Myanmar: Ongoing Updates

4 April 2021
My personal “quick update challenge.” Okay here goes:

  • US locals want to approach the Thais etc. as well as want to talk to CNN
  • CNN interview Q&A with the junta’s military historian (there’s a museum) posted their own footage on gov’t media of the last question of that interview. In short “would DASSK’s father Aung San be rolling in his grave” and the translated answer came back, truncating this:
  1. He originally wanted no more foreign interference so having no president who is or was married to a foreigner was his idea.
  2. He would say “what a stupid daughter.” She kinda lost it there.
  • The R2P movement has put out a call for an easter egg challenge. Honey Mya Win shared this one:

From a BBC Burmese post:


Sometimes when global celebs and artists talk about Myanmar they have described it as if it is a black hole for creativity or like they themselves are bringing music to the people and their cause for the first time. They couldn’t be more wrong. Other news:

  • A memo has leaked that former Tatmadaw who have defected say is authentic, an order to the police and military to be very restrained and do no violence when/where CNN is present.

  • Too bad CNN can’t be everywhere in Myanmar at all times. Elsewhere in the country people who are dead or dying are being found on the road, but no one will go out there to help them including the aid workers and NGOs. The sniping is now a constant factor.

  • CNN finally stepping up ever so slightly about what everyone else knows is happening in their wake… and yet, continuing their tour. This one’s a good read though.

  • There’s word that the Tatmadaw is going to throw everything they can at the border armies especially in Shan State. We’ll see.

  • I’m seeing what I perceive to be anti-Semitism in international support groups in response to, I believe my own explanations of how sophisticated the PR efforts are. So my own words are circling back to me through this other lens. I’m not gonna take part in that, might say my peace and either the people still pushing that are invited to leave or I will. Not exclusively non burmese, not exclusively burmese. It’s garbage. “The mossad was behind 9/11,” etc. I met the people propounding this stuff in the early 2000’s and they were, all of them, ranting anti-Semitism (“jews control the banks” etc) long before they latched on to the 9/11 crowd.

  • I have on these pages perhaps wrongfully used the Burman description of the non-Burman (i.e., border) groups as “ethnic groups” when everyone on earth is some form of “ethnic.” It’s been lazy shorthand to describe “those not of the Burman majority.” Trying this:

  • So-called “ethnic” leaders are organizing in their cities abroad, and in L.A. they held a zoom call in which Mayor Garcetti participated. This was a multi-ethnic organization. Southern California is home to the greatest number and diversity of Myanmar exiles, possibly outside of Yangon.

  • Fascinating words from Total about their energy operations.

  1. They haven’t even been able to pay their $4M in monthly tax payment to the coup regime because there is no banking system to which they can deliver it.
  2. Some of it goes to Yangon for their electric grid.
  3. Total “was concerned staff there could be exposed to forced labour under the junta if it did decide to stop production in protest at violence in Myanmar.” That one’s a doozy - the junta are their business partner. This was the whole point of what we told them before they started going business, before they had even done surveys to build the pipeline. Your future partner enslaves people, always has and always will. Doesn’t this make the whole thing a textbook illustration of partnering with terrorists?
3 Likes

5 April 2021

  • Got 2nd vax. A little spacy. Only have a few minutes before a family errand this a.m.

  • One regime owned news outfit is reporting of a police station in Sagaing overrun by demonstrators who killed six policemen. With grenades. Yes, I am thinking what you’re thinking.

  • At the same time OTHER members of CDN who were detaining several members of the tatmadaw has exchanged them for the release from jail of several of their compatriots. Even more so, I am thinking… .

  • About that CNN interview segment? Burmese are telling me it was at least slightly mistranslated between Burmese and English to soften the blow… I think in both directions. Raising the question, are they using a military translator? Using their own, who doesn’t live or have too much family to jeopardize there, should have been CNN’s first condition. I don’t know.

  • Being a translator is a thankless job anyway. A friend of mine does it and I’ve seen his health suffer, even being in the US. He got a nasty strain of Covid and as much as I -need- him for this stuff, actually our whole community and especially his wife are protecting him so he will get well. The US courts only have a few translators. In Asylum cases they often are flown in at great expense. Because the courts have no idea about Burmese, lawyers will instruct their clients to complain that they don’t understand the translator in order to get delays on their cases. Then the translator is made to look bad. Thankless.

  • Really the news of the day: CNN’s first report is finally out.

  • Note how she corrects herself, trying first to say they’re the only journalists before saying “International Journalists.” Even that I find suspect, but then the definition of journalist has changed. I don’t question her abilities as a journalist but it was -foreseeable- that people would suffer because they are there.

  • Also on Twitter: Min Aung Hlaing Parody Account. Also check out this terrific youth group doing graphics about the corrupt jade sector etc.

  • Irrawaddy’s take on that one interview Q&A.

  • Head still spinning from vax, but also from that Total statement. If you haven’t read it, it’s short and PR-wise a definite head scratcher. Actually there’s a better, longer one here in French (I refused les cookies and don’t understand the rest). I’m running out of time here and will re-find the english translation on FB later today. OR if you do know what I need to click on there to get it in English, please advise.

  • There’s a punk album to raise funds.

  • [edit, removed ASEAN] I think the South Koreans may want to help more than anyone in the region. I mentioned Daewoo before (energy companies are quite reticent to disengage - I will write some day about persuading a board member who was also president of Obama’s alma mater to help get one of them out before it got worse). Now steel giant Posco company is trying to figure out how to leave. Worth noting they are also in the energy sector and in partnership with a direct funnel to the regime, Myanmar Oil & Gas Enterprise. Guessing their payments are on hold too based on what Total had said.

  • The Guardian talks about life as a political prisoner.

  • Thailand is blocking NGOs from helping refugees who don’t sufficiently kiss up to the Thai authorities.

  • Speaking of blocking… Brilliant artistic mask critiques of China’s blocking in the UN:

1 Like

Clarissa Ward is the journalist who tracked down the goons who poisoned Alexei Navalny. I just saw a report with CNN’s Jake Tapper and she called out one Myanmar official (to his face) by showing him footage of a person being shot while cycling and questioning the authorities in classifying his death as a bicycle accident.

She shows no fear and I honestly fear for her.

4 Likes

Minor correction: S. Korea isn’t in ASEAN. Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines comprise ASEAN if I recall correctly. No, I don’t think the democracy movement has much hope of support from ASEAN.

1 Like
3 Likes

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

3 Likes

Thread on CNN’s reporting in Myanmar (I’ll skip the background):

1 Like

6 April 2021
Hi everyone, this is really nice. Apologies about the South Korea/Asean reference. I was/am truly exhausted and taking a break. But I’d say let’s keep looking for CNN reports. I didn’t know that she was blaming “white males” (myself included I suppose) for being critical. The people of Myanmar were extremely concerned about CNN going there under a Tatmadaw-controlled tour. Especially those who have experienced it before. This is how Visit Myanmar Year was designed with Alumni Association tours from abroad.

Interestingly, there’s ANOTHER journalist named Andrew (R.C.) Marshall, who is even more of a Burma expert. He wrote The Trouser People about the origins of British Colonial rule, was in country during the Saffron Revolution in 2007 and won a Pulitzer for coverage of the Rohingya in 2014. He last tweeted about the release of Burmese Pulitzer winner Wa Lone after more than 500 days in jail. He’s also covered the Uighars being deported from Thailand back to China. Very instructional from him is a piece he contributed to about the methods used to force out the Rohingya - the same battalions are now doing some of these very specific things (other than mass rape) in the rest of Myanmar. Yet another white guy who, I believe, would also be critical of CNN.

I feel vindicated by the other Andrew Marshall’s tweetstorm. With the Burmese who do think only that she did a great job I am walking a line to urge looking more deeply while avoiding a tendency to venture into conspiracy theory nutfests.

Incidentally, “Sludge” is a tag I’ve used since meeting the authors and reading the excellent PR literacy book “Toxic Sludge Is Good For You.” As a journalist I was also victim of sophisticated PR that has led to my mantra in this situation: the goal is to gradually introduce a cloud of doubt over the anti-coup position.

It has nothing to do with her being a woman. I have not seen any tweets aimed at her that were sexist. If you check the Likes and Shares for these “white male outsiders” tweets critical of CNN’s presence, note that a great many are from women who are from and/or in Myanmar. Ben-Menashe knew that he was appealing to her and CNN’s ego and marketing goals to get an “exclusive.”

As to whether CNN is not to blame for people coming up to them (incidentally, imagine being the interpreter and saying one wrong word in this situation):

And this was done by Burmese, not a foreign white male:

2 Likes

Thread (via Andrew MacGregor Marshall):

4 Likes

7 April 2021

  • Yeah, now there’s a terrific set of items that provides, to me, an ethical contrast to CNN. Turns out The Globe / Al Jazeera sent a Pulitzer funded journalist who has done her homework, covered Myanmar previously and built up good contacts. In all of her articles, Allegra Mendelson is targeting the right issues and asking the right questions of the right people.

  • From other authors, the Globe has also profiled a few people I know well. The Globe’s headlines on this trip include the words “PR Tour”. Their editor seems to be more transparent about the dilemma and is welcoming dialogue, in fact polling on twitter about doing a web call on Friday to address questions and debate the issues. Post-mortem there may be no right answer. But contrast that to CNN - Clarissa Ward accusing those who raised the alarms (most of my own “likes” on those were from women from there or of Myanmar descent) of being white male academics, disingenuously trying to pivot this into a Me Too-esque situation. (Incidentally there’s a male Burmese activist in London, I believe, who goes by “Mi Thu”)… and while most Burmese are thanking CNN and drawing a sigh of relief that they are calling the regime on their obvious BS, I am deeply concerned that CNN is also doing self-PR, where instead of profiling the people who are still disappeared after talking to them (or banging pots or whatever other thing you can do anywhere else in the world and not get tortured for it), they are celebrating the ones that were released and promptly moving on to another subject.

  • There’s a weird thing that happens when you’re CNN and do a headline about 8 of 11 people being released from detention. It makes people forget about the other 2,600 who’ve been rounded up since February 1st. No CNN headline mentions that number.

  • On the other hand, the Globe’s article on Russia opposing sanctions reads like it was written by the PR guy. EDIT HOLY CRAP! I googled “Ari Ben Menashe Russia” or something like that and found an article about his lobbying application where he mentions every country he will be engaging with to turn the tide for the coup regime. I’d remember Saudi Arabia but actually, yup, Russia too. The article in the Globe is a reprint of AFP. I’m sure Menashe had his hands in both AFP, in what Russia said and in the Globe’s reprinting of it. In response to these types of statements, astute Burmese have a new mantra: We will not be taking advice on democracy from other dictatorships. IMO, The Globe shouldn’t be reprinting them either.

  • Thank you @GagHalfrunt . Thin is EXACTLY the kind of person I’m referring to when saying there were plenty of other people who could have gotten CNN the real story and who have been telling it every day from inside the country from sources throughout. And she references many others in that thread, Burmese people who DO CURRENTLY work for international news networks.

  • Within one of those threads someone says per RFA Burmese (I don’t speak it and can’t find it) that all 11 were released. I don’t know if the 11 included the young woman who saw the warrant for her arrest online after posting film footage from above while one of the others was being taken away after talking with Ward.

  • In case anyone’s interested, there’s a petition on Change.org about the CNN visit asking for full transparency as to how it was arranged. The Globe has been more transparent. I don’t imagine money changed hands but on kind of a side note I’m wondering who arranged and paid for travel. Low priority.

  • One thing that came out of the CNN/Globe/Al Jazeera visit is that the regime is already doing what everyone in Myanmar said they’d do: moving the goalposts.

  • Hopefully last note to end this now week-long rant of mine. I’m not sure I could tie it up any better than PrettyPoodle GratefultoJesus:

  • Craziness in London. The Ambassador sided with CDM. There was some other military outpost there and those people have staged a mini coup, taking over the embassy and locking the Ambassador out.

  • The famous comedian who was also jailed in the Saffron Revolution has been taken again.

  • Much more going on. Troops are not fed by the army so they are stealing everyone’s food.

  • Internet is really really shut down. I’m seeing my contacts pop on for a couple of minutes if at all.

  • S. Korea IS turning the wheels to cut these major business ties. It’s significant.

  • Today (April 8 there) people are staging a “Marching Shoe Strike” as explained:

  • It’s flower season and the month of Burmese Thingyan/New Year/Water Festival. Yellow flowers of the Padaung tree figure prominently. This year it would be Apr 17-19. Stories on this later.
4 Likes

8 April 2021

  • Frustrated that The Globe has closed access on its zoom call because of the number of sign ups. Wish they’d livestream it to Youtube.

  • I have been sent evidence that the woman in the pink shirt pictured being led away after talking with CNN had her arms bound behind her back and was then raped and left for dead in a ravine.

  • Massacres are now happening as are violent acts by coup opposition so possibly that story about the grenades was true. Mostly ineffective placements of stun grenades etc.

  • Total comm shutdown imminent and there’s word that a Burmese employee of Tesla asked for use of the new spacex comm satellite, was told they need US govt approval. Looking into it.

  • Follow CNN report, honestly she did a terrific job. But mysteriously the number is now “8 were detained and all 8 released.” where CNN’s own headline yesterday had been “8 of 11 have been released”.

  • Just. Burnt. Photo of the day (source, not sure if original source):

Edit: Please help me. The original tweet has hidden this photo under a Sensitive Content wrap. I am clueless about twitter. Is this the result of it being reported? Is it possible that the PR bots are doing this to limit the exposure?

3 Likes

10 April 2021

  • Feeling hopeless. UN still doing “urgent paperwork.”

  • In Bago there have been rocket attacks and a machine gun massacre. Death count at 80 so far today. I expect the total since February to now be over 700 and at this rate maybe 1000 by Monday.

  • Ten to fourteen cops killed at the police station at Naungmon in Shan state.

  • The regime is now telling families of the dead that they need to pay about $100 US for return of the bodies of their loved ones. There were possibly thousands of disappeared in 1988. Some locked in trucks in the summer heat and left to die and later taken and burned en masse.

  • It is widely reported and I think confirmed by a doctor who defected that they are harvesting the organs and selling to China. I didn’t want to say this before but it’s just so clear.

  • Tried to reach out to Chevron, as one might expect they actually wouldn’t want any of their $$ going to the regime and perhaps need a way to honor their contractual obligations without doing so (that is, in this particular case, having their hand forced by Big Government). So far a polite but firm no to any dialogue. Chevron’s total silence since February stands out greatly versus what Korean companies are saying and doing and what the CEO of Total has said. Although I make fun of some of Total’s contentions, I respect them for having some kind of plan for redress including setting aside $$'s equal to the payments owed the regime, in support of CRPH/CDM.

  • Richard Horsey, an immensely qualified expert, is telling the UN that Myanmar is a failed state and the UN is obligated to intervene asap.

  • Seeing no other reports about the pink shirt girl I finally sent the whole thing to CNN’s “tips” email address, along with a ton of questions I don’t expect them to answer.

  • Coordination is gradually building against Chevron. Without spilling everything, this may lead to more Americans pressuring them than has ever happened before.

  • I keep thinking of how the other nations fail to interpret the wisdom and sophistication of the CDM. Those people have gone abroad, they are highly educated, they have run their own companies and engaged in participatory democracy at the grassroots level and as student leaders (As a sophomore or junior, Burmese Thet Lin Tun was appointed Elections Board Chairman of Undergraduate Students by a unanimous vote in 2019, for example) and in particular they have thorough understanding of international finance and economics. The professionals aged 20-35 are not “future leaders” - they are the intelligent machinery who have been running the entire country. Not only are they capable of restarting the country from scratch, but in their absence, the international community will not be able to do business with Myanmar. If the CDM generation refuses to participate in a successful-coup nation, Myanmar may effectively cease to be a country.

  • Escaped Tamadaw soldier gives his take from the inside. He thinks they can be defeated and that active armed troops are closer to 100,000 in number.
3 Likes

11 April 2021
This is a self test to see if I can pop in and out of here in one minute instead of two hours. I’d forgotten yesterday to mention they had a big jade sale in NayPyiDaw for the regime to raise some quick cash. No doubt as a response to that, received a few minutes ago:

The following entity has been added to OFAC’s SDN List:

MYANMA GEMS ENTERPRISE (f.k.a. MYANMAR GEMS CORPORATION; a.k.a. MYANMAR GEMS ENTERPRISE), No. 70-072 Yarza Thingaha Road, Thapyaygone Ward, Zabuthiri Township, Naypyitaw, Burma; Rm Counter 23/24, G Flr, Mayangone, Rangoon, Burma; No. 66 Kaba Aye Pagoda Road, Mayangone Township, Rangoon, Burma [BURMA-EO14014].

Appreciate the OFAC folks working on this on a Sunday. It gives me a strong feeling about the Biden Administration keeping their eye on the ball. What is needed is for them to sanction Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

I’d asked internally about Total’s statement that they couldn’t move their payments to the regime, my assumption being this was because the international banks could not maneuver because of US blocks on them. The word I got back (and I’m not sure if this is right or wrong) is that Total’s really saying because the CDM has rendered Myanmar’s banking system inoperable in country, that’s why they can’t tender payment. Some people have been going to work though, so I am still thinking it has more to do with not being able to access the regime’s accounts in Singapore.

Dammit, two more minutes: I also forgot this very significant development. A combined citizen/ethnic armed group succeeded in ousting a cassava farming operation built on land that had been stolen in 2016. This is a huge chunk of the land in that ward/township. It is very significant, I think >200 acres. The land has been untended for a month or two now. In the past couple of days, the residents supported by their township leaders and this military group have formally retaken the property and declared it theirs. As I understand, it wasn’t a military general but a crony who had seized it in the first place.

3 Likes

12 April 2021

  • Burmese getting back online. They’ve been expecting a weeks- or months-long shutdown of all communications starting around now. The whole country knows what happened in Bago.
  • Ramadan and Burmese New Year coincide this week. I will be pursuing a creative idea in the absence of water festivals.
  • There’s much comment sniping from the community against the ousted UK ambassador. But the reason for his ouster is that he had joined CDM. It is disappointing. Few are going to be perfect in any of this - obviously DASSK, still widely revered, has made missteps too.
  • This morning I’ve been reading some well thought out opinion pieces in Tea Circle Oxford. Recommended reading, a Tatmadaw son speaks less of a generation gap than a perception gap between the military and the union it purports to safeguard. I would like to see much more from the author.

Afternoon:

  • Massive artillery sounds in Mogok. This has happened at night and I didn’t see direct hit reports but saw multiple terrified notes on FB. This clip captures the sound (any ordinance experts here?). The exact location of the source is being translated as “top of flower.” I am not too familiar with Mogok.

Evening:

  • Had a rare meeting I can’t put down in detail but learned a lot and I’ll work that into future posts.

  • Burmese who I played the Mogok clip for and described the place to, and who read the Burmese script said they believe this is not a tatmadaw attack but a bombing done by their opponents. Attacks on tatmadaw and the police are rapidly increasing.

3 Likes

I’m not sure that’s an accurate characterization of the situation. She backed anti-Rohingya actions during her appearance at the International Court.

I don’t claim to understand, but it’s important that we don’t oversimplify.

1 Like

It is absolutely true that Min Aung Hlaing played a greater role in the attempted Rohingya Genocide than DASSK. She is constitutionally forbidden to run the armed forces. It is also true she willfully ignored evidence and did this horrible shitshow of a road show to justify and defend the government and military’s actions. While Rohingya have no love for DASSK, they absolutely despise Min Aung Hlaing.

The juncture we’re at now is this: CRPH and Dr. Sasa have embraced the Rohingya as brothers. The CDM is technically leaderless but in their members’ social media presence they have apologized in multiple ways on multiple platforms for being “Brainwashed” by the tatmadaw and they are extremely disappointed in the position that DASSK’s involvement has put them in on the world stage. Photos of CDM youth carrying posters or wearing t-shirts with her image are almost nonexistent. The CRPH, a party composed of elected members of parliament which is to say largely NLD, has embraced the Rohingya and their right to return. Dr. Sasa who was DASSK’s campaign manager has called them “our brothers” and unequivocally in support of them, apologizing for the past and promising never to refer to them as “Bengali.” But all of that is meaningless re DASSK so long as she is detained and cannot speak freely. No one can really say they speak for her on this issue.

It’s up to the Myanmar communities throughout the world to also build that bridge. To look at whether they too were brainwashed or at the bare minimum, failed to stand up for the Rohingya’s basic rights after the world had stood up for theirs. And apologize. This would give the Rohingya a better chance that, upon release, DASSK won’t move to reverse everything the CRPH, Dr. Sasa and CDM have been pushing forward. Most of them are ready, but in a culture that reveres its elders they are reticent to tell the older (I might say “rabid”) DASSK fans not to wear their DASSK shirts or chant her name. And the Rohingya will not attend a DASSK rally. I’ve united many factions in the past and built a hodgepodge of support. But I can’t solve this one, and this is why I’m losing sleep (not to say “my mind”).

4 Likes

13 April 2021

  • Early start here. We’re almost 100 posts deep. Wow. Just two things for now:
  • Good read on Mitch McConnell. I know. But check it out. This was my experience going back to the early 90s and yes it felt kinda, well. anyway. Many from Myanmar who settled here joined the GOP after becoming citizens. I attribute this to their having experienced one of the worst entities on earth to call itself “socialist” and also having experienced great support from the right side of the aisle. Especially noteworthy (across the eras) were McConnell, John McCain and California congressman Dana Rohrabacher. Laura Bush was astounding.
  • I don’t know anything about “ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights” but this podcast lays pretty good groundwork on ASEAN/Myanmar.

Update

  • Soldiers/battalion commanders are now visiting the homes of well to do people and demanding cash. Recall that the actual mint no longer exists, as the German currency printer has cut off all contact.

  • Hannah Beech’s reporting has been pretty awesome. In the NY Times she does a deep dive into the erosion of democracy not just in Myanmar but in the region as a whole.

  • CNN’s face-saving PR is not sufficient, says Aye Min Thant, the Burmese winner of a Pulitzer Prize who had previously advised them, summed up as:

CNN reporter Clarissa Ward’s shallow coverage of the Myanmar coup, her endangerment of her sources and her embarrassing rationalisations erode journalistic ethics and perpetuate the notion that brown people need a white saviour.

Thant also takes Allegra Mendelson to task but this mostly about the high profile of CNN and CNN’s choices.

1 Like
2 Likes

For some activists seeking the return of civilian government in Myanmar, Kyaw Zwar Minn is a complicated figure. He was “one of the few ambassadors around the world to speak out against the coup and call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the president [Win Myint]”, said Mark Farmaner, the director of the Burma Campaign UK. “He deserves credit for that.”

But Farmaner noted that the diplomat had for weeks “refused to support the civil disobedience movement and join the CRPH” – the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, Myanmar’s parallel civilian government.

2 Likes

It’s a spot to be in. He was no doubt privy to a lot more info, rumors, promises and who knows what else. Makes sense that he hoped to ensure his family was safe before declaring support for CRPH and that was ultimately not possible so he eventually declared it anyway. None of which will sit well with the people. A great many UK Myanmar community members have zero sympathy for him.

Consider he may have been DASSK’s favorite and his being ex military made it a good choice for the Tatmadaw as well. Now, it would be great if he could make videos and other messaging aimed at those inside the military. He knows that culture. The only good change for Myanmar will include some kind of upheaval within the armed forces.

I have the utmost respect for Burma Campaign UK, Mark Farmaner and the whole team there. Really effective, always paying attention to the right things and they’ve never taken their eye off the ball. The spokespersons and organizers they’ve drawn in from Myanmar are amazing. Zoya Phan (Oslo talk) and Wai Hnin Pwint Thon whose father was taken in a few weeks ago, among those at the forefront.

2 Likes