Martial law orders in 8 townships in Northern Shan State
Two weeks after the attack by ethnic armed groups called Northern Alliance, the SAC imposed martial law in eight townships in the Northen Shan State, where fighting was the most intense. The affected townships are: Kunlong, Kutkai, Namhkan, Muse, Lashio, Theinni, Laukkaing and Konkyan. Under martial law, executive and judicial powers in these regions have been transferred to the corresponding North-East Military Command and Laukkai Regional Command.
Terrorists attacked with drop bombs near Myanmar China border that destroyed 120 loaded cargo trucks
The fighting has escalated to new heights when on November 23rd, the SAC reported that ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) had launched a drone strike in Muse, destroying 120 cargo trucks out of 258. The trucks were carrying household goods, consumer goods, clothes, and building materials which were lost as a result of the subsequent fire. The attack was centered near a trade terminal, and has caused the most property damage since the operation began.
Since the fighting began, Myanmar-China bilateral trade has been heavily disrupted as vital transportation routes have been marred by conflict. Muse, which normally facilitates US$60 million in trade monthly, has not overseen any passage of goods. Similarly, Chin Shwe Haw, located near China’s Yunan province, has halted all trade movement. Essential items, particularly rice, have seen price increases, putting pressure on local residents.
Banking and finance
CBM announcements on rumour of bank deposit
The CBM has moved to quell rumors of cash withdrawals being restricted at certain banks, and that there is, in fact, no limits of any kinds being imposed on any kind of cash withdrawal. It has reassured the populace that the banking industry has been performing excellently and that there is no need to panic. The rumors were suggested to be the result of needless fearmongering on social media intended spur to public into a state of uncertainty. The CBM has been cooperating with the relevant organizations to take action.
CBM assures fully guaranteed on public loss of bank deposits
In the interim, the CBM has assured that mechanisms are in place to assure all customer’s deposits accounts are guaranteed. In the case of bank branch failure or closure, customers can withdraw their money at other branches. Arrangements have been made to reimburse customers if they have lost their deposits due to unforeseen circumstances, provided that evidence is provided. Mobile banking services and digital financing services remain functional to ensure customers can access to their accounts at all times.
However, at the same time, the CBM has cautioned against excessive withdrawals, citing the dangers of inflation. Irregular amounts of money in outside circulation encourages speculation in property, gold, and FX, leading to higher inflation rates. The CBM has warned that individuals who withdraw abnormal amounts of cash may be monitored for suspicious activity.
KBZ announced old deposit accounts can be used as before
KBZ has removed all restrictions on its deposits accounts as of November 15. All deposits accounts, including savings, call, current, and fixed deposits accounts are no longer subject to any restrictions on deposits, withdrawals, or transfers. Currently, KBZ is the first major bank in Myanmar to do so.
This has been the first instance since 2021 that there have been no transaction limits imposed on customer’s accounts. During the bank run in 2021, KBZ was one of many banks that were forced to limit the amount of money that customers could withdraw from their accounts through various channels. The limit was Ks.400,000 per card. When long lines began to form at ATMs, they were soon disabled and withdrawal services shifted to appointments only. As the crisis subdued, KBZ gradually resumed normal operations, setting a new limit of Ks.10 million per week.
Equity market in downward spiral
The Yangon Stock Exchange (YSX) has reported its lowest valuation in terms of total trade value in October. After a shaky performance in the first half of 2023, the YSX hit a record high of Ks. 2 billion in total trade value in July alone, nearly matching the total values from January to June put together. Part of the reason for this massive upswing is due to the addition of a new listed company, Myanmar Agro Exchange Public Co.Ltd (MAEX). However, from that point onwards, total valuation and total trade volume have seen a steady decline. In August, it almost halved to Ks.1.3 billion with 509,827 traded shares; in September, Ks.1.4 billion with 302,164 shares; by October, it has dropped to Ks. 772 million with 305,102 shares.
The YSX was first established in late 2015 and began operations in earnest around 2016 with three listed companies. Today, there are a total of eight companies listed on the exchange, spanning a wide range of industries, from banking, investment, to hospitality and wholesale.
Discussion of direct payment in Taka and Kyat in Myanmar Bangladesh Trade
On November 10, the CBM Governor Daw Than Than Swe met Bangladeshi Ambassador Dr.Md. Monwar Hussein in Naypyidaw and discussed the possibility of using direct Kyat/Taka payments to facilitate banking and trade between the two countries. The Bangladeshi currency joins the Indian Rupee as part of the Myanmar government’s plans to expand its foreign reserve portfolio and reduce the economy’s reliance on the US Dollar. The Chinese Yuan and Thai Baht have already been implemented to facilitate trade payments earlier this year, and there have been talks to include the Russian Ruble as well.
Companies to face legal actions of failing to deposit export earnings
Starting from November 17, 2023, the Trade Department is enforcing strict measures against companies that do not deposit their export earnings into designated bank accounts, as outlined in the existing law since November 6. Exporters must deposit earnings in foreign currency within 45 days for Asian countries and 90 days for countries outside Asia. Failure to comply results in legal action under the Foreign Exchange Management Law, as per the CBM’s notification 27/2022. The Trade Department reiterated the deposit requirement on November 6 and warned of legal consequences. Exporters failing to comply face suspension of registration for two weeks, with subsequent legal action if non-compliance persists. The process involves notifying the Ministry of Commerce, AD banks, and the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry. Export/import registration is restored only upon confirmation from the CBM that earnings have been settled.
Traders allows to shift licenses from Muse/Chin Shwe Haw route to other posts
As a result of the conflict that disrupted trade in Northern Shan State and the ensuing closure of the Mandalay-Muse Highway, the Ministry of Commerce has permitted exporters to repurpose their licenses from Muse and Chin Shwe Haw to other posts along the Myanmar-China and Myanmar-Thai borders. Moreover, trade over sea will also be permitted on a case-by-case basis. According to observers, traders will most likely shift over to Lweje, located in Kachin state, and Mong La in eastern Shan State. The alternative routes are not without issues, however, in the form of additional overhead and logistics costs. For one, cargo trucks cannot directly enter China through Mong La, and would have to instead transfer their goods using Chinese short-haul truck services there. While entry into China is possible in Lweje, there is no direct trade route that links Lweje with major cities, requiring traders to make an additional stop at the city of Bhamo. Transport costs and duty fees have also increased. Muse’s infrastructure is able to handle large volumes of trade as one of the main trade hubs in Myanmar, which cannot be said for Lweje and Mong La. Traders have added that sea routes are also unfeasible due to the time constraints and distance.
Muse traders trying to export fruits to other borders- Loije and Mong La
These challenges disproportionally affect Myanmar traders over Chinese traders. Chinese exporters primarily transport non-perishables, such as building materials, over to Myanmar. The value of their goods is not as affected as much by the change in the logistics situation. In contrast, Myanmar exports agricultural products, the quality of which can easily decline due to damage from longer transport times. Currently, traders are only transporting fruit, in lieu of rice, peas, and other agricultural products. Particularly, watermelon traders have reported that damages can devalue their cargo to the point of not covering transport costs by the time it arrives in China. The demand for watermelons has also settled down, leaving the Myanmar watermelon industry in a difficult situation.
Rubber prices drop in Mon State due to trade route blocked
The closure of major trade routes has also affected the price of rubber in Mon State. Rubber prices for the RSS-1 variety were around Ks.1700-1800 per pound in October, and has since fallen to Ks.1450 in November. According to one farmer, normally, prices would normally be around Ks.2000 per pound this time of year. Other rubber varieties, including Local-3, has similarly fallen. The closure of the roads has not only prevented the export of rubber, but has also prevented the arrival of local traders and buyers, further exacerbating the situation. Farmers have added that if the current prices continue, their business may soon become unsustainable, notwithstanding the numerous security concerns.
The majority of Myanmar’s rubber production is exported to China. It is also shipped to neighboring ASEAN countries, including Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia, as well as South Korea and Japan. There are over 1.6 million acres of rubber plantations total, with Mon state accounting for over 30%. 360,000 tons of rubber were produced last year, of which 200,000 tons were exported. In 2021, the rubber trade accounted for more thanUS$449 million.
Mandalay to host International Trade Fair & Investment Forum in December 2023
The Mandalay Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MRCCI) has announced that the city will host the Mandalay International Trade Fair and Investment Forum for the second time in December 2023. The event will feature 262 booths from various countries, including China, India, Bangladesh, among others, showcasing a wide range of products such as foods, cosmetics, medicines, and machinery. The event will boost investment, create new opportunities, and promote business between the countries, according to MRCCI President U Win Htay.
Re-constitution of Kyauk Phyu SEZ Management Committee
The Kyauk Phyu SEZ Management Committee has underwent a change in constitution, as of November 20, 2023, as per Directive 3/2023 from the Myanmar SEZ Central Committee . Most notably, Ministry of Commerce Officer on Special Duty U Kyaw Shwe Tun replaces U Myint Thein as Chairman of the committee. U San Shwe Maung from the Rakhine State Government has stepped down from one of the Vice-Chairman seats and has assumed the role of a member, leaving retired Department of Urban and Housing Department Deputy Director-General U Win Myint as sole Vice Chairman. The committee serves an overseeing role and assumes the duties and responsibilities as laid out in the Myanmar SEZ Law.
Extension of Call for EOI on formation of public company in Kyaw Phyu SEZ
Kyauk Phyu SEZ in Rakhine State is one of three SEZs in development in Myanmar, the others being Dawei SEZ in the Tanintharyi Region and Thilawa SEZ in Yangon. In order to bolster further investment, the SEZ central committee will call for an Expression of Interest (EOI) for the establishment of the Myanmar Government Designated Entity Consortium to collaborate in the deep-sea port project in Kyauk Phyu SEZ. To join the consortium, Myanmar-owned companies must be domestically owned private or public companies and must be legitimately registered under the Myanmar Companies Law 2017. They should have continuous operations, possess the relevant documentation issued by the Directorate of Investment and Company Registration (DICA), and not be suspended on its online platform.
Moreover, eligible companies must have a minimum of 10 years of incorporation or five years of experience in successful infrastructure development. A company must have a minimum turnover of US$20 million or an equivalent amount in foreign or local currency over the past three years. Entities seeking inclusion in the consortium must not be blacklisted or disqualified by the ministry, Naypyitaw Council, or regional and state governments.
Formation of a leading committee for the purchase of fuel from Russia
The SAC as announced the formation of a committee to oversee the purchase of fuel from Russia. The committee will be responsible for: the proper storage of fuel; reviewing prices and costs; ensuring proper quality control; drafting standard procedures and regulation and assuring compliance; coordinating between relevant public and public organizations; reporting monthly foreign currency; tracking logistics; and among other tasks as deemed relevant to the country’s policy goals. The committee will be chaired by Lt.Gen Nyo Saw, along with membership by various ministries, including the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, Ministry of Electric Power, and the Ministry of Commerce. In addition, individuals from the private sector also constitute membership, including STAR HIGH, Yetagon Energy Trading, and SWAN Energy.
The Myanmar government continues to forge stronger relations with Russia, with collaborative projects in energy, finance, and tourism. There have been discussions between the two countries to facilitate direct Kyat-Ruble payments for fuel, as well as adopting the Russian card payment system Mir in Myanmar. Furthermore, Russia has expressed interest in developing Myanmar’s renewable energy goals, with projects such as nuclear power plants and wind plants currently in progress.
Myanmar, China signed agreement to purchase electricity from three solar projects
Myanmar’s renewable energy efforts continue to show progress, as the Myanmar government has signed an agreement for purchasing electricity from three solar projects, Kyeeon Kyeewa, Kinda and Sedoktaya in the Magway and Mandalay regions. The total capacity from the three projects will be 90MW, which while modest, nonetheless signals further development in the developing renewable energy sector of Myanmar, especially solar energy. Currently, there are 14 power projects in development, and six in operation providing 180MW of power to the country. China continues to invest in Myanmar’s development as part of its Belt and Road Initiative, which will further improve relations and cooperation between the two countries.
Security forces clear and restore Pyin Oo Lwin to Kyauk Me road
The conflict has affected many key transportation routes along Myanmar’s northern region. Not only was the Mandalay-Muse highway affected, the highway that connects Pyin oo Lwin to Lashio was disrupted at thirteen separate locations. Regional transport between villages along these points were reportedly blocked by deep ditches, earth mounds, and felled trees. The relevant authorities have managed to clear twelve of the blockades since 19 November and are actively attempting the clear the rest. In the interim, they have assured travelers that much of the highway has returned to normal conditions and they have guaranteed safety by conducting security patrols around the region.
Authority temporarily closure of Land routes and waterway in Rakhine State
The fighting has also escalated in Rakhine State as well. The Yangon-Sittwe Road has been closed by the authorities; there have been reports that EAOs have also been conducting their own stop-and-search operations along some sections of the road. Waterways have also been blocked. The authorities have begun increasing their security efforts in order to restore normalcy for residents in the region, as they are the most likely to be affected by the disruptions.
In order to continuously control the infection of COVID-19, the rules and restrictions have been extended until the end of December 2023.