Myanmar Round-Up: June 2023
Dr Cchavi Vasisht, Research Associate, VIF

The month witnessed important developments within Myanmar. Two military leaders, Lieutenant Gen. So Htut and Lieutenant Gen. Yar Pyae met Aung San Suu Kyi. Internationally, UN Special Envoy, Noleen Heyzer 18 month tenure concluded. She also met, National Unity Government Foreign Minister during the month. Thailand on the other hand hosted talks with Myanmar's Foreign Minister in which they invited other ASEAN members. One of the significant visits was made by the Indian Defence Secretary to Myanmar, where he met Gen Ming Aung Hlaing and Myanmar’s Defence Ministers and other Commander-in-Chiefs. All these developments are discussed in the article below.

Domestic and Political Developments

During the month, Myanmar’s military leaders met Aung San Suu Kyi to seek her help in peace negotiations with the armed resistance. On May 27 and June 4, three military officers – Lieutenant Gen. So Htut, home affairs minister, Lieutenant Gen. Yar Pyae, and retired Lieutenant Gen. Khin Zaw Oo, visited her in Naypyidaw Prison. However, the military has not made any official announcement about the meetings. Even the sources close to Suu Kyi's legal team stated that they were unaware of the meetings.[1] In addition, Kim Aris, the youngest son of Suu Kyi, urged the army to release his mother, Aung San, in his conversation with BBC.[2]

The conflict and violence between the resistance groups and the military continued during the month. The members of resistance groups also stated that a few units of an ethnic militia in eastern Kayah State which are normally part of the military, have switched sides allying themselves with the country’s pro-democracy movement. They have carried out attacks in recent weeks on army outposts and a police station. [3]

Despite the increasing humanitarian crisis, the military suspended humanitarian access to Rakhine state, where more than a million vulnerable people are in urgent need of aid a month after a cyclone devastated the region, the United Nations said. Despite the cyclone, the military did not remove the requirements of getting approval a month in advance. Similar plans for distribution and transportation in neighbouring Chin state also remain pending. In addition, on 08 June, travel authorisations of Medecins Sans Frontieres for Rakhine were also suspended.[4]

The country is reeling under an economic and social crisis. In its latest report, titled “Hunger Hotspots: FAO and WFP early warnings on acute food insecurity,” the UN included Myanmar among the hunger hotspots across the world. The report extends a warning to Myanmar regarding areas which have been marked as areas of “very high concern.” In addition to a fragile economy and Cyclone Mocha, conflict within the country since 2021 has further increased the risk of food security in the country in the past six months. The at-risk population increased by 2 million in 2022 compared to 2021.[5]

Furthermore, a regime court sentenced to death five people detained for their alleged involvement in a deadly August 2021 shooting on a train in Yangon. However, this is the first time that a civilian court judge gave such a ruling. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, 117 post-coup prisoners are currently on death row, and the military regime has sentenced another 42 people to death in absentia.[6]

To mark International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, June 26, 2023, military authorities in Myanmar torched almost half a billion dollars worth of illegal drugs. However, the head of Myanmar's Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, Soe Htut warned that they were unable to stop a surge in the production and trafficking of narcotics. The "Golden Triangle" border region between Myanmar, Laos and Thailand has been a hotbed of illegal drug production and trafficking. Opium poppy production in Myanmar also increased following the coup.[7]

International Reactions

On 21 June, the United States sanctioned Myanmar’s Ministry of Defence and two banks, Myanma Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB), which are allegedly being used by the military to purchase arms and other goods in foreign currencies, according to the US Treasury Department. The two banks have controlled the flow of foreign currency in the country. The state-owned enterprises, Myanma Economic Holdings Ltd and Myanmar Economic Corporation, will be hit by the sanctions as transactions are made through these banks. It must be noted that under the previous military regimes, there were no sanctions on the two banks.[8]

Furthermore, the UN special envoy for Myanmar Noeleen Heyzer completed her 18-month tenure. She was tasked with urging the military to end the military coup and engage in political dialogue with opposing groups. She visited the country in August 2022 and met junta Chief Min Aung Hlaing and other top military officials. Additionally, in June 2023, she met Zin Mar Aung - the foreign minister of the National Unity Government (NUG). However, the military were not appreciative of the meeting. Recently, the military condemned the United Nations as "rotten". The military has criticised attempts by the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc to establish a dialogue between the military and its opponents, whom it has vowed to "annihilate".[9]

During the month, a convoy of Chinese military representatives and Myanmar counterparts was attacked in the Kachin state. The Myanmar government alleged that insurgents from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) attacked the convoy. But the KIA member Colonel Naw Bu told AFP that the insurgent group did not attack any convoy, and the convoy may be attacked during the ongoing fighting in the region.[10]

Furthermore, Sri Lankan Ambassador to Myanmar Janaka Bandara met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Affairs Minister of Myanmar, Lt-Gen Soe Htut in Nay Pyi Taw. During the meeting, Ambassador Janaka Bandara expressed appreciation for the intervention and support extended by the Myanmar Government in the recent repatriation of several Sri Lankans who were victims of human trafficking and stranded in Myanmar. Further, the Ambassador requested continuous support and close cooperation between the two countries to address issues of illegal migration and human trafficking, money laundering and cyber-crimes.[11]

ASEAN and Myanmar

ASEAN despite its differences on how to deal with the crisis in Myanmar, have collectively provided humanitarian assistance to support the emergency relief efforts in Myanmar due to the severe impact of Cyclone MOCHA. On June 20 and 27, the relief items, consisting of non-food items, and water and sanitation hygiene kits, arrived in the country on June 20 and June 27. ASEAN’s first batch of humanitarian response arrived in Myanmar on May 21 and was among the first emergency support received by the affected communities. The regional grouping had also begun an internal discussion on possible support for the recovery phase based on the assessment from the ASEAN Emergency Response and Assessment (ERAT) Team.[12]

Furthermore, despite disagreements, the outgoing Thailand Government hosted talks with ASEAN Foreign Ministers, including Myanmar military regime minister, aimed at re-engaging with Myanmar's military leaders. Myanmar's generals have been barred from high-level meetings of ASEAN since they seized power in a 2021 coup. Thailand's foreign minister, Don Pramudwinai, stated that the crisis in Myanmar was impacting Thailand more adversely due to refugees coming across their border. However, Indonesia and Malaysia declined to join the talk.[13] Additionally, after a request by the Myanmar Government, a Thai state enterprise that has been exporting electricity to Myanmar has cut off power to two border towns, Shwe Kokko and Lay Kay Kaw. These towns host gambling and entertainment complexes developed by Chinese investors that are accused of being centers where people from other nations are tricked into major organised crime operations. There also are allegations that the complexes are centres for drug and human trafficking.[14]

India's Engagements with Myanmar

As the violence in Manipur continues, the Indian Defence Secretary visited Myanmar and met Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Gen Mya Tun Oo (retd)Defence Minister, Admiral Moe Aung, Commander-in-Chief, of Myanmar navy, and Lt Gen Khan Myint Than, chief of defence industries.[15] Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to ensure that their territories would not be allowed to be used for any illegal activities. A report released by a sub-committee of the Manipur Cabinet stated that 2,187 illegal immigrants from Myanmar have set up settlements in four districts. Due to the increasing violence in Myanmar many have fled the country and settled in the northeast states of India, particularly in Manipur and Mizoram. In this background, the Manipur state government took numerous steps to identify them and keep them at the designated detention centers.[16] Additionally, India’s Home Minister, Amit Shah also concluded his four-day visit to Manipur on 01 June. He stated that a permanent solution to the problems plaguing Manipur state lies in the effective sealing of the international border with Myanmar.[17]

Furthermore, public sector company, Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) has exported USD 5 million worth of military end-use goods, technology and technical documents to the Myanmar military between November 2022 and April 2023 as reported by Justice for Myanmar (JFM). The report stated that BEL, which falls under the Indian Ministry of Defence, has continued to supply arms and dual-use goods and technology to the Myanmar military. The supply was uncovered through the database of Panjiva, a global trade data company that has details of global commercial shipments.[18]

Another State-owned NTPC Ltd began the last phase of a training programme for power sector professionals from Myanmar. These programmes are being conducted under the India-Myanmar Government-to-Government framework for cooperation in the power sector, as part of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme.[19] It must also be noted that the Central Bank of Myanmar and the Reserve Bank of India are in negotiation to finalise the terms of reference and standard operating procedures for the payment mechanism. The RBI has authorised Punjab National Bank to open a special Indian rupee vostro account for trade settlement in Indian rupee and Myanmar’s kyats and PNB has already approached two Myanmar banks to open special Indian rupee vostro accounts.[20]

Way Forward

To conclude, More than 6,000 civilians were killed in Myanmar in the first 20 months after the February 2021 military coup, according to the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.[21] As a solution to the current impasse, Thomas Andrews, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, visited Indonesia during the month and stated ASEAN must not invite Myanmar’s military personnel to high-level diplomatic meetings.[22] However, it must be emphasised that any solution to the current crisis should come from within Myanmar, with a proper negotiation between the military, opposition forces and other Ethnic Armed Organisations.


[5]The report was jointly published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP), marks 18 hunger hotspots across the globe where acute food insecurity is expected to increase in the period from June to November 2023. In these hotspots, parts of the population already facing acute food insecurity will experience “significant deterioration.”
[19]The other four programmes have been on Smart Grids; Cross Border Energy Trading; Electric Vehicles, Batteries and Charging Stations; and Microgrids

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