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Junta Leader Warns of National Breakup
U Myint Swe, President of Myanmar's State Administration Council, has raised alarms about the country's potential fragmentation due to ineffective governance amid ongoing violence, particularly near the China border. The military junta, in power since the 2021 coup, continues to confront challenges from various armed groups. The junta's control is faltering, notably in northeast border trade towns, leading to increased instability. The situation has escalated to the extent that China recently confirmed casualties resulting from military activities spilling over the border and has, as of last Thursday, barred its citizens from crossing the border into northern Myanmar. Vietnam has recently requested its citizens to avoid Shan, Kayin, and Rakhine states while at the same time putting in place plans to protect Vietnamese citizens in case the situation deteriorates further.
Gov’t Expands Messaging Presence Amid Media Crackdown
The military government has expanded its presence on the popular messaging app Telegram and state media platforms after shutting down independent outlets. According to reports, 14 media licenses, 4 publishers, and 2 printing houses have been revoked since the February 2021 coup. Meanwhile, the state-run Thazin FM radio station has introduced new programming featuring callers voicing government-aligned perspectives without rebuttals. The contrast between clampdowns on non-state media and the amplification of pro-government messaging provides insights into the military leadership's communications strategy amid ongoing resistance efforts. As independent reporting faces barriers, monitoring state-linked information sources takes on heightened importance for understanding the regime's narratives.
Read more: Radio Free Asia
Myanmar's "New Abnormal" Post-Coup Crisis
Myanmar is facing a "new abnormal" in the aftermath of the military coup, characterized by a range of socio-economic challenges. Despite a report of "fragile recovery" by the World Bank, the country is still battling severe issues in the power sector, widespread migration, and increased crime. Power cuts have returned to Yangon, and petrol prices have tripled, affecting businesses and households. The State Administration Council’s impractical policies, like the trial year for zero-tariff importation of electric vehicles, add to the woes.
The coup has triggered significant internal and outward migration. The middle class is leaving for neighboring countries, with a noticeable increase in workers heading to Japan and South Korea. The regime's imposition of remittance and earnings taxes on migrant workers is exacerbating financial pressures. Finally, there's a rise in crime and narcotics use, with the Myanmar Police Force becoming increasingly predatory and corrupt. Amidst these challenges, the military leadership remains insulated, leading to a state of affairs that is far from normalization.
Read more: Lowy Institute
Update: Chevron Retains Gas Stake Despite Plans
Despite an earlier commitment to exit (originally February, 2023), U.S. oil giant Chevron still owns a stake in Myanmar's Yadana natural gas project, partnered with the sanction-hit Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). Announced in January 2022, Chevron's planned withdrawal from Myanmar following the military coup has faced undisclosed delays. The company, which agreed in February to sell its 41% interest to MTI Energy's unit, is navigating complexities in completing the transaction. This situation leaves uncertainty around Chevron's exit timeline and its compliance with upcoming U.S. sanctions against MOGE, effective December 15. TotalEnergies of France, another investor in Yadana, successfully exited Myanmar in July 2022, transferring its role to Thailand's PTTEP.
Read more: Nikkei Asia
Ex-Diplomat: US Should Prioritize Engagement in SEA
Scot Marciel, a seasoned US diplomat and former ambassador, emphasizes the need for Washington to focus on engagement in Southeast Asia, rather than countering Chinese influence. In his book "Imperfect Partners: The United States and Southeast Asia," based on his extensive diplomatic experience in the region, Marciel discusses Southeast Asia's internal divisions over issues like Myanmar's crisis and the South China Sea dispute. He suggests these divisions are not solely due to US-China rivalry. Marciel also touches upon Vietnam's economic reforms, Indonesia's democratic transition, and the complexities of ASEAN dynamics, advocating for a consistent, reliable US partnership in the region.
Read more: Al Jazeera
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