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TRIANGLE in ASEAN Quarterly Briefing Note: Myanmar

August 21st, 2023  •  Author:   International Labour Organization  •  4 minute read
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Following the military coup on 1 February 2021, all ILO projects funded by development partners and implemented by the ILO in Myanmar have been reviewed and reprogrammed in consultation with individual donors and in accordance with the guidance of the UN Country Team. Under this guidance, all activities that would strengthen the military regime have been halted and no regime representatives are accredited or invited to any meeting or event hosted by the ILO. Certain programming can continue if it meets a set of specific criteria, including meeting urgent humanitarian needs for the people of Myanmar. ILO and TRIANGLE in ASEAN continue to promote safe migration for migrant workers regardless of gender, sex, disability and other intersecting identities through community-based awareness, rights advocacy, and service delivery, as well as other support in partnership with civil society and trade unions.

Key developments

The situation in Myanmar continues to deteriorate following the coup. According to the monitoring group “Assistance Association for Political Prisoners,” more than 3,500 people have been killed during the ensuing crackdown on dissent, 1.5 million people have been displaced, 70,000 homes have been burned down, eight million children are no longer in school, 15 million people are judged by the UN to be dangerously short of food and much of the country is caught up in a brutal civil war (Sources: BBC and Mizzima). It is forecasted that the situation is unlikely to improve in 2023. The military regime has announced plans for an election at a future unspecified date and enacted a law that required political parties to re-register if they want to contend in the elections, which led to the dissolution of 40 political parties, including the National League for Democracy.

On 14 May, cyclone Mocha hit Rakhine, Chin, Magway, Sagaing and Kachin. These regions already face challenges due to civil unrest, armed clashes, the effects of climate change and a fragile economy. Approximately 5.4 million people have been impacted, with 3.2 million potentially requiring humanitarian assistance, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Western Rakhine was the worst-affected area. The cyclone extensively damaged numerous camps for internally displaced Rohingya. Additionally, severe flooding affected more than 100,000 people in Magway and Sagaing.

In the third week of June, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on the Ministry of Defense and two state-owned banks in Myanmar, as these banks were used to purchase arms and other commodities from foreign sources. Shortly after the announcement of US sanctions, the Myanmar Kyat depreciated sharply against the US$ on the unofficial open market, while the official reference exchange rate remained unchanged.

The military regime is using air strikes to target civilians in Sagaing and Bago Regions, as well as Chin, Kayah, Kayin and Kachin States, which are strongholds of the opposition. These airstrikes have resulted in the tragic loss of dozens of lives, including children. The military launched an airstrike on Pa Zi Gyi village on 11 April. The brutality of these attacks is underscored by the fact that they not only target villages but also extend to hospitals, schools, and religious buildings. According to an analysis of the BBC with data from the conflict-monitoring group Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, the Myanmar military has conducted more than 600 airstrikes since February 2021.

A Thai cabinet resolution from 5 July 2022 offered several opportunities to regularize the status of migrant workers who either entered Thailand without documents or lost their documentation status. The latest deadline was subsequently extended on 7 February, allowing until 15 May 2023, and extended again to 31 July 2023 by another subsequent cabinet resolution dated 30 May 2023 as migrant workers were facing issues complying with the required procedures to regularize their status before the deadline.

In addition to the procedures, one key challenge faced by large numbers of migrant workers was the requirement to obtain or renew their passports or temporary ID documents. The regularization program, the high demand for migrant workers to fill labour market gaps in Thailand, along with the political situation and economic depression in Myanmar, has meant many Myanmar nationals are deciding to migrate to Thailand, many with an irregular status as official channels remain limited.

Myanmar remained on Tier 3 in the 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report. According to the report, Myanmar does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.

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