In his first comment on the military coup in Myanmar, Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane on Wednesday asserted that India wants a “stable” Myanmar.
During a virtual conference on the role of the Indian Army in dealing with the contemporary national security challenges, Naravane said that Myanmar is the bridge between India and the rest of South Asian countries.
“Myanmar plays a key role in India’s foreign policy. It is the bridge between India and the rest of South Asia and therefore we want a stable neighbour and a stable Myanmar. I think the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has already stated the country’s position in this regard that – we support the process for transition to democracy and that is what we should be looking forward to,” he said.
The Army Chief also recalled the Myanmar Army’s role in the fight against insurgency along Indian borders in north-east states.
“As far military to military level interaction is concerned, we share a good repo especially on the border, where we conversate quite often. Over the last two years, we had a number of co-ordinated operations in border areas along Nagaland and Manipur. Myanmar Army has carried out operations in flushing out various Indian insurgent groups, who were taking temporary shelters across the borders. As a result of that, a large number of insurgent groups surrender took place,” he said.
On February 1, Myanmar’s military overthrew the government and declared a year-long state of emergency hours before the newly-elected parliament was due to convene. State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, along with other top officials accused of election fraud, have been placed under house arrest.
KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian court has allowed a temporary stay of deportation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals scheduled to be sent back to their strife-torn homeland on Tuesday, after rights groups said the plan could endanger their lives.
The 1,200 detainees were set to leave on Tuesday afternoon in three navy ships sent by Myanmar’s military, which seized power in a Feb. 1 coup, sparking weeks of protests from pro-democracy activists.
Just before the court issued its order, the migrants were bussed in from across the country to the naval base at Lumut in western Malaysia where the Myanmar ships are docked.
Refugee groups say asylum seekers from the minority Chin, Kachin and non-Rohingya Muslim communities fleeing conflict and persecution at home are among those being deported.
Amnesty International, which with Asylum Access had asked the courts to stop the deportation, said the high court granted a stay until 10 a.m. on Wednesday, when it will hear the groups’ application for judicial review to suspend the deportation.
“It’s important to note that the stay of execution granted by the court does not mean the 1,200 are safe from being deported,” said Katrina Maliamauv, Amnesty Malaysia director.
“We urge the government to reconsider its plans to send this group of vulnerable people back to Myanmar, where human rights violations are currently dangerously high,” she said.
Amnesty has said among the deportees were three people registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and 17 minors who have at least one parent in Malaysia.
Spokespeople for Malaysia’s immigration department and foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the court order.
Malaysia has said it would not deport Rohingya Muslims or refugees registered with UNHCR. But the UN refugee agency has said there are at least six people registered with it that are also set to be deported and that there could be more. It has not been allowed access to the deportees.
Malaysia has not responded publicly to critics or Reuters queries over the deportation of the asylum seekers and those registered with UNHCR.
Concerns over deportation of unregistered asylum-seekers persist, as UNHCR has not been allowed to interview detainees for over a year to verify their status. The Southeast Asian nation is home to more than 154,000 asylum-seekers from Myanmar.
The United States and other Western missions have been trying to dissuade Malaysia from proceeding with the deportation and urged the government to allow UNHCR to interview the detainees. They also say Malaysia is legitimising the military government by cooperating with the junta.
Myanmar’s military leadership has been warned it faces European Union sanctions after replacing the government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The EU also announced additional measures against Russia in response to the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The bloc’s foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels on Monday to discuss a packed agenda including a videoconference with the new U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Shortly after starting, the group issued a statement on Myanmar, saying: “The EU stands ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible.”
“In line with our global policies, we’ve removed the Tatmadaw True News Information Team Page from Facebook for repeated violations of our Community Standards prohibiting incitement of violence and coordinating harm,” a Facebook representative said in a statement.
A Facebook page run by the Myanmar junta’s “True News” information service was kicked off the platform Sunday after the tech giant accused it of inciting violence.
Security forces in the country have steadily increased violence against a massive and largely peaceful civil disobedience campaign demanding the return of deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Nobel laureate was taken into custody along with her top political allies at the start of the month, but the new regime has insisted it took power lawfully.
It has used Facebook to claim Suu Kyi’s landslide election victory last November was tainted by voter fraud and issue stark warnings to the protest movement — which is demanding that the army relinquish power.
A spokesperson for the platform said the Tatmadaw True News Information Team page was removed for “repeated violations of our Community Standards prohibiting incitement of violence and coordinating harm”.
The social media giant has banned hundreds of army-linked pages in recent years after being criticised for its ineffective response to malicious posts in the country.
Much of the content targeted the country’s stateless Rohingya Muslim minority, around 750,000 of whom fled into neighbouring Bangladesh after an army crackdown in 2017.
The military has steadily escalated efforts to quell an uprising against their seizure of power two weeks ago, which saw civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained along with hundreds of other members of her democratically elected government.
Myanmar’s junta cut the nation’s internet and deployed extra troops around the country on Monday as fears built of a widespread crackdown on anti-coup protests, but defiant demonstrators again took to the streets.
The military has steadily escalated efforts to quell an uprising against their seizure of power two weeks ago, which saw civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained along with hundreds of other members of her democratically elected government.
With protesters refusing to back down, the generals imposed an internet shutdown on Monday morning and ratcheted up the military’s presence across the country.
Extra troops were seen in key locations of Yangon, the nation’s commercial hub and biggest city, including armoured personnel carriers near the central bank.
Live-stream images shared on social media platforms before the internet blackout showed more military vehicles and soldiers moving through others parts of the country.
However fresh protests again flared in Yangon on Monday morning, including near the central bank.
Hundreds of engineering and technology students protested in a northern district of Yangon, according to an AFP journalist.
Monitoring group NetBlocks initially said the “state-ordered information blackout” had taken Myanmar almost entirely offline.
However some internet services in Yangon resumed at the start of the working day, according to an AFP reporter in the city.
Deepening fears the military was going to impose a far harsher crackdown, troops in the northern city of Myitkyina fired tear gas then shot at a crowd on Sunday night.
A journalist at the scene said it was unclear whether police had used rubber bullets or live rounds.
Local media outlets said at least five journalists monitoring the protest had been detained and published pictures of some people wounded in the incident.
A joint statement from the US, British and European Union ambassadors urged security forces not to harm civilians.
“We call on security forces to refrain from violence against demonstrators, who are protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government,” they said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed that call, pushing authorities to “ensure the right of peaceful assembly is fully respected and demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals”.
Through his spokesman, Guterres also asked the military to “urgently” allow Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener to visit Myanmar “to assess the situation first hand”.
The US embassy advised American citizens to shelter in place and not risk defying an overnight curfew imposed by the regime.
In the week since the military overthrew Myanmar’s democratically elected government, exile Nay San Lwin has been inundated with dozens of messages from his compatriots offering support.
It’s a dramatic change from 2017, when the rights activist, now living in Germany, was disseminating information about the atrocities Myanmar’s military had unleashed against his community—the mostly Muslim Rohingya, who live in the west of the country. Back then, the majority of the messages he received from other Burmese consisted of death threats and abuse.
About two-thirds of the population of the Southeast Asian nation are of the Bamar ethnicity, who are generally Buddhist and dominate the governing class. The other third is made up of over 100 ethnic minorities, many of whom have faced persecution at the hands of the military—especially the Rohingya. U.N. investigators say the armed forces of Myanmar, officially known as the Tatmadaw, have waged war against the Rohingya with “genocidal intent.”
The Rohingya found no support from the civilian government. Indeed, in 2019 Aung San Suu Kyi notoriously defended the Tatmadaw in a hearing at the Hague, and just two weeks before the coup, her government filed preliminary objections to the International Court of Justice over the genocide case it faces. The general population had no sympathy either; many Burmese consider the Rohingya to be Bangladeshi migrants, even though the Rohingya have centuries of history in Myanmar.
But in the wake of the Feb. 1 coup, some Burmese are finally changing their views of their Muslim countrymen. Says Nay San Lwin, who gained 3,000 new Twitter followers in a day last week: “They are now realizing the common enemy is the military.”
Some have even begun apologizing to Yanghee Lee. The former U.N. Special Rapporteur was hailed by the rights community as a “champion of justice for Rohingyas,” while being vilified in Myanmar. When she tweeted a call for the release of Suu Kyi on Feb. 4, the thread filled up with expiations.
“I do want to apologize the way I treated you in recent years regarding Rohingya,” said one user. “[Forgive] me for misunderstanding you. In the recent years, we were narrow-minded,” read another tweet.
Lily (a nickname), who lives in Yangon, tells TIME that the coup made her realize her own double standards. A 39-year-old transgender advocate from the Karen ethnic minority, she says that although she knew what happened to the Rohingya was a “grave violation of human rights” she failed to stand up for them, despite her activism in other areas.
“Without international community strong condemnation and support, I think we will all end up like Rohingya people,” she says.
Rohingya activists seek support among Burmese
In turn, the Rohingya are hoping that standing in solidarity with the people of Myanmar will help end discrimination against them and bolster their fight for justice.
“We are trying to build solidarity with the Burmese people,” says Nay San Lwin. “Most of the Rohingya activists are supporting the movement in Myanmar.”
Not just activists. Muhammad Dullah fled the country in Aug. 2017 and now lives in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. The 24-year-old Rohingya has started posting anti-coup messages on his Twitter account.
“Rohingya stand with the people of Myanmar,” said one tweet, accompanied by photos of a makeshift signs reading “Protesting against military coup from the Bangladesh Rohingya Refugee camp” and “Military coup” with a large X drawn through it.
“I think [Burmese] may support and stand by us after seeing our solidarity with them,” Dullah tells TIME.
NAY PYI TAW, Jan. 11 — China will stand firm with Myanmar to jointly fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, push for economic recovery and build the China-Myanmar community with a shared future, visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here Monday.
Wang made the remarks during a meeting with Myanmar President U Win Myint.
Noting that he is the first foreign minister to visit Myanmar after the Southeast Asian country’s general elections, Wang said his visit is aimed at demonstrating China’s anticipation and support for the successful formation of Myanmar’s new government as well as Myanmar’s efforts to realize prosperity and long-term stability.
Through close consultations, China and Myanmar have agreed in principle on the action plan of building the China-Myanmar community with a shared future following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s historic state visit to Myanmar last year, Wang noted.
China decided to provide an emergency aid of COVID-19 vaccines to Myanmar to support its fight against the pandemic, and is willing to carry out further vaccine cooperation with Myanmar, said Wang.
Wang believed that the “Paukphaw” (fraternal) friendship between the two countries will be further carried forward and the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership will be further deepened after the testing of the pandemic.
Wang said China supports Myanmar’s new government in revitalizing its economy, improving people’s well-being, and accelerating industrialization, hoping that the two sides would effectively implement the agreement on the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor with a concerted effort.
Wang said the two countries can extend activities of the China-Myanmar Year of Culture and Tourism to 2021 and promote people-to-people exchanges between the two sides.
China supports the Myanmar government’s efforts in pursuing national reconciliation and will continue to provide assistance within its capacity, he said.
Wang noted that this year Myanmar will assume the roles of the country coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, co-chair of Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and co-chair of consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
Wang said China would like to enhance coordination and cooperation with Myanmar to upgrade China-ASEAN relations, accelerate the development of the Lancang-Mekong economic zone, push for the early implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
For his part, President U Win Myint said the Chinese foreign minister was the first to visit Myanmar soon after the new government led by the National League for Democracy was formed in 2016 and took the lead to visit Myanmar again this time during the pandemic, showing China attaches great importance to the relations with Myanmar.
He said Myanmar is committed to working with China to jointly build the Myanmar-China community with a shared future sharing weal and woe, expressing appreciation to China for its support in combating the pandemic and pushing forward the national reconciliation in Myanmar.
The president said Myanmar firmly adheres to the one-China principle and will continue to support China’s position on issues related to Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang, adding that Myanmar is willing to play an active role in advancing China-ASEAN relations and Lancang-Mekong Cooperation.
Myanmar has ordered 30 million coronavirus vaccines from India that are expected to be delivered by the end of February.
Zaw Htay, the President Office director-general said that Myanmar chose the vaccine because it can be stored in a temperature between 2 to 8 degrees centigrade that is suitable as per the country’s temperature.
Earlier, Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi had announced that her country will get the COVID-19 vaccine from India and that a contract has been signed regarding it.
Myanmar has reported 129,483 coronavirus cases with a death toll of 2,812. The country’s government has been communicating with neighbouring countries to acquire COVID-19 vaccines.
Last year the Indian foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and Army Chief MM Naravane had jointly visited the country. The visit saw high-level assurances from India that Myanmar will be a priority when it comes to the vaccine.
India gifted 3000 vials of Anti Covid Remdesivir to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi as a “symbol” of India‘s commitment to helping Myanmar mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Myanmar has signed MoU with the Serum Institute of India for Covishield. Over the weekend, India’s drug regulator gave approval for its use.
After her landslide victory in November’s elections, Aung San Suu Kyi and her government are destined to become part of a regional ‘tug-of-war’ for influence centered around China’s growing sway in the country. Tokyo is leading the charge to wean Myanmar away from Beijing. But New Delhi is also hoping to exert influence in the ‘Great Game’ centered on Myanmar, especially in the light of the deterioration in Sino-Indian relations over the past year. With the imminent changing of the guard in Washington — with a more outward looking Joe Biden administration taking over — the United States of America can also be expected to re-enter the fray.
Fresh from its overwhelming victory in last month’s elections, Myanmar’s ruling party, the National League for Democracy, now faces enormous challenges — rebooting the country’s flagging economy, worsened by the pandemic and the international recession, and pressing on with its economic reform programme; tackling Myanmar’s pressing need for constitutional reform, and regenerating efforts to finally end decades of civil war. Invigorated by its electoral success, the NLD has clearly indicated the policies and priorities it intends to pursue in the next five years, building on the solid foundation laid down in the past five years with renewed energy and political commitment.
Most analysts and diplomats believe that the government’s key policy directions will not change substantially; instead they will be deepened, strengthened, and concertedly implemented in the coming months. There is already a new sense of urgency in government circles in Naypyidaw and feverish activity in the administration as it prepares its strategy and vision for the incoming government’s first 100 days. One of those policies that are expected to experience nuanced change is foreign policy, especially in relation to Myanmar’s neighbours.
Five years on, the regional and international architecture have also changed significantly, with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic likely to have a lasting effect on foreign relations — especially trade — in the coming decade. It will necessitate the Myanmar government to re-evaluate its policy priorities and its relationships. Meanwhile, the Myanmar government has not been short of suitors. The outcome is likely to be a significantly new, nuanced approach to its foreign relations.
In the lead up to Myanmar’s elections last month, there was a flurry of diplomatic activity — largely behind the scenes — as the region’s major powers all sought to curry favour with the country’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as with the powerful army commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing. There was a parade of important visitors through the capital, Naypyidaw, as politicians and senior diplomats from the region’s key nations, especially China, India and Japan, engaged in a quiet battle for greater influence in Myanmar post-election. Other important Asian players, notably South Korea and Thailand, also launched equally significant initiatives.
As the State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, prepares for the next five years in office, her government is restructuring its foreign policy priorities around its key concerns: maintaining its neutrality and independent international stance while encouraging support for Myanmar’s economic recovery plans, including boosting international trade and foreign investment, diversifying its informal alliances and security arrangements, and ensuring that the country is not overly dependent on any one nation for support and protection.
In the past five years, Aung San Suu Kyi has pursued a foreign policy strategy that put the country’s key emphasis on its relations with the region and its top powers. This was in response to some degree to the growing Western criticism of the government’s handling of the violence in Rakhine and the mass exodus of nearly a million Muslim refugees — or Rohingya as they call themselves — to neighbouring Bangladesh. Myanmar was anxious to secure greater support from its Asian ‘friends’, especially at international forums like the United Nations. This effectively meant distancing itself from the West, especially Europe and the US. This has led the country to lean heavily on China and, to a lesser degree, on the regional bloc, Asean, for support and as a source of investment and trade. Of course, deep down, Myanmar’s fast developing dependence on China has irked the country’s diplomats, including its top diplomat, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also the foreign minister. There is a clear recognition in government circles that Myanmar’s relationship with China needs to be significantly calibrated. Myanmar will use the opportunity of its massive political mandate and the changing post-Covid international environment to adjust its policy orientation and begin to look westwards to balance its reliance on China — strengthening ties with India and encouraging warmer relations with the US, in particular.
Going forward, Myanmar wants to broaden its network of alliances and strong bilateral relationships, while remaining loyal to the country’s traditional ideological principles in foreign policy: non-alignment, neutrality, independence and universal friendship. But the international reality and the legacy of the country’s isolation during its period under military rule have meant that China remains its key partner — an ever-present, ever-dependable and uncritical supporter. Aung San Suu Kyi has had to struggle with this conundrum ever since assuming power after the 2015 elections: how to relax Myanmar’s dependence on Beijing without offending its giant northern neighbour. For a while, Aung San Suu Kyi dabbled with the notion of eliciting collaborative support from an ‘Asian triumvirate’ of China, Japan and South Korea, especially in terms of investment and trade. But she seemed oblivious to the obstacles that the political realities and rivalries in North Asia posed to this vision. It now seems that Myanmar has become much more responsive to Delhi’s recent overtures for strengthened ties between the two countries.
India has stepped up its courtship of Myanmar in the light of Delhi’s deteriorating relations with Beijing. The visit to Myanmar by India’s foreign secretary, Harsh Shringla, who was accompanied by the Indian army chief, M.M. Naravane, a month before the elections clearly reflects India’s interest in weaning Myanmar away from Beijing, or at least helping counter Beijing’s influence in Myanmar. Ostensibly, this was a visit to review and consolidate cooperation on security and development issues. A coastal shipping agreement with Myanmar was signed during a meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi. More importantly, it has opened the door to greater cooperation on a wide range of issues, including military matters, according to Myanmar diplomats. The importance of this strategic initiative cannot be underestimated: the fact that India’s top diplomat and top military man made a joint visit to Myanmar is highly significant, according to Asian diplomats, and was counter to the usual protocol. That it was timed just before the elections was no coincidence. It is something that their Myanmar counterparts appreciated only too well.
There have also been behind-the-scene discussions on how Japan and India could cooperate on strategic, security and development initiatives that could help balance China’s penetration into Myanmar. The resuscitation of the Quad, involving diplomats from Australia, India, Japan, and the US sharing their vision and concerns of a free and open Indo-Pacific strategy, has galvanized cooperation among these four countries to counter China’s aggressive and belligerent posturing in the region. “It’s a valuable venue for sharing information and intelligence, coordinating approaches and generally promoting mutual understanding,” according to an Asian diplomat involved with these meetings. The idea was conceived by Tokyo several years ago, but has only got off the ground in the last 12 months as relations in the region with Beijing took a turn for the worst.
India and Japan have cooperated successfully on infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, including the building of a port at Matabari to counter the Chinese-built port at Payra. This model of cooperation can provide a framework for similar initiatives in Myanmar, according to Indian and Japanese diplomats. While Japan is prepared to bankroll many of these potential projects, it is particularly keen to maintain a ‘low-key’ presence.
While Myanmar has responded enthusiastically to India’s overtures, it may be even more enthusiastic about Indo-Japanese cooperation. What is certain is that Myanmar’s foreign policy will undergo changes in the coming months, including a distinct tilt westwards, as it broadens its strategic approach and tries to veer away from its unhealthy reliance on Beijing. The main focus of Myanmar’s foreign policy will be on strengthening its economic and security ties with regional partners — especially India, Japan, Thailand, South Korea and Singapore — while continuing to maintain good relations with China.