Myanmar was added to a global financial blacklist by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) alongside North Korea and Iran on October 21. The Paris-based international money-laundering watchdog cited Myanmar’s “continued lack of progress” and its failure to complete the majority of actions outlined more than one year earlier by the group as the reason for the punitive measure. Increased scrutiny is required by international actors involving transactions linked to blacklisted countries in order to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
“When applying enhanced due diligence measures, countries should ensure that flows of funds for humanitarian assistance, legitimate NPO [non-profit organisation] activity and remittances are not disrupted,” the FATF said in its statement. Myanmar was previously blacklisted from June 2001 to October 2006 and again from October 2011 to February 2016. It was on the “grey list” from February to October 2016 and again from February 2020 until the end of last week.
Following the announcement, Myanmar’s currency further destabilised and rumours spread that its value had shifted to more than 6,000 kyat per US dollar. However, while remaining unstable, the market price was listed at 3,000 kyat per dollar on October 24. Observers warned that individual accounts opened by Myanmar citizens, as well as trade transactions, would likely be impacted by due diligence requirements demanded by financial institutions following the blacklisting.
Ethnic armed organisations
Rakhine ethnic armed organisation the Arakan Army (AA) said in a statement on October 20 that it had sentenced two of its members to 20 years in prison and caned the men 30 times in public for raping a 30-year-old woman earlier this month. The AA said they carried out their own investigation after the victim, identified as being from the village of Kyaung Taung in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township, reported the case to them. After a 10-day process of questioning eyewitnesses and the victim’s family members, as well as interrogating the reported suspects, the AA said that the two soldiers admitted that they had raped the woman and that they had been drunk on duty, violating AA regulations.
A Myanmar junta court sentenced Sagaing-based protest leader Wai Moe Naing to four more years in prison on October 20 for incitement under Section 505a of the Penal Code and for allegedly violating Covid-19 public health restrictions. The latest conviction brings his total prison term to 14 years, and is based on junta allegations that Wai Moe Naing led an anti-coup motorcycle rally in the city of Monywa in April 2021.
The 27-year-old student activist was already serving 10 years in prison for five counts of incitement handed down by a military court in August. Three of those charges were related to his role in leading protests and two concerned his criticism of junta authorities who had threatened striking civil servants to return to work.
In September, the junta filed a treason case against Wai Moe Naing alleging that he violated Section 122 of the Penal Code. It is expected to be accompanied by a death sentence if he is convicted.
Wai Moe Naing was arrested during a motorcycle rally in mid-April last year after being hit by a car driven by junta personnel. The day after he was captured, the regime published a photo of him in custody with a bruised eye and a swollen face, prompting fears that he had been tortured. Soon after his capture, he was hit with a long list of charges, including incitement, murder, wrongful confinement, armed robbery, unlawful assembly, and the violation of Covid-19 rules.
Myanmar’s junta kicked off the annual jade and gems emporium in Naypyitaw on October 19. The event is scheduled to run through October 25, seeking to bring in hard currency to the country through the sale of precious stones and pearls. Sources who were at the emporium told Myanmar Now that it had only a few hundred visitors—most of whom were locals. At past events organised before the 2021 military coup, thousands of local and international gems traders were in attendance. In a rare move, the military council also invited Russian traders to the emporium as it strives to deepen economic ties with Myanmar’s largest arms supplier amid increasing international isolation. The publicly-mandated National Unity Government has urged businesspeople to boycott junta-organised emporiums.
Urban violence and assassinations
A funeral for 55-year-old Kyi Myint, who was killed in a parcel bomb explosion and shooting incident at Yangon’s Insein Prison last week, was held at Kyi Su cemetery on October 21.
Her son is student activist Lin Htet Naing, commonly known as James, and is incarcerated at Insein, Myanmar’s largest detention facility. She was at the prison to deliver a package to him when two explosions went off, followed by gunfire from junta personnel.
Family members reportedly asked that the Insein Prison authorities allow James to attend his mother’s funeral, but permission was denied.
According to the junta, among the eight casualties in the attack were three prison guards, a 10-year-old girl, and several women. An urban guerrilla group called the Special Task Agency (STA) of Burma claimed responsibility for the controversial attack in a statement, saying that the bombs intended to targeted the prison superintendent “in retaliation against prison officers who are Min Aung Hlaing’s followers, for constantly oppressing comrades of the revolution.”
Though several witnesses told Myanmar Now that most of the victims were killed when soldiers opened fire from a nearby watchtower in response to the blasts, the guerrilla group was heavily criticised for planning an attack near the prison entrance where many civilians frequently visit in order to send parcels to their detained relatives. The National Unity Government, along with many resistance groups, condemned the bombing.
The commander of the military’s Infantry Battalion 421 was shot along with his assistant by resistance fighters in the China-Myanmar border town of Muse in northern Shan State on October 18. Lt-Col Pyae Phyo Aung was visiting a mechanic near the 105-Mile Trade Zone when a group of armed individuals opened fire at him and his staff member. He survived the assassination attempt thanks to a bulletproof vest he was wearing at the time, but was severely injured and sent to a hospital for treatment. His assistant was killed at the scene. A Muse-based anti-coup guerrilla group claimed responsibility for the shooting and said its members fired a total of 14 rounds at the two men. Though the group later claimed that the army officer had died that day as a result of his injuries, Myanmar Now is unable to verify his death.
A Myanmar army officer, his wife, and another soldier were shot dead near a bus stop in Yangon’s Hlaing Township by armed assailants on the morning of October 20. Pro-military groups identified the victims as Cpt Myint Swe, Yadanar Oo and Aung Ko Min, and claimed that they were shot by members of the People’s Defence Force from a passing vehicle. No group had claimed responsibility for the shooting at the time of reporting.
According to a resident of Hlaing, the captain was based in an artillery battalion in Aungban town in Shan State and was visiting relatives in Yangon at the time of his death.