Myanmar: Ongoing Updates

They generally don’t care. I haven’t said much about this before, but in terms of pure numbers, the death count is lower than say in 1988 when it was in the range of 8,000 to tens of thousands. That is only in reference to attacks on the Bamar population in the cities. Changes in tactics may have coincided with bad press. Killings fell off after there was so much coverage of the killing of small children. Some of that fall off (esp. in the border areas - non-Bamar) may have also coincided with the rainy season. Now we’re entering the dry season and they are burning down entire towns in the so called ethnic border areas. In Chin State, in response, the young people are training for battle. Men and women:

With respect to journalists, to be fair, DASSK did the free press and the NLD’s reputation no favors by backing the junta’s arrests of journalists herself.

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7 November 2021
So yeah it did go somewhere. And there are US citizens being held that few people know about. Aye Moe, at center below, worked for Richardson, and they were able to get her out. This may be a test case for future exchanges.

As you can imagine, the visit is not without controversy. Expect more info in the coming days and also a bit of opaqueness which always surrounds visits of this type.

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8 November 2021
And yeah. Two outspoken Burma human rights leaders from way back have now criticized the visit. Richardson told one reporter that he didn’t even inquire about Danny’s case. That IMO should be explained, and publicly. I’m sorry I can’t report more yet.

For the most part, today’s news is all about the one year anniversary of the election that would be nullified on Feb 1. Lots of statements by concerned leaders and lots of pleading by victims… so reminiscent of the unheeded call so many months ago by the people in country for the UN to invoke Responsibility To Protect and, you know, do something.

Among other things, I noticed in the UN Secretary General’s statement today: “Less than half of the $385 million required under the Humanitarian Response Plan and Interim Emergency Response Plan launched after the coup has been received.” I know their initiatives are underfunded but this is an opportunity for me to learn more. I don’t know how they budget and commit other nations to contribute. Because… maybe a public reckoning is in order, if nations had made commitments and not followed through. And the humanitarian needs are pretty dire.

Ahh and we’re learning quickly. Terrific overview, complete with bar graphs here.

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9 Nov 2021
UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Tom Andrews is pressing hard for UNSC consensus to block all arms sales and transfers in meetings this week.

There is very deep concern that the junta will unleash the full range of methods they used in Rakhine/Arakan State, in the other so called ethnic border areas causing the same kind of massive refugee influx into each of Burma’s neighbors. Burma borders Bangladesh, India China, Laos and Thailand. Additionally, seafaring refugees have already been landing throughout the island nations of SE Asia.

Particular attention is being paid to the massing of troops and firebombings already occurring in Chin State which has a large Christian population. Here’s a town in Chin State before and after the attacks of October 29th, 2021.

1st image from October 2020. 2nd image obtained Nov 6 2021.

The regime is saying “it wasn’t me” and that these people burned down their own village. I’m pretty sure they said this about the Rohingya too.

The regime exploits both ethnic and religious differences to divide and conquer. Expect future propaganda about missionized Chin representing a neo-colonial threat, consistent with the Tatmadaw rhetoric on anyone opposing it since 1962.

In their anti colonial language, as an activist from abroad I would be characterized as an “external destructive element” wielding in-country “internal destructive elements” like an “axe handle”.

English language billboards going back decades were aimed at the outside world.

Here is the softened version of that rhetoric from the state owned newspaper as they were moving toward the shared power “democracy” in 2011:

Another in this deeper dive on their paranoia by Burmese-American journalist Aye Min Thant:

This repeated “crush all those” line always reminds me of my dear friend Conan the Barbarian.

Addition. Almost forgot:

A longer quote reveals that Richardson was told by the State Dept. not to bring up the Danny Fenster case. So, particular to that case, we need answers, but perhaps not from Richardson.

I had, I’m glad to say I suppose, not shared a Mizzima article on the visit. They received a very strong rebuke for spouting Covid 19 falsities and took down a tweet then slightly overhauled the article but not the still-intact headline “…as pandemic subsides.” There is no reliable way to source ANY medical or mortality stats from Burma. Consider that the regime was removing bodies during funerals to do their own autopsies and change causes of death. What I do know is that there were 3,000 deaths from Covid in its first year, the coup occurring Feb 1, 2021. Since the coup, the official number shot up beyond 17,000 within about 6 months. People suspect it is much higher.

Finally (perhaps, as I keep adding to this), hell of a thread here on the democratic forces assassinations of coup regime administrators and informants (“Dalan” in Burmese).

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I am trying to find the code he’s been charged with. Can you help? Here is the English version of the 2014 Counterterrorism law. One way they’ve expanded its reach is by naming the National Unity Government a terrorist organization. There is another trial with charges for communicating with or helping them. ct_law_eng_0.pdf (459.8 KB)

Just updated. OK, this is a verdict on the original charges and years will be added if he’s convicted of the others. :frowning:

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Ehhh… It wasn’t necessarily about horse trading, international considerations or anything other than thinking about what they believed would be in Danny’s best interest.

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Tried to, but my background is in engineering and English isn’t my first language - I got lost in the text like Hänsel & Getl in the woods.
(And they want to fuck over that guy under any pretence anyway; they might just as well simply roll a dice.)

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This is so fascinating, after I was told about Richardson not touching the Danny issue, he goes to pick the guy up. Really good to see. Of course Burmese are already asking if I know what pound of flesh was traded. I do not.

I am so relieved for the Fensters.

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This is monumental. Kirin has written off $193M on the Myanmar Beer market and it’s partner has now petitioned to dissolve their deal. Kirin opposes dissolving it but it appears they’ve lost today. The biggest label is Myanmar Beer but there are several other products, including the stout mentioned along the top banner below.

The whole deal is closely linked to cronyism and Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings. Kirin’s stake in this venture was 51%.

Japan Times’ characterization of the brand as “ubiquitous” is almost an understatement. That giant banner above? Similar ones graced the entrances of every dining and beverage establishment, and most markets of all sizes, typically to the exclusion of all others, from the main cities’ tourist centers out to the tiniest huts selling them out of wheeled tailgate party coolers, all under a big vinyl Myanmar Beer banner. You’d have the banner up top, the banner draping from the service table, and smaller banners over each shoulder of a one-person service hut - and no other branding of anything. The brand took up perhaps 90% of all consumables advertising in the country.

Come the coup, many citizens were waking up to the sales lining the pockets of the military generals who co owned Kirin’s in-country partner Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL). This may be the most successful boycott in Myanmar’s history - CDM targeted it big time and restaurants cut off the banners. Considering they brought to a grinding halt a business that generated >$300M in FY 2019-20, it is an astounding feat. As the international community wrings its hands about what to do with Myanmar, it should be looking at these signs of unity and the massive levels of participation in the CDM. Anything that helps the CDM counter the regime would be a good bet and build partnership with the country’s future civilian leaders.

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2 Dec 2021
Both bickering and doing something about it are continuing to happen on the Senate side. The BURMA Act is dragging on with Senator Young reportedly hurt by the way in which Senator Cardin introduced it. I wish he could rise above this because people in Burma are getting hurt in other ways, every day.

Op Eds have targeted Young, Rubio and Cardin. In all cases their offices reached out to the writer and/or local advocates from within their respective Myanmar communities. One result is kind of symbolic but the symbolism is important.

McConnell_Burma_Amendment__2021_.pdf (237.6 KB)

This is an amendment to the National Defense Approproations Act (NDAA). Those tend to pass in bulk. Although it is merely calling for something that is already easily doable (State Dept has been providing updates to Foreign Affairs and Foreign Relations, etc.)… it is significant that, first, McConnell called for the need to support the National Unity Government in a speech at the International Republic Institute a few weeks ago, and second, this amendment calls for a briefing from the State Dept. including info on any actions “to support and legitimize the National Unity Government…The Civil Disobedience Movement, and other entities promoting democracy in Burma, while simultaneously denying legitimacy and resources to the [sic] Myanmar’s military junta.” There isn’t as strong wording in support of the NUG in the current drafts of the Meeks/Cardin BURMA bill. But the community, while happy about it, will not accept this as a replacement to the BURMA bill - these same senators should talk to Cardin and get on board quickly, as that has much needed moneys and other goals.

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3 Dec 2021
Beer Bankruptcy?
To clarify from the Kirin post. The petition for dissolution is what we’d call elsewhere a bankruptcy filing. So the Myanmar judge is absolving them of a very massive debt to Kirin.

Evictions in Yangon
In west Yangon a township was built from the ground up, possibly without clear land title but it has been there for some time. In a likely drive to establish an instant response military outpost for rapid anti-insurgency deployments, the tatmadaw has been evicting and bulldozing this “settlement.” 8,000 evictions. It was also a particularly rebellious are after the coup and the military responded in a March massacre of 65 demonstrators.

Danny Fenster
hasn’t entirely ducked out of the public view. I hope there will be more reporting and interviews from this remarkable young man. He says he’s feeling much love in his native Michigan. He lit the giant Detroit menorah for the first night of Hanukah, here with Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (source: Detroit News):

From here on out, excellent pieces in the Irrawaddy.

NLD Targeted with Terrorism Charges
Elsewhere (literally in hiding), DASSK’s former chauffeur who once saved her life from a mob of military-inspired attackers has since become an elected MP. He tells the Irrawaddy what I have said above: the regime is trying to smear the democratic opposition with terrorism charges. I know because it’s happening to someone very close to me who was decidedly not in a place to be doing anything other than communicating between unarmed democracy leaders.

Over 570 NLD members have been taken as prisoners of conscience, with many of them already killed during arrest or early detention.

Meanwhile, they’ve thrown yet another corruption charge at DASSK related to the use of a government helicopter.

Telenor Handed to Military/Cronies
Foreign phone companies and ISP’s have had to decide whether to play ball with the junta by allowing them to set the rules and invade the privacy of their customers, or abandon their Myanmar business. Telenor has opted to do the latter. Now we see how things really work.

Telenor had planned to sell their stake to a less scrupulous entity, the M1 Group, which is owned by the family of Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. They faced massive criticism from human rights groups. The junta also opposes the deal as proposed, because it would not sufficiently line their pockets. They are insisting on a partnership. The two “bidders” as for the partnership? Former navy chief Admiral Tin Aung San and current navy chief Admiral Moe Aung.

Regime Rounding Up Election Workers
In addition to dissolving the election results, the coup regime has now charged the head of elections and is also rounding up the people who oversaw local polling stations around the country.

Regime Harassing, Killing & Charging CDM Medics
Young female medics in Chin State have volunteered to save lives of resistance fighters. Several have been killed and/or jailed.

And this is wild: Two medical chiefs, director-general of public health Dr. Soe Oo and national immunization director Dr. Htar Htar Lin, I believe are so distrustful of the junta that they have returned funds to the UN that had been intended for Covid relief. In attempting to prevent graft and corruption, they have of course been charged with graft and corruption.

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I wonder where they got the idea from.

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6 Dec 2021
I had read elsewhere that the car ramming crew shot people - possibly a mistranslation.

DASSK was sentenced to 4 years. That’s the first of many. It’s been reduced to 2 years, suggesting they are trying to appear to have a non-compromised judiciary. Among those who have been made to testify against her - her cook, ferchrissakes.

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7 Dec 2021
Great posts above, thanks for sharing those.

And thanks @JLW:

Here’s a disgusting fact of the day.

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