of attacks on military outposts. 4 On 18 April, the military shelled the RCSS Loikaw Wan base.5 Analysts warn that there is a risk of civil war if the military continues to attack the protestors. There are chances that the EAOs may organise a rebellion against the military.

Since the military took power, they released a second batch of prisoners to mark the traditional New Year holiday. It is customary in Myanmar to release prisoners earlier than their completion period to mark major holidays. Earlier on 12 February, more than 23,000 convicts were released to mark Union Day. More than 600 people who were imprisoned for demonstrating against the coup were also released from Insein Prison to appease the protest movement.6 However, the protestors did not celebrate the Thingyan as they traditionally did. The day saw at least four people killed and dozens arrested.

International Responses

There was a call for an immediate ceasefire at the informal UNSC meeting on Myanmar, known as the Arria-formula meeting. The UN representative of the disposed government, represented by CRPH, Khaw Moe Thun, called for an arms embargo, declaration of a no-fly zone and more targeted sanctions on the military. Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN special envoy on Myanmar, showed regret that the Myanmar military was not ready to receive her in her visit to Thailand. Though, in the initial conversation after the coup, the Deputy Chief of Staff Gen Soe Win, the military leader assigned to brief her on the situation in Myanmar, held an extensive dialogue with her. However, later she released harsh comments and condemned the situation. Due to this, the military went in self-isolation from the UN. Soe Win stated that Myanmar would "learn to walk with few friends.” This clearly states that the Myanmar military is choosing isolation over losing any power.7

The Indonesian President initiated the ASEAN Leaders meet on 24 April at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta to discuss the crisis in Myanmar. This is an exception to the ASEAN mandate, as ASEAN does not discuss specific political crises. ASEAN limits its interference in political issues because “non-interference in domestic matters” is one of the key mandates. However, to avoid isolating Myanmar, the grouping initiated the dialogue. Indonesia and Singapore have taken more prominent roles in attempts to mediate the crisis.8

The European Union expanded its sanctions against 35 Myanmar’s military leaders (earlier 10) and two military-controlled companies.9 The Australian authorities ended military assistance and called on the military to respect the Burmese people’s right to assembly and expression. But it has not imposed any sanctions on any leaders.10 To safeguard the power supply in Myanmar, the US and EU have not taken any action against Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprises (MOGE). The civil society groups have argued that the companies could continue operations but should stop transferring profits to the military. 11 Multinationals in Myanmar face growing calls from shareholders to sever business ties with the Myanmar military. A Japanese journalist in Yangon was also arrested, which has upset Japan’s government. Japan has asked the Myanmar authorities to explain the arrest and release him as soon as possible.

On 15 April, the Nordic embassies in Myanmar released a joint statement, signed by Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden, urged the military to stop the use of violence against civilians immediately and restore citizens rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly and restore full access to the internet, which has been severely restricted.12 Lwin Ko Latt, the CRPH appointed minister for home affairs and immigration, stated that the world countries were in the process of officially recognising Myanmar’s NUG as the legitimate leaders.

Due to the ongoing crises, individual citizens and lawmakers from Myanmar are crossing borders and taking shelter in neighbouring states. The Indian State Mizoram has seen the flow of refugees since the military took over power. India’s four northeastern states — Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland share a 1,600-km land border with Myanmar. In March 2021, the Mizoram Chief Minister Zoramthanga wrote a letter to the Indian Prime Minister, stating that because of close ethnic and cultural ties, Mizoram cannot push back people into a country suffering humanitarian crises.13

A spike in illegal narcotics from the Golden Triangle has been worrying Myanmar neighbours, including India. The Golden Triangle located in northeastern Myanmar bordering Laos, Thailand and China, is one of the two biggest global narcotic drugs source. In the last six months, the Anti-narcotics authorities in Thailand seized a record haul of more than 80 million methamphetamine pills or yaba. The Assam Rifles guarding India's borders has also reported a significant rise in drug seizures in northeastern states like Manipur and Mizoram. According to United Nations Office on Drugs on Crime (UNODC), the year 2020 was a boom year for Myanmar's drug trafficking syndicates, as the prices dropped to their lowest levels in ten years. The instability caused by the military takeover will further push organised drug cartels to consolidate their profits and control in eastern Myanmar.14


The protest movement calls for broad multi-ethnic unity to challenge the military rule with the talks on forming a Federal Army. The KNU, RCSS, KIA and the New Mon State Party (NMSP) have condemned the military regime. Ten previous signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement have announced the suspension of negotiations with the military. Even the Brotherhood Alliance, whose unilateral ceasefire expired on 31 March, did not extend the ceasefire and stated that it would “stand alongside” the protestors. The escalation of conflicts creates fear of a mounting civil war in Myanmar.
The UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet warned of possible crimes against humanity and said the situation was descending into a full-blown civil conflict like in Syria. The biggest victim of such conditions is the civilians. Thousands of citizens are rushing to neighbouring countries such as India and Thailand. Analysts suggest that the solution to the Myanmar crises lie beyond the binary of the military and the NLD government. It is essential to consider the concerns of all stakeholders and negotiate a peace deal for a complete ceasefire. Philipp Annawitt noted that there are fears among the ethnic allies about the promises and actions of the NLD led government. Internationally, the world countries need to recognise the NUG. The fund for development could be released to them directly, rather than stopping it altogether. The neighbourhood countries play a significant role to bring the economy moving in Myanmar by providing goods and markets.

  4. lly-recognise-myanmars-shadow-government-in-the-coming-days-says-new

Contact Us