Category Archives: Feature Story

India wants a stable Myanmar, says Army Chief

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.

The coup triggered mass protests across Myanmar.

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Malaysia court halts deportation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals

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.

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EU warns of sanctions for Myanmar military, confirms new measures against Russia

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell was in Brussels for a meeting of the bloc’s foreign ministers. /Yves Herman/Pool via AP

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.”

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Incitement Of Violence”: Facebook Takes Down Myanmar Military’s Page

“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.

Facebook on Sunday deleted the main page of the Myanmar military.

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.

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Myanmar coup: What is happening and why?

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing had just turned 20

A 20-year-old woman shot in the head during anti-coup demonstrations in Myanmar has died of her injuries.

Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing was taken to hospital last week, after police used water cannon, rubber bullets and live ammunition to try to disperse protesters.

The country has seen mass demonstrations after the armed forces arrested the country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and members of her party.

Where is Myanmar?

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is in South East Asia. It neighbours Thailand, Laos, Bangladesh, China and India.

It has a population of about 54 million, most of whom are Burmese speakers, although other languages are also spoken. The biggest city is Yangon (Rangoon), but the capital is Nay Pyi Taw.

The main religion is Buddhism. There are many ethnic groups in the country, including Rohingya Muslims.

The country gained independence from Britain in 1948. It was ruled by the armed forces from 1962 until 2011, when a new government began ushering in a return to civilian rule.

Why is Myanmar also known as Burma?

The ruling military changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar in 1989. The two words mean the same thing but Myanmar is the more formal version.

Some countries, including the UK, initially refused to use the name as a way of denying the regime’s legitimacy.

But use of “Myanmar” has become increasingly common and in 2016 Ms Suu Kyi said it did not matter which name was used.

What has happened now, and why?

The military is now back in charge and has declared a year-long state of emergency.

It seized control on 1 February following a general election which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.

The armed forces had backed the opposition, who were demanding a rerun of the vote, claiming widespread fraud.

The election commission said there was no evidence to support these claims.

The coup was staged as a new session of parliament was set to open.

Ms Suu Kyi is under house arrest and has been charged with possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies. Many other NLD officials have also been detained.

Who is in charge now?

Power has been handed over to commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing.

He has long wielded significant political influence, successfully maintaining the power of the Tatmadaw – Myanmar’s military – even as the country moved towards democracy.

What about the crackdown on Rohingya?

Ms Suu Kyi’s international reputation has suffered greatly as a result of Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya minority.

Myanmar considers them illegal immigrants and denies them citizenship. Over decades, many have fled the country to escape persecution.

Thousands of Rohingya were killed and more than 700,000 fled to Bangladesh following an army crackdown in 2017.

Ms Suu Kyi appeared before the International Court of Justice in 2019, where she denied allegations that the military had committed genocide.

What has the international reaction been to the coup?

The UK, EU and Australia are among those to have condemned the military takeover.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said it was a “serious blow to democratic reforms”.

US President Joe Biden has threatened to reinstate sanctions.

However, China blocked a UN Security Council statement condemning the coup. The country, which has previously opposed international intervention in Myanmar, urged all sides to “resolve differences”.

Neighbours including Cambodia, Thailand and the Philippines, have said it is an “internal matter”.

Credit: www.bbc.com

Fresh Anti-Coup Protests In Myanmar After Overnight Internet Blackout

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.

Yangon, Myanmar: 

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. 

Credit: www.ndtv.com

China to work with Myanmar to battle COVID-19, promote economic recovery: Wang Yi

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.

Credit: english.cctv.com

Myanmar orders 30 million coronavirus vaccines from India

Covid vaccine Photograph:( Reuters )

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.

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Kirin fails to dispel doubts on military-linked Myanmar partner

Myanmar Brewery, a joint venture between Kirin and Myanma Economic Holdings, is the dominant beer company in the southeast Asian country and widely known for its flagship brand, Myanmar Beer.   © Getty Images

Reputational risk casts shadow over beer joint ventures in emerging market

Japanese beverage maker Kirin Holdings on Wednesday announced that its audit of the financial and governance structures of its business partner in Myanmar failed to produce results due to a lack of information from its counterpart.

Kirin commissioned Deloitte Tohmatsu Financial Advisory to conduct an independent assessment of its partner, Myanma Economic Holdings, in June. “Unfortunately, the assessment was inconclusive as a result of Deloitte being unable to access sufficient information required to make a definitive determination,” Kirin said in a statement.

MEHL is one of two big military-linked conglomerates in the Southeast Asian country, along with Myanmar Economic Corporation. It operates a wide range of businesses, ranging from finance, to agriculture, to mining. Kirin has two joint-venture companies with MEHL, Myanmar Brewery and Mandalay Brewery, holding a 51% stake in each.

MEHL has close ties to the military, which has been accused of massacring Muslim minority Rohingyas and destroying their villages. Critics say MEHL offers a conduit for finance that bypasses formal civilian government channels. The purpose of Kirin’s assessment was to determine where proceeds from the joint-venture businesses end up.

A U.N. fact-finding mission published a report in 2019 listing dozens of foreign companies linked to the military-related conglomerates, including Kirin, and warned that the relationship “poses a high risk of contributing to, or being linked to, violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.”

The failure of the investigation to clear up doubts surrounding MEHL could expose Kirin to even greater reputational risk.

“[W]e remain committed to urgently finding a solution that is consistent with our approach,” the drinks maker said in the statement. “A further update on our plans will be provided by the end of April 2021,” it added. Following the announcement, a Kirin representative told Nikkei Asia that the company will seek options for a transparent system to ensure that none of the proceeds from the joint ventures are used for military purposes.

Kirin decided in November to suspend all dividend payments from Myanmar Brewery and Mandalay Brewery to shareholders in Kirin and MEHL “in view of a significant lack of visibility regarding the future business environment.” On Thursday, Kirin stated that the suspension will continue.

“It is wholly unacceptable for any proceeds from our Myanmar joint ventures to be used for military purposes, which is the fundamental condition of the joint-venture agreement,” the Japanese company said. “Kirin takes its responsibilities in Myanmar seriously, and will continue to take the necessary action to ensure its business activities in the country adhere to the highest standards,” it added.

According to a Kirin disclosure, Myanmar Brewery had 32.6 billion yen ($316 million) in sales and 12.9 billion yen in what Kirin calls normalized operating profit for the year ended December 2019. That amounted to 6.8% of the group’s total normalized operating profit.

Myanmar Brewery is the dominant beer maker in Myanmar and is widely known in the country for its flagship Myanmar Beer brand.

The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business recently reported after meeting with the management of directors of MEHL that at present most of the company’s profit comes from Myanmar Brewery. The Yangon-based civic organization said MEHL’s financial statement for the fiscal year 2018/2019 “appears to show income from operating activities and other income totaling approximately $110 million.”

According to the U.N. mission and the civic group, MEHL has a body called the “patrons group” that oversees the board. It is headed by the Myanmar military’s commander in chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. The same explanation is given in a document obtained by Nikkei Asia from a source close to MEHL.

The conglomerate’s shareholders include a number of military organs, such as “regional commands, divisions, battalions and troops,” apart from individual shareholders, who are all serving or retired military personnel, according to international human rights group Amnesty International.

Credit: asia.nikkei.com

In New Year speech, Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi announces contract to get COVID-19 vaccine from India

Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi wears a face shield and mask as she attends a flag-raising ceremony for the National League for Democracy (NLD) party to mark the first day of election campaigning in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on Tuesday Photograph:( AFP )

In her New Year’s address to the nation, Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi has announced that her country will get the COVID-19 vaccine from India and that a contract has been signed regarding it. 

 “The purchase contract for buying the first batch of the vaccines from India has already been signed. As soon as the authorities concerned in India have issued permission to use this vaccine, we have made arrangements for the import of these vaccines into Myanmar,”

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. Shringla also handed over 3000 vials of Remdesivir as a symbol of India‘s commitment to helping Myanmar mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Myanmar has signed MoU with the Serum Institute of India for Covishield. Over the weekend, India’s drug regulator gave approval for its use.

The state counsellor highlighted that the first priority group to get the vaccine will be medical professionals and medical personnel which will take place in February. 

“There is a lot of competition as all the countries of the world are trying to get this vaccine. However, we believe that the vaccination programme could be carried out all over the country step-by-step,” San Suu Kyi added.

“During the period when the vaccines are still not available, I wish to appeal to the people to abide by the health rules and regulations and give support to our efforts to beat COVID-19. Please be vigilant; please be patient. Please brace yourself by visioning the future. We are all in this together,” she added.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, India reaffirmed its position as the pharma capital of the world by sending medicines like HCQ, paracetamol to more than 150 countries. 

New Delhi also organised training to build capacity. In fact, for the neighbourhood, India has organized two training modules in which about 90 health experts and scientists have participated.

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