Myanmar Round Up: October 2023
Cchavi Vasisht, Research Associate, VIF

The month marked the eight anniversary of the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. Out of 10 parties that signed the agreement, only seven participated along with delegations from China, Thailand and India. It is interesting to note that despite efforts, Min Hlaing was not invited for the third BRI Forum in Beijing and another delegation led by Mya Tun Oo and Ko Ko Hlaing attended the forum. While Myanmar welcomed more investment projects and established closer ties with Russia for nuclear energy and setting up of gas pipeline in Myanmar; the western nations, i.e. the US, Canada and UK imposed additional sanctions. The major highlight was the sanctioning of MOGE (Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise) which is a major source of revenue for the military. The Myanmar military was also accused of war crimes as a criminal case was registered at the Philippines Department of Justice. All these developments are discussed in the article below.

Domestic and Political Situation

As the country gears up for elections to be held after the census in October 2024, the Union Election Commission (UEC) and 37 political parties that have registered met in Naypyitaw to discuss the opening of party offices. Only 37 parties have been approved to set up offices, whereas more than 60 parties had applied for UEC registration. The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and National Unity Party will open offices across Myanmar. The Phalon-Sawaw Democratic Party, New Democracy Party in Kachin State and Myanmar People’s Democratic Party will set up regional and state offices. Other parties such as the National Democratic Front, the People’s Party and the People’s Pioneer Party are also expected to run nationally and open party offices soon. [1] The National League for Democracy party has been dissolved and most of its members have been either arrested or detained. It must also be noted that during the month, the Supreme Court rejected appeals against six corruption convictions of Aung San Suu Kyi. Earlier in August the Supreme Court rejected five appeals by Suu Kyi for illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies, sedition and violating coronavirus restrictions.[2]

In order to combat the military, the Three Brotherhood Alliance (3BTA), which comprises the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA) launched “Operation 1027” on 27 October 2023 in northern Shan State, close to the Myanmar-China border. The 3BTA also added that the aim was to suppress the instances of online gambling and fraud along the China-Myanmar border region. Many other ethnic parties expressed their support such as Malady-People’s Defence Force (M-PDF) and Karen National Union. The National Unity Government's Defense Ministry also issued a statement affirming its support for the 3BHA operation. The NUG and other forces have since commemorated October 27 as marking 1000 days of military rule, and used the occasion to intensify their anti-military activities.

“Operation 1027” has seemingly made progress as by the end of three days, the 3BHA took approximately 57 junta military camps and stations, killing a hundred troops and capturing an additional 10. The MNDAA also successfully took control of Chinshwehaw, in Laukkaing Township a town located near the China-Myanmar border and eradicated the regime’s military camps and positions in that area. All trade routes with China, including the Muse, are now under Brotherhood Alliance control.[3] In response, the military has resorted to air strikes and other heavy artillery. The junta’s artillery shelling has reached the Chinese border, because of which the China’s Foreign Ministry called for an immediate cessation of armed clashes and a peaceful resolution to the conflict. China’s Wang Xiaohong, a member of the Chinese state council also visited Myanmar in lieu of these developments and discussed issues of law enforcement and security cooperation. He also met Myanmar’s Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw, following clashes in northern Shan State.[4] Another deadliest attack by the military on the civilians was on 09 October. The military fired on a camp for displaced people in the northern part of the country, killing 29 people and wounding 56 others.[5] There were clashes and raids reported in Sagaing Region and many other regions.

Eighth Anniversary of NCA

On 15 October, Myanmar's military government hosted representatives from ethnic groups to mark the eighth anniversary of the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. In October 2015, eight ethnic armed groups signed the NCA. In February 2018, two more ethnic rebel groups joined the cease-fire, bringing the total number of signatories to 10. But the event was boycotted by three of the signatories - the Karen National Union, Chin National Front and All Burma Students' Democratic Front, that oppose the current regime. The three groups have allied with the pro-democracy People's Defence Force and demanded the withdrawal of the military from politics, implementation of federal democracy and acceptance of international involvement in solving the country's crisis. However, in his opening speech, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing stated that the NCA would remain in force eternally and be of prime importance for implementing the peace process.

The other seven NCA signatories including the Karen National Liberation Army/Peace Council, Pa-O National Liberation Council, Arakan Liberation Party, Restoration Council of Shan State, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army, New Mon State Party, and Lahu Democratic Union attended the event. The event also included 35 members of political parties, 11 officials from non-governmental organisations and 32 diplomats, including Chinese Special Envoy for Asian Affairs Deng Xijun, Indian Deputy National Security Adviser Vikram Misri and the Thai Deputy Foreign Minister Sihasak Phuangketkeow.[6]

Economic Situation and International Responses

The Myanmar Investment Commission approved six new investment projects from the sectors of power, manufacturing, hotels and tourism. These projects will aim to pump in over 314.73 billion kyats into the country. Singapore, China, and Thailand are the three largest investors in Myanmar and the power sector topped the list with 28.45 per cent of total investment, followed by the oil and gas sector with 24.46 per cent and the manufacturing sector with 14.38 per cent.[7]

During the month on the sidelines of Russian Energy Week, the State Atomic Energy Corporation "Rosatom" and Myanmar’s Ministry of Science and Technology signed the Memorandum of Understanding in the field of nuclear infrastructure assessment and enhancement. The parties aim to determine the current needs for the development of the nuclear infrastructure in Myanmar and draw up a work plan for priority areas for implementation of the small nuclear power plant construction project in the country. The memorandum provides for building up nuclear infrastructure in Myanmar and building up Russian-Myanmar cooperation in the field of training and human resources development, enhancement of safety culture in the organisations, and participating in the nuclear energy development program of Myanmar. The document determines that these developments will be carried out in accordance with the IAEA approaches and recommendations as well as Rosatoms best practices.[8] Russia and Myanmar officials also held discussions in Moscow on Russian participation in the construction of a gas pipeline to Yangon.[9]

While investments and cooperation has increased between Russia and Myanmar, the United States announced a new round of sanctions on Myanmar’s military. The measures included sanctions against the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise and prohibited certain financial services, such as, loans, accounts, insurance, and investments by U.S. persons. While Treasury did not add MOGE to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list, which would lock it out of the U.S. banking system, it is the first time that the US has directly targeted MOGE. About 50 percent of the country’s foreign currency comes from natural gas revenues, and MOGE was expected to earn a huge share of the same. Previously, the European Union has also sanctioned the enterprise.

The blocking action against MOGE was also accompanied by an announcement that the U.S. was aligning its sanctions regime with Canada and the United Kingdom. As part of this effort, the U.K. and Canada governments announced sanctions on individuals and entities in Myanmar. The U.K. added five individuals and one entity involved either in providing financial services or the supply of restricted goods to the regime. Canada announced the imposition of sanctions against 39 individuals and 22 entities for supporting the military regime.[10]


As Indonesia presided over the ASEAN meetings in 2023 in the latest turn of events the Chin Human Rights Organisation and Myanmar Accountability Project, and Marzuki Darusman, a former Indonesian attorney general and human rights campaigner, filed a lawsuit against three state owned manufacturers over the sale of equipment to Myanmar since the coup. The complaint was made to Indonesia’s national human rights commission and stated that a Myanmar company called True North, supplied equipment to Myanmar on behalf of Indonesian state shipbuilder PT PAL, state arms manufacturer PT Pindad, and aerospace company PT Dirgantara Indonesia. The three Indonesian armament manufacturers were listed by True North as “strategic partners” in a corporate profile that was undated and obtained by Reuters.[11]

Furthermore, a case has been registered in the Philippines' Department of Justice in Manila, against Myanmar’s military accusing them of war crimes that seeks to invoke universal jurisdiction. The 160-page joint criminal complaint-affidavit filed, included accusations of the killing of a pastor and two church elders, and the systematic burning down of civilian houses in their village in September 2021 by Myanmar's military. The complaint also cited the 25 February 2022 report by the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, which attributed the burning down of more than 900 buildings in Thantlang. The lawyers representing the Myanmar nationals argued that the Philippines can try these cases based on its International Humanitarian Act, which makes international customary and conventional law applicable as a guide to local courts. However, he added that the same Act makes international customary law applicable, which could be interpreted to mean a Philippine trial is indeed possible, regardless of the perpetrators’ nationality. Cases against the Myanmar army have also been filed in Indonesia, the United Kingdom and Türkiye.[12]

China and Myanmar

Following the recent military conflict between the Myanmar military and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in China-Myanmar border areas, China’s spokesperson Mao Ning called on relevant parties to settle disputes in a peaceful manner through dialogue and consultation, avoid escalation of the situation, and take effective measures to ensure the security and stability of China-Myanmar border areas. [13] Furthermore, in an ongoing crackdown on telecom fraud, a batch of 2,349 suspects has been transferred from Myanmar to Chinese custody. So far, a total of 4,666 telecom fraud suspects in northern Myanmar have been transferred to China. Since August 2023, the country saw a 24-percent decrease in the number of cyber and wire fraud cases.[14]

During the month, China’s Ambassador to Myanmar, Chen Hai, met Myanmar's foreign minister, Than Swe, to discuss Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects. Though Min Aung Hlaing was not invited to the third BRI Forum, the Transport and Communications Minister General Mya Tun Oo and cabinet minister Ko Ko Hlaing attended the forum. Chen proposed cooperation on “eight major steps” announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the BRI forum.[15] Additionally, China has started surveying for a railway from Kunming to Kyaukphyu. [16] China and Myanmar have also agreed to renegotiate the deep sea port project in Kyauk Phyu which may cost USD 1.3 billion. According to previous agreements, $1.3 billion was planned for use in the project, where the Chinese government owned CITIC group owns 70 percent stakes and the rest belong to the Myanmar government.[17]

India and Myanmar Engagements

The Indian delegation, led by Deputy National Security Advisor Vikram Misri, visited Myanmar for the event to mark eight years of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in Myanmar. Though there was no statement or press note from the Indian side, the Myanmar government highlighted the participation from the foreign countries through their information ministry and state media. Misri acknowledged the setbacks along the way for Myanmar but didn't use the term coup in his speech. He reiterated his faith in the NCA which could act as a platform for political reforms for a democratic and federal republic. Misri also called on Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and discussed cooperation with India in peace and stability measures in border regions.[18]

As a result of increasing conflict across the border, India intends to set up an advanced smart fencing system of 100 km along the Myanmar border, according to the 2022-23 annual report of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) published during the month. The report stated that in 2022, out of the 201 insurgency-related incidents registered in the entire Northeastern Region, as many as 137 incidents were registered in Manipur. [19] Furthermore, in many instances during the month, the Assam Rifles along with state security forces seized drugs in Manipur and Mizoram.[20] There were also instances of seizing arms and ammunition. The two cadres of Chin Kuki Liberation Army (CKLA), were arrested during a joint operation by state police and Central security forces in Manipur’s Churachandpur district bordering Myanmar. [21]

The Way Forward

Despite the efforts to bring together ethnic parties together for the eighth anniversary of NCA, the military continues to intensify its attack on the civilians. In response to military attacks, the Three Brotherhood Alliance launched “Operation 1027” which became quite successful. While the conflict continues to intensify in the country, the civilians suffer the worst humanitarian and economic crisis. To conclude, it is essential to have all the stakeholders on board to bring out a resolution to the current crisis in Myanmar.


[1]Under the Political Parties Registration Law, parties running in a general election have 180 days to open offices in at least 50 percent of Myanmar’s townships after their registration is approved. Parties contesting in a single region or state are required to open at least five township offices. Parties contesting in a single region or state are required to open at least five township offices.
[8] Earlier in February 2023, the Russian Federation and the Republic of the Union of Myanmar signed an Intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation in the field of the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
[9] In 2022, Myanmar started buying Russian oil products and said it was ready to pay in roubles.

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