Myanmar: Ongoing Updates

Okay here we are. The BURMA Act (itself a mouthful) is queuing up and we expect Meeks to let it out in the next few days. Trying to get more GOP especially on the Senate side. But on the House side things are looking pretty good. There is no “there there” in the proposed legislation for Ted Lieu and Brad Sherman to object to on behalf of the Rohingya. In fact Rohingya are pretty darn happy with it as it is filled with references to their plight and the need for the National Unity Government to do more - without necessarily giving them the money to do so. And so, The Honorable Rep. Ted Lieu has agreed to co-sponsor what is, nonetheless, important legislation (it does a LOT for civil society).

Both Sherman and Lieu represent Southern California. Lieu wisely sat out today’s conversation in the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, Central Asia, and Nonproliferation. Sadly, Sherman reverted to his mid 2010’s self with questioning that was so nonsensical, the witness pretended not to hear it.

To be clear, there is no US funding going to the military regime of Myanmar. There is no longer a coordinating military/civil (tatmadaw/NLD) establishment functioning. We know that because on February 1, 2021 there was a military coup and the people who had been elected in October 2020 to take the reins at this time were instead placed under arrest or have since fled in terror with warrants for their arrest and formed a unity opposition government in exile.

Myanmar is not pronounced My Anmar. The Nobel Laureate and challenged National League for Democracy Leader’s name is not pronounced “Aung Juan Suu Key.” She is not now the apologist for genocide as she has not been able to speak out since February.

At 45:00 he goes straight down the rabbit hole. His speaking about the creation of the new nation state of South Sudan is one he was cautioned away from by the very parties he hopes to engage in this tired, wasted argument. That is, that either Bangladesh should annex Rakhine/Arakan State, the historic homeland of the Rohingya who have always considered themselves part of Burma/Myanmar, or the Rohingya should declare it an independent nation with support from the US - which would lead to a proxy war with India, China, Bangladesh and Myanmar, to say nothing of another major population of Rakhine/Arakan State, the Rakhine/Arakanese people themselves, before we get to the actual Bengali and Hindu populations in the area. In short, nobody in the region wants this, and when he spoke of it more explicitly in the past, Bangladesh regarded it as an international incident.

The question he asks is an absolute non starter. He’s asking if we should provide aid at a time when the government has not redressed issues with the Rohingya. There is no fucking government. The government has been removed. The people are not cooperating with the military. They are out in the streets and apologizing on social media for having been brainwashed about the Rohingya by the military. The money will not go to the people who have been carrying out the genocide.

Dave Shear doesn’t speak to the difference between the tatmadaw and the NUG. I wish he’d said something here, but…what’s he supposed to say/do?

Next, no we are not providing tens of millions of dollars to the regime to meet its objectives of genocide. We are not giving them any money. This whole thing is bumming me out. He has constituents reaching out to clear up just what is happening right now and will try to have the Rohingya leaders explain it directly to him.

Moving on, I’d like your thoughts on this idea which has just started circulating:

Will the fall of the Myanmar Kyat bring about the fall of the SAC? That is the question.

Soldiers’ pay is worth less and less every day, soon every hour. Most empires in history fell because soldiers no longer were willing to fight for their masters when the masters could no longer pay them. That was true of ancient Rome, the British Empire, and the Soviet Union. Will it be true of the Myanmar junta?

The NUG should introduce a new currency, backed by $1 billion of hard foreign reserves held in the US. It could be an e-currency, not physical paper. Or both. If the NUG issued this today, people can exchange 1 MMK to 1 NUG-kyat, so the NUG could issue 2,800 * 1 billion NUG-Kyat. But the NUG kyat would not inflate further, since it would be tied to actual dollars held in the US. Everyone would rush to convert SAC-Kyat to NUG-kyat. Then, the SAC-kyat (current kyat) would collapse.

The soldiers would not be allowed to get NUG-kyat unless they defect and give up. I think many solders would desert the Tatmadaw at that point. The SAC would collapse very quickly.

What do you think?

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I’ve no idea about the economics of your plan, but how long would it take for the junta to start arresting people for possession of NUG kyat? If the NUG kyat is an e-currency, they could set up checkpoints to scan mobile phones for forbidden apps, as the Chinese police do in Xinjiang.

The Communist governments in central and eastern Europe liked to arrest dissidents for illegal possession of foreign currency, which was an ostensibly non-political offence that smeared the dissidents as smugglers and greedy, selfish criminal scum on the make.

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There are many considerations I think. But they are getting stretched thin.

Here’s a much clearer picture of the economic disaster - potentially more of a disaster for the regime which has to buy stuff than for a population accustomed to trading and sharing stuff:

After taking ten paces from the Sherman craziness yesterday I have to say it was a good day. The shift by Ted Lieu was really many months in the making and has much to do with how the legislation itself has taken shape and been reshaped. Lieu did not compromise so much as the legislation could probably have done more to stick up for the NUG. But still his cosponsorship is a very big signal for unifying people.

Additionally I understand there’s a letter from Rohingya that unequivocally supports the bill in its entirety.

California advocates are making strong headway in getting support. Help is needed in other states but good sign ons from GOP members for Utica and part(s) of Texas in addition to at least two from California. More meetings coming up.

DASSK’s criminal trial starts tomorrow US time, Friday Oct 1 in Myanmar.

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Just some very sad news from this morning.

I was also sent the photos - I’ll spare you. This happened in broad view as I understand it (I earlier was told “daylight” - elsewhere learned it was 8:30 pm) and there are many theories including MAH/Tatmadaw involvement (recall that there was an assassination plot on the NUG UN Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun on US soil). But there’s also a certain amount of infighting, some Rohingya strongly pushing for resettlement in a safer and more prosperous place and others for a rushed return to Arakan/Rakhine State. And most wanting to wait until a safe repatriation is credibly assured. And there’s also outright criminal violence affecting the camps.

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5 October
Good news-ish. The Cardin/Meeks BURMA Act bill has been introduced. Please call senators and congress members to endorse and co-sponsor. If you’re in California we’re doing pretty good on both fronts. We need more help from Senate GOP. It is historically a non-partisan issue.

Yeah, you’d think they’d be so proud of catching her red-handed that they would want to show the world a transparent process. I expect it is being recorded so they can crank out isolated excerpts later.

Great article.

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9 October 2021
There’s a rumor out that Sean Turnell may be coming home. I am sure it is false, am chasing it down and asked the originator to explain. It’s false.

Some internal conversations here, wondering what you think. The NUG does not possess any real “levers” for formal international recognition as Myanmar’s government, but no one really wants to acknowledge the coup regime either. The Meeks/Cardin bill (really Meeks, as I think we’re waiting on the Senate version) really downplays the NUG, almost to a damaging extent.

But, we don’t want to lose the whole thing in debate.

Should there be a push to add stronger endorsement of NUG recognition anyway? It is one of those things the would be congress/senate sending a signal internationally but basically knowing that Biden cannot invoke it.

As an example, one house of the French parliament has endorsed NUG. The French foreign minister says they recognize nations and not governments - so it will go nowhere but it is still a signal to the free world.

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Bangladesh has faced a lot of pressure and criticism on the Rohingya refugees. In the case of the recent assassination, they are cracking down.

Top echelon militant leaders of this group are still in Burma. But, a great many Rohingya in the camps and abroad are celebrating these arrests and very thankful to the Bangladesh authorities for taking action.

Senate GOP are playing games. They refuse to cosponsor. They may be miffed about the process, control of the bill or something else entirely. Possibly they don’t want to piss off Chevron. It is a shame, because there has historically been strong bipartisan support for human rights initiatives in Burma. On the bright side, they don’t intend to block it and many will vote for it, but it would send a stronger message if they’d cosponsor.

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15 Oct 2021
The person I know has been held for a month without acknowledgement.

And this is a shocking codification of what was probably already a de facto policy:

ASEAN is potentially about to stub their toe even harder on Myanmar. With good intentions. They are talking very seriously of not inviting Min Aung Hlaing; however, they still intend to bring someone “non-political” to represent the country. This presents an impossible situation. Anyone who has not involved themselves in any way on either side will be under tremendous pressure and just to attend may be to risk their life. Something can be easily misinterpreted or reported back to the military. They amended/rewrote laws after the coup which can punish people for “making false statements” - which as members of this BBS and society in general, you know can be quite subjective. Article here, anyway.

It really would have to be someone who doesn’t need to return to Myanmar. So, likely candidates are non citizens of the country who maybe haven’t been there in some time. No one who escaped after the coup can be considered “non political.”