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

During the month, continued attacks from the military and opposition forces have pushed around 18 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and two million displaced. Various reports were released in the month highlighting the humanitarian crisis in the country as well as the increase in illegal and fraudulent activities across the borders of Thailand, China and India. The military reshuffled its cabinet during the month and changed its objectives, making elections as one of the top priorities. It also removed the words “full justice” from its objectives, therefore raising questions over the conduct of inclusive elections and bringing normalcy to the country. The US imposed further sanctions, but China, on the other hand, pushed for enhanced economic cooperation across borders. Engagements with India continued as Indian Railways promised the first international rail route connecting India and Myanmar. However, there have been increased seizures of illegal drugs and liquor in Manipur and Mizoram said to have been smuggled across the border with Myanmar, which is a cause of concern. The month also marked the completion of six years of the military crackdown on Rohingya, and yet without justice and a home to return to in Myanmar. The article below traces all these developments in detail.

Domestic and Political Situation

Following the extension of emergency rule for six more months in July 2023, the military reshuffled its cabinet and changed its “five-point roadmap” and “12 objectives”. The changes proposed made “election” as the top priority, which was previously the fifth point in the roadmap. The military has done away with an “independent and non-aligned” foreign policy, which was its official policy since independence. The regime has also removed “to ensure economic prosperity for the entire nation by establishing a stable market economy and inviting foreign investments” from its original manifesto. Additionally, the regime has removed the words ‘full justice’ from one of its objectives, which is “to build a union based on democracy and federalism by applying a true and disciplined multi-party democratic system with full justice”. [1] These changes are significant as they indicate changes in the military approach to domestic economy, polity and its relations with other countries.

On the other hand, the National Unity Government (NUG) aimed to lobby for tougher sanctions through diplomatic pressure, NUG foreign minister Daw Zin Mar Aung told the media. The US, UK, Canada and EU have imposed multiple sanctions on military leaders as well as military organisations. Daw Zin Mar Aung said the NUG is also working with regional neighbours, although only East Timor has officially recognised the NUG. She also praised Indonesia, the current Association of Southeast Asian Nations chair, for its active role in Myanmar’s crisis. [2] It must be noted that Myanmar’s military-led government has ordered East Timor’s senior diplomat to leave the country in response to the East Timorese government holding meetings with the NUG Foreign Ministry. [3]

During the month, heavy fighting continued between the military and armed forces. In the north, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) continued to hold its ground as regime forces attempted to retake their former bases. Heavy fighting occurred in northern Shan State, where regime forces faced three ethnic armed groups—the KIA, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army. The military also faced resistance from armed ethnic Chin groups. Daily attacks were reported in Magwe, Sagaing and Mandalay regions. Joint forces of KNU and NUG PDFs have escalated attacks in the eastern Bago Region. In response to the growing resistance, the military carried out indiscriminate artillery shelling on civilian targets in KNU-controlled territory in the Mon and Karen states and Bago Region. [4]

Furthermore, as the kyat continues to depreciate, the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) revoked the licences of 13 more currency-exchange companies, raising the number of such licences revoked to 45. Economists and currency traders describe the move as an effort to gain more control of foreign currency flows within the country. However, the military states that the kyat is depreciating due to illegal trading of the kyat against the US dollar in “black” or “unofficial” markets. The CBM’s current reference exchange rate is 2,100 kyats per US dollar. In the black market, the rate is 3,500 kyats per US dollar. [5]

International Reactions/Responses

During the month, a report was submitted in pursuance of General Assembly resolution 77/227 covering the period from 15 August 2022 to 14 August 2023. The report focussed on the continued deterioration of the political, humanitarian and security situation in Myanmar following the military takeover in February 2021, including the human rights situation of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities. The humanitarian crisis further increased due to the impact of Cyclone Mocha in May 2023. The report highlighted military repressions and increased air attacks, including reports of increased sexual and gender-based violence. Furthermore, the crisis in Myanmar continues to implicate regional security due to displacement and the proliferation of illicit activities. More than 1.6 million people have been internally displaced. Rohingya people remained displaced domestically and abroad, including nearly 1 million Rohingya in Bangladesh. [6] Additionally, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) revealed evidence of the country’s military and affiliate militias engaging in war crimes and crimes against humanity. These include indiscriminate attacks on civilians from aerial bombing, mass detentions and even executions of civilians, and large-scale burning of villages. [7]

Another report published by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights cited “credible sources” to the effect that at least 120,000 people in Myanmar “may be held in situations where they are forced to carry out online scams.” These scam operations have grown out of unregulated gambling operations that have long flourished in poorly regulated parts of Southeast Asia. The UN rights office called on Southeast Asian governments to strengthen the rule of law and tackle corruption in order to “break the cycle of impunity” that allows such criminal enterprises to thrive. In Myanmar, scam operations are concentrated in regions of the country along the borders with Thailand and China that are under the control of rebel groups and militias allied with the Myanmar military. In a separate report released this month, the International Crisis Group (ICG) also described the crescent of criminality that runs from Shan State in eastern Myanmar to Bokeo province in northern Laos, where cyber-scam operations and other illegal activities are carried out. [8]

On 23 August, the United States announced another round of sanctions against military-ruled Myanmar in response to an increase in the number of airstrikes on resistance forces and civilian populations. The Treasury announced sanctions on two Myanmar nationals – Khin Phyu Win and Zaw Min Tun – and one company, Shoon Energy, which is involved in procuring jet fuel for use by Myanmar’s military. A Singapore-based holding company, Shoon Energy was formerly part of the Asia Sun Group, which was TKTKTK. They have also listed two companies, P.E.I Energy and PEIA, for being linked to Khin Phyu Win. [9]

On 23 August, the UN Security Council (UNSC), except for China and Russia, released a statement condemning the Myanmar military killing of civilians and its continuing airstrikes. The joint statement was released after its closed consultations to discuss the situation in Myanmar and hearing briefings from Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths following his visit to Myanmar and Assistant Secretary-General Khiari. The statement reported deep concern at the situation in Myanmar as over 18 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Myanmar and 2 million are displaced. They reiterated the call for establishing “full, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need” and called for the full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2669 and support for ASEAN’s efforts. [10]

Within ASEAN, few countries have shown their disagreement with the current military regime in Myanmar. Firstly, as the military regime is barred from attending major summits, there has been news from credible sources that Myanmar's military government will withdraw from chairing ASEAN in 2026. The ASEAN chairmanship, in principle, rotates annually among the ten member countries in alphabetical order. [11] Secondly, at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter Terrorism, jointly hosted by the Russian Federation and Myanmar’s military regime, Singapore was the only member that did not take part in these tabletop exercises. The working group has been co-chaired by Russia and Myanmar since 2021 and included several other nations participating as dialogue partners. However, the defence ministries of the United States, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea also backed out. Out of all the dialogue partners, only China, India and the group’s co-chair, Russia, joined the meetings. [12]

On the other hand, Myanmar military’s home affairs minister, Lieutenant-General Yar Pyae, attended the 17th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. He also attended the 8th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Drug Matters in Vientiane, Laos, on 10 August. [13] Also, Thailand has started helping Myanmar with remittance services. As Myanmar is facing a dollar crunch, the remittance service by Kanbawza (KBZ) Bank is being provided in partnership with Thailand’s Kasikorn Bank. The two banks have combined their respective digital wallet services, KBZ’s Kpay and Kasikorn’s KPlus, to facilitate remittances from Thailand. Many welcome the combining of the popular applications as around 2 million Myanmar migrants working legally in Thailand, according to data from the Thai Labour Ministry. [14]

India-Myanmar Engagements

During the month, a senior railway official confirmed that North East will soon have its first international cross-border railway connectivity and has approved the final location survey of a 223 km rail line from Aizawl to Hbichhuah in Mizoram near the Myanmar border. The new railway line will channel into the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP). The aim is to connect Sittwe with Kyaukhtu in Myanmar’s Chin Region as the Sairang-Hbichhuah railway line, which is South of Mizoram and connects the Kaladan Multimodal Project, has been given approval. [15]

At several instances during the month, the Assam Rifles seized illegal liquor and drugs in Manipur and Mizoram. [16] Furthermore, as the movement from across the border continues, Manipur police, assisted by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), started the campaign to biometrically capture all alleged illegal Myanmar immigrants in the state in July 2023. By September end, the state government has to submit the biometric data to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. They started the campaign at two foreign detention centers in the villages of Changjang and H Hangjan near Moreh. [17] The Manipur government is also preparing to deport around 2,480 illegal immigrants from Myanmar, according to a report submitted by the state Home Department to the Centre. The report was collected by the Manipur Police Inspector General, which stated that around 1147 immigrants are taking shelter in different locations in the five hill districts of Manipur, which are Tengnoupal, Chandel, Churachandpur, Pherzawl, and Kamjong. [18]

China-Myanmar Engagements

Myanmar’s commerce minister, Aung Naing Oo, visited Kunming, China and pushed for a border economic cooperation zone in northern Shan State, thereby connecting the two countries. The plan to establish an economic cooperation zone at the border of Myanmar’s Muse and China’s Ruili was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Together with two other planned economic cooperation zones on the Myanmar-China border, the Muse-Ruili zone is an important part of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which was proposed by Beijing in 2017. The two other zones are at Kanpiketi Town in northern Myanmar’s Kachin State, which borders China’s Tengchong City, and Chinshwehaw Town in northern Shan State, which borders China’s Lincang City. The Muse-Ruili zone will be the first of three to be built. [19] Additionally, Yunnan Provincial People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries has donated 60 sets of solar-powered streetlights to the Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation in Myanmar. [20]

As there has been a rise in fraud and scam activities across the border, during the month, Myanmar handed over many telecom fraud suspects to China. The move came days after Chen Hai, the Chinese ambassador to Myanmar, released a joint statement on August 22 with his Thai and Laotian counterparts, calling for "stronger coordination" to crack down on scams. Early in the month, China, Thailand, Myanmar and Laos held a meeting in Thailand's Chiang Mai to initiate a special joint operation to crack down on gambling and fraud, incidences of human trafficking, kidnapping, illegal detention and other crimes. The four countries have set up a coordination centre in Chiang Mai for police cooperation. [21]


On the sixth anniversary of the Rohingya genocide, several thousand Rohingyas gathered at camps in Cox’s Bazar to demand justice for the August 2017 Myanmar military crackdown. The largest rally was organised by the Rohingya representative committee at the Lambashia camp. [22] Countries, including the UK and the US, joined international organisations and local civil society groups in releasing statements on the 2017 exodus. United Nations human rights chief Volker Türk also reiterated the call for accountability and justice for thousands of Rohingya driven from their homes in 2017 in what has been described as “textbook” ethnic cleansing.

In response, Myanmar’s military rejected international remarks, stating them as “politically motivated” statements. The military rejected the term “Rohingya”, and stated that the term could not be found in historical or legal documents of Myanmar. It added that many countries have failed to recognise the true cause of the attack was to crack down on the activities of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Therefore, the military actions were justified as it was to restore peace in response to ARSA’s synchronised attacks on police outposts and a regiment headquarters.

Meanwhile, the NUG issued a statement in support of Rohingya communities and acknowledged the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people by the Myanmar military in 2017. It also pledged to create conducive conditions to bring Rohingya people “home” in voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable ways. Recently, the NUG appointed Rohingya activist U Aung Kyaw Moe as its deputy human rights minister. [23] Additionally, Myanmar-Bangladesh border guards carried out maritime patrols on the Naf River on 19 and 22 August with an aim to enhance border security and prevent human trafficking and drug trade. [24]


Various reports were released during the month highlighting the continued violence and the deteriorating political, economic and humanitarian situation in the country. The month also marked the sixth anniversary of the Rohingya killings. As the civil war continues in the country, nearly two million civilians have been displaced from their homes. In response to increased strikes by the military, the US imposed further sanctions on military members as well as on companies that supply jet fuel. The piecemeal approach by the military is failing to bring together all stakeholders to bring back normalcy. For instance, to mark the Buddhist holiday of Dhamma Cakka Day, the military pardoned Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on five criminal charges, reducing her 33-year prison term by six years, and President U Win Myint also received pardons in two cases. Additionally, 7,749 inmates were freed, including 120 political prisoners. But most of these prisoners had finished their maximum term.

According to AAPP, around 19,716 prisoners continue to remain in detention. [25] Therefore, there is a need to engage with all stakeholders to ensure the cessation of violence and return to normalcy.


[3] Earlier in July, East Timor’s President Jose Ramos-Horta officially invited Zin Mar Aung, the foreign minister of the NUG, to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, a former East Timor independence fighter. Last week, the shadow government’s human rights minister, Aung Myo Min, was also invited to open a human rights training programme in East Timor, where he met with Ramos-Horta.
[7] The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar was created by the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 and became operational in August 2019. It is mandated 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 collected information from over 700 sources, including more than 200 eyewitness accounts, as well as additional evidence such as photographs, videos, audio material, documents, maps, geospatial imagery, social media posts and forensic evidence.

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