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Here is your Mekong Memo Myanmar for January 23, 2024. As always, your feedback is greatly appreciated.
Navigating Challenges Three Years Post-Coup
Three years after Myanmar's military coup, the opposition remains focused on its challenge against the Tatmadaw. Despite increased military cooperation among ethnic armed organizations and some successes, the junta has still been able to hang on to power. To achieve success, the opposition needs to unify politically, find international recognition, and secure the resources necessary for a prolonged resistance. It seems that global support remains limited due to diplomatic and self-interest concerns and the conflict's complexity and international focus on other crises mean Myanmar's civil war, and the resulting human cost, is not likely to come to an end soon.
Read more: Lowy Institute
Sagaing Region's Tax Collection Challenges
In the Sagaing Region, the National Unity Government (NUG) has implemented a tax collection policy in an attempt to fund their armed resistance and provide social services to the community. Despite efforts to standardize taxation and prevent multiple charges, inconsistencies and a lack of transparency persist, resulting in a proliferation of toll gates taxes that have severely burdened residents and businesses. The NUG's policy is to allocate taxes to resistance fighters, township teams, and its education and health systems, but allegations of misappropriation by local authorities indicate a need for greater oversight in tax collection and usage.
Read more: Frontier Myanmar
Independent Media Claims To Be Target of Misinformation
The Junta is being called to task for using misinformation as a weapon against independent media by accusing them of spreading fake news about the country's political and economic situation. Myanmar-related independent media claims that they simply strive to maintain reporting standards and debunk misinformation. The regime's crackdown on media includes the arrest of hundreds of journalists (with roughly 50 still locked up) and the issuance of arrest warrants for many others.
Read more: Mizzima
Implications of Chinese Influence for the Indo-Pacific Region
An interview with Jason Tower, USIP's Burma program director, for the U.S. Institute of Peace radio program On Peace, discusses the conflict in Myanmar and China's growing involvement. Since October 27, ethnic armed organizations have intensified resistance, leading to territorial losses for the junta. China's involvement is measured, seemingly hampered by attempts to balance between stabilizing the border, protecting Chinese investment and reaping economic gains, all of which may be understandable, but the influence is raising concerns about the future of a free and open Indo-Pacific, especially as China uses Myanmar to access the Indian Ocean. The U.S. is closely monitoring these developments, supporting pro-democracy efforts while considering regional dynamics and the rise of transnational crime, which are now increasingly affecting U.S. citizens.
Read more: USIP
Map of Ethnic Armed Groups
This article from Barron’s has a handy AFP graphic from Crisis Group Asia that shows which ethnic armed groups control what parts of the country. Groups highlighted include the United Wa State Army, Shan State Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and more.
Read more: Barron’s
NUG Acts to Protect Mandalay's Heritage Sites
The National Unity Government (NUG) has designated seven ancient cities in Mandalay Region as heritage sites in an attempt to shield them from junta attacks as tensions escalate. The sites, including Mine Maw, Myinsaing, Mekkhaya, Watee, Pinya, Inwa, and Tagaung, are historically significant, dating back up to 2,000 years. The NUG's Interim Board for Heritage Administration (IBFHA) has prohibited military operations and destruction at these sites, hoping to protect Myanmar's cultural heritage.
Read more: The Irrawaddy