Mekong Memo Myanmar Weekly: Business, politics, finance, trade & legal news.
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Here is your Mekong Memo Myanmar for February 6, 2024. As always, your feedback and paid subscriptions are very much appreciated.
Sanctions Tighten, Resistance Grows
International sanctions are escalating while internal resistance continues to rise three years post-coup. The US and EU are leading the economic charge against the junta by being at the forefront of advocating for sanctions. Despite increasingly stronger actions targeting the military's access to resources, including jet fuel to curb air strikes, and global calls for a democratic transition, the effectiveness of these measures remains in doubt. As ethnic armed groups continue to gain ground, the internal conflict continues to deepen as well.
Defeat: ASEAN's Ineffectual Stance on Myanmar
ASEAN's failure to address the Myanmar crisis is emblematic of its inherent limitations and the unrealistic expectations placed upon it. The bloc's inability to exert influence over the thorny “Myanmar Problem”, despite the Five-Point Consensus, reveals a deeper issue of member states' divergent interests and the absence of real leverage. This situation has led to a passive acceptance of the status quo, complicated by external powers leveraging ASEAN's stance to avoid direct involvement. A call for ASEAN to admit defeat in handling the crisis is a critical moment for regional diplomacy and the international community's role in Myanmar's future.
Read more: Radio Free Asia
Hope and Trepidation in the Struggle for Unity
Unity among ethnic and democratic forces is emerging as an unexpected factor in success against the junta's rule, signaling a shift in both battle dynamics and national social dynamics. Al Jazeera shows on-the-ground realities faced by ethnic groups and rebels, emphasizing their collective fight for democracy and equality, despite internal divisions. The Wire gets into broader implications, assessing the junta's possible responses and the international community's role. Both narratives make clear the complexity of Myanmar's resistance, where unity/hope and challenges/trepidation coexist in the quest for freedom and governance reform.
UN Special Rapporteur Lambasts Russian Role in Turmoil
In a candid interview, Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, marks the third anniversary of the military coup with a stern critique of the junta's actions, allegedly heavily backed by Russian weaponry. Andrews highlights the need for coordinated international sanctions and engagement with China to mitigate the humanitarian crisis. Andrews is highly critical about the junta's aggressive targeting of civilians, the significant military setbacks it faces, and the crucial role that international support needs to play in delivering humanitarian aid to the embattled nation.
Read more: Voice of America
Secret Prison Expansion A Dire Warning
Satellite images are showing a significant and secretive expansion of Myanmar's prison infrastructure since the February 2021 coup, hinting at a grim outlook for the country's pro-democracy movement. Analysis from Myanmar Witness shows a concerning rise in the number of prisons and labor camps, coinciding with the mass arrest of more than 25,000 political prisoners, including journalists and activists. The expansion seems to indicate a potential for intensified crackdowns on dissent and a deteriorating human rights situation, as the junta continues to use incarceration as a tool of suppression.
Read more: The Guardian
India's Risky Stance on the Junta
India's unwavering support for Myanmar's military junta, despite the latter's violent coup and the ensuing humanitarian crisis, is rooted in a strategy that prioritizes geopolitical interests, historical alliances, and a centralization of decision-making under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government. Despite the junta's diminishing control and the international outcry over human rights abuses, India maintains formal ties with the regime, driven by objectives of securing its border, maintaining economic relations, and counterbalancing Chinese influence. This approach is further influenced by a path dependency on military collaboration, a reluctance to engage with new democratic forces, and an ideological alignment with authoritarian governance. The situation is becoming a significant challenge to India's image as a regional leader committed to democracy and human rights, and muddies the water about its long-term interests and the impact on its global standing.
Read more: The Wire
Chinese Espionage Puts Ministries Under Digital Siege
The China-based hacker group Mustang Panda is suspected of orchestrating sophisticated cyber espionage campaigns against Myanmar's Ministry of Defence and Foreign Affairs. These incidents, identified by CSIRT-CTI, occurred in November 2023 and January 2024, using malware and remote access trojans via phishing emails and compromised software. Mustang Panda's tactics include disguising malicious traffic as legitimate Microsoft updates in order to harvest sensitive information.
Read more: The Hacker News