28/07/2021

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Myanmar coup latest: Junta seeks democracy ‘within a year’

YANGON/BANGKOK — Myanmar’s military on Feb. 1 detained State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint in the country’s first coup since 1988, bringing an end to a decade of civilian rule.

The Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy had won a landslide in a general election in November. But the military has claimed the election was marred by fraud.

For all our coverage, visit our Myanmar Coup page.

Read our in-depth coverage:

Japan willing to freeze all Myanmar development aid: Motegi

Suu Kyi’s NLD party under threat to be disbanded

Myanmar junta plans restricted ‘intranet’ to silence opposition

Myanmar currency hits record low as economy fails to normalize

Thai PM and Myanmar junta chief stay engaged via back channels

Follow the latest developments here (Yangon time):

Sunday, May 23

3:30 a.m. Myanmar’s national soccer team is in Japan for World Cup qualifiers.

The team arrived Saturday, according to the Japan Football Association. They will play against Japan next Friday in Chiba, in a match originally scheduled for March but delayed because of the coup and other reasons.

Saturday, May 22

11:00 p.m. Myanmar aims to create a “federal state based on multi-party democracy,” if possible “within a year,” junta leader Min Aung Hlaing tells a Hong Kong-based, Chinese-language broadcaster in an interview, according to media reports based on interview excerpts which aired today.

In the Phoenix Television interview, the general also says Suu Kyi is in good health and will appear in court in a few days.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy is accused by the junta of engaging in voter fraud during last year’s general election — allegations Min Aung Hlaing reiterates in the interview excerpt. This accusation is disputed in a recent report by The Asian Network for Free Elections.

The National Unity Government, formed in opposition to the coup, has put forward its own proposal for a federal democracy.

People displaced by fighting from Myanmar’s northwestern town of Mindat are pictured in Chin State on May 20.   © Reuters

Friday, May 21

10:45 p.m. The United Nations says it is alarmed at the violence in Chin State, in the country’s northwest, after reports of indiscriminate attacks by security forces leading to the deaths of civilians and the displacement of thousands.

Heavy fighting in the town of Mindat since May 12 has forced nearly 4,000 to flee their homes, the U.N. in Myanmar says.

“The United Nations calls on security forces to urgently take all necessary measures and precautions to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure, and to adhere to the fundamental principles of distinction, necessity, proportionality and protection,” it says in a statement.

10:30 p.m. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks out on the Myanmar crisis on the second day of Nikkei’s Future of Asia conference.

“They see some instability in the country and think, by taking over power from the people, they can solve problems,” Mahathir said of military regimes like Myanmar’s. “Of course, that’s a wrong assumption. Once they take power, power corrupts.”

Read more of Nikkei Asia’s coverage of the meeting here.

4:00 p.m. The junta-appointed head of the Myanmar’s election commission suggests that Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy might be dissolved, news outlet Myanmar Now reports.

Commission chair Thein Soe reportedly tells a meeting in the capital Naypyitaw: “How shall we take action on the NLD party for their intentionally committed unlawful acts? Shall we dissolve the party? Shall we take action on the people who committed these acts of betraying the state?” He added that “we shall consider and carry out” any actions.

The junta has accused the NLD of fraud in the November election, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide. The military has yet to provide evidence of any wrongdoing and the election commission at the time of the vote rejected the allegation.

Thein Soe spoke at the commission meeting attended by political party representatives. Among more than 90 parties registered, 59 parties attended. The NLD did not.

12:56 p.m. News outlet Myanmar Now says on Twitter that the country’s junta-appointed election commission will dissolve Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party because of what it called electoral fraud.

12:20 a.m. Japan will consider cutting off all official development assistance to Myanmar, even for ongoing projects, if the situation there does not improve, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi tells Nikkei in an interview.

“We don’t want to do that at all, but we have to state firmly that it will be difficult to continue under these circumstances,” Motegi says. “As a country that supported Myanmar’s democratization in various ways, and as a friend, we must represent the international community and convey that clearly.” Read more.

Thursday, May 20

10:45 p.m. “The path back to normalcy in Myanmar will be long and difficult” despite last month’s special Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, Heng Swee Keat, Singapore’s deputy prime minister, tells Nikkei’s Future of Asia conference on Thursday

“ASEAN member states have consistently stressed that engagement, rather than isolation, will go further in resolving the current crisis,” says Heng, who is seen as a contender to become Singapore’s next prime minister.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says a carrot-and-stick approach is needed from the international community to improve the situation in Myanmar.

Meanwhile, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha does not comment on the Myanmar coup — the region’s most pressing matter — in his first appearance at the annual conference.

10:30 p.m. PetroChina International Singapore supplied jet fuel to Myanmar in April, Reuters reports, citing government import data.

7:30 p.m. As fighting intensifies between local armed forces and the military in Myanmar’s western state of Chin, at least 3,000 people living in towns have escaped to the jungle. Water supply interruptions and the military’s occupation of residential areas are said to be factors of these evacuations.

6:00 p.m. The Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank is offering farmers loans from May 26 to Sept. 30 for the coming monsoon season, according to an official advertisement in Thursday’s edition of Global New Light of Myanmar, the state-owned newspaper.

It advises farmers to contact bank branches “as soon as possible in order to pay off old loans and get new loans.” The advertisement comes ahead of the rice planting season.

Myanmar’s economy has been struggling since the Feb. 1 coup, particularly with less cash available in banks and in general circulation. Though there are doubts over whether MADB is able to disperse those loans should farmers take up the offer, the ad is seen as the junta’s way of shoring up confidence in food supplies.

The United Nations World Food Program recently warned that, over the next six months, up to 3.4 million more people in Myanmar will suffer from hunger, especially in cities, because of the coup.

In the same edition of the newspaper, there was another official ad warning owners of restaurants and eateries that they were “responsible for collecting commercial tax from their customers.” Many restaurants and coffee shops have not collected the tax as a way of showing support for protesters.

3:30 p.m. Local media outlet Irrawaddy reports that the age limit of 65 years for the posts of commander-in-chief and deputy commander-in-chief have been lifted, paving the way for incumbent military chief Min Aung Hlaing to remain in his position. His term was expected to end in July when he will turn 65. The report says the change was implemented by the Defense Department Council just days after the military coup on Feb. 1.

2:45 a.m. Myanmar will send a military delegation on a visit to Moscow on Thursday, led by Air Force chief Maung Maung Kyaw, The Moscow Times reports, citing a Myanmar Embassy representative.

Maung Maung Kyaw is the target of Western sanctions over his involvement in the Feb. 1 coup.

1:30 a.m. Two diplomats at Myanmar’s Embassy in Tokyo were dismissed by the junta after they joined a boycott in opposition to the military takeover, Kyodo reports, citing diplomatic sources.

If confirmed, this would mark the latest reprisal by the junta against members of the diplomatic corps who have voiced support for ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Myanmar’s ambassadors to the United Nations and to the U.K. have already run afoul of the junta.

Myanmar’s junta-controlled foreign ministry revoked the two diplomats’ passports and access to the embassy compound where they had been living until early March, Kyodo reports.

Wednesday, May 19

10:50 p.m. UNICEF says it is aware of media reports that soap bars and cloth masks supplied by the United Nations children’s aid agency have allegedly been used by local militias to recruit civilians in Myanmar’s Kachin state.

UNICEF supplies are “distributed for the express purpose of promoting the health and well-being of children and the use of these supplies for any other purpose is unacceptable,” according to a statement.

Exports from US plunged 60% after coup, data shows

7:00 p.m. Unsurprisingly, Myanmar’s international trade started shrinking in the month of February, preliminary trade data obtained by Nikkei Asia shows.

Myanmar industrial port terminal at the banks of the Hlaing river in Yangon in 2016.   © Reuters

Total exports to Myanmar from eight trading partners — including the U.S., Canada and New Zealand — fell 38% on the year in February, while their imports from Myanmar dipped 9%, according to trade statistics reported to the United Nations. These eight nations usually make up roughly one-tenth of Myanmar’s total trade.

Of the eight partners, the U.S. retreated the farthest. Its exports to Myanmar contracted 60% and its imports from there shrank 12%, owing to Washington’s relatively quick imposition of sanctions. With other countries following suit and the U.S. introducing additional sanctions in later weeks, trade figures for March and April are expected to show sharper contractions, reflecting further damage to the military-run economy.

6:00 p.m. App-based food delivery service provider Foodpanda remains committed to Myanmar despite the ongoing political unrest that has disrupted internet services in the country, the company’s chief executive tells Nikkei Asia. Read more.

Tuesday, May 18

7:30 p.m. A United Nations General Assembly vote on a draft resolution calling for the suspension of arms supplies to Myanmar has been postponed, according to a U.N. diplomat.

A spokesman for the General Assembly president had said on Monday that a vote on the draft resolution was due on Tuesday. Some diplomats said the vote had been delayed in a bid to win more support, according to Reuters.

Yangon official shot after mysterious bombings

3:00 p.m. Local media report that two bombs exploded this morning around 5:40 a.m. near a ward administrator’s office in downtown Yangon, injuring two security officers. The newly appointed ward administrator, who came to check the scene, was shot dead en route; his body was discovered with a gunshot wound to the head. It remains unclear who was responsible for the explosions and the shooting.

According to Yangon residents, there have been no major pro-democracy protests on streets in the past three days, while bombings are becoming more frequent. Though most say they still believe in peaceful demonstrations, youth sentiment in particular appears to be shifting toward at least considering armed rebellion as the only hope for ending the junta’s rule.

The military has killed over 800 people and arrested more than 5,200 since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the latest tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group.

Police officers in Yangon: Residents say sentiment among at least some youth protesters is shifting toward armed resistance.   © Reuters

1:00 a.m. The United Nations General Assembly will vote Tuesday on a draft resolution seeking an international arms embargo on Myanmar.

The resolution, to be put before all U.N. member states, “calls for an immediate suspension of the direct and indirect supply, sale or transfer of all weapons, munitions and other military-related equipment to Myanmar,” according to a draft published online.

The resolution, which does not use the word “coup,” calls on Myanmar’s armed forces “to respect the will of the people as freely expressed by the results of the general election of 8 November 2020, to end the state of emergency, to respect all human rights of all the people of Myanmar and to allow the sustained democratic transition of Myanmar.”

12:20 a.m. More on the 16 officials targeted in a new round of U.S. sanctions: Besides four members of the State Administrative Council — the junta government — the list includes key figures in carrying out Myanmar’s economic and monetary policy.

One of them is Than Nyein, who was installed by the junta as central bank governor after the Feb. 1 coup.

Commerce Minister Pwint San and Win Shein — the minister for planning, finance and industry — have been sanctioned as well, according to a Treasury Department statement.

The list also includes two adult children of State Administrative Council member Gen. Maung Maung Kyaw and one of Adm. Tin Aung San. These two junta figures were themselves blacklisted in February.

Monday, May 17

US sanctions junta itself in latest move with allies

10:30 p.m. The Biden administration has added Myanmar’s State Administrative Council — the body created by the junta to replace the ousted government — to a list of U.S. sanctions targets.

“Today, the United States is announcing new sanctions against Burma’s military regime in response to its continued violence and repression against the people of Burma, most recently in Mindat, Chin State, and its failure to take any steps to restore Burma’s democratic transition,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken says in a statement.

Sixteen officials have also been added to the U.S. list. They include technocrats and civilians in charge of economic ministries and the central bank, according to a Treasury Department statement. All property and interests in property of those people named in the United States, or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked.

A U.S. analyst says it is “highly unusual to sanction the council as an entity but leave some names out including foreign minister.”

The U.S. move is part of coordinated new sanctions actions with the U.K. and Canada. The U.K. announces sanctions on Myanmar Gems Enterprise, a state-owned firm now under the junta’s control. Canada sanctioned 16 individuals and 10 entities.

9:30 p.m. The U.K. announces sanctions on Myanmar Gems Enterprise, a distributor of jade and other precious stones that has already been blacklisted by the U.S.

6:00 p.m. The 2020 Myanmar general election reflected “the true will of the electorate,” according to a final comprehensive report by The Asian Network for Free Elections, an international monitoring group, which counters the junta’s allegation of electoral fraud.

ANFREL says it hopes Myanmar will “soon return on the rightful path to an elected civilian government.”

The report, titled “The 2020 Myanmar General Elections: Democracy Under Attack,” is available in English and in Burmese.

3:30 p.m. The Mindat People’s Administration announces on Facebook that fighting between the Chinland Defense Force (CDF) — a newly formed ethnic militia — and the military is ongoing in the western state of Chin, bordering India. The administration is acting as the CDF’s political unit. It added in its post that seven locals had been killed during the recent fighting. The State Administration Council, as the junta is formally known, declared martial law in the northwestern town of Mindat on Thursday.

Miss Myanmar urges everyone to speak out

Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin appears onstage at the National Costume Show, part of Miss Universe 2021, on May 13 in Hollywood, Florida.   © Getty Images

10:30 a.m. Thuzar Wint Lwin, Myanmar’s Miss Universe contestant, who has made it to the finals, used the pageant on Sunday to urge the world to speak out against the military junta. “Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said in a video message for the competition in Hollywood, Florida, according to Reuters. “I would like to urge everyone to speak about Myanmar. As Miss Universe Myanmar since the coup, I have been speaking out as much as I can,” she said.

Sunday, May 16

10:10 a.m. During a special Mass for the Myanmar community in Italy, Pope Francis says the people of the country must not despair in the face of evil or allow themselves to be divided. “Your beloved country of Myanmar is experiencing violence, conflict and repression,” the pope said at St. Peter’s Basilica. He urged drawing inspiration from the final hours of Jesus Christ. Francis visited Myanmar in 2017 and has been outspoken against the junta since the Feb. 1 coup. The predominantly Buddhist country is home to fewer than 800,000 Roman Catholics.

Pope Francis celebrates Holy Mass for the community of the faithful of Myanmar resident in Rome, at the Vatican, on May 16.   © Reuters

People hold a banner in Saint Peter’s Square after Pope Francis held a mass for Myanmar residents of Italy in the Vatican on May 16.   © Reuters

3:20 a.m. A total of 63 people have been killed in recent attacks by junta opponents, according to junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun. “Terrorists are planting bombs in public areas and there are some injuries among the people,” he told a news conference, while asking for information on the attackers.

Saturday, May 15

11:45 p.m. Fighting breaks out between the army and local militia fighters in the northwestern town of Mindat, residents say, in some of the heaviest fighting since the military seized power three months ago.

The fighting underlines the growing chaos as the junta struggles to impose order in the face of daily protests, strikes and sabotage attacks after it overthrew Suu Kyi.

“We are running for our lives,” a resident tells Reuters from Mindat, a hill town just over 100 km from the border with India.

“There are around 20,000 people trapped in the town, most of them are kids, old people,” the resident says. “My friend’s three nieces were hit by shrapnel. They are not even teens.”

The junta imposed martial law in Mindat on Thursday and then stepped up attacks on what it called “armed terrorists.”

9:10 p.m. Sai Kan Nyunt, a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, has been found dead with many stab wounds, according to local media reports.

To catch up on earlier developments, see the last edition of latest updates.

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