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

While the military has not given any conclusive date for elections, it has been reported that the military will hold elections after the national census has been conducted which is supposed to end in 2025. Thereby it can be estimated that the elections will not take place before 2026. In this background, even the ASEAN members during their annual summits in Indonesia stated that Myanmar will not be allowed to take up presidency in 2026 and to address the crisis in Myanmar; a troika system would be adopted. As Laos is assuming the presidency for 2026, Laos along with Indonesia and Malaysia will work together to address the crisis in Myanmar. The month also witnessed developments along the India border. With increased movement of illegal arms and drugs, the Manipur state government has asked to fence another 70 km of the border. This month also saw cementing of relations between Russia and Myanmar, as Myanmar received the first shipment of two Russian Su-30 fighter jets. It must also be noted that delegations from Myanmar visited Russia and China to understand the election processes in both countries. The article below discusses all these developments along with many others on national and international spheres.

Domestic and Political Situation

During the month numerous incidents of attacks were reported. After the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) seized an outpost in Lailum Aungja Village in Laiza Township, Kachin State, two military jets bombed the area along with troops on ground.[1] In Karen state, following the attack on a number of State Administrative Council’s (SAC) bases by the opposition forces, SAC launched three airstrikes in Lu Thaw Township and Dwe Loe Township. The Karen National Union (KNU) armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), and resistance allies seized a junta outpost in Kawkareik Township.[2] However, resistance fighters suffered heavy casualties during a clash with Myanmar troops in Palaw Township, Tanintharyi Region. Tanintharyi Region is a resistance stronghold, with PDFs from Dawei, Launglon, Palaw, and Tanintharyi townships have been attacking the military regularly.[3]

In Rakhine incidents of detaining individuals from both sides, the SAC and the Arakan Army (AA), were reported. On 6 September, SAC personnel at the SAC’s Kyauk Ta Lone checkpoint detained a ULA member and then AA members detained a SAC military officer and two SAC police officers in Zin Chaung village. On 7 September, both sides released the individuals. Previously as well such incidents of detainments have taken place. These developments have raised concerns about a revival of fighting between the SAC and AA.

Economic Situation

The military leaders have stated that the soaring food prices were due to market manipulation by unscrupulous businessmen, sanctions and the following currency crisis. They interrogated the secretary of the Central Committee on Ensuring Smooth Flow of Trade and Goods, Nyunt Aung, for alleged massive corruption. He is the third member of the committee to be interrogated. The committee’s chairman Lt-General Moe Myint Tun and its joint secretary Maj-General Yan Naung Soe had been detained for interrogation earlier. The committee was formed to regulate US dollar expenditures, and facilitate the trade and flow of goods. Many other business leaders and members of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry were taken to Naypyidaw for interrogation.[4] Further, Myanmar’s military-controlled central bank revoked the forex licences of 123 companies. [5]

With the ongoing currency crisis, the regime has introduced a new regulation in which expatriate workers will have to remit at least 25 percent of their foreign currency income back home through the country’s banking system. Migrant workers who do not comply will be barred from working overseas for three years after their current work permit expires. But this will come at a loss to expatriate workers as the remittances will be converted at the official exchange rate of just 2,100 kyats per US dollar against the market rate which is around 3,400 kyats. The Labour Ministry is also offering tax incentives, saying that those who remit through the official banking system or financial service providers licensed by the central bank can make investments and buy property in Myanmar tax-free.[6] However, the National Unity Government (NUG) has urged Myanmar migrants not to transmit salary through the regime’s banking system. Furthermore, the NUG designated 44 officials including the Central Bank of Myanmar Governor Than Than Swe at the military-controlled bank as terrorists as they are financing war crimes.[7]

Additionally, the military council warned merchants who are not selling military-manufactured goods. Myanmar Now reported through several leaked documents from military authorities at the regional and state level, the military council issued an internal directive on September 5 to investigate stores and shops in their respective territories that are not selling military-manufactured telephone SIM cards and goods. Soon after the military takeover, the opposition forces advocated boycotting military-made products such as Myanmar Beer, Mytel SIM cards and Red Ruby cigarettes to deprive the regime of revenue. Following the directive, the police and municipal administrative officials began inspecting restaurants and stores in Yangon, Mandalay, Naypyitaw and other cities and towns.[8] In order to boost tourism, Myanmar has decided to grant tourist Visas on Arrival for Chinese and Indian citizens as a one-year pilot programme. According to a recent statement issued by the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism of Myanmar, Indian travellers can now apply for visas online or visit the Myanmar embassy for their visas on arrival.[9]

During the month, mines in the Pangwa region in Kachin State, the country's biggest source of rare earths, were ordered to halt operations on 04 September ahead of inspections. However, even after random inspections across more than 300 mining sites, miners have not yet been allowed to resume production. In recent times, Chinese rare earth prices jumped but after this news many suppliers have held the supply anticipating a higher price in future.[10]

International Responses

At the Human Rights Council, Nicholas Koumjian, head of the investigation team, formally known as the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) highlighted the increased frequency and intensity of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Myanmar by the country’s military. He described a list of violations from killings of civilians to executions and intentional burnings of homes and villages. The lack of access to Myanmar has resulted in lack of due process and accountability for war crimes. While delegations including the European Union, Finland, Canada and Costa Rica condemned the violence, and urged the military to allow the IIMM access to the country, China, Iran and Russia underscored the principle of national sovereignty regarding external intervention.[11]

Engagements with Russia and Myanmar increased during the month. A Myanmar delegation led by Charlie Chan, the trade minister of the Myanmar military government, attended the Eastern Economic Forum, an annual event held in Russia to promote regional economic cooperation. On the sidelines of the event, he announced that Myanmar has received the first shipment of two Russian Su-30 fighter jets. The two countries had signed a contract in September 2022 for the delivery of six Su-30SME fighter jets.[12] The remaining four units are expected to be delivered shortly. Myanmar has also been using Pakistan-China co-produced JF-17 fighters but these are mostly grounded as they are not in optimal condition.[13] It must be noted that in the past two years Myanmar military has heavily used its fighter jets in operations against rebel forces and the supply of two jets only raises the concern of further attacks from the side of the military against the opposition forces as well as civilians.

Additionally, Myanmar and Russia signed a memorandum on "cooperation in election activities" as both governments prepare for elections. Myanmar’s Union Election Commission Chief Thein Soe, led a delegation to Russia to observe their local polls and understand Russia's election methods, election conditions, and campaign procedures. Russia has also invited Myanmar to observe next year's presidential elections.[14] Later he was joined by UEC member Than Tun, who visited China before reaching Russia. Mr. Than Tun visited China at the invitation of the CPC’s International Affairs Department. Meanwhile, a delegation from the Myanmar military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) also visited China from 10-16 September at the invitation of the CPC.[15] To boost economic cooperation, Myanmar soon plans to begin the Russian Mir payment card network.[16]

As Myanmar is preparing to conduct a national census, it is planning to introduce a biometric identification system, a project that has raised concern among rights activists as it will be used to monitor the opponents. For this, Myanmar has reached out to China. During the month, military-appointed Immigration Minister Myint Kyaing visited China where he met with Xu Ganglu, deputy minister of the National Immigration Administration. Kyaing also visited Beijing Hisign Technology, a company that provides facial, fingerprint and palm biometrics.[17] Myanmar is also working towards arresting the cyber crime criminals. Myanmar handed over more than 1,200 fraud suspects to the Chinese government. Earlier, another group of 269 suspects were handed over.[18]

Apart from Russia and China, Myanmar’s military regime has started engagements with North Korea. Myanmar appointed a new ambassador to North Korea, Tin Maung Swe, who is also Myanmar’s ambassador to China. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were first established in 1975 but then suspended in October 1983. The diplomatic ties were re-established in April 2007 but suffered again in 2017, when Myanmar expelled North Korean diplomat Kim Chol-nam for suspected links with a company targeted by UN Security Council sanctions. However, since the military took over power in 2021, relations have normalised For instance, North Korean Ambassador Jong Ho-bom played a role in organising a celebration by Yangon diplomatic families of the traditional water festival in 2022.[19]


From 05-08 September, Indonesia hosted ASEAN members for 43rd ASEAN Summit, with many other major players participating such as the United States and China, barring Myanmar’s SAC. The member countries discussed important issues with a focus on Myanmar. In the statement released, the member countries condemned the violence and urged all the stakeholders and the military in particular, to de-escalate violence and stop targeted attacks on civilians and nonmilitary infrastructure. The statement asked for the implementation of ASEAN’s 2021 “five-point consensus,” which requires all sides to engage in a constructive dialogue. At the summit, United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres however called for return of normalcy in Myanmar. He also raised concerns for the conditions for the safe return of Rohingya refugees.[20] However, Myanmar’s military leaders dismissed the latest statement as one-sided.

Regarding the presidency of ASEAN, the member states decided that Myanmar would not hold the presidency in its turn in 2026. Furthermore, to resolve and take decisions on ongoing Myanmar issues, the member states decided that a “troika” of states would be tasked with leading the bloc. As Laos is assuming presidency in 2024, Indonesia along Malaysia will come together as a troika to address the crisis.

While the Myanmar representatives were banned from attending ASEAN summit level meetings, Myanmar’s defence attaché represented the country at ASEAN’s Solidarity Exercise, first-ever joint exercises held in Indonesia. These are non-combat exercises, with member forces being trained in areas such as humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, rescue operations and joint maritime patrols.[21] However, when Myanmar hosted ASEAN Air Force Chiefs, air force chiefs from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines did not attend a conference in Myanmar. But Singapore and the Philippines sent video messages on “cooperation for a sustainable environment”. Air force chiefs from Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam attended the drills.

Finally, at the 78th UN General Assembly (UNGA) the South-East Asian countries called for a peaceful settlement of conflicts in Myanmar, the disputed South China Sea and Ukraine.[22] Additionally on the sidelines of UNGA, Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi discussed the ongoing crisis in Myanmar with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Mirjana Spoljaric. During the meeting, he reiterated that ASEAN would continue to promote the Five-Point Consensus (5PC) as the main reference for resolving the crisis and would also continue to provide humanitarian assistance for the people in Myanmar. [23]

India-Myanmar Engagements

On the sidelines of the 54th United Nations Human Rights Council sessions, the World Evangelical Alliance hosted an event titled “The Crisis in Manipur and Implications for Human Rights in India.” Khuraijam Athouba, vice president of the International Peace and Social Advancement (IPSA) and spokesperson of Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), in his inaugural address, highlighted the emergence of a new Golden Triangle along the Indo-Myanmar borderland which is a cause for major concern that calls for a unified response at all levels. The problems of drug trade and mass deforestation for illegal poppy cultivation in the Indo-Myanmar border region including Manipur has destabilised the security of the region and the lives of the indigenous people.[24] In this background, it must be noted that security forces in Mizoram have recovered and seized a number of consignments of drugs worth crores.[25]

The NIA during the month arrested Moirangthem Anand Singh, a “trained operative” of People’s Liberation Army (PLA) – an outlawed organisation from Manipur. He was among the five persons arrested by Manipur police for allegedly carrying sophisticated weapons and wearing police uniforms. Although the five men were granted bail, the NIA re-arrested M Anand Singh and brought him to Delhi. The NIA said that Singh was arrested in a case related to a “transnational conspiracy” by Myanmar-based terror outfits to “wage a war against the central government” by exploiting the ethnic unrest in Manipur. Following his arrest, they also arrested Seiminlun Gangte in a case related to a transnational conspiracy by Myanmar and Bangladesh based terror outfits to wage war against the Central government by exploiting the current ethnic unrest in Manipur. The case was registered suo moto by the NIA and he has been brought to Delhi after his arrest.[26]

As Manipur continues to reel under crisis, Manipur CM has initiated discussions over fencing of an additional 70 km of the India-Myanmar international border. He also urged the centre to permanently freeze the Free Movement Regime (FMR) between India and Myanmar.[27] Earlier, the central government had issued a work order to BRO to fence 60 km of the Indo-Myanmar border. Despite an influx of refugees, the Mizoram government refused to collect biometric data from Myanmar refugees residing in the state. The pilot project for recording biometric data of Myanmar nationals was launched across all 11 districts of Mizoram, primarily in relief camps, and the deadline for completing the exercise was 30 September. However, on 27 September, Chief Minister Zoramthanga, said that it would amount to potential violation of the refugees' rights. Previously, the Mizoram government had tried to profile Myanmar nationals and issued identity cards to them independently.[28]

It must be noted that any violence or instability in Myanmar has implications for India’s bordering states. Ambassador Indra Mani Pandey, Permanent Representative of India to the UN and other international organisations in Geneva, highlighted this concern at the 54th Session of the Human Rights Council. He reiterated faith in ASEAN-led efforts to resolve the crisis in Myanmar and India’s support for the efforts of the UN Secretary-General in resolution of the current situation in Myanmar. Highlighting India's contribution, he stated that India has provided humanitarian assistance and continued with people-centric developmental projects in Myanmar despite facing challenges. He pointed out that India has repeatedly called for the immediate cessation of all violence, release of political detainees, resolution of the crisis through constructive dialogue and transition of Myanmar towards an inclusive and federal democratic system.[29]


In his address to the UNHRC, Volker Turk, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, described the human rights violations in Myanmar by the military in the form of airstrikes, mass killings and burning of villages as “inhumanity in its vilest form.” He cited 22 documented massacres and at least 687 airstrikes between April 2022 and July 2023 – a 15-month period – and around 4,108 deaths. On top of all this, the denial of humanitarian access throughout the whole country has dire consequences.[30] To conclude, it is essential to have all the stakeholders on board to bring out a resolution to the current crisis in Myanmar.


[7] Last year, Than Than Swe was shot by anti-coup resistance fighters at her house in Yangon in April last year when she was vice-governor of the Central Bank. She was hospitalised but survived and was promoted to the bank’s top post in August, 2022.
[11] The Myanmar investigation team was created by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 and became operational in August the following year. Its mandate is to collect evidence of the most serious international crimes and violations of international law and prepare files for criminal prosecution, making use of the information handed over to it by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. The Mechanism is composed of impartial and experienced professional and administrative personnel. It does not have its own police force nor its own prosecutors or judges.
[27] According to the Free Movement Regime (FMR) agreement, which was signed in 2018 between India and Myanmar, people residing along the international border on both sides were allowed to travel 16 km into each other’s territories.

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