Beyond the Headlines: China’s special envoy meets ethnic armed organisation representatives on Myanmar visit

Chinese special envoy to Myanmar Deng Xijun greets leaders of NDAA (CNI Myanmar) 

Armed resistance

Members of the anti-regime People’s Defence Force (PDF) in the junta capital of Naypyitaw launched two handmade rockets into a compound where the 2031st Air Defence Battalion is based at 9:30am on February 22. The explosives struck a building in the site, which is some 23 miles southeast of Naypyitaw’s centre, according to a spokesperson of the resistance group. He added that they could not confirm the extent of the damage caused by the attack, but described it as a “test hit.” The spokesperson refused to disclose the location from which the PDF launched the assault, to which junta soldiers responded with gunfire. 

Ethnic armed organisations

Chinese special envoy to Myanmar Deng Xijun met with representatives of several ethnic armed organisations in the Mongla area of eastern Shan State on February 20. According to a report by The Irrawaddy, officials from the United Wa State Army, National Democratic Alliance Army, Shan State Progress Party, Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Arakan Army (AA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) attended separate meetings with the special envoy, but the topics of discussion were not disclosed. The KIA, MNDAA and TNLA are engaged in ongoing battles against the junta’s forces, and the AA is engaged in a temporary ceasefire with the military. 

Min Aung Hlaing (right) and Deng Xijun meeting in Naypyitaw in December 2022 in a photo released by the Myanmar regime

Deng Xijun also reportedly visited camps for internally displaced persons in the region. The trip to Myanmar  was his second since his appointment to the special envoy role last year, replacing Sun Guoxiang; he previously served as China’s envoy to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In December 2022, Deng Xijun met with regime chief Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw after meeting with the same ethnic armed organisations based in Shan and Kachin states. 


Among the leaders of the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government who were arrested and charged with criminal offences by the junta in the wake of the 2021 coup, former Yangon Region chief minister Phyo Min Thein stands alone in not being handed a prison sentence. He was instead fined 100,000 kyat (under US$50) on February 17 for allegedly committing electoral fraud in violation of Section 130a of the Penal Code. State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint were previously sentenced to three years in prison under the same charge. 

Phyo Min Thein holds an image of Aung San Suu Kyi during a rally in Yangon in 2019 (EPA)

In October 2021, Phyo Min Thein testified against Suu Kyi while she was on trial for corruption charges in a military-controlled court, alleging that while in office, she had accepted bribes totalling $600,000 and seven viss (around 1.4kg) of gold in support of his own business enterprises. 

Junta affairs

The Myanmar regime reopened passport offices nationwide on February 24, after closing them since January 2, putting operations on hold for nearly two months. Applicants at the Yangon office are required to make appointments for the travel documents through an online booking system which was previously suspended last December.

Passports in Myanmar are issued by the home affairs ministry—one of three under direct control of the military, in addition to defence and border affairs. Until 2014, passports could only be sought from the Yangon office, but since then, 17 more sites have been opened around the country. Myanmar passports are valid for five years and issued in several different types, the most common being “PV” for “visitors”—tourists and others planning short stays in foreign countries—as well as “PJ” for Myanmar citizens seeking jobs abroad, and “PS” for seamen.

People queue outside the passport office in Yangon on August 24, 2022 (Myanmar Now)

International affairs

Five Malaysian nationals who fell into a scam after accepting a fraudulent job offer in Myanmar were repatriated to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport from Thailand on February 19. According to a statement by Malaysia’s foreign affairs ministry, the individuals were between 19 and 26 years old, and were rescued by authorities in Thailand earlier this month through a cooperative effort between Thai and Malaysian police. 

They were held in a large compound in Myawaddy, Karen State, near the Thai border, where they described being forced to work 16 hours per day running online scams, and were subjected to torture. 


Some 114 Myanmar nationals were sent back to their homeland from Malaysia on February 23, after a court removed a stay on their deportation put in place last December. Their lawyer had argued that, if they were to return, they would be persecuted by the military. He also noted that there were children present in the group. 

Since April 2022, Malaysia has returned more than 2,000 Myanmar nationals, including many asylum seekers. On October 6, it sent 150 back under arrangements made together with the junta-aligned Myanmar embassy. Six were defectors from the Myanmar navy, at least one of whom was arrested upon his return. Myanmar nationals make up the majority of the roughly 185,000 asylum seekers and refugees currently registered by the UNHCR in Malaysia.