Mekong Memo Myanmar Weekly: Business, politics, finance, trade & legal news.
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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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Intricate Web of Crime and Geopolitical Maneuvering
Myanmar, known for its complex transnational crime network, is deeply entangled in activities like drug trafficking, human trafficking, and cybercrime. These activities are largely driven by Chinese criminal organizations, in concert with ethnic armed groups. The country's ongoing civil war exacerbates this situation, leading to a 33% increase in opium cultivation since 2021. China plays a pivotal role, supporting the military junta economically and using Myanmar as a strategic gateway to the Indian Ocean. This involvement has led to heightened tensions with the United States and India. The future of Myanmar's transnational crime and its geopolitical implications remain uncertain, especially with the potential fall of the junta and the rise of a democratic government.
Read more: Modern Diplomacy
Navigating Conflict Zones: A Journalist's Journey in Myanmar
In a gripping account of journalism under duress, Rajeev Bhattacharyya details his 21-day covert journey through some of Myanmar's conflict zones. Against the backdrop of the military coup and a crackdown on the media, Bhattacharyya's decided to enter the country through unofficial channels in order to get the scoop. His narrative includes close encounters with military trucks smuggling wheat flour to China due to the Ukraine conflict, and the eerie hum of planes over rebel camps. He also highlights the local impact of the crisis, such as the popularity of a locally made "COVID-19" cigarette believed to ward off the virus. Bhattacharyya's risky journey offers a glimpse into the challenges and dangers of reporting in a country dealing with political turmoil and resistance movements.
Read more: The Diplomat
Myanmar Conflict Halts Bangladesh Trade, Importers Face Major Losses
The ongoing conflict between the Arakan Army and Myanmar's military junta in Rakhine state has led to a complete halt in bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar since November 14. This suspension, occurring at the Teknaf land port, is causing significant financial strain, with the Bangladeshi government losing about Tk 3 crore in revenue daily. Importers are particularly affected, facing substantial losses as perishable goods like ginger, garlic, and fish remain undelivered. The conflict has damaged roads and bridges in Rakhine, severely disrupting transportation. Export activities are also impacted, with previously exported goods worth around $50,000 per month now stalled. This halt in trade is a major setback for both countries, previously engaging in significant commerce through the Teknaf land port.
Read more: The Daily Star
Junta Targets Satellite Internet Users, Threatens Prosecution
The military junta is intensifying its crackdown on unlicensed satellite internet usage, threatening prosecution under the Telecommunication Law as ongoing internet restrictions in several regions remain in place since the 2021 coup. The National Unity Government is countering these blocks by providing internet in over 50 townships, utilizing services like Starlink. Myanmar, suffering the world's longest internet shutdown, faces substantial economic impacts, with estimated losses of $2.8 billion in 2021 due to internet restrictions.
Read more: The Irrawaddy