Myanmar: Ongoing Updates

Very different from previous generations IMO, the Myanmar people in the US are much more successful and this is reflected in their fundraising efforts, similar to those posted above. The NUG needed $50K for medical equipment and the L.A. groups committed and got it done within a couple of days.

The wave of infections of a couple of weeks ago is indeed now hitting as a wave of death. Virtually every friend from there is posting a tribute to someone they just lost. I’ve seen three or four in the past few hours. A friend keeping a lower profile has lost three family members this week. Two others are recovering.

The Covid Delta outbreak and lack of any protocols or care at the notorious Insein Jail has led to a massive, noisy jail strike with all of the inmates chanting the same chants heard in 1988: “Duoh Yeh!” which means it is ours, it is our duty, it’s our thing etc… typically with the word “Democracy” tied to it. It is so loud the residents in the area have been posting recordings of it and several ambassadors have issued a joint statement urging the regime to take prompt action for everyone’s health. Some promises have been made to release political prisoners.

Quoting a civil society organization, “According to the figures of the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, there are about 5,341political prisoners still behind bars and about 1000 of them are currently kept at Insein Prison.”

Historically, families were responsible for the care and feeding of their inmate family members. It is likely that many more than those 1000 were from Yangon (closest to Insein) and they were sent elsewhere in the country deliberately to harass and create hardship for their families.

Also very important to note, Australian economist Sean Turnell was transferred into Insein Jail. He is not a guy anyone (other than Min Aung Hlaing) would see as such a threat they need to lock him up this way. We want him free to go home. His wife is simply pleading with them to transfer him to a safer environment.

There’s a tech minister on the National Unity Government. He’ll be speaking in Pasadena tomorrow.

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Yup 2023 gives enough time for the world to forget, and then they will kick it down the road again. It provides just enough cover so the international community can continue to do nothing whatsoever.

UN recertification comes up in September. It’s going to be a hell of a month. Possibly no violence, possibly massive civil war knowing this is coming up.

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3 Aug 2021

This is what I was driving at, with UN (re)certification on the horizon. Expect at LOT more prison releases of people who should never have been detained in the first place. That has been the regime’s playbook since at least 1988.

Not exactly a massive number this round:

The junta’s Ministry of Home Affairs said 27 state employees who were imprisoned for joining the CDM would be released in Ayeyarwady region on Monday, while an official from the Yangon Region Prisons Department said that around 20 prisoners would be freed. 5,500 still detained.

946 killed.
10,000 dead from covid.

300,000 covid positive

It’s been a hundred days since ASEAN boasted about the 5 point plan (April 4, 2021).

What has happened? The entire international community has pointed to ASEAN to fix things. So the consensus became window paint to say something was happening. Nothing of the five points have been implemented. Not even a special envoy to Myanmar. No end to the violence, military engagements intensifying. ASEAN leaders only meet with the regime and are not meeting with any other stakeholders including the elected people who have been pleading with ASEAN for meetings. ASEAN is instead a vehicle for the regime to legitimize itself. When it was accepted into ASEAN, the junta used ASEAN as a cover for all their crimes. It is worse with the manmade disasters and the weaponizing of the covid epidemic (see above about doctors being killed if they help dissidents). ASEAN’s humanitarian center (AHA Center) is tangled up with the regime - cannot independently help the people. The same thing happened with the Rohingya in Rakhine State.

Those notes are from an excellent live presentation I’m watching with Khin Ohmar. Here is the full report. Another piece here.

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4 August 2021

I guess ASEAN knew they were about to get trashed for zero progress in 100 days.

Although Brunei is not a bastion of democracy, it appears the regime is already rejecting Yusof.

Blinkin is pressing ASEAN to do more, and now state dept. deputy secretary #2 has met with a NUG minister.

"The first announced contact…"

Honestly WTF took them so long? I’m about to get a minister in front of an elected rep myself. This is embarrassing.

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Perhaps they’re worried that Yusof, being from a Muslim country, will raise the issue of the Rohingya and won’t accept a fob-off answer.

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That was my thought as well. I’m told now that they’ve accepted the appointment. Expect major interference with his “unfettered access.”

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March on Washington had about 3,000 people from all over the country, including a 3 vehicle caravan from the Bay Area and a pro-NUG Rohingya group from Atlanta and elsewhere. Some hiccups including perhaps media outreach - can find no stories on it whatsoever but it was a pretty noisy affair. They also did some lobbying, some on zoom calls from their DC hotel rooms.

Gen Z is getting into the lobbying as well.

We’re approaching an extremely critical juncture. Next month the UN will have to figure out who represents the country there - the Min Aung Hlaing coup side, or the NUG side. Note: This piece claims that NUG has a Rohingya Rep. To the best of my knowledge that is not true. I will correct this if/when I receive more info. Corrected.

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18 Aug 2021
FINALLY a major development. We’ve gotten Rohingya together with Burmese to start learning more about lobbying. Rohingya on the same panel with the NUG Human Rights Minister… Thanks to a brilliant organization called Fortify Rights and it’s leader Matthew Smith. 84 minutes on FB.

A key takeaway: there will be a board of advisors for the Human Rights Ministry including both Rakhine and Rohingya and this will be formally rolled out very very soon. But this is the ministry preparing and filing criminal charges against tatmadaw human rights violators.

I crunched numbers on Covid, and these are only the official ones. The number of Covid deaths in the coup’s first six months (Feb - July 2021) was triple that of the prior 12 months before the coup.

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23 Aug 2021
Took my first weekend trip in years, small group, all vaxed & tested. But in the midst of this are new relationships and I had to keep at bay (see prior post). For a couple of days.

I should be sleeping now. But just want to flag this - keep an eye out for a major NUG announcement in the next couple of days. The anniversary of the start of the attacks on Rohingya is coming up 25 August. NUG is definitely going to do something. I think this will be a joint NUG / Rohingya statement.

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25 Aug 2021
Announcements I’ve seen so far were essentially reiterations of everything the NUG Human Rights Minister has been saying since May/June.

Two zoom calls this morning on Rohingya. One was broader about the abuse of women and the very real “rape culture” of the Tatmadaw, how they have not been held accountable internationally in any way whatsoever, how it is so engrained in the cultish Tatmadaw culture that the wives of soldiers not only forgive them, they publicly say it’s necessary for their husbands when they are “travelling.” Gross.

One of these events was co-hosted by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. New exhibit:

They went to great pains to convey how important it was to get this right and to do right by the people, and they consulted very deeply. We even heard from a woman calling in from a refugee camp.

Things are moving in terms of the small part I may play. Hoping to accomplish at least one thing before I let it go. Which I may do. But I’m in front of another minister now and it feels like the brick wall I was hitting my head against for several months is finally starting to give and we’re actually getting opposing forces together now. And for my part, I’m willing to not put as much energy into those who don’t want to go along for the ride.

Tops among the people in this movement for whom I have the deepest respect are Khin Ohmar and Thinzar Shunlei Yi. So it is especially powerful to see a dual byline here. Really a terrific read calling for more forceful recognition of the suffering of the Rohingya and others:

It goes into specifics and unflinchingly calls out the NLD. I think NLD adherents are kind of at a loss now. They don’t want their leader seen in a bad light so they always want to have her decisions then contextualized for navigating the future alongside the military because of the constitution. This has them failing to step back and just look at the suffering. They seem so reticent to admit that politicians can be fallible and that mistakes were made, with horrific consequences for the entire country.

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29 Aug 2021

Sorry for neglecting you. We finally got it, what I was hoping to see from the NUG. In fact, things are really rolling so I think I will say more after the culmination of all this work. Very excited within the limited scope in which I can help. Apologies if the type is too small below. TTDR (Too Tiny? That’s a thing right?); YES they have appointed a Muslim and a Rohingya to a newly formed advisory board over the human rights ministry.

I hope to see them both on a zoom call this week. I am in talks with “everyone” and so ecstatic about this. I got high praise from a member of two of the exile government entities who’s seen me work before, and he said this in front of one of the new ministers. I am also indebted to an angel of a human I stumbled into by asking the right question in the right place a week and a half ago. You know how these things go - sometimes you are closest when the whole thing looks most out of reach.

Additionally as further evidence of the NUG’s commitment to the Rohingya there was an answer I had failed to record before from the Tech/Comm Minister Htin Linn Aung in conversation with the Wilson Center. Excellent presentation. This was May 20, before the Human Rights Minister announced what was coming and before they made the formal statement of June 2.

Same words written out. Additional context by me in italics:

NUG intends to fully repatriate the Rohingya population [note: this is about safe/voluntary repatriation, not forced repatriation into the existing environment] and ensure a citizenship program for the returnees. In doing so we are in communication with the leaders of the Rohingya community as well as civil society organizations and activists to ensure a policy making process that is inclusive and sustainable.

That is very important, I believe; however, make no mistake: anything that we say on the Rohingya issue will just remain words as long as the military continues to hold the de-facto power in handling border immigration matters, which, if I may remind everyone, has always been the case [going back to independence of 1947 and also because of the 2008 Constitution enshrining military control - so this comment implicitly supports the need to start over with a new constitution]. So we need to ensure a full return of the state apparatus to the peoples’ government, the NUG. We need to figure out a process for repatriation and citizenship under international standards and norms.

It is important to note that the prevailing sentiment emerging among the majority Bamar populace after encountering the military’s brutality on the streets and cities and urban areas, is a sentiment of disdain for the military as well as [one of] empathy and solidarity with our ethnic brothers and sisters who have had to bear these atrocities by the military in their home states on a regular basis. So, I call it a national awakening and an incredible, powerful, unifying factor that we can use as a basis for meaningful change and reconciliation. As the peoples’ government, NUG’s policies will be reflective of this national sentiment. We will approach every issue with that notion at its core including the Rohingya issue as well. Thank you.

I’m really liking this minister. He seemed to be saying this on the fly but came very well prepared.

In the big picture, success on what I talk about above will represent only a tiny increment, but an important one. And I’ll say again again, this whole journey (re-)started for me with questions that needed answering here on BB.

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If you click on the image it will be enlarged. If you click on the enlarged image it will be enlarged to full size.

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I have been debating that “D-Day” announcement. By calling it D-Day you’d think it’s a militant call for action. Some see it otherwise. Word choices.

There’s some bad fortune unfolding for someone which not everyone close to them knows about yet. Ideally it gets resolved before they do know. Apologies for being cryptic… and I think this is my second such apology. I feel like the best possible help is aligned but there is also so little I can do from so far away. My personal journey has been part of the narrative of these updates. I’m not sure I’d wish my experience of the past two years on anyone. On the other hand, these are largely “first world problems” and pale to what’s going on over there. As I was setting up ways to better track what’s happening on this I stumbled on all the projects that were keeping me focused before. For the situation I was in before and even well into the pandemic, I was surprisingly well organized. Now it just feels like I’m shuffling deck chairs.

And yet… no. With only three others we put together some unprecedented meetings and opened dialogue that still continues. The Rohingya leader and NUG minister we got together were seen outside the UN just a few days ago advocating for NUG recognition. The US and China have essentially agreed to disagree but won’t go nuclear on handling of Myanmar in the UN. So it seems really likely that the junta will not get a seat but neither will the NUG - the likely outcome predicted for weeks now is that they will kick the can down the road. That means neither the coup appointees nor the NUG Ambassador will be kicked out, but it also means that neither will be certified or allowed to participate in a massive number of UN groups through which they could be helping Myanmar. So the good news is NUG doesn’t lose. The bad news is, the people do, in terms of that support. But if the coup guys were seated in UN as the official reps going forward, that will be devastating.

The ASEAN guy from Brunei was calling for a ceasefire. This is really odd language. It has not been a war. It has been a massacre. A one sided armed forces ransacking towns and villages, eating their food, raping women and beating men and women - the usual Tatmadaw thing although it has been somewhat toned down against the majority Bamar in comparison to elsewhere.

The hope is that all of the armed groups can push at the same time, spread the regime thin and give new hope to the Bamar in the cities. Some, especially younger ones, have left for those border areas to receive training and weaponry.

There’s also an announcement from Thailand that they will basically kick out any rebels and send them back to Myanmar. This has been read with great concern. To me, it is potentially not so oppressive. It’s saying “don’t make it obvious - if you do this in front of our eyes, you’re doing training camps on Thai soil, it’s going to strain relations with the entity now in power. Don’t do shit that forces us to send you back.” It is of course much riskier in Karen territory where the regime is still sending jets to bomb.

We are pushing on what is now called the Free BURMA Act. Have fun with this mouthful: The Burma Unified through Rigorous Military Accountability Act of 2021

OK you’ve had your fun. Can you help get the Republican Senator Young of Indiana to stop blocking it? Republican co-signers wanted.

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Myanmar junta demanded telcos activate phone interception tools – and we refused, says Telenor

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