New Delhi: As New Delhi holds its breath for the G20 summit over the weekend, Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government has warned the group’s leaders that the promise of “inclusive, equitable and sustainable growth” by India during its presidency will remain an empty slogan if the military regime in Naypyidaw continues to spread instability in the region and “directly threatens” the summit goals.
“The crisis has undermined efforts by Myanmar’s neighbours, including India to advance important connectivity schemes that could otherwise enhance trade between India, ASEAN and Japan. It has similarly undermined China’s efforts to advance North-South connectivity. Economic impacts are felt in all of the neighbouring countries, and especially in China, India and Thailand, where economies are very deeply reliant on Myanmar for sustainable growth and development especially of borderlands,” the NUG said in an appeal to the G20 on Thursday.
The NUG calls itself the “real government” of Myanmar and has been leading the political fight against the junta since the February 2021 coup. Its members are drawn from those who won the 2020 parliamentary elections. The National League for Democracy, led by Aung San Suu Kyi, received an overwhelming majority in the election. The Myanmar Army seized power on the day the parliament was set to meet for the new members to be sworn in.
The People’s Defence Force, which has taken on the junta through an armed struggle, effectively preventing it from establishing control over large parts of the country, is the armed wing of the NUG. The military regime has branded both NUG and PDF as “terrorist organisations”.
The NUG has appealed to the G20 to ask the Myanmar army end all violence against the Myanmar people immediately; end the sale and supply of arms and jet fuels to the Myanmar army; cut the revenue streams of the terrorist army and entities that play a significant role in providing financial resources for the terrorist acts of the junta; and provide technical support and capacity building to the NUG and its partners in addressing transnational crime in Myanmar’s border areas.
Russia, China and India are three countries in the G20 group that have continued to sell arms to Myanmar after the coup. Delhi, which has remained engaged with the junta from the day of the coup, has in recent months stepped up interactions with the leaders through visits and meetings.
The US, UK, Canada, Australia, EU and many countries in Europe have put in place sanctions against individual military leaders and other officials, and entities linked to the military regime.
The Myanmar crisis had also undermined the regional security order in Southeast Asia, the NUG said, pointing out that it was “harming ASEAN’s reputation as Southeast Asian states struggle to identify a workable solution to the crisis”.
The NUG appeal to the G20 notes that the junta’s acts of violence against civilians have resulted in “the complete destruction of hundreds of villages across the country, and in new waves of both internal displacement and over 100,000 new refugees”.
Nearly half the refugees have taken shelter in Mizoram, while a few hundreds are in other states in Northeast India, where the border between the two countries stretches over 1,600 km.
“The military’s continued oppression has sparked a full scale rebellion, and while the resistance has gained significant ground especially over the past year, levels of violence in Myanmar are now higher than in any other country in Asia,” the appeal says.
“Given that the crisis in Myanmar generates significant harm and national security threats to all countries in the G-20, members simply cannot afford to ignore the situation,” it says, adding that “the G-20 has a responsibility” to address the challenge posed to its goals by the “illegal” Myanmar junta.
The Oslo-based Peace and Research Institute said in a report in June that over 6,300 civilians have been killed for political reasons in Myanmar from the day of coup on February 1, 2021 until September 30, 2022.
According to the report, the Myanmar military, police and affiliated militia were responsible for over 3,000 reported civilian deaths in the 20-month period of the study. In the same period, resistance groups killed over 2,000 civilians, and unspecified perpetrators killed at least 1,000 civilians. The report said “the actual totals are no doubt higher since many killings have likely gone unreported”. It also said the civilians were not collateral casualties in clashes but were targeted for killing due to their political beliefs.
The NUG also alleged that 120,000 people from over 46 countries were being held in forced labour conditions in Myanmar by criminal syndicates perpetrating online fraud and scams. It alleged that the Myanmar army was “one of the main enablers of this criminal activity”, with its border guard forces in Kokang and Karen states directly involved in providing support to the criminal gangs running these rackets.
Last year, dozens of Indians from Tamil Nadu stare were among the victims of one such gang, and were lured to Myanmar with promises of IT jobs. It was only on reaching there that they found they had been scammed into working for an online fraud racket. They were rescued last October.
The NUG has not yet been recognised by any government, though it has been allowed to open its “representative office” in Washington DC and in some European capitals. India, which had welcomed Burmese dissident activists in the 1990s, does not officially engage with the NUG.