Myanmar’s heavy industry is dominated by mining, oil and gas extraction. The light industry consists mostly of food and beverage production. The industry was long hampered by economic sanctions imposed by the Western world against the country’s military rule. These were raised during the first half of the 2010s.
The industry accounts for about one third of GDP and employs just over a tenth of the wage earners. The sector is mainly run by private companies, especially the light industry. Some 40 large state-owned companies are found mainly in the mining and energy sectors. In practice, these state industries are controlled by high-ranking military with close contacts to the former junta.
In the smaller factories, clothing, household goods, wood products and furniture and tobacco are produced. There are also assembly plants for cars and TV sets. Although the world has abolished the sanctions against Myanmar, small businesses are struggling with a continued lack of capital and input goods. Increased competition through border trade also poses problems.
Private-owned companies, including foreign ones, were allowed to develop fairly freely after the military junta’s takeover of power in 1988. When many companies from the West had left Myanmar in the 1990s after consumer boycotts in their home countries, several Asian countries increased their investments. However, the textile industry was hit by major problems after 2003 when the US introduced import stops. Nearly half of the textile mills are estimated to have gone bankrupt. Hope for new opportunities arises when textile companies move operations to Myanmar from, for example, Thailand and China, where wages have risen in recent years. Myanmar is also trying to speed up production by establishing special industrial zones around the country.
A growing stream of tourists and other visitors since 2015 has increased the need for new housing, hotels and other buildings. This has led to a real boost for the construction industry.
NLD politicians are killed by AA
A local NLD politician in Buthidaung in Rakhine is killed after being kidnapped by guerrilla group AA on December 11. The politician was kidnapped on the same day that Aung San Suu Kyi defended Myanmar before the UN Court in The Hague (see December 2019). AA states that the politician was killed in battle on Christmas Day, but NLD says AA bears responsibility for the man’s death.
Attempt to visit Suu Kyi
Three minor explosive detonations detonate in the small town of Manaung, located on an island off the coast of Rakhine. The explosions occur just before Aung San Suu Kyi makes one of his rare visits to the state. She has visited Rakhine three times since the displacement of Rohingy in the fall of 2017. Manaung is described as a usually quiet little town. Suu Kyi visits the island to inaugurate a solar energy project. No people are injured in the explosions. The island is located in southern Rakhine while the fighting with guerrilla group AA is ongoing in the north.
Suu Kyi testifies before the ICJ
Aung San Suu Kyi rejects the accusation that a genocide was intentionally committed against the Rohingya people’s group in Rakhine in the fall of 2013. She says that Gambia, which brought Myanmar to trial at the International Tribunal (ICJ) in The Hague for the military offensive against the Rohingy, gives a misleading and incomplete picture of what happened. Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi testifies before the ICJ as Foreign Minister and defends the military’s actions. She admits that it cannot be ruled out that individual soldiers may have used disproportionately much force, but adds that it is not the same as the military trying to wipe out a people. In Myanmar, manifestations have been held in support of Suu Kyi, whose decision to testify before the ICJ is popular there.
The United States tightens the sanctions
US tightens sanctions on Myanmar’s army chief Min Aung Hlaing. In July, an entry ban was imposed on Min Aung Hlaing because of his role in the military offensive against the Rohingya in Rakhine in the fall of 2017. Now sanctions are being extended by freezing his financial assets in the US and criminalizing all financial transactions with him in the US.
Suu Kyi will defend the military before the ICJ
Aung San Suu Kyi, as Foreign Minister, will lead Myanmar’s defense in the ICJ Court in The Hague, where Gambia has brought the country to trial with charges of genocide on Muslim Rohingya in 2017. The Gambia is acting on behalf of the Muslim organization OIC.
ICC reviews the eviction of Rohingy 2017
International Criminal Court ICC gives clear sign of full-scale investigation of allegations of humanity crimes committed against Rohingyans in Rakhine in autumn 2017. The investigation is being conducted despite Myanmar not being a member of the ICC. The Court believes that it can run the case anyway, since the Rohingy are now in Bangladesh, which is an ICC member.
Trial against Aung San Suu Kyi in Argentina
Several Rohingya and Latin American human rights groups come together in a lawsuit under “universal jurisdiction” in Argentina in which they accuse a number of Myanmar people, including Aung San Suu Kyi, of having committed human rights violations in connection with the deportation of Rohingya from Rakhine 2017 (see the situation of the Rohingy).
The AA guerrillas take away 60 police officers and soldiers
The Arakanese Army (AA) kidnaps nearly 60 police officers, government soldiers and government officials in the state of Rakhine, where the guerrilla group for an armed struggle against the government side to strengthen the rights of the Buddhist Arakanes.
New UN report on suspected war criminals
In its second report, UN investigators submit a list to the UN Human Rights Council of 150 people they suspect have committed genocide or war crimes against an ethnic minority in the fall 2017 military offensive against the Rohingya in Rakhine. The name list is secret, but it appears that several military commanders are on it.
Repatriation of Rohingyas again fails
A second attempt to get Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to voluntarily move back to Myanmar’s home country fails when not a single refugee shows up at the buses and trucks that Bangladesh has made available for the return journey. (A first unsuccessful attempt was interrupted in November 2018.) The refugees say they do not want to return to Myanmar as long as their security cannot be guaranteed there. The stateless Rohingya also want guarantees that they will be granted Myanmar citizenship when they leave Bangladesh.
UN investigation: “Military business empire finances abuse”
The business empire of the armed forces has generated a fortune that helps to finance the military’s assault on the civilian population, UN investigators write in a report. Investigators advocate tougher sanctions on the military and its financial interests. They want to see a total stop for arms sales to Myanmar. Foreign companies must be careful not to cooperate with military controlled companies. Avoiding it reduces the military’s ability to carry out operations beyond civilian control and thereby also reduces the risk of human rights violations being committed, UN investigators write. The report describes how dozens of privately owned companies donated over $ 10 million to the military during its operations against Rohingy in Rakhine. Subsequently, the companies should have helped to finance development projects in the area and helped to “destroy evidence that Rohingy belong in Myanmar”. According to UN investigators, criminal investigations should be initiated against these companies. The UN report says that at least 15 foreign companies cooperate with the military through so-called joint ventures, while 44 other foreign companies have some kind of commercial links to it. In addition, many foreign companies cooperate with the military’s subsidiaries. The military has financial interests in everything from jade and ruby mining to tourism and the real estate market. It also controls two large banks. The UN report says that at least 15 foreign companies cooperate with the military through so-called joint ventures, while 44 other foreign companies have some kind of commercial links to it. In addition, many foreign companies cooperate with the military’s subsidiaries. The military has financial interests in everything from jade and ruby mining to tourism and the real estate market. It also controls two large banks. The UN report says that at least 15 foreign companies cooperate with the military through so-called joint ventures, while 44 other foreign companies have some kind of commercial links to it. In addition, many foreign companies cooperate with the military’s subsidiaries. The military has financial interests in everything from jade and ruby mining to tourism and the real estate market. It also controls two large banks.
The United States tightens sanctions on the military
US imposes new sanctions on Myanmar’s military. Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing and three other high-ranking military commanders and their families are banned from entering the United States. The sanctions are the US response to Myanmar’s inability to prevent human rights violations committed against the Rohingya minority in Rakhine (see Current Policy).
Proposal to reduce political influence for the military
The committee appointed to review the Constitution (see February 2019) submits its report to Parliament. The report contains over 3,500 proposals in addition to the 2008 Constitution. The proposals aim to reduce the military’s influence over politics and society. Among other things, the number of seats in Parliament reserved for the military should be gradually reduced, from 25 percent to 5 percent. Some ministerial posts (defense, domestic, border control) that are currently reserved for the military are proposed to be appointed by civilians in the future. Amendments are likely to be stopped by the military MPs.
“Soldiers convicted of mass murder released”
The seven soldiers who in 2018 were sentenced to ten years in prison for the massacre of ten Rohingya men and boys in the village of Din Din in Rakhine 2017 have been released prematurely. According to the Reuters news agency, they should have been released as early as November 2018. The soldiers are the only ones convicted of crimes committed during the Rakhine 2017 military offensive when around 740,000 Rohingya fled the country.
Armistice in the north is extended
The military extends the unilateral ceasefire in the northern states of Kachin and Shan until June 30 (see Conflicts with other minority people). The fighting is reported to have subsided in these two states, while they have increased in Chin and Rakhine.
The Reuters reporters released
Reuters reporters Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo leave the prison in Rangoon after being pardoned by the president in connection with the traditional New Year celebration. Around 6,500 prisoners are pardoned the same day. The two journalists have been detained for more than 16 months. In September 2018, they were sentenced to seven years in prison for using secretly stamped documents when revealing a massacre of Rohingy people in Rakhine (see January 2018). International pressure is likely to be an important reason for the reporters’ pardon.
The EU extends sanctions
The EU bans arms sales to Myanmar for at least another year, until April 30, 2020. The Union also extends sanctions against 14 senior military and security leaders because of their roles in violence against and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingy in Rakhine 2017. The sanctions mean that leaders are not allowed to travel to or through the EU and their potential assets in Europe are frozen.
The fighting is escalating in Rakhine
Intensive fighting is reported to be ongoing between government soldiers and the guerrilla group Arakanesian Army (AA) in Mrauk U in Rakhine. According to eyewitnesses, the military bombs the famous temple city with the help of aircraft and combat helicopters. AA claims to represent the Buddhist group rakhine and demands increased autonomy for the state. AA has killed some 20 police officers since the uprising again flared up (see January 2019). The government says dozens of AA rebels have been killed in the fighting. Tens of thousands of people are reported to have fled their homes away from the fighting.
The committee will review the constitution
Parliament adopts a proposal from the NLD to set up a committee to review the constitution from 2008. The proposal is adopted with 414 yes votes against 197 no. The military and its support party USDP oppose the proposal. The committee will be chaired by Vice President Tun Tun Hein from the NLD. Political parties and military members shall be given seats in the Committee in proportion to their representation in Parliament. At the same time, the NLD presents some proposals for amendments to the constitution, including the part that prevents Aung San Suu Kyi from becoming president and the part that gives the military a formal political influence. Parliament needs more than three-quarters of a vote in order for a constitutional change to be passed. The military is in 25 percent of the seats.
Two death sentences for the murder of a Muslim lawyer
Two people sentenced to death for murder of well-known Muslim lawyer Ko Ni (see January 2017). Ko Ni worked as an advisor to Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD. His work and belief made nationalist Buddhists speak hatefully about him, but even the military was considered to have an evil eye on Ko Ni because of his open criticism of the military’s continued political influence. Ko Ni worked to change the constitution so that the military’s formal political power would diminish. One of the convicts was convicted of shooting both Ko Ni and a taxi driver who took up the hunt for the killer as he fled the scene. The killer was also convicted of a crime. An aide to the shooter was sentenced to death by hanging, and two other aides to jail and punishment. Myanmar has not executed any sentenced prisoner in the last ten years according to Amnesty International.
New refugee stream to Bangladesh
6th of February
Bangladesh calls itself Myanmar’s ambassador to the country and protests that a new wave of refugees is being created when thousands of Rakhine residents flee to Bangladesh from new fighting. Bangladeshi authorities warn that refugees are queuing again at the border. The UN estimates that around 5,200 Buddhist Arakanes have moved to neighboring countries.
The fighting continues in Rakhine
The military announces that it has killed 13 rebels within the guerrilla group AA in continued fighting in the state of Rakhine.
The judges against Reuters reporters stand firm
The Court of Appeal dismisses the two Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo’s seven-year jail sentence appealed against in September 2018 for the use of secretly stamped documents at the disclosure of a Rohingy massacre in a village in Rakhine (see January 2018). The Court finds that it is an “appropriate punishment”.
The government orders military offensive against AA
7 th of January
The government orders the military to launch an offensive against the Buddhist AA guerrilla in Rakhine. Around 4,500 people have been forced to flee their homes from the fighting.
Buddhist guerrillas attack Rakhine police
The guerrilla group Arakanesian Army (AA), which fights for the Buddhist group rakhine’s rights in the state of Rakhine, is under attack against four police stations in Buthidaung near the border with Bangladesh. Thirteen police officers are killed and nine police officers injured before the military comes to the rescue.
Offensive against Buddhist rebels
Several weeks of fighting between the guerrilla group AA (Arakan Army) and the military in northern Rakhine drive thousands of people to flee to Buddhist monasteries, among others. AA is fighting for increased self-government for the Buddhist group Rakhine, which feels neglected by the authorities. AA accuses the military of attacking civilians and of using a temporary ceasefire in the north and northeast to concentrate its efforts on AA.