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Here is your Mekong Memo Myanmar for December 26, 2023. As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated.
Civilian Government Dissolves Major Business Federation
The civilian National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar has unceremoniously dissolved the Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, a significant business group, accusing it of funding the junta's war crimes and brutality. Established in 1919, the federation represented the private sector and was celebrated under the National League for Democracy government. The NUG accused the federation of failing to serve public interest, violating labor rights, and collaborating with the regime. The NUG warned that continued participation in the federation would be viewed as support for the junta, with potential legal consequences under the Counter-Terrorism Law.
Read more: The Irrawaddy
Media Navigates Risk of Conflict Coverage
Media outlets face significant challenges in reporting on the conflict between opposition forces and the ruling junta. Despite the junta's revocation of licenses and mass arrests of journalists, outlets like The Irrawaddy and Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) continue their work from exile. Covering the conflict is fraught with difficulties, including verifying information, limited access to conflict zones, and the need for secrecy in military operations. The situation is further complicated by unstable internet connections and the junta's internet blackouts. Despite these obstacles, Myanmar's media remains committed to providing coverage, understanding the risks involved in reporting from conflict areas and the importance of independent journalism in such a volatile environment. Separately, the International Press Council of Myanmar (IPCM) was launched from Thailand earlier this week as a counter to the military controlled Myanmar Press Council.
ASEAN's Role in Myanmar Crisis: A Test of Unity and Credibility
ASEAN's unity and credibility are being tested by the ongoing crisis in Myanmar. Historically unified against communism, ASEAN now faces divergent views on regional security issues, as seen in the 2012 ASEAN Summit. The Myanmar situation, with the junta's refusal to engage in dialogue or cede power, challenges ASEAN's effectiveness. The bloc's internal divisions were evident in the April 2021 Summit, with varying stances among member states. ASEAN's failure to address Myanmar's humanitarian catastrophe and potential state collapse could lead to a major human rights disaster, impacting the entire region.
Read more: East Asia Forum
Escalating Resistance and Uncertain Future
The military dictatorship faces increasing vulnerability due to coordinated attacks by resistance forces under the National Unity Government. These include ethnic minority armies and pro-democracy groups. The resistance has achieved significant successes in northern regions, capturing towns and military units. China, playing a dual role, surprisingly supports both the junta and rebel groups. The resistance's military victories raise questions about Myanmar's future post-junta, with optimism for national reconciliation and a shared vision for a just, equitable society, despite challenges like opium production and economic stagnation.
Read more: LA Progressive
UN Calls for $1 Billion in Aid for Crisis-Stricken Myanmar
The UN sounded the alarm this week, urgently pleading for $1 billion in relief funds to rescue crisis-stricken Myanmar after two years of escalating military violence. The situation is described as dire, with a third of the population, approximately 18 million people, requiring assistance. The UN report highlights a significant increase in military air strikes and drone attacks, along with widespread civilian landmine casualties. The requested funds aim to support 5 million people urgently needing aid, with the UN having received only 30% of the necessary funds this year.
Read more: NHK WORLD
Resource Decline Threatens Regime Stability
Myanmar's generals are watching their political lifeline fray as the nation’s gas tanks and gemstones that funded their rule now start running on empty. The regime's traditional allies, Singapore, Thailand, and China, are reevaluating their support due to Myanmar's instability and diminishing resource exports. With gas reserves depleting and foreign investment halted, the junta struggles to maintain alliances and financial stability. This resource crisis, coupled with Western sanctions, leaves the military more vulnerable and isolated than ever, potentially leading to a fragmented, resource-poor state akin to Libya, Syria, or Yemen.
Read more: Frontier Myanmar