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This edition covers major developments in Myanmar across business, economics, politics, and more. Read on for the top headlines.
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Conflict Disrupts Vital Trade Routes
Recent clashes between ethnic armed groups and the military have led to the closure of border gates to China, India, and Bangladesh.
The Brotherhood Alliance's offensive against the military has seized control along the China-Myanmar border, halting trade through Muse and Chin Shwe Haw. Clashes in Rakhine State and Chin State's seizure of Rihkhawdar town have further limited commercial activity. These closures are causing a drop in export prices and scarcity of essential imports like medicine, severely affecting the economy which saw US$4.7 billion in border trade transactions in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
Previously operating through 17 gates, now only Thai border crossings remain open. These roads, important for transporting goods like produce and electronics, are especially vital for Myanmar’s trade with its largest partner, China. The conflict in northern Shan state, which has displaced nearly 50,000 people, is also affecting local economies and supply chains, with reports of skyrocketing rice prices in towns like Lashio. The interruption of these trade routes is not only a blow to the junta's revenue and foreign exchange reserves but also hampers its military logistics, as moving troops to conflict areas has become increasingly challenging.
Media Oversight Crumbles
Myanmar's military regime has amended the broadcasting law, effectively dismantling the independence of the industry’s oversight board. This move comes as part of a wider crackdown on dissent, shifting the council's composition to junta members and removing critical sections regarding council operations. The amendment is seen as a strategy to control media narratives ahead of planned elections, suppressing independent media voices and limiting public debate.
Read more: Radio Free Asia
China's CMEC Path Extends to Sri Lanka
China is intensifying its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) efforts in South Asia by announcing a plan to extend the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) to Sri Lanka. This announcement, made during a meeting between China’s Special Envoy Shen Yiqin and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, signals an expansion of China’s regional influence. The CMEC, part of the six land corridors under the BRI, is gaining prominence as the Bangladesh China India Myanmar (BCIM) corridor stalls. This extension aligns with Sri Lanka’s ongoing participation in the BRI and its support for the Global Development Initiative.
Read more: The Hindu
US Congress Postpones Aid Decision
The U.S. Congress has postponed the debate on humanitarian aid to Myanmar until early 2024, delaying the finalization of the 2024 budget. This delay includes discussions on the BURMA Act, part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization. While the Democratic-majority Senate seeks to increase funding for humanitarian assistance and democracy promotion in Myanmar, the Republican-majority House has proposed defunding some programs. The U.S. continues to promote humanitarian aid as its primary policy towards Myanmar, with nearly $2.1 billion provided since 2017 while at the same time, new sanctions targeting Myanmar’s military regime have been introduced by the U.S. Treasury Department.
Read more: Voice of America
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