Myanmar: Ongoing Updates

28 April 2023

Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund is dumping stocks in Myanmar-linked companies.

Sean Turnell met with King Charles.

In L.A. on Sunday is the annual Jewish World Watch Walk to End Genocide. It’s short, about 2 miles round trip. Hoping to see Rohingya and other peoples of Myanmar walking together.

There are a number of events in DC next week relating to hostages and wrongful detainees. May 1, Hostage US annual reception. May 2, Bring Our Families Home public rally. SPEHA is having an open house but that may only be for affected families. May 3, James F. Foley Foundation Freedom Awards at the Press Club.


Quick note 3 May 2023
Foley awards are streaming live and probably cached here (youtube).

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10 May 2023

Edits: I added some perspective on China after posting this. And had forgotten to include this head scratcher of a story - Indian utility co deciding to set up shop in the disputed zone of ultra regime resistant Sagaing Division.

First the “good news.” Ever superstitious, the junta last week released 2,153 prisoners sentenced under their revised 505(a) code (“badmouthing the coup”) to mark Kasone Full Moon Day, marking the Buddha’s moment of enlightenment. It is a time of reflection and prayer. Similar to what they said in releasing the foreigners in November, the regime said this was “for the peaceful mind of the people and on humanitarian grounds." The junta also directed those serving in the regime-run agencies to pray for the regime’s stability. This is a pretty broad release of actual political prisoners where many previous ones were of violent criminals either uninvolved in politics or actually released on condition that they then attack the demonstrators. Likely the pressure came from China, but may also have been something recommended by astrologers.

Lots of Rohingya stuff to discuss (plus more on China further down)

The regime with help from India and China has built some shacks in Rakhine and is attempting to lure refugees back. The regime persuaded a Rohingya “go and see” group to see what was waiting for them in Rakhine but couldn’t give any lucid answer Rohingya path to citizenship. The junta propaganda, as is typical for everything else they churn out, is just plain creepy:

IOW, “here’s a new card that we’ll use to track you everywhere so we know where to find you on our next campaign of terror, we promise you the same kind of freedom we’ve promised everyone else who won’t speak a single word against the coup (which, in and of itself in reality is ‘not much’), and we’ll try to stop calling you Bengali. Forget the old citizenship, family, marital, death record and property title documents we stole from you. You are ‘entitled to apply’ for all new paperwork!”

As described in great detail in the USHMM’s “Burma’s Path to Genocide” exhibit, the Rohingya had their citizenship papers taken and never returned in a form of ethnic cleansing carried out by the regime over decades.

And no, says Aung Kyaw Moe, ASEAN, UNDP and UNHCR are not in any such discussions with the regime over facilitating Rohingya repatriation in partnership with the coup regime. Ironic timing on that claim about these three entities’ involvement, since the regime has now attacked an ASEAN aid convoy.

This could be some tit for tat with the regime not invited to sit at the 43rd ASEAN gathering. Indonesia has engaged in a flurry of activity - I think I read 40 contacts with multiple stakeholders in Myanmar - and acknowledged that “the divisions run deep.” They were trying to show progress before handing the reins of ASEAN to the next unlucky leader.

Lots of China stuff to discuss

But, stepping into the vacuum, China is claiming to be the only ones trying to help re Rohingya. By building shacks on the Myanmar side and trying to push the Rohingya to go over there. It that the ‘Go and See’ group has now inspected and rejected the whole deal. Rohingya Refugees Reject Rakhine Villages Built by Myanmar Junta

In a guest column in the Irrawaddy, long time academic Burma watcher/historian David Steinberg offers some perspective on China and the Rohingya citizenship issue.

At any rate, China is clearly seizing ASEAN’s slap-in-the-face moment with the Junta to cozy up. The highest level Chinese diplo meeting since the coup just happened as Foreign Minister Qin Gang met with both Min Aung Hlaing and the former dictator Than Shwe (without whose approval MAH cannot rule). Qin Gang publicly promised to stand by the junta in the global arena. Predictably, the NUG has issued a warning to China that this is not the way to achieve China’s goal of neighborhood stability.

Some personal perspective incorporating a brain dump I just got from Kyaw Htay Oo, who has spent significant hours in the company of DASSK and separately with economist Sean Turnell. Much of his current take, thought, he says comes from a report he heard on Chinese television.

China wants stability - or at least a stable business climate/partner. Publicly they’re saying, they want a return to how things were in the days before the 2020 election. Maybe not exactly. They also met with the other former president/dictator Thein Sein. Much of this goes back to a massive MOU inked in 2015 covering 93 contracts. Likely in close consult with Turnell and then closely pressing the military leadership, DASSK did away with about sixty of them. Each one had been done with corruption level signature bonuses (the civilized world’s way of laundering bribes) equaling 10%-15% of the total project, and probably going straight into the respective controlling ministry who then sends a portion of that up to the military top brass. These were non refundable to the business entity.

Two of the most audacious projects to be cancelled (which also suggests the greatest losses of deposits by the Chinese crony companies), were for a massive port project I’ve mentioned previously, and a multi city / port bullet railway system, each of which was extremely beyond Myanmar’s current need or capacity to use the service profitably, which would have put Myanmar into a debt cycle. It is widely believed that there were also undocumented payoffs and kickbacks directly to ministers who would sign these deals.

Likely China has been courting/talking to both the current and former leadership to ensure everyone is on the same page with some kind of promise to refresh the entire MOU. The elders would no doubt be pressuring MAH not to pull the same BS with China that he’s been pulling with ASEAN and other foreign delegations.

However. Absent DASSK, my take is that China would have to bet militarily on the coup, even as they seek this return to the olden times. Prior to the visit to Myanmar, Qin Gang also just met with the UN envoy Noeleen Heyzer. I could see them (china or bothHeyzer and China) trying to get in front of DASSK to ask, would you agree to allowing these two deals to go through if we could persuade MAH to release you? An actual return to 2020 pre-election would not accomplish that for China. But even being asked under duress, DASSK, educated abroad but also educated now by Sean Turnell, I think would say no to a return to 2015 (also the year that the Bamar Buddhist Nationalism began infecting the NLD in parliament, before much of it/the perpetrators were exorcised).

Sheesh this has my wheels spinning. Because if China persuades MAH to let Heyzer put this plan in front of DASSK, being shut away from her advisors for so long, with it coming from this envoy who can put on an appearance of speaking for the West, maybe DASSK would go for it.

I think she was pressured greatly to accept the garbage 2008 constitution by Western leaders who were eager to lift sanctions, get to Burma’s resources and low cost, educated labor force, and to gain some kind of democratic looking toehold, to just make the deal and have faith that democracy would follow. Possibly she is feeling many times bitten, now shy.

Okay, enough. As to the United Nations? The World Food Programme, citing severe funding shortfalls, has notified Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh of a new reduction in their monthly allotments which for years stood at $12/month. It now stands at about $8US/month beginning in June with which WFP tells the Rohingya they can buy 13kg of rice and “use the remainder on fresh food items…”

Meanwhile in Washington DC, NUG had a bigger than usual gathering of its team - when we hoped to be there :frowning: - with at least the Rohingya advisor also partaking in an Eid celebration with Secretary Blinken and Ambassador Beth Van Schaack, who has a fascinating gig heading up the Office of Global Criminal Justice.

And, of course the regime is doubling down on their instruments of terror.


11 May 2023
Well, yikes. Severe cyclonic storm “Mokha” is now a category 5 aimed at the capital of Rakhine State. It is already severe at sea with winds in the 100mph range and gusts around 110, but as you know it may continue to gain fuel while at sea. A 2.1 meter surge is no joke.

Rohingya meanwhile are extremely irked at a statement by the Bangladeshi who is tasked with repatriation. He sounds delusional to me but here’s a link to the story. It’s helpful to know what’s being said. This rhetoric is likely to reappear in other places from other speakers.

He’s under a lot of pressure, especially with the recent news from the UN Food Programme as what this really means is that Bangladesh will have significantly less resource to feed a million refugees. So of course he’s looking for a fast solution. He’s quoted in a different take that is worth a read.


12 May 2023
Cyclone Mocha
Quick perspective on the size of this thing. Mapping source is The options to get more visual info are pretty versatile.

Landfall about 48 hours from now. Trajectory roughly between the refugee camps and the notorious rebel town of Monywa.

Friday Afternoon (US) update:

In 36 hours, prior to landfall just south of the Bangladesh and Myanmar border, Mocha will decrease in intensity to 185 km/h (100 knots) as the environment will become less favorable. These less favorable conditions are defined by an increase in wind shear, dry air entrainment wrapping into the LLCC from the southern edge, the onset of land interaction, and cooler (28-29°C) sea surface temperatures.

In 42 hours, Mocha will make landfall and begin its dissipation phase. In 2 to 3 days, Mocha will dissipate due to land interaction over northwest Myanmar.

The deterministic and ensemble models all agree that Mocha will continue to intensify as it transits northeastward over the next 24 hours, then weaken on or before 36 hours as it continues the same trajectory.

…Maximum significant wave height is 14.6 meters (48 feet).

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Landfall - Cyclone Mocha

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Can that report be run through an AI to fix the font spacing? I’m crosseyed at the first paragraph.

Edit: it’s still a headache and I will take a crack at doing it in Word then back to PDF when I’m feeling a little more motivated. But even better, the summary indicates the findings are summarized on this much easier to read infographic also in PDF.

Campaigners in the US are wanting to hone in on China.


21 May
Lots of visits by NUG to the west coast. Today in LA Htin Lin Aung and U Kyaw Moe Tun. They will be in SF tomorrow. UKMT is receiving the “Citizen of Burma Award” this evening from a group that operates by that name in Southern California. I have ChatGPT helping fix that report layout. It flagged for potential content policy and this was just wonderful:


1 June 23
Dealing at long last with a primary medical issue for the prisoner. At the same time, dealing with the local scene here (esp. surrounding NUG visits) has been both eye opening and disappointing. In short, I realized yet again that there are deliberate moves to keep both me and KHO out of anything interfacing with NUG (this has happened any time high profile folks show up in LA, going back 20 years). I’m putting my rant in the parking lot for now… gotta deal with a three page medication list.