🎃 Myanmar 20231031
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Here is your Mekong Memo Myanmar for October 31, 2023. This edition is a little shorter than most, but we continue to monitor and share relevant stories as we uncover them. As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated - smash that reply button and tell us what you think.
The BURMA Act's Ambiguities and a Nation in Civil War
The BURMA Act, signed into U.S. law last December, aims to pressure Myanmar's military junta and provide humanitarian aid, but its impact remains uncertain due to its largely symbolic nature and the discretion it leaves to the Biden administration. Since the coup, Myanmar's internal strife has escalated into a full-blown civil war, with the international community's attention waning. The complexities on the ground, including ongoing conflicts and human rights abuses, make the situation increasingly dire, casting doubt on the act's effectiveness.
Education in Crisis: From Teacher Shortages to Lost Class Time
The education system in Myanmar is struggling with severe challenges, from a mass exodus of over 400,000 educators joining the Civil Disobedience Movement to the longest Covid-related school closures in the East Asia and Pacific region (532 days!). These disruptions have led to a sharp decline in school enrollment rates, particularly among high school-aged students and poorer households. Remedial measures like online education are largely ineffective, exacerbating educational inequalities. The situation threatens not just the current state of education but also a generational loss in human capital.
Thailand Slashes Work Permit Fees to Boost Legal Employment from Neighboring Countries
Thailand's Ministry of Labour has significantly reduced fees for work permits and inspections for foreign workers from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. The move aims to encourage legal employment and address issues of illegal immigration. Specifically, visa fees have been cut from 2,000 baht to 500 baht, and temporary stay application fees have also been reduced to 500 baht. This new regulation aligns with Thailand's strategy to bolster its economy and labor market stability post-COVID-19.
Read more: Khaosod English
India's Complex Relationship with Myanmar
⭐️ India's diplomatic ties with Myanmar are a balancing act influenced by historical connections, regional challenges, and the looming presence of China. While India aims for closer relations with Myanmar for strategic and security reasons, Chinese influence and internal conflicts in Myanmar pose significant challenges. India's policy is a blend of idealistic principles and realpolitik, as it maintains economic and military relations with Myanmar while also supporting pro-democracy movements. The ongoing civil unrest in Myanmar adds another layer of complexity to this geopolitical equation.
Read more: GIS Reports
Garment Workers Suffer as Chinese Money Flows
As Western brands like H&M pull out of Myanmar due to poor working conditions exacerbated by the 2021 coup, Chinese investors are stepping in, apparently making conditions even worse. Workers face grueling shifts, low wages, and can't afford to take sick days. Despite the harsh environment, the sector is growing, with 61 new factories reported open since January 2022. However, this growth comes at the cost of worker well-being, as they are subjected to a "ticket system" that ties meager wages to high production targets.
Read more: Radio Free Asia
Myanmar and China Further BRI Talks
China's Ambassador to Myanmar, Chen Hai, met with Myanmar's foreign minister to discuss furthering Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. Despite Myanmar's regime leader not being invited to BRI's 10th-anniversary event, the two countries are exploring "eight major steps" for mutual prosperity. China has 597 projects in Myanmar, valued at $21.9 billion, and accounts for 23.5% of Myanmar's foreign investment. The discussions also included Chinese support for Myanmar's development and international cooperation, particularly with ASEAN.
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