Myanmar: Ongoing Updates

9 Dec 2021
@knoxblox Yup. I have not been sharing atrocity photos here (nor did AP in the link, thankfully). In this case they are particularly gruesome. None of this is helping Min Aung Hlaing. But it is what the military have always done.

I had skipped over the fact that on Dec 1st, the UN General Assembly has more formally put off any decision that would remove the former ambassador and current NUG ambassador, so no seat has been given to MAH/SAC. The decision is now “indefinite.” That doesn’t mean a permanent ban, it just means there are no further meetings of the credentials committee scheduled. Consider it the 2021-2022 policy. Activists will now push all UN agencies to stop entertaining any dialogue with coup representatives. It was the best option to hope for given the entirety of the circumstance including political realities within the UN.

On that note, there is much analysis in recent days over the utter failure of the coup to gain international legitimacy. A review is also well timed since they sentenced and are now angling at tougher charges against DASSK. Security analyst Mohammad Abdur Razzak of Bangladesh wraps it up pretty nicely.

Moe Thee Zun has been a very important figure in the historic resistance to tatmadaw rule. He was co-leader of the All Burma Students Democratic Front which formed after 1988.

In-country boycotters have put out a list of products that benefit the military and their cronies:

Late morning additions: I had forgotten to post this terrific piece on Christian Chin conservatives from Burma who have moved into the Texas heartland.

Also, FB has responded to Burma Campaign UK’s push for them to take down all the military related propaganda pages, at least ones they’re able to get awareness of. I’ve stumbled across these and they’re just so. fucking. obvious. Like calling DASSK a terrorist.

Although it was pushed by BCUK, it’s certainly a “things that make you go Hmmm” moment that they did this the same day the Rohingya filed their $150B lawsuits. Here’s Meta’s own timeline around this policy. It is pretty reprehensible that they’ve kept all the regime’s crap up there for ten months while they’ve been indisputably murdering, raping, torturing and disappearing civilians. And note that the ban they did months ago includes any praise for attacks against the military. That was, removal of “Praise and support of violence committed against civilians, the military or security forces in Myanmar.” Doesn’t the whole “both sides” thing sound familiar?

You may recall the astounding nationwide “Silent Strike” right after a young child was killed in their own home. The entire nation stayed indoors for the whole day in silent protest. The only people seen leaving their homes had been ordered to appear at the bank that day to get paid for their government jobs. 600 people in Mandalay. The other 54 million stayed home. I think because of this horrific war crime we’ve been discussing above as well as the car ramming incident, and to coincide with International Human Rights Day, there’s another one planned for tonight US time/tomorrow in Burma:

There is a big potential for a combination of terrorized and climate change-affected refugees which could be relevant in another piece of pending legislation, H.R.2826 - 117th Congress (2021-2022): To establish a Global Climate Change Resilience Strategy, to authorize the admission of climate-displaced persons, and for other purposes. | Congress.gov | Library of Congress. Certainly Bangladesh, where nearly a million Rohingya refugees now reside, is hit very hard by climate change. It is also starting to affect the displaced Chin, flooded out in the pics below from people who’ve been hiding in and around Mindat (photo: Mindat Post):

Mindat effectively became a ghost town after it was put under martial law as reported in Myanmar Now in June.

Afternoon:
Boy there’s a lot going on. McConnell wrote an op ed in response to the op ed pushing him to do more.

This is also pretty big, although I haven’t mentioned it before. There’s been a campaign to press jeweler Harry Winston to stop buying blood rubies and other gems from Burma. On the day of a planned protest and delivery of a petition… well, I’ll let Simon say it:

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10 Dec 2021
I’d love to post all the pics of the silent strike. This was a Friday in Yangon, a normally bustling city with Bangkok-like traffic and a population of 5.4 million.

The whole city was like this:

I didn’t verify this but a source of smoke will almost always be the burning of garbage.

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11 December 2021
Wanted to say more above about the smoke.

I’m certain the smoke is from the burning of garbage. Rectifying the garbage problem should be the next government’s highest priority. That sounds crazy right?

Well, Myanmar ranks first in the world in deaths from asthma, fifth in lung disease and 16th in strokes. Top causes of death could also be related to high particulate matter or exacerbated by pollution. Those include with ranking: 1 - stroke, 2 - coronary heart disease, 4 - TB, 5 - lung disease, 6 - influenza and pneumonia, 8 - asthma, 14 - lung cancers (though, the 88 Gen Burmese are also notorious chain smokers). Worldwide, Myanmar ranks 130th in life expectancy (smaller # is better), and 43rd in infant mortality (larger # is better). Life expectancy is the age of 67, healthy life expectancy 58.

Above we’re only talking about the effects of smoke from burning garbage. But there is also what appears to be zero management of plastic waste, and there are numerous tributaries to the country’s most treasured resource, her rivers, that (having seen it in the dry season) are lined with plastic waste for as far as the eye can see. This cannot be good for their food production, the waterways or any hopes of reducing the floating plastic island out there.

Doing this research I also found that Burma, which has zero foreign enemies and has not been at war with a neighbor since before the British colonized it (which was done in response to a Burmese king’s expansiveness into India), ranks 15th in the world for deaths caused by “war.”

Burma ranks 24th worldwide in population size.

I think a strong anti tobacco initiative (they definitely have been doing that for many years), a hard look at hard liquor and healthier diet emphasis (admittedly “we’re one to talk” here… but at least going a little easier on the fried foods) could also help people to live longer.

Source.

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17 December 2021
Hard to do a detailed update. Yeah on the gas, nice to see this finally gaining more broadly. It’s mentioned in the just-passed US national defense appropriations act so technically the state dept needs to report on it to congress in a couple of months. These things don’t usually happen so the movement is going to have to exert a great deal of pressure to see that it does. There’s some leaked documents that Justice For Myanmar got their hands on and provided to WSJ indicating personal concern by the dictator Min Aung Hlaing for updates on revenue. Sifting through some sources I learned that there’s only maybe 2 years left of gas in the Yetagun field so it is as important for the democracy movement to have it not delivering $$ as it is to the regime to try to see if they can extract as much as possible as quickly as possible. These are tied to $$ from PTT, the Thai petro partner.

Speaking of the legislation, there’s also newer language on the global banking system. The initial drafts from Rep. Maxine Waters did not specifically mention the World Bank as her researcher learned that the bank typically follows whatever policy/guidance is tracked by the IMF. However, now it actually, also, calls out the World Bank by name, as well as the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank - all are very strongly discouraged and informed no US monies should be going into anything that would be directly handled or supervised by the Tatmadaw leadership. That cuts them off from a significant source.

Elsewhere today and tomorrow will be demonstrations outside of Cambodian consulates as Cambodian leaders have been reaching out to the dictator which threatens to further legitimize his rule, and Cambodia is set to take over chairmanship of ASEAN which, while it has utterly failed the people of Burma, has also kept the military at arms reach, so to speak.

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20 December 2021

Ugh.

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24 Dec 2021
A lot of Burmese who are not Christian have embraced Christmas. Its global reach (okay, marketing) is kind of beyond the religion.

There’s a bit of a discussion among different groups approaching the US legislation. Some hope that more can be leveraged with the symbolic McConnell NDAA amendments and suggest the BURMA Act can be abandoned, but ultimately it’s the latter. The BURMA Act allocates a great deal of money that otherwise wouldn’t be, to organizations that can really use it to improve the lives of people who’ve been caught in the crossfire. It also more pointedly covers the entire junta with sanctions compared to a limited list that has only gradually been rolled out.

To be clear though, I feel quite strongly that Biden took more decisive action right after the coup (cutting off the military to from tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars) than any world leader since the coup of 1962. The team who architected that from within the State Dept. really know what they’re doing and, anonymous as so many of them remain, they deserve a round of applause.

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27 Dec 2021

Min Aung Hlaing should write a handbook for bad decisions.

There was a disgusting Christmas massacre, everything burned to the ground and foreign aid workers from “Save the Children” have gone missing. This is going to move Burma up the decision tree State Dept. and other nations.

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Son of a bishop. Yangon Catholic Archbishop Charles Bo seen here in DECEMBER 2021 smiling in a cake cutting photo op with the architect of Myanmar’s horror show, General Min Aung Hlaing (who donated $11K to the church just now, and I gather Bo accepted it).

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3 Jan 2022
News summary in short: Grisly attacks by tatmadaw on innocent people continue in retaliation for the acts of small bands of self-armed people, in numerous locations. A large number of harsh prison sentences have been handed out across the main spectrum of charges which boil down to either talking trash about the coup regime, or plotting to overthrow it. The rest of this is background and helpful links.

I had prepped a NYE post after stumbling across a video file that the BBS won’t accept for format and had no energy to convert it. Very short clip and not necessary as I’ve described the moment previously. I noticed in the BBS system’s year in review, this thread landed in top 5 in terms of hours read. It is fair to chalk much of this up to my posts last year being much too wordy. I’m grateful for each of you whose had to wade through them. It may prove a resource for future, better organized, writings.

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Charmaine Craig’s (pretty much non-) fiction novel about the life of her late mother Naw Louisa Benson, Miss Burma, read by Charmaine herself. It better situates the world of DASSK’s father and the Thirty Comrades who received training in WWII Japan then invited the Japanese armed forces to invade Burma. It became such an obviously bad idea that most of the Comrades switched sides and struck a deal with the British. But I think that training left a permanent imprint on the Tatmadaw. These barbaric acts that the top generals have been so blasé about are really something they haven’t stopped doing since the 1930s - as many similar acts are described in the novel.

So too is the story’s backdrop of Burmese nationalism, the seeds of which were formed in Aung San long before he went to Japan.

In a trump MAGA thread, @Papasan’s sharing of the signs of rising fascism is quite suitable for what is happening now in Burma/Myanmar:

There’s more news that I’m skipping and may catch up with in coming days, so as a refresher to kick off the year, some great sources. I may return to these to append or repost it every month or quarter:

News
-The Irrawaddy
-Frontier Myanmar
-Mizzima
-Myanmar Now
-Tea Circle Oxford
-Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB)

Advocacy & Detailed Reports/data:
-Justice For Myanmar
-Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
-Progressive Voice Myanmar via this link has a long list of important reports from nearly every organization working on Burma/Myanmar.

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5 Jan 2022

One group mentioned in this Guardian article about the risks to aid workers was co-founded by several people who had learned about Burma from me. Thankfully none of them have died while delivering medical aid but it is very risky work - hence they identified a need for “medical backpackers” and, as part of their charter, have trained people on both sides of the Thai-Burma Border.

Evening adds. The fact that it was Save The Children likely has reporters now looking at just what horrors children are being subjected to under the coup regime. Here’s one angle: children arrested and/or killed because of their parents’ political activities.

The Karenni community is protesting the Christmas Eve Massacre worldwide. They say it’s now 40 people who were burned alive.

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8 Jan 2022

On Jan 7, Min Aung Hlaing met with Cambodia’s eternal Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen (a meeting of deep concern as another coup legitimizing photo op). Hun Sen has assumed chairmanship of ASEAN and is promising a “different approach” which smells to pretty much everyone as more of the same. For example, during this meeting MAH supposedly “declared a five month ceasefire” (this article is garbage btw) but one must always read the fine print on these. So far it’s always proven to be a lie.

Over the 24 hours that followed this announcement, attacks against the Karenni people continued in full fledged military action that could only have been carried out at the orders of the top brass:


Here’s a summary of the pressures Karenni have been under (“IDP” = Internally Displaced Person, basically refugees from their own townships who are in hiding or IDP camps):

As a reminder, not one of the five points previously agreed to have really been met. ASEAN leadership has a habit of blowing up the smallest signs of progress. Hun Sen brought up the case of Sean Turnell, according to Hun Sen’s Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn. Look where Sokhonn took this:

“Hun Sen raised the issue with Min Aung Hlaing directly and he responded that the case is now before the court but he said that once it is completed, the senior general will consider the case. That means he promised that he would get back to Hun Sen with positive news,” Prak Sokhonn said.

No. That only means that at this particular moment, MAH said he will “consider the case” when it is through. The quote above illustrates the clumsiness of the ASEAN partners in being able to assess who exactly they’re dealing with and how to hold him accountable.

Yet, it may indeed be a positive sign for Turnell. Historically, this is how it has tended to work. The generals like to get their kangaroo court conviction before offering any leniency. That way they can later deny a visa or re-imprison the foreigner should they come back during better times. This is how they handled Danny Fenster. Possibly they accelerated his case as they began talking with the Richardson team.

The coup regime still detains at least two American citizens. There is some hope of release after conviction. But there are no promises that can be trusted. There is a great capacity through the entire history of the Tatmadaw to break promises that others believe you have made. Many business partners have called it quits because it was not possible to do business in Burma or Myanmar without violating the laws of their own countries against corrupt practices.

On to US news: the brand new appropriations proposal from Biden/State Dept. includes a number of provisions for Burma. Per organizer Mike Haack, the current draft of the State Department’s 2022 budget allocation includes “not less than $136,127,000 shall be made available for assistance for Burma” and includes things like funding for groups on the border and even CDM and particulars ministries of the NUG.

Search the word “Burma” for full text.

Here’s the main Burma appropriations section.

I also wanted to share some interesting pieces in Nikkei Asia. I’m not having any fun with firewall and cookies options which seem inordinately complex. I’m only able to see full articles after suspending ghostery and there’s a limit of three which I blew through before getting to all of these. If blocked, you’ll only see the first paragraph. Having said that, they are good writers (gwen robinson is very well informed) and these three may be of interest.

Norway’s Telenor to divest from mobile banking, selling stake to a Singapore company, as they can no longer protect user privacy.

The past three months in Myanmar documented by photog who’s decided to leave.

2021 year end review of “a year in darkness.”

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10 Jan 2022

In a trial characterized by Human Rights Watch as a “courtroom circus of secret proceedings on bogus charges… so that (Aung San Suu Kyi) will remain in prison indefinitely,” DASSK gets Four More Years added for possession of walkie talkies and maybe not wearing a mask 24/7. Of note, they are saying she violated the covid rules “while campaigning” before the November 2020 election which she and her party won by a landslide (even in towns populated by the military), but didn’t see a need to bring charges against this public health menace until after the Feb 1 2021 coup.

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14 Jan 2022

I may have mentioned finding that the new NDAA had made some changes to earlier sanctions law led by the late Tom Lantos including, significantly, dropping ASEAN as a potential partner to resolve things in Burma. I feel it’s a mixed bag, in that ASEAN has made none of the progress they had, with great fanfare, promised in bringing Min Aung Hlaing to the table with them - but at the same time, the signal raised by denying the regime access to ASEAN after that was unprecedented, really their strongest stance against the Burmese military since they had brought Myanmar into ASEAN when it was still under military rule in the late '90s. Earlier administrations, and early in Biden’s own dealings with this situation, the US has continually trotted out ASEAN as a key to fixing Burma (led by think tanky ASEAN boosters who show genuine ignorance to the culture and nature of the Tatmadaw and its leadership).

So the status kinda went like this since the coup:

  1. Outsiders including US/Biden: ASEAN can fix it.
  2. ASEAN insiders: ASEAN’s reputation depends on fixing it, and we can fix it.
  3. ASEAN meeting, which excluded the National Unity Government and only talked to the dictator: 5 point plan we all agree to. Min Aung Hlaing didn’t spit in our faces or get up and walk out so this was a resounding success. We’re fixing it!
  4. Post ASEAN meeting, none of the plan is implemented, massive roundups of anyone who says a word against the coup, warrants are no longer being issued and people are still being murdered or by the Tatmadaw in the streets and by torturers in the jails and prisons.
  5. The US distances itself from ASEAN with respect to Burma.
  6. ASEAN turns its back on Min Aung Hlaing, denying him another place at the table.
  7. Bill Richardson visits twice in a week and a half to talk about the health epidemics with Min Aung Hlaing and to ferry two endangered prisoners, first a former employee and then Danny Fenster, out of the country. There’s criticism that this could legitimize MAH, but a case to be made that Richardson is in a unique position to persuade MAH to lift his boot off the people of Myanmar due to Richardson’s public spat with DASSK. I only mention it here because of the timing which may have provided one excuse for what has transpired immediately after that via ASEAN:
  8. ASEAN gets a new chair who has tenaciously held the same leadership post in Cambodia since 1985 and is described by Human Rights Watch as a “fully fledged dictator.” (Hun Sen’s official title is “princely exalted supreme great commander of gloriously victorious troops.”) He sets about engaging with Min Aung Hlaing.
  9. The US responds that this is a bad idea, exemplified in this morning’s statement by the House Foreign Affairs committee:

January 14, 2021

Meeks, McCaul, Bera, Chabot Raise Concerns Over Appropriate Burmese Participation in ASEAN Meetings

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representatives Gregory W. Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and U.S. Representatives Ami Bera (D-C.A.) and Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation today released the following joint statement in response to reports that ASEAN may invite senior members of the Burmese military regime to participate in official meetings.

“We are troubled by reports that Cambodia is considering including the Burmese military junta in the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting. ASEAN must not bestow credibility to a military that illegitimately overthrew an elected government and wantonly tortures and murders its own people.

“We remain supportive of the decision made by the previous ASEAN Chair not to invite a political representative from Burma. The Burmese military has refused to adhere to ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus. Its continued violence has killed over 1,400 people in less than a year and worsened a humanitarian crisis with severe repercussions for the region. We hope that, as Chair, Cambodia abides by the previous ASEAN decision that Burma is not entitled to political representation within ASEAN until the Five-Point Consensus is implemented.”

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16 Jan 2022 (night before)
Sixty seven organizations representing people of the Karen nationality around the world have written a damning letter to Presidents Biden and Macron over the continued payments going to Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise from Chevron and Total.

The hundreds of millions of dollars provided to the Burmese military by companies from your countries are being used to buy the bombs and bullets being used against our people. They are funding war crimes and crimes against humanity.

I’ve alluded to someone close to me several times. It is still being handled discretely… actually erasing the rest of this.

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