Myanmar Situation Update (1- 7 November 2021)

Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi has denied two charges that she allegedly breached COVID-19 restrictions during the 2020 general election campaign. Four soldiers and a policeman involved in the raid of Aung San Suu Kyi's residence were cross-examined by her lawyers in the trial for illegally importing and possessing walkie-talkies. Media has been barred from attending the trial at the special court in Naypyitaw and the junta recently banned her legal team from speaking to reporters.

The junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC) conducted a three-day conference in Yangon to discuss amending Myanmar's electoral system to  Proportional Representation (PR) from the current first-past-the-post electoral system. According to UEC sources, a total of 113 persons including 93 from 53 political parties and 20 civilians attended the conference. Chairman of the junta-appointed UEC Thein Soe said that the current election system is outdated, that the majority of the countries practice PR and that a PR system creates an opportunity for minority parties, ethnics, women and individuals to get a chance at being elected depending on the ratio of votes.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah urged ASEAN to adopt a principle of "non-indifference" toward Myanmar's humanitarian crisis rather than "non-interference" and will ask ASEAN’s new chair Cambodia to convene a special meeting on further steps. He also stressed that Malaysia hopes that Erywan Yusof,  the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei, will remain as the ASEAN envoy to Myanmar, that ASEAN should discuss the list of people the envoy should be given access to meet in Myanmar and a meeting with ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi would be paramount.

Vice-Senior General Soe Win, the second in command of the junta, said that allowing a foreigner access to someone charged with crimes was against domestic law was the reason to the junta’s decision on denying the ASEAN envoy’s access to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi as a response to growing international pressure on junta.

Nine months after the military coup, the coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing called on the people of Myanmar to be self-reliant as the nation will be progressive and stable only through cooperation amid political challenges. He also met with the former US ambassador to the United Nations and former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson on a private humanitarian mission that will focus on pandemic support. Some rights activists have criticized the visit and said that it has provided a propaganda win and legitimacy to the military junta. 

Activist group Justice for Myanmar (JFM) said that military-backed telecommunications provider Mytel lost nearly US$25 million in profits and millions of customers in the three months following the February 1 coup.

Gerry Rice, the spokesperson of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), said that the military junta was unclear on the IMF’s COVID-19 fund for the public, worth US$372 million and thus this large sum of money was missing. Junta’s spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said that the use of RCF/RFI loan from the IMF to Myanmar concerning COVID-19 is carried out by the Ministry of Planning and Finance with full responsibility and transparency.

The military junta has amended imprisonment for media people and social media users and announced that instead of a fine between 30 million and 50 million MMK, Section 96 of the Television and Broadcasting Law has been changed to at least 3 to 5 years in prison or a fine or both. Kay Zon Nway, a reporter of Myanmar Now news agency, has been listed as one of the nominees for the 2021 RSF Press Freedom Awards to be presented by Reporters Without Borders based in Paris. 

On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, the UK called on the junta to release all journalists in Myanmar who have been arbitrarily detained, and to allow journalists to work without fear of arrest or intimidation.

Detained US journalist Danny Fenster has been denied bail and hit with a third charge under the immigration act. His lawyer also said that the testimony presented by prosecution witnesses in the case records did not accurately reflect where he was employed. He was being prosecuted for alleged offenses by a news outlet at least seven months after he stopped working for the outlet. 

Protests continued in different parts of Myanmar despite the crackdown by the junta over the week. The clashes between the junta forces and the civil resistance fighters or Ethnic Armed Organizations also emerged in all states and regions except Rakhine state.  

According to the information compiled by ANFREL, at least 31 bomb blasts happened across Myanmar in the past week. It was reported that at least 7 people were injured and 4 died.
As of 6 November, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) recorded that 1,243 people have been killed by the junta. 7,079 people are currently under detention and 299 are sentenced. 65 have been sentenced to death and 1,954 are evading arrest warrants.

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