Economists urge curbs on authorities’ access to foreign currency

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:

Myanmar junta builds ‘walled garden’ of internet services

Myanmar junta chief meets UN special envoy in Jakarta

ASEAN risks enabling Myanmar junta to buy time

ASEAN ‘consensus’ urges Myanmar junta to end violence

Failed state: Myanmar collapses into chaos

Follow the latest developments here (Yangon time):

Friday, April 30

9:00 a.m. Myanmar’s military announces another unilateral ceasefire. A notice in a state-owned newspaper says, “The Tatmadaw will further cease all military operations

from 1 to 31 May 2021 across the nation.” The statement goes on to say that during the period “concerted efforts should be made for restoring the enduring peace through negotiations.” It follows a similar statement on March 31 that said it would be effective through April 30. The military continues heavy airstrikes against ethnic armed groups, especially in Karen State in the east and Kachin State in the north.

Thursday, April 29

10:30 p.m. Myanmar civil society organizations have condemned the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime for allowing a figure in the junta government to attend a conference in Vienna this month.

Than Hlaing, a lieutenant general, was appointed chief of the Myanmar police force after than Feb. 1 coup.

He represented Myanmar via video at the 64th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, held on April 12-16. This was after Than Hlaing had been placed on a European Union sanctions list on March 22 for his role in the military takeover in Myanmar.

“Allowing the military to represent Myanmar at the UN conference held in Vienna, betrays the will of the people of Myanmar who continue to oppose the illegitimate and brutal military junta and further damages the confidence the people have in the UN to carry out its mandate enshrined in the UN Charter,” a statement by Progressive Voice Myanmar says.

Video of Than Hlaing’s statement can be found here.

8:00 p.m. Myanmar’s mixed martial arts champion Aung La Nsang is trying to remain fully focused on his upcoming fight but thoughts of the turmoil afflicting his homeland have his attention turned to the other side of the world.

The 35-year-old fighter says he feels “helpless” and “depressed” by the situation in Myanmar.

“But what I can do is put on a great show for the fans,” says the Florida-based Aung La. “I can be the best version of myself and hopefully it inspires and it helps in a small way to get people through these dark times.” Read more here.

5:00 p.m. Two military air bases in the center of Myanmar were attacked with rockets early morning, the State Administration Council confirms at a press conference Thursday. There are no casualties and one building was slightly damaged in the attacks. Local media report that the military has increased the level of security checks near the air bases after the attacks. “Security forces are investigating to arrest the attackers,” a spokesperson said in the conference.

The council also denies earlier reports that at least 15 troops were killed in the Wednesday clash between the military and the newly formed Chinland Defense Force by anti-coup protesters in Chin State near the border with India. The spokesperson said only two soldiers were killed in the clash, adding “all the situation is stable and normal after negotiating with security forces and locals, community leaders and administration bodies.”

4:30 p.m. Sanctions and other measures to curb the Myanmar junta’s access to foreign currency are the main financial pressure points that could force the regime to shift its spending priorities and reduce expenditures on military hardware and other requirements, a group of Myanmar-focused economists argue in a briefing paper on the military’s finances. Read more here.

Wednesday, April 28

10:30 p.m. Detained protest leader Wai Moe Naing faces charges including murder and treason, Reuters reports, citing state media.

5:00 p.m. Local media report that a bomb blast occurred in front of the police station in South Okkalapa township, Yangon, on Wednesday. At least several police are said to have been injured, and security forces have closed off roads as they investigate the area.

Death toll rises in clashes near India border

3:30 p.m. At least 15 Myanmar troops are killed on Wednesday in a battle between government forces and the Chinland Defense Force, reportedly formed earlier this month by anti-coup armed protesters, in Chin state that borders India.

The battle erupted two days after a local unit of the Myanmar military reportedly reached a ceasefire agreement with the Chinland Defense Force. The agreement was seen as a ploy to buy time for bringing in reinforcements from other parts of the country.

Wednesday’s deaths are the latest in fighting in Chin state this week. Myanmar Now reports that government forces used rocket launchers and artillery in an attack on Tuesday.

Casualties on the Chinland Defense Force side were not known.

1:19 p.m. Myanmar’s junta has relaxed internet restrictions on some business apps, signaling the return of an old censorship board that this time will control who can access what on their digital devices.

Some telecoms have enabled internet access to banking and business mobile applications. Consumers using service providers such as state-run MPT can now access Office 365 email and messaging applications run by Microsoft as well as local banking applications. The junta has also recently lifted the nightly internet blackout for fiber-to-the-home providers. Read more here.

11:00 a.m. The Central Bank of Myanmar says in a news release that from May 3 people will be allowed to open new bank accounts, which will allow for unlimited cash withdrawals. Limits on existing bank accounts will remain in place, but “arrangements are underway to ease the restriction,” according to the statement. Bank customers have recently had to deal with long lines. The new moves by the central bank is hoped to make it easier for merchants to deposit money.


10:00 a.m. The information team of the State Administration Council — the official name of the junta — announces via a state-owned newspaper that civil servants who take part in demonstrations or other acts of protest will be allowed to return to their offices. The announcement says “taking action against them will be lifted under the criminal process” with several conditions, among them clearance by authorities that ensures that such people will refrain from expressing anti-civil sentiment through words or actions in the future.

6:30 a.m. The Asia Development Bank forecasts the Myanmar economy to contract by 9.8% this year after a 3.3% expansion in 2020. “The disruptions in supply chains and transportation bottlenecks due to political unrest will accelerate inflation,” the new report warns, predicting the inflation rate of the junta controlled economy is expected to reach 6.2%, up from the previous year’s 5.7%.

US senators call for sanctions on energy group MOGE

3:15 a.m. The Biden administration should impose more sanctions on the Myanmar junta’s sources of revenue, including state energy group Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), U.S. senators say in a letter.

The six senators calling for the additional sanctions urge Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Secretary of State Antony Blinken “to target or freeze all foreign currency revenues and foreign exchange reserves held in state accounts outside of Burma,” according to a letter posted on the website of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

“As a first step, sanctions should be placed on the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), an agency within the Myanmar government’s Ministry of Electricity and Energy which remains the largest source of foreign exchange for the Tatmadaw,” the letter continues. Tatmadaw is another name for Myanmar’s armed forces.

MOGE is a partner of France’s Total and U.S. oil major Chevron in Myanmar’s huge Yadana offshore gas field. Both foreign companies remained invested in the project.

“History shows that when the junta was previously in place in the 1990s, gas revenues from Total and Chevron/Unocal helped them to withstand international sanctions as their reserves dwindled,” the senators argue in the letter. “This time, we believe that the Tatmadaw must be entirely prevented from accessing a steady stream of international resources.”

Besides Rubio, the senators signing the letter are Democrats Jeff Merkley, Dick Durbin, Cory Booker and Ed Markey, as well as Republican Susan Collins.

2:00 a.m. As Human Rights Watch calls on Japan to review its humanitarian aid to Myanmar, the latter has a slight advantage over the Asian donor nation in one respect: coronavirus vaccinations.

Myanmar had vaccinated 1.84% of its population as of March 31, the latest day when comparable data was available, compared with 0.69% for Japan, according to Our World in Data, a U.K.-based nonprofit project. Japan’s share had risen to 1.64% as of Monday.

Myanmar kicked off coronavirus vaccinations in January with Indian-made jabs.

Both Myanmar and Japan are well behind Cambodia, which had vaccinated 7.75% of its population as of Monday with the help of Chinese-made shots.

1:00 a.m. Nightly shutdowns of fixed-line broadband internet services are lifted after weeks of severed connections.

Nikkei confirms the restoration of service with internet service providers. The junta had imposed a ban on internet connections in February, with most service cut off from 1 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Mobile data service and wireless broadband remain blocked, except for some selected business and banking apps. Most of the population doesn’t have access to fixed-line broadband. Social media, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, are still banned in the country.

Tuesday, April 27

10:15 p.m. The Irrawaddy reports that Myanmar junta has vowed to take action against the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which authorities say has inflated the number of deaths at the hands of security forces since Feb. 1.

The AAPP’s figures are often cited by the United Nations and international media following the events since the coup.

As of the association’s latest update dated Monday, 753 people have been killed and and 3,441 are currently detained or have been sentenced.

10:00 p.m. Human Rights Watch has urged Japan to immediately review its aid to Myanmar and halt any assistance for projects that benefit the military without providing support for the public.

“As Myanmar’s security forces gun down protesters on the streets, Japan should not take a ‘wait and see’ approach but should promptly and responsibly review its aid portfolio to Myanmar,” Teppei Kasai, Asia program officer, says in a statement.

No immediate reaction was available from the Japanese government on the statement.

Human Rights Watch is not alone in pressing Tokyo to use its sway over a country where it has been a significant investor over the past decade. Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations and an outspoken critic of the junta, has urged Tokyo to immediately suspend investment in the country until an elected government is restored. Toshimitsu Motegi, Japan’s foreign minister, replied that he will “carefully consider what kind of responses would be effective.”

Tokyo-based Mekong Watch and other NGOs have grown frustrated with Japan’s noncommittal attitude. Mekong Watch is urging Tokyo to stop all development aid immediately.

8:27 a.m. Heavy fighting erupts in eastern Myanmar close to the border with northwestern Thailand, Reuters reports, citing various sources. Karen National Union forces are said to have captured a Myanmar army outpost close to the border. The border area is believed to be providing shelter to the anti-junta protesters.

7:30 a.m. Another 20 medical doctors have been charged with allegedly violating section 505-A of the Penal Code, reports state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar, listing the doctors. The section bans “inciting State service personnel and health staff to participate in [civil disobedience movement] activities, themselves participating in it, supporting CDM activities and unlawful association [with the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw] with the aim of deteriorating the State administrative machinery.”

Monday, April 26

10:09 p.m. One man was shot dead by Myanmar security forces in the country’s second-biggest city of Mandalay, reports Reuters, citing local news reports. This marked the first such reported killing since Southeast Asian countries reached a consensus over the weekend with Myanmar’s ruling junta to end violence.

9:00 p.m. Military-owned Myawaddy television quotes junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing as saying at a meeting of State Administration Council: “Currently we are prioritizing the stability of the country. The visit of the delegation team proposed by the ASEAN leaders will be considered to be allowed, depending on the stability of the country.”

In a separate news release read out during the news program, the military explains its position for the first time regarding the agreement of ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on Saturday: “In response to the some of the suggestions made by ASEAN leaders, Myanmar informed the meeting that it will give careful consideration to constructive suggestions made by ASEAN leaders when the situation returns to stability in the country.”

8:30 p.m. While most mobile internet services in Myanmar remain completely blocked by the junta, some telco operators appear to have relaxed restrictions on selected business apps. Consumers using state operator MPT and Telenor of Norway currently can access Microsoft’s Office 365 email and Teams, and domestic banking apps.

The relaxation of internet access for specific purposes could signal a move by the regime to reduce disruption to banks and business operations while retaining a firm grip on communications and the flow of information.

3:00 p.m. Around 200 pro-democracy protesters take to the streets around 1 p.m. for a demonstration criticizing the unlawful killing and detention of people by the security forces in the Tarmwe township of Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital and largest city. There was another protest in Thaketa township. Observers in Myanmar say the number and size of anti-coup street protests has increased since Friday. This follows a relative lull in recent weeks after a violent crackdowns mounted by heavily armed soldiers and police. On April 9 in Bago, a former royal capital, 83 people were reported killed in the second-worst day of official violence since the Feb. 1 coup. The worst day of violence was March 27, which the military celebrates as Armed Forces Day, when 114 people died.

One contributing factor to protest uptick is believed to be the timing. The coming weekend will mark the end of the third month since the coup. That is twice as long as the 1988 pro-democracy uprising when over 3,000 civilians were killed by the authorities. It may also be symptomatic of public frustration and disappointment with the summit of ASEAN leaders held on April 24 in Jakarta. “ASEAN leaders and the junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing shook hands, and that made people feel the need for continuous efforts to attract international attention,” a Yangon resident told Nikkei Asia.

2:40 p.m. The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of ousted parliamentarians standing up against the junta, announces that it has included three more members who were democratically elected in November’s general election. One is from the Kachin State People’s Party, an ethnic minority party from northern Myanmar, and the others are from the National League for Democracy led by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested after the coup on Feb. 1.

11:30 a.m. Senior regional diplomats told Nikkei Asia that Christine Schraner Burgener, the United Nations special envoy for Myanmar, met junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on Saturday on the sidelines of the ASEAN leaders summit in Jakarta. During the meeting, the junta chief defended his Feb. 1 takeover of the country, claiming massive fraud in elections in November. The U.N. envoy requested permission to visit Myanmar, but there was no immediate response on whether the junta will grant her access.

Sunday, April 25

7:00 a.m. There will be “no compromise” between the newly formed National Unity Government of Myanmar and the military regime unless the group’s demands are met, Dr. Sasa, NUG’s envoy, told Nikkei Asia on Saturday evening. “There is no compromise — we have laid out our four conditions,” Sasa, who only uses one name, said. “It’s not me, it’s the people of Myanmar. We can’t legitimize killing. If you legitimize the junta you legitimize the military.”

Saturday, April 24

6:40 p.m. Myanmar’s military TV covers junta chief Min Aung Hlaing’s participation in the ASEAN leaders meeting in Jakarta, but does not go into any detail about the talks concerning Myanmar. The report says the general voiced support for sustainable regional development and promised to work closely with neighbors to achieve the goals of the ASEAN charter. It also says he explained “current political developments” in the country and future plans.

5:30 p.m. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin calls on Myanmar to end the violence and free detainees promptly and unconditionally, in a strongly worded statement at the ASEAN leaders meeting.

2:30 p.m. Local news outlet DVB Burmese reports a loud bomb blast was heard on Friday night from the house of Thet Thet Khine, the junta-appointed minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement, in Sanchaung Township, a residential area of Yangon. Police officers and soldiers arrived to examine the house few minutes after the blast. No injuries were reported.

12:30 p.m. Wai Moe Naing, a prominent leader of the anti-coup movement in the city of Monywa, and 41 others are being held in custody in connection with the killing of two policemen and defamation of the state, according to local media reports.

12:00 p.m. Indonesia’s presidential office has confirmed junta leader Min Aung Hlaing’s arrival in Jakarta, releasing footage of him disembarking from his plane.

Protesters stage mock funerals for junta leader

11:20 a.m. Pro-democracy protesters stage “funeral strikes” in some of Myanmar’s biggest cities, including Yangon and Mandalay, holding mock funeral ceremonies for Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who is attending the ASEAN summit in Jakarta on Saturday.

10:40 a.m. A Myanmar Airways International flight believed to be carrying Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has landed in Jakarta.

9:30 a.m. A firefight broke out last night between police and soldiers at a government housing complex in Hakha, the state capital of Chin, near Myanmar’s border with India. Two soldiers were killed and several police officers were injured, local media reports said, citing local residents, who heard about 10 gunshots at around 8 p.m.

Malaysia’s Muhyiddin arrives for ASEAN summit

9:15 a.m. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin arrives in Jakarta for the ASEAN leaders meeting on Myanmar in the afternoon. This follows Friday’s arrivals of Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

An official from the Philippines’ foreign ministry, meanwhile, lays out an agenda for the meeting that lists Myanmar as one of several points for discussion. Other items include regional recovery efforts, community building and ASEAN’s external relations. Manila is to be represented by Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, not President Rodrigo Duterte.

2:00 a.m. After weeks of laying the groundwork, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will hold a special summit on today to discuss the crisis in Myanmar. Who will attend? What is at stake? Read up on the event here.

Friday, April 23

8:00 p.m. Japan’s Embassy in Myanmar has had its first contact with detained journalist Yuki Kitazumi since his arrest on Sunday.

Kitazumi has “not been mistreated” and is in good health, he told Ambassador Ichiro Maruyama, according to the Embassy.

The 45-year-old Kitazumi, a freelance journalist formerly employed by Nikkei, was arrested at home and taken to Yangon’s Insein Prison for questioning. Authorities have accused him of spreading fake news.

6:00 p.m. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi says Laos’ Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh will skip the ASEAN leaders meeting in Jakarta on Saturday, joining the top leaders of Thailand and the Philippines in staying away. She stops short of explaining why.

On the other hand, Singapore has formally announced that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will attend, as widely expected.

Marsudi says the fact that leaders are holding their first in-person summit since the COVID-19 pandemic began underscores “concerns over the situation in Myanmar and ASEAN’s determination to help Myanmar out of the crisis.

“Earlier on Friday afternoon, Indonesian President Joko Widodo held bilateral talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on the outskirts of Jakarta. Marsudi says they expressed their worries over the violence and deaths in Myanmar, and shared the hope that the summit will result in the “best agreement” for the country’s people.

Marsudi will host a working dinner Friday evening for other ASEAN foreign ministers who have arrived in Jakarta for the summit.

Min Aung Hlaing set to head for ASEAN summit

5:00 p.m. Local media outlet Khit Thit Media reports that a Myanmar Airways International flight left Yangon airport for Naypyitaw on Friday evening. Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing is expected to fly on this plane tomorrow to attend the ASEAN summit in Jakarta, the report added, citing an airline officer. This will be the general’s first foreign trip since the Feb. 1 coup.

2:10 p.m. Burmese fuel prices have gone up 30% since the Feb 1 coup, and a liter of gasoline now costs over 1,000 kyat ($0.7). “Many taxi drivers in Yangon have returned their vehicles to their owners as they don’t have enough customers and fuel costs have risen,” one driver told Nikkei Asia. “Many taxi drivers will get into trouble if prices continue increasing.”

1:40 p.m. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh of Vietnam arrives in Jakarta ahead of tomorrow’s ASEAN summit on Myanmar. Pham was sworn in earlier this month, and this afternoon will have a bilateral meeting with President Joko Widodo at the presidential palace in Bogor, West Java.

Yangon sees unusually open protest

1:30 p.m. Ahead of Saturday’s ASEAN summit in Jakarta, which will be attended by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the military, over 150 protesters marched openly in central Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital and largest city. It was a relatively large and open statement of defiance after the junta stepped up surveillance and security in recent weeks.

12:00 p.m. A Burmese youth group announces a virtual ASEAN youth summit to run alongside to the ASEAN leaders’ summit in Jakarta this Saturday. “We would like to reflect the real voices of youth and to promote the real interests of the citizens of Southeast Asia,” the group said. “We want to show that the communities of Southeast Asia think differently from their leaders, and we would like to urge ASEAN to reform its principles.”

11:45 p.m. There is a report that police officers in plain clothes opened fire in San Chaung Town, a residential area of Yangon, on Thursday night in an attempt to disperse civilians who were banging pots and pans to express their opposition to the military coup.

11:30 a.m. While pro-democracy protesters remain active all across Myanmar, ordinary people are returning to some semblance of normal daily activity following Thingyan, the lunar new year and water festival, which ended on Friday. There were more shoppers to be seen in Yangon’s shopping malls than before the week-long festival. Residents said one of the reasons was the availability of free internet in the shopping centers.

2:00 a.m. Up to 3.4 million more people in Myanmar will suffer from hunger, especially in cities, over the next six months, the United Nations World Food Program warns.

The WFP’s statement cites the “triple impact of pre-existing poverty, COVID-19 and the current political crisis.”

12:50 a.m. U.S. oil major Chevron lobbied American lawmakers and government officials for protection for its energy interests in Myanmar during the first quarter of 2021, Reuters reports, citing federal disclosures.

Chevron is a production investor in the Yadana offshore natural gas field along with France’s Total and Thailand’s PTT group.

United Nations human rights envoy Thomas Andrews has urged governments to impose sanctions on their local partner Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

Thursday, April 22

9:30 p.m. Myanmar’s National Unity Government, which stands in opposition to the military-led regime since Feb. 1, urges Interpol to work with Indonesian police to arrest junta leader Min Aung Hlaing when he travels to Jakarta for an ASEAN summit.

The unity government reveals the request on its Facebook page.

8:30 p.m. Guangzhou Automobile Group presses ahead with plans to start manufacturing vehicles in Myanmar this year as part of the Chinese state-owned group’s ambitious internationalization plan.

“Our Yangon plant is at the initial stage of construction and it has not been affected by the unrest,” Ben Chan, Asia general manager of the group’s GAC Motor unit, tells Nikkei Asia in an interview.

8:00 p.m. Myanmar’s state-owned television announces that all cabinet members of the National Unity Government recently formed by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CPRH) — including vice president and ministers and deputy ministers — have been charged with high treason and unlawful association.

Formed last week, the unity government is made up of democratically elected parliamentarians representing the committee.

7:15 p.m. “Pushing international oil and gas companies to quit Myanmar in an attempt to starve the military junta of vital revenues and force an end to the coup is not only futile but loaded with potentially harmful long-term consequences,” writes Vandana Hari, founder of Singapore-based energy markets tracker Vanda Insights, in commentary for Nikkei Asia.

“Though one could accuse the oil companies that are staying put of being self-serving by not heeding to the calls of pro-democracy protesters and human rights groups, it would be a flawed, one-dimensional view of a complex and multilayered problem,” she writes. Read more here.

2:40 p.m. BBC Burmese reports that a hearing in the state secrets trial of Aung San Suu Kyi has been postponed because the junta’s internet blocking is preventing videoconferencing from taking place. The hearing has been pushed back to May 6.

1:30 p.m. Sasa, the new National Unity Government’s union minister for international cooperation, says Myanmar people’s representatives are fully prepared to participate in the ASEAN summit on Saturday. In an open letter, the NUG also asked ASEAN to help it hold the junta responsible for the mayhem it unleashed. “We also need ASEAN’s help in bringing the pressure to bear that will end the military junta’s assaults and end its attempted illegal coup,” the letter reads. Sasa is demanding that ASEAN and its member governments not engage Myanmar’s generals unless the junta ceases all military action against civilians and releases all political prisoners.

1:00 p.m. Another high-profile leader will be absent from Saturday’s ASEAN summit in Jakarta: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is staying home to focus on the COVID-19 situation, the country’s Department of Foreign Affairs says. “The Philippines strongly supported the convening of the meeting even without the full attendance of all ASEAN leaders,” the statement says.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin will attend in Duterte’s place. “The president, through Secretary Locsin, will convey the Philippines’ commitment to ASEAN’s collective efforts in addressing threats and challenges to peace and stability in the region.”

The announcement comes shortly after Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha reiterated his decision not to go.

11:45 a.m. In a phone call with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Thursday morning, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha confirmed that he will not be attending Saturday’s ASEAN summit in Jakarta, according to a Thai government account of the call.

Prayuth expressed “concern and worries” about the situation in Myanmar and acknowledged the challenge for “regional peace and stability.” But the government says he told Widodo that he is concerned about COVID-19 cases in Thailand, and thus he will rely on Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai to represent him.

Prayuth, who has had his own standoff with protesters in recent months, had already declared he would not be going to the meeting. But there was speculation that Widodo would try to persuade him.

Thailand is indeed experiencing its worst coronavirus surge yet, averaging about 1,500 daily cases in the past seven days.

Meanwhile, in a weekly news conference, Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Tanee Sangrat said the summit will provide an opportunity for ASEAN leaders to discuss important regional and international issues, including Myanmar, as well as how to make the bloc more resilient after the pandemic. Tanee said ASEAN is aware of the expectations for tangible outcomes with regard to Myanmar.

9:45 a.m. Up to 3.4 million additional people in Myanmar will face hunger in the coming three to six months amid the country’s deepening turmoil, the World Food Programme warns. In its latest assessment since the coup, the United Nations agency gave a far bleaker view than a month earlier, in which it warned that an additional 1.8 million people could face hunger. The agency said that further increases in food prices, joblessness and COVID-19 concerns are accelerating economic deterioration and fueling a humanitarian crisis. Myanmar’s economy was already severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the WFP said.

12:30 a.m. The United Nations secretary-general’s spokesperson clarifies what special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener will do in Jakarta, where she will attend meetings on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit on Myanmar.

“She is not addressing the meeting as a whole,” Stephane Dujarric tells a news conference. “She will be visiting Jakarta while the meeting is going on, and using that time to have discussions with various parties who are also in Jakarta. It’s a good way for her to be able in one place to meet many of the key players.”

Dujarric says that Schraner Burgener has had contact with Myanmar military representatives by email and phone in the past and will try to speak with them again on her trip.

Wednesday, April 21

10:00 p.m. The U.S. State Department describes the new American sanctions on Myanmar as “further action to restrict the regime’s access to key economic resources by designating two state-owned enterprises that benefit the regime as it engages in violence against the people of Burma.”

Teak and other tropical wood is a major resource in Myanmar, whose state-owned timber company has been added to a U.S. Treasury Department blacklist.

Myanmar ranked 22nd among International Tropical Timber Organization producers in roundwood exports in 2018, according to ITTO data.

Illegal logging is rampant. Myanmar’s military seized nearly 10,000 tons of illegal timber worth about 11 billion kyat ($7.8 million at current rates) in 2020, mostly from the conflict-prone Rahkine, Kachin and Shan states, the Myanmar Times reports.

Forest area roughly the size of Finland and Slovakia combined was lost during from 2001 to 2019, according to the U.K.-based Environmental Investigation Agency, which cites data from Global Forest Watch.

9:00 p.m. The U.S. has added two more Myanmar state-owned companies to its sanctions list.

The Treasury Department’s latest action in response to the Feb. 1 coup targets Myanma Timber Enterprise (also known as Myanmar Timber Enterprise) and Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, according to a statement.

8:45 p.m. Confirming the Vietnamese prime minister’s attendance at the ASEAN summit, the government’s online English-language newspaper says: “Consolidating and enhancing solidarity and mutual assistance among ASEAN member States is one of the priorities in Vietnam’s foreign policy.”

6:30 p.m. The Philippines will send its foreign minister to the ASEAN summit scheduled on Saturday in Jakarta, although the Department of Foreign Affairs has not yet officially announced if Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. will take part in the high-level meeting, according to sources at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will attend the summit, Reuters reports, citing a government announcement.

6:00 p.m. Nikkei Asia learns from United Nations sources that the U.N.’s special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, will visit Jakarta on April 24 to hold meetings on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit.

3:30 p.m. Zaw Wai Soe, union minister of the recently announced National Unity Government, calls on military personnel to cooperate with civilians and save Myanmar people. In a social media post, he called for the military dictators to be overthrown, saying they have left Myanmar in a civil war and made it “the world’s poorest country with the least health care and education.”

1:00 p.m. Protesters join the “Blue Shirt Campaign” on Wednesday by uploading photos of themselves wearing blue shirts to social media websites. Many had written messages on their hands that say “free our students” or “Aung San Suu Kyi.”

The Blue Shirt Campaign had started years ago by protesters demanding the release of political prisoners, and had been occasionally revived since by activists and politicians. This time, the campaign was dominated by civilians.

12:30 p.m. A small truck parked inside the compound of the National League for Democracy in Tarmwe Township in Yangon was set on fire at around 4:00 a.m. No deaths or injuries have been reported so far.

Junta says Min Aung Hlaing will attend ASEAN summit

11:45 a.m. Myanmar’s military spokesperson Zaw Min Tun tells Nikkei Asia that Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will attend the ASEAN summit in Jakarta on April 24. When asked whether the commander-in-chief is going to Jakarta, the spokesperson said “he will definitely go.”

Zaw Min Tun also denies social media reports that 11 high-ranking military officers are under house arrest, calling the reports a rumor. “[The officers] are busy with their duties in Naypyidaw,” he said.

7:30 a.m. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations chair Brunei has formally announced Saturday’s meeting, saying it is “set to take place” at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.

2:00 a.m. Myanmar junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing will attend Saturday’s meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein is quoted as saying by Reuters.

Tuesday, April 20

9:45 p.m. The Irrawaddy reports the military government has disputed the post-coup death toll published by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights group.

State television and newspapers say 258 people were killed between Feb. 1 and April. 15, according to The Irrawaddy, compared with the AAPP’s count of more than 700. Of these 258, 247 were killed in response to attacks on security forces, state media say.

9:00 p.m. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will attend Saturday’s meeting of Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta, Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says, adding that he will accompany Muhyiddin.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has invited regional leaders to discuss the crisis in Myanmar.

5:40 p.m. Myanma Radio and Television, the state broadcaster better known as MRTV, reports that the National Unity Government announced last week by pro-democracy politicians has been deemed an unlawful association. The NUG includes ousted members of parliament.

4:45 p.m. A coalition of Jakarta-based nongovernmental organizations have criticized ASEAN’s decision to invite the junta leader to the bloc’s upcoming summit, arguing Myanmar’s seat should be given instead to the National Unity Government — formed by pro-democracy politicians including ousted members of parliament.

“Giving the seat of representation in the ASEAN to the legitimate government means ceasing all actions that legitimize the power of the military junta,” the NGOs say in a joint statement. “We urge ASEAN to take firm and effective actions in dealing with the coup … [including taking steps to] ensure investigations against members and leaders of the junta involved in violence and killings of the Myanmar people.”

4:30 p.m. Tayzar San, a protest leader in Mandalay, reportedly has a bounty on his head. According to social media information, posters with his portrait have been displayed in the country’s second-largest city, saying that anyone who catches him and hands him over to the security forces will be awarded 10 million Myanmar kyat ($7,100).

1:20 p.m. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha says he will not attend the ASEAN summit in Jakarta on April 24, where leaders are expected to discuss the Myanmar crisis. Thailand will instead be represented by Deputy Prime Minister Don Pramudwinai, who is also foreign minister. “I also learned that many countries are sending their foreign ministers to join the meeting,” Prayuth added.

11:00 a.m. Japan’s top government spokesman demands that security forces in Myanmar release a Japanese journalist detained for allegedly spreading “fake news” after covering protests against the junta. “Japan considers the way in which the situation has been handled, including the fact he was sent to prison before sentencing, unacceptable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told reporters.

2:00 a.m. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ cherished principle of non-interference in member states’ internal affairs “should not be used to justify inaction in the face of serious human rights abuses,” former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon tells the U.N. Security Council.

“To deal with the Myanmar situation, an effective and regional-led approach requires both unity and action,” Ban says. But, ASEAN has so far been divided in its response to the situation in Myanmar.”

“ASEAN must make it clear to the Myanmar military that the current situation is so grave that it cannot be regarded only as an internal matter,” Ban also says.

Ban recently made a request to visit Myanmar but was turned down, he tells an open debate organized by Vietnam, which holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency this month.

He urges the council “take immediate action to halt the violence and bloodshed, and initiate a process to restore peace and democracy in Myanmar.” He calls on his successor Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to “use his good offices to engage directly with the Myanmar military, to prevent an escalation of violence.”

1:00 a.m. Multinational energy companies face a tough choice over their investments in Myanmar.

Malaysia’s Petronas has said it will indefinitely suspend production at the Yetagun natural gas field. Meanwhile, France’s Total, which runs Myanmar’s largest undersea gas field in terms of output, plans to continue production there. Read more here.

Monday, April 19

8:30 p.m. More quotes from the European Union statement on Myanmar:

“Pre-existing EU restrictive measures also remain in place. These include an embargo on arms and equipment that can be used for internal repression, an export ban on dual-use goods for use by the military and border guard police, export restrictions on equipment for monitoring communications that could be used for internal repression, and a prohibition on military training for and military cooperation with the Tatmadaw.”

8:00 p.m. The European Union adopts a new round of Myanmar sanctions in response to the Feb. 1 coup, targeting 10 people and two military-controlled companies.

“Today’s decision is a sign of the EU’s unity and determination in condemning the brutal actions of the military junta, and aims at effecting change in the junta’s leadership,” the European Council says in a statement.

The 10 individuals include members of the State Administrative Council — the junta’s name for the post-coup government. The two companies, Myanma Economic Holdings Public Co. Ltd. (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corp. (MEC), “are owned and controlled by the Myanmar armed forces [Tatmadaw], and provide revenue for it,” according to the statement.

The U.S. and the U.K. also have imposed sanctions on MEHL and MEC, whose far-reaching business interests include mining, food, beverages and tourism.

The statement stresses that European sanctions “specifically target the economic interests of Myanmar’s military regime” and “are crafted in such a way to avoid undue harm to the people of Myanmar.”

“It’s once again clear that humanitarian aid to the people of Myanmar needs to be increased,” Josep Borrell, high representative of the EU for foreign affairs and security policy, tells reporters. “We increased it by 9 million euros ($10.8 million). But the important thing is to stop the repression.”

6:00 p.m. Myanmar’s security forces have stepped up house arrests in Yangon on Monday. There has been no confirmation of the number of such arrests, but protesters residing in Kyauk Myaung and Tarmwe townships, among other areas, have reportedly been arrested at their homes for allegedly taking part in the civil disobedience movement against the junta.

Security forces have increased raids and detentions over the past week, especially after more cases of explosions and arson attacks. Observers say that some of those attacks were conducted by armed protesters who have been trained to handle explosives. In response, security forces now stop and search more pedestrians for explosives, rather than checking their mobile phones for links to lawmakers from the National League for Democracy.

Separately, Japanese freelance journalist Yuki Kitazumi is being investigated for allegedly spreading fake news, according to the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar.

Japanese journalist Yuki Kitazumi speaks during an interview in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, April 2013, in this photo released by Kyodo.   © Reuters

2:45 p.m. Myanmar’s security authority confirms that Japanese freelance journalist Yuki Kitazumi has been charged with allegedly violating section 505-A of the Penal Code, which prohibits a wide range of expressions that might cause fear, spread false news, or agitate directly or indirectly someone toward a criminal offense against a Government employee, according to the Japanese Embassy in Myanmar.

7:30 a.m. The Japanese Embassy in Myanmar confirms with local police that journalist Yuki Kitazumi was detained around 7:50 p.m. on Sunday at his home and transferred to Insein Prison, on the outskirts of Yangon. The prison is known for holding political prisoners.

Sunday, April 18

10:00 p.m. Japanese freelance journalist Yuki Kitazumi was detained in the night by security forces in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, local media report. By Sunday, 737 people had been killed since the military coup on Feb. 1, and 3,229 detained, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

11:00 a.m. Myanmar citizens launch #ASEANrejectSAC, a “trending party” on Twitter, to push ASEAN to disinvite Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the junta’s commander in chief, to the bloc’s summit now scheduled for Saturday in Jakarta.

Saturday, April 17

1:33 p.m. A spokesperson for Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs informs local media that a long-awaited ASEAN emergency summit is nearly set for April 24 in Jakarta, with the Myanmar junta’s commander in chief ready to attend.

“I can confirm that Brunei Chair has proposed the date April 24,” the spokesperson says in a message, referring to this year’s ASEAN chair country. The official goes on to say that the venue will be the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, and that “several leaders have confirmed their attendance including Myanmar’s MAH” — understood to be shorthand for Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

“Some leaders have yet to [be] confirmed.”

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also said on Friday that he would attend the summit on April 24 without providing details.

1:00 p.m. U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose bilateral summit has mostly drawn attention for their remarks on Taiwan and China’s reaction, also touched on the crisis in Myanmar.

“We firmly condemn violence committed by the Myanmar military and police against civilians, and commit to continue taking action to press for the immediate cessation of violence, the release of those who are detained, and a swift return to democracy,” reads the joint statement issued by the White House after the leaders’ meeting in Washington on Friday.

7:00 a.m. Several countries are said to be preparing to officially recognize Myanmar’s National Unity Government as the legitimate leaders of the country, local media outlet Myanmar Now reports, citing a minister from the newly formed shadow cabinet.

“They include some Western countries as well as a member country of the Arab world that experienced the Arab Spring, which we respected and envy very much,” the minister said in an online news conference on Friday.

6:00 a.m. An explosion is heard from the direction of the Hledan district of Yangon at around 7:30 p.m. The exact location of the blast is unknown, but it is said to be at a police station near Grand Hantha International Hospital. According to information observed on Twitter accounts, loud explosions were heard at seven locations in Yangon.

3:30 a.m. Twan Mrat Naing, the chief of Arakan Army, an ethnic rebel group that operates in the western Rakhine State, tweets from an account believed to be the one he is using: “They offered us with respect. We didn’t join as we have our own stands. They’re not to be blamed.” It apparently refers to the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) which announced a list of members of their National Unity Government on Friday.

2:45 a.m. Southeast Asian countries are considering a proposal for a humanitarian aid mission to Myanmar, Reuters reports, citing diplomats familiar with the matter.

Diplomats also said Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing may attend a proposed ASEAN summit this month, Reuters reports.

Friday, April 16

7:30 p.m. Loud clapping can be heard in Yangon as residents welcome the formation of the National Unity Government, which aims to oust the junta.

6:40 p.m. Dr. Sasa, the new National Unity Government‘s spokesman and minister of international cooperation, has released a rousing statement laying out the entity’s aims — the ultimate one being to end suffering “at the hands of a criminal, ruthless military junta.”

The message emphasizes ethnic diversity and says the unity government led by Aung San Suu Kyi represents “the hopes and dreams, and the courage and commitment, of all the people of Myanmar.”

Sasa, who goes by one name, says the anti-junta group will “continue to work on bringing all ethnic nationalities into our National Unity Government” and vows to “deliver justice for our Rohingya brothers, sisters and for all.”

He also says the unity government will be seeking global recognition “as the truly legitimate government of the people of Myanmar.”

1:40 p.m. The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group made up of elected lawmakers mainly from the ousted National League for Democracy government, announces members of their “National Unity Government.” The list includes deposed lawmakers, members of ethnic groups and leaders of anti-coup protesters.

Atop the list shared by the CRPH — the parallel parliament recognized by the Myanmar public — on its Facebook account are detained democratic leaders Aung San Suu Kyi and Win Myint. They are named state counselor and president, respectively, retaining the titles they held before the military coup on Feb. 1.

In addition, Dr. Sasa, the special envoy of the CRPH, is also included in the list as a union minister in charge of the Ministry of International Cooperation.

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