In the News: Revisions for 2020

By The Irrawaddy 3 January 2020

The following stories—culled from our coverage of national politics, security issues, urban development, the economy and international relations, especially with China, last year—cover subjects and people that will remain relevant and continue to shape national developments this year.

The analyses, commentaries and interviews linked to below cover a range of developing issues including Myanmar’s troubled peace process, the general election scheduled for late this year, the effort to amend the Constitution and civil-military relations, among others. We hope they will help you understand the evolving issues that define Myanmar today.


In New Charm Offensive, Myanmar’s Military Chief Shows Political Skills

Is Sen-Gen Min Aung Hlaing’s display of religious tolerance pre-election maneuvering, or should the military’s calls for national unity be cause for optimism?

Does Daw Aung San Suu Kyi Follow Ne Win’s ‘Neutrality’?

Whereas previous governments walked a diplomatic tightrope to achieve ‘neutrality’ in foreign affairs, the current government seems less surefooted.

With the Bear and the Dragon, Myanmar Military Plays Safe

Not welcome in the West, Tatmadaw leaders are boosting arms purchases from Russia and consultations with China, despite the latter’s ongoing support for border-based EAOs.

Forecasting the Coming Century for Myanmar—Without a Crystal Ball

Will the current transition lead Myanmar back into authoritarian rule, or is the country on the verge of finally breaking its historical cycle of thwarted opportunities?

How Myanmar’s Military Chief Could Become President

Under the 2008 Constitution, if the USDP and its allies win 26 percent of Parliament seats, the army chief could become president without even running for office.

With Only One Side Listening, Dialogue on Charter Was Never an Option

The NLD had no choice but to force the military to engage with constitutional reform in Parliament

Yangon Region Govt Hides From Scrutiny at ‘Friendly’ Press Conference

The Yangon regional government took another significant step away from transparency on Tuesday, excluding media deemed unfriendly from an official press conference.

NLD Must Address Local Governments’ Woeful Performances

The public has endured three years of incompetence and lack of accountability from their state and regional leaders.

Public Needs Reassuring Over BRI-Related New Yangon City Project

The state-level steering committee must answer questions on the Chinese contractor’s qualifications, eventual ownership of the huge project and many other issues.

On Myanmar-China Relations

China Quietly Pushing Myanmar to Back Its Development Plan for Irrawaddy River

China seeks to develop the Irrawaddy River as a safe, cheap link from Yunnan to the Indian Ocean; local critics fear the impact on the economy and the river itself.

Potential Environmental and Social Impacts of Chinese Mega-Projects in Myanmar Raise Concerns

Failing to learn lessons from existing projects, officials tout the benefits of BRI projects while ignoring locals’ fears of land-grabs, lost livelihoods and pollution.

Badly Behaved Chinese Tourists Draw Local Ire in Myanmar

While they value the business, locals in the tourism industry say the govt opened the door to mass tourism from China without considering cultural, environmental impacts.

Rebel Strikes Cast Shadow on China’s BRI Projects in Myanmar

Ethnic alliance’s attacks in areas crucial to the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor raise doubts about the two countries’ ‘peace will follow development’ strategy.

Megaprojects a Double-Edged Sword for Myanmar

Ten major projects currently planned with powerful neighboring countries promise to address Myanmar’s infrastructure needs, but have the social, environmental and other costs been

Amid Int’l Espionage Concerns, Mandalay to Embrace Huawei for ‘Safe City’ Project

Myanmar’s second biggest city in a strategic BRI location to have CCTV and AI technology from the Chinese company internationally accused of data theft and spying.

Second BRI Forum Roundup—How Myanmar Fares

The State Counselor agreed to nine deliverables—including three bilateral agreements—on behalf of the Myanmar government at the recent Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.


Details Scarce on Funding, Planning for Flood Prevention at New Yangon City Project

Building dykes to protect the flood-prone site of the mega-project will cost an estimated $100 million—and that doesn’t cover the inevitable impact on surrounding areas.

A Look at Anti-Graft Body’s First-Year Performance

Lawmakers cited a high number of complaints transferred to other governments bodies, soft sentencing and military impunity as key weaknesses to fighting corruption.

Ignoring Ethnic Parties will Hurt NLD in 2020

A reluctance to engage with or listen to the wishes of ethnic communities and political parties mean the NLD will be more contested than ever in the upcoming election.

In Myanmar, Courts Increasingly Used to Silence Criticism of Military and Govt

This week’s jailing of a satirical performance troupe continues a worrying trend of official legal action against critics of the government and military.

Why Does the Myanmar Military Rebuff the Work of the Constitutional Amendment Committee?

Rejecting the NLD and ethnic parties’ constitutional amendment process, the Myanmar military has gone its own way on charter change, submitting proposals independently.

Military Vows to Remain in Politics as Long as EAOs Exist

A press conference on Saturday heard the military saying they would step back from politics when there are no ethnic armed groups and the country is in peace.

Will Myanmar’s Formal Peace Negotiations Get Back on Track?

Proposals elucidated by the Union government at peace talks in Chiang Mai on Monday offer little that’s new in terms of ideas for moving Myanmar’s peace process forward.

In Person

A Kachin Leader Speaks on Peace, Federalism and the Course of Myanmar Politics

The Irrawaddy speaks with Dr. Manam Tu Ja of the Kachin State People’s Party about the 2020 election, Myanmar’s political history and advancing the peace process.

‘Myanmar Is Not Cursed, or a Failed State’

This week, The Irrawaddy sits down with NLD lawmaker U Aung Kyi Nyunt to discuss the long road to democracy, and the merits of Myanmar’s ‘obligation-based’ society.

Accessible Healthcare Requires Local Participation: Dr. Cynthia Maung

With changes in government and ceasefire agreements signed since 2012, the Mae Tao Clinic on the Thai-Myanmar border continues operating on less and less aid.

How Will the 2020 Election Shape Myanmar’s Democracy?

This week, The Irrawaddy joins a poll monitor and a political party official to discuss the UEC’s partiality, identity politics and other factors in next year’s vote.

What Will It Take for Myanmar to Pull Off Constitutional Reform?

This week, The Irrawaddy looks at the challenge of plotting Myanmar’s course towards constitutional reform, with lawyer U Kyee Myint and political activist Ko Mya Aye.

Arakan Army Chief Promises Myanmar Military, Govt Eye For an Eye

“If they want to destroy our land [Rakhine State], we should destroy their [the Bamars’] land. If they offer peace, we will welcome it as warmly as we can,” said Tun Myat Naing.

Shining a Light on Shady Business in Myanmar’s Extractive Industries

The Irrawaddy spoke with Eddie Rich of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative about the global project’s goals and Myanmar’s progress toward reaching them.

When NCA Is Comprehensive, We Will Sign: Senior KIO Official

KIO vice chair Gen. Gun Maw denies China pressuring his group to join NCA, but says gov’t refusing to allow IDPs to go home until it signs; he urges gov’t, China to hold public


Taking a Quantum Leap to Revamp Myanmar’s Economy

Foreign direct investment in the country has increased sharply this year, but concerns over infrastructure, unclear procedures and the Rakhine issue remain.

Selling Rakhine to the World

The Irrawaddy spoke with businessman and government adviser U Htun Htun Naing about the current investment climate, foreign interest, and how to revive the state’s poor image.

US, Japan Vow to Back ‘Responsible Investment’ in Myanmar

Speaking at Yangon forum, State Counselor highlights her government’s investment-friendly reforms, welcomes ‘balance and stability’ offered by US and Japanese businesses.

South Korean President Enhances Bilateral Economic Ties with Myanmar

During Korean President Moon Jae-in’s visit to Myanmar, both countries signed five MOUs and one framework agreement on trade and economic cooperation.

Government’s Message to Investors: Myanmar Open for Business

Minister U Thaung Tun promises participants in recent summit ‘cooperation not confrontation’

The World Bank’s Latest Report on Myanmar: 5 Takeaways on Growth and Risks

A new World Bank forecast for East Asia and the Pacific suggests Myanmar will likely see economic growth in the near future despite internal and external risks.

China Leads Investment in Yangon

Of 113 projects worth more than $200 million launched in the region in the first nine months of fiscal 2018-19, 65 are from China.


Timeline: 70 Years of Ethnic Armed Resistance Movements in Myanmar

Since the Insein Battle of 1949, Myanmar has been a battleground for scores of ethnic armed groups each carrying out their own resistance mission and fight for greater autonomy.