Myanmar: Ongoing Updates

Good point. I’d like to think the CDM has been that effective. I think there is still a lot of business happening, but it is possible if MEHL had been tied into SWIFT and their $$ was locked up when MEHL was sanctioned starting last March, whatever reserves they’ve got have dried up. There’s quite a bit of detail here done some time ago from Justice for Myanmar. Some time ago Amnesty International began to pressure

…eight companies who operate jointly with MEHL in Myanmar. These are:

Ever Flow River Group Public Co., Ltd, (EFR), a Myanmar logistics company; Kanbawza Group (KBZ), a Myanmar conglomerate with jade and ruby mining operations; Kirin Holdings, a Japanese beverage company; INNO Group, a South Korean property developer; Pan-Pacific, a South Korean manufacturer and exporter of clothing; POSCO, a South Korean steelmaker; RMH Singapore, a Singaporean fund with a tobacco operation in Myanmar; and Wanbao Mining, a Chinese metal mining company.

I imagine Wanabao and RMH are still going strong. There has been much pressure on all of the others.

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Edit (next to graphs): BURMA Act PASSED the House this morning. Chairman Meeks put a ton of time and exercised terrific leadership and I know his staff worked their asses off. Meeks’ Statement.

Envious of my colleagues in DC as there are a series of events going on and the brilliant NUG Human Rights minister Aung Myo Min is there (he’s been mostly based in Europe so this is a special get together).

Guess I’ll mention here, I am making baby steps progress to get Bamar and Rohingya together. I’m very excited about doing this. But the way I believe I have to go about it is kinda like ripping off the bandaid for both sides. That simply means, they are going to be saying directly to each other what they have been wanting me to convey to the other party. If you know someone who’s engaged in this kind of peace work please drop me a line. I never saw it as a core competency for me, and I own that it is playing with fire.

The junta is having so much trouble with SWIFT and dealing in US dollars that they have put orders out that all foreign entities must now deal in the Burmese Kyat. Japan, still a business partner with more positive interactions with tatmadaw than those of the US, is seeking an exemption for everything it does in the country and is threatening to jump ship:

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I updated the last post just a bit - it may cut off mid-sentence somewhere.

BURMA Act in Senate
Now the BURMA Act is only waiting for action in the Senate. I am getting the idea that they are being advised to stick to the line that the results of the November 2020 election need to be restored. So that’s going back to power sharing, forgetting everything the NUG has promised re ethnic inclusion, back to the flawed constitution and back to DASSK trying to outmaneuver the military in this power sharing deal (which, literally as we speak, that failure is playing out in a court in Naypyidaw). It’s an exceptionally bad idea.

The US Senate cannot restore the election of another country. We won’t even march into Ukraine much less a nation located less than a hundred miles from Vietnam. What they can do is push for NUG recognition and for ways to get $$ and weapons to the people and groups mentioned above.

MAH’s currency moves - FAIL
Tatmadaw watchers see MAH’s decisions as ill-advised or even non-advised and incoherent. Alienating Japan and Singapore would be a terrible setback for him. So if he has a shred of wisdom left, he will back down or issue such broad exceptions as to render the original decision meaningless.

MAH was not at the top of his class. That doesn’t always equate to success - he obviously had street smarts and people skills to get where he is. The dictator who cofounded the Tatmadaw and took power in 1962, Ne Win, had an 8th grade education and closed the universities numerous times. So it’s tatmadaw legacy: We’re smarter than you, you just don’t know we’re smarter than you.

Tourism?
I’d read that even in the midst of this disastrous coup, the regime had begun encouraging tourism. Off to a roaring start here.

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9 April 2022
Progressive Voice Myanmar is raising an alarm in a broad overview of attacks on children. It seems like there are increasing incidents of the Tatmadaw doing this. Yesterday Reuters reported of the security forces pulling a kid out of their kindergarten class. Astounding story. Check the moxie of this teacher (emphasis added).

After arriving at the school at around 12:40 p.m., a group of 20 soldiers initially sent in a plainclothes officer who told teachers that he was the boy’s uncle. The teacher said that staff “blocked the doorway with both hands and didn’t let him get in,” and that she told the officer she had plans to adopt the boy and would not let anyone take him.

“At that moment, another group of men came in with their guns. There were about four or five of them. While I was arguing with them, two guys pushed me aside to get in,” the teacher told RFA.

“One teacher brought out the boy and they looked at him from head to toe before taking him away. They were about to handcuff me at first, but they changed their mind.” The incident reportedly lasted around 10 minutes.

A source close to the family, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that two days after the arrest, the child’s mother Ma Wai was “hit by a car,” and then “shot and detained” in Yangon.

State Dept seems to be warming up to the NUG.

I’m planning a trip to DC. This relates to the prisoner but the support org is helping me extend the trip to get in front of more people. As part of that I have a barebones workup on Rohingya/Bamar dialogue.

Know any great facilitators for this kind of thing?

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11 April 2022
NUG Bounty on Military Hardware
The National Unity Government has put a bounty on planes, ships and automobiles.

Defecting and delivering an intact plane or vessel gets you $500K. If you can wreck a jet fighter, military helicopter, logistics plane or warship while it’s parked or deployed, $300K. There’s also “a $100,000 reward for anyone who can sabotage a jet fuel reserve tank, blow up a regime armory or weapons factory, or defect with a tank or armored personnel carrier.” I don’t see anything about defections. I’m thinking even $5K/soldier and maybe hiking it according to rank would be persuasive. Maybe bump it up per person if they show up as an entire unit. But that kind of value is far exceeded by Australia’s offer to let you live there (link posted previously).

Yakuza Drugs for Missiles Plot Foiled
Somehow I guess it’s drugs from the ethnic armed orgs sent to US in exchange for missiles being sent to them, facilitated by your friendly local Yakuza.

“The drugs were destined for New York streets, and the weapons shipments were meant for factions in unstable nations,” Damian Williams, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, said in a statement.

Well, F me on the second point. I guess this means I’ll have to start avoiding the guy who told me he could, um… never mind.

Myanmar Timber Evading Sanctions
Following up an earlier report on work done by Justice For Myanmar on US timber imports after the coup, Forest Trends now reports that MANY nations that are allegedly sanctioning Myanmar are still sucking up its remaining timber.

New growth of teak has sprouted up throughout the country especially on lands that were stolen by military generals for their own personal gain. But much of that growth, at least in the country’s interior, will be 8-15 years old by now. Teak is one of the fastest growing timbers, maturing for harvest at about 25 years. For now, exports are still both a humanitarian and environmental concern.

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13 April 2022
Meetings, meetings & more meetings. Okay, just meetings & meetings. A pause here to appreciate the artistry in the logo for the American Center in Yangon:

I’m dying to know what font this is. I’ll try consul services there.

The center reopened in 2018 and is the most funded of any American Center in the world. They have a library of 12,000 books. They have really positively affected an entire generation even before the 2018 overhaul. Full year membership fee is under US$3. It’s a price point to encourage more participation (affordable, but still an investment). There are not one but two centers, this one in Yangon and the Jefferson Center in Mandalay.

There has also been significant positive impact from the British Council.

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14 April 2022
It is the beginning of Thingyan. Normally a very festive holiday with a “Water Festival.” I think I talked about it last year when it was canceled. The military is putting it back on this year but it sounds like the people may boycott it entirely.

In advocating for prisoners I am in a “club” I wouldn’t wish on anybody. Those include families directly affected by the trial of the ISIS “Beatles” member in which the most horrific details have been recounted in court. They are watching it and in court - four families impacted, others who were themselves held. I can’t even read it. But a verdict is expected tomorrow and while it won’t make everyone whole I hope it does something positive for survivors and surviving families.

Also wrongfully detained? Paul Rusesabagina (Hotel Rwanda - here’s Don Cheadle’s insta today). And others, hostages or wrongfully detained, especially in Venezuela, the Middle East and Russia. I expect to bring more of these in future posts. As it is I am the only club member to my knowledge who’s carrying a “silent story” for political reasons, and that TBH has made me more of a wreck. But we’re so lucky. Our person is alive.

Speaking of which, I had missed this super cringy exchange between the AU Ambassador to Myanmar and Min Aung Hlaing - summed up in another tweet as State media list topics of discussion between the 2:

  • Bilateral ties, political progress in Myanmar and terror acts of @CrphMyanmar, @NUGMyanmar

  • No mention of @SeanTurnell

AU’s playing a dangerous game here. They had MAH feeling super isolated with their announcement of welcoming his defected soldiers to their continent. How could they have failed to leverage this, if only for Sean?

Onward!

Now that the BURMA Act is entirely up to the Senate, the international movement is coalescing around the fact that those of us who have been working so hard to get it passed are in a complete slog with Senators who purport to love Burma but have been sitting on the bill for months while claiming they’d love to work with each other on it.

In particular, McConnell. Young. Rubio. Honestly? Get off your asses, guys. A great many Burmese Americans are registered to vote w/the GOP.

Please also check out Me Me Khant’s compact tweetstorm.

Happy Thingyan.

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18-19 April 2022
Thanks @FGD135. I hadn’t heard this. I’ll poke around.

Also on the new year, a member of the coup regime says “let’s get rid of this traitorous filth… oh, and happy new year.”

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21 April 2022
Follow up on those releases the other day, indeed, the political prisoners were left to rot. Or actually to overheat, given the seasonal heat and lack of aircon in the prisons.

They’ve sentenced one of the gutsiest people in the history of modern medicine.

The article references to Signal communications used as evidence. Signal is NOT secure in Myanmar - it is compromised by Pegasus. (Clarifying it says she “confessed to using” signal etc. but, I know with reasonable certainty what they put in front of her)

Ending on a positive, I’ve learned more about the NUG / State Dept meetings of a couple of weeks ago. It’s positive in many ways. Things are becoming clearer and more transparent on both sides I think.

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27 April 2022
I’ll be away until next week. Loved one’s first monkey trial has concluded and judge is expected to rule against them because, that’s what judges do over there. I am kinda hoping they move quickly and then kick them out of the country before ASEAN meets with Biden in two weeks. That would leave a positive impression if they were to do that.

And as you’ve probably heard, DASSK sentenced to 6 years for corruption.

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2 May 2022
Back. Re the AU Ambassador and MAH & Sean Turnell, it is worth considering the historic pattern: MAH needs the conviction before he’ll consider it. But these cases have been dragged out with bogus illnesses and absent witnesses. Possibly that visit has kicked the trial into full gear. In the bizarro world of Myanmar and foreign detainees, that could actually be a good thing.

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5-7 May 2022
I mentioned advocating for prisoners and so I do want to highlight again Paul Rusesabagina (the “Hotel Rwanda” guy). I wish readers could meet his incredible daughters Carine and Anaïse Kanimba. They have a good team and give them full credit, but they themselves are brilliant, strategic in their own right. And they are on a tear in general right now.

Backgrounder: Op Ed they co-wrote last year.

On Monday, they met with Biden. This after Biden pressed forward on a deal to exchange a Russian for an American prisoner (Trevor Reed) with Putin - which has only stood to highlight other Americans held in Russia. Reed’s family had pressed for and got an audience with POTUS while the others had not.

Also this week, Diane Foley herself (mother of the late James Foley who was killed by ISIS and perhaps the single most driving force behind getting the State Dept. to engage more directly with families of wrongful detainees) took up a press conference with the sisters. This heading into the annual James Foley Freedom Awards with some heavy hitters in DC.

Into the funny and weird. The National Unity Government last week decided to sell “shares” in the dictator Min Aung Hlaing’s Yangon residence, for $100 each. They could raise $10M very quickly. I am not involved but can get directly to who I think set this up - IM me if you want to have a crack at it.

How to respond if you’re Min Aung Hlaing? Petty revenge. The junta has decided to seize and auction the homes of political prisoners.

I had expressed consternation at the US attorney’s statement in NY on the Yakuza arms-for-heroin case. Bertil Lintner, arguably the world’s pre-eminent scholar on Myanmar, has riddled the case with bullets, handing the defense their case on a silver platter - hopefully they read the Irrawaddy.

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With Mister ASEAN Going to Washington this week, I thought we could revisit the 5 point plan. These lines from Modern Diplomacy are hilarious:

The meeting was conspicuous in its absence of any representative of Myanmar people. However, it has reached an interim five point consensus on how to resolve the impasse in Myanmar.

No party that needed to be party to the “consensus” was there to give their consent. :rofl:

Five point plan in review:

  1. the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar;
  2. constructive dialogue among all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people;
  3. mediation to be facilitated by an envoy of ASEAN’s chair, with the assistance of the secretary-general;
  4. humanitarian assistance provided by ASEAN’s AHA Centre and
  5. a visit by the special envoy and delegation to Myanmar to meet all parties concerned.

ASEAN leaders, especially in democracies or quasi-democratic, are extremely uncomfortable with the detention of foreigners as political prisoners. But also if you have everyone in the opposition locked up, you are also not achieving consensus. This thing about political prisoners feels to me like the -glaringly- missing sixth point.

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Personal
I thought I’d get myself more directly involved with ASEAN visiting DC this week, and actually I did advise someone who gave a speech yesterday. But, I also both need a break and am being hit every day by something close to me that is bizarre, disappointing, exhilarating, or intriguing and none of which can I share in any detail, much less get myself involved in. Insight for future posts I suppose. In part, one loved one is convicted, and there’s a potential silver lining there, but extended family has been arrested for the same things everyone else is, and others are now in hiding.

China/MOGE
[15 May edit] There’s a rumor on China/MOGE. It has not been thoroughly vetted so I’m “retracting” that for now.

ASEAN/US
ASEAN meetings continue in DC. Current chairman, Hun Sen of Cambpodia, has stepped in doo doo again with respect to Myanmar by castigating the democratic voices and blaming them for any violence to come if he doesn’t manage to coax the ethnic armed organizations into yet another deal with the devil. None of them are even taking a nibble, regardless.

Saffron Revolution II Brewing?
This story is kind of under the radar but could be significant. Tonight/tomorrow in Myanmar is the biggest Buddhist holiday of the year, the Kason full moon day. It is a time to donate to the monks and the military make a big show of it and genuinely believe it is a requirement for their karma.

Monks are urging one another to boycott junta rice offerings this year.

The genesis of the saffron revolution, when nearly all of the monks turned against the military in 2008, was the regime’s tripling of fuel prices which made it unaffordable for regular people to make their regular rice donations to the monks. To the monks it was not an issue of their possible starvation so much as this denying the people a ritual that ensures their karmic benefit - it is a threat to them, spiritually. So the monks greeted military donors with their rice bowls turned upside down. This isn’t some little act of defiance: it is literally saying to the military, “go do hell.”

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One of the characters in George Orwell’s Burmese Days is a corrupt magistrate who thinks that he can buy good karma and offset all his sins by building pagodas.

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14 May 2022

I think the military grew that into “…and by burning down mosques” which they’ve done I think at least once every decade.

Updates
The China/MOGE thing was one I heard verbally. Working on it, I may delete that.

The Joint Vision Statement of the US/ASEAN Special Summit reads much like the joint US/Singapore one from several weeks ago. Similar concerns about all of the major issues. Myanmar section 26 reads as follows:

26.We remain deeply concerned over the crisis in Myanmar. We highlight
Myanmar’s commitment to the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus during the
ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24 April 2021 and urge the timely and complete
implementation of the Five-Point Consensus. We will continue to support
ASEAN’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful solution in the interest of the people
of Myanmar, including through the work of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN
Chair on Myanmar, in building confidence and trust with full access to all
parties concerned, and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance to the
people of Myanmar, including those who are the most in need, without
discrimination. We reiterate our commitment to peace and stability in the
region and continue to call for the immediate cessation of violence in
Myanmar and for the release of all political detainees, including foreigners.
We will redouble our collective efforts towards a peaceful solution in
Myanmar that also reflects a continued commitment to human rights and
fundamental freedoms, as outlined in the ASEAN Charter. We welcome close
coordination between the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar
and the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar to ensure
synergy in this important endeavor.

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25 May 2022
Another joint statement, this time from the Quad Joint Leaders. No, they aren’t knee surgeons, but rather the heads of Japan, Australia, the US and India. Looks a whole lot like more of the same:

We remain deeply concerned by the crisis in Myanmar, which has caused grave humanitarian suffering and posed challenges to regional stability. We continue to call for the immediate end to violence in Myanmar, the release of all political detainees, including foreigners, engagement in constructive dialogue, humanitarian access, and the swift restoration of democracy. We reaffirm our support for ASEAN-led efforts to seek a solution in Myanmar and welcome the role of Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair. We further call for the urgent implementation of the ASEAN Five Point Consensus.

The NDAA report is either out or out in draft I believe and it was to be discussed by the State Dept. with senate leadership today.

It seems that China thing I had mentioned was true after all but I haven’t gotten to the source yet.

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