The current political situation in Myanmar

Political turmoil in Myanmar has not eased since the coup in 2021. But since then, the country is experiencing interesting dynamics both internally and externally.

Externally, the junta and Russia conducted their first joint military exercise from 7 – 9 November 2023 in the northern waters of the Andaman Sea. The first Myanmar–Russia Maritime Security Exercise (MARUMEX) focused on the prevention of air, water surface, and underwater dangers and maritime security measures. Three Russian destroyers and 800 sailors took part in the drill while the Myanmar navy issued a warning as a safety measure, restricting ships from entering an 8-kilometer radius around the exercise ara. Furthermore, the aircraft are advised to maintain an altitude not lower than 46,875 meters during the exercise.

On the sideline of the exercise, the junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing met with Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, the commander–in–chief of Russia’s navy, at Thilawa port in the southern part of Yangon. The Russian officer welcomed an inspection by the junta chief, who reviewed a guard of honor and toured one of the Russian vessels while Min Aung Hlaing was briefed on the capacity of Russian weapons, the installation of modern systems, and an anti-submarine helicopter.

Political commentator Than Soe Naing said “the military council is trying to lie to the world that they have support from the international community and that they are cooperating with other countries” while others have raised concerns about human rights abuses and violence perpetrated by Myanmar’s military with Russian weaponry’s help.

Although the exercise appeared to be the junta’s positive foreign relations development, the internal situation of Myanmar is more severe. The junta’s President – Myint Swe – said in a televised state media address that the country is at risk of breaking apart if the military cannot manage the joint offensive by ethnic armed groups along the border with China. Three ethnic insurgent groups – the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Army – attacked security posts in a coordinated offensive since late October, capturing some towns and military posts.

Since the junta’s seizure in the 2021 coup, this joint offensive is the biggest challenge to the junta’s authority. The junta had responded with airstrikes and artillery bombardments, forcing thousands of people to leave their homes; however, the junta has been unable to bring in reinforcements or recover the ground it had lost.

Alarmed by its neighbour’s deteriorating situation, China’s foreign ministry said that Beijing will ensure security and stability at its border with Myanmar and urged all parties there to stop fighting immediately. The UN has said that around 50,000 people have been displaced in Shan, where artillery shelling and airstrikes are continuing, with some people having crossed into China. Some believed this was the weakest the Tatmadaw had been since the coup while Maung Saungkha, leader of the Bamar People’s Liberation Army, which contributed troops to the offensive said that the rebel alliance had spent more than a year preparing to take on the better-armed military.

Despite the close relations between the junta and the Kremlin through the joint drill, the domestic issues in Myanmar are in need of serious and immediate solutions to prevent the country from breaking apart in the near future.

The outcomes of the 17th ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) hosted its annual ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) in Jakarta, from 15 – 17 November 2023, focusing on strengthening defence and security cooperation.

Excluding the Burmese Defence Minister, all ASEAN defence chiefs called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and a durable solution to the crisis in Myanmar. The meeting approved the Jakarta Declaration for Peace, Prosperity, and Security, which recognizes security threats, geopolitical shifts, and the impact of competition among major powers that may affect ASEAN. The joint declaration urged “all parties concerned” to cease all violence in Myanmar and pushed for “full implementation” of the ASEAN “Five-Point Consensus” peace plan agreed to in 2021. The declaration also underscored the importance of upholding international law and promoting confidence-building measures within the bloc. Moreover, the ministers stressed the need to maintain peace in the South China Sea and exercise “self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability”.

On the sidelines of the ADMM, ASEAN defence ministers also had informal meetings with the US Department of Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Japanese Defence Minister Minoru Kihara. The meetings reaffirmed the US and Japan’s strong support and future cooperation with ASEAN, as well as their role in bolstering ASEAN’s ability to address evolving threats within the region.

The Indonesian defence minister, regarding the Israel–Hamas War, urged the powerful nations to “immediately use their influence to stop actions against innocent people, unarmed civilian groups who are non-combatants, women, children, and to protect all infrastructures for civilians” while Malaysian Defence Minister “condemns terrorism in all forms, including taking people as hostages and the bombing of civilian homes.” On the Myanmar issue, some also believed that none of the suggestions would lead to any change in ASEAN’s approach to Myanmar due to the consensus-based decision-making model of ASEAN while the ASEAN ministers are still pushing for a more swift finalization of the comprehensive code of conduct (COC) in the South China Sea during the meeting.

The Israel – Hamas conflict dominated the 2023 ADMM with Indonesia and Malaysia leading the stage. However, the Myanmar issue and the South China Sea’s COC will need a stronger and more sustainable focus from ASEAN for a swift and practical solution ahead.

Indonesia inaugurated Southeast Asia’s largest floating solar farm

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo inaugurated, on 9 November 2023, Southeast Asia’s largest floating solar farm – and the third-largest floating solar farm in the world – in the Indonesian province of West Java.

The USD 100 million floating solar farm is built on a 200-hectare reservoir in West Java and is expected to generate enough electricity to power 50, 000 households. The floating solar plant was built by China’s PowerChina Huadong Engineering Corporation and was a collaboration between national electricity company PT PLA and the Abu Dhabi-based renewable energy company Masdar which took three years to complete. Despite having a peak capacity of 192 megawatts, Indonesia also plans to expand the power to over 500-megawatt peak to meet the energy demand of the Indonesian people.

Environmentalists welcomed the project but urged local involvement in the construction and management of the projects while President Widodo also encouraged the use of renewable energy potential to support the country’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and pursue the target of net zero emissions by 2060. Indonesia’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources believed the farm “will increase investor confidence and encourage technological innovation as a solution to limited land in developing solar energy.”

Indonesia’s inauguration of the solar farm is a huge leap toward sustainable energy in Southeast Asia; further environmental inclusivity and expansion of this approach should be encouraged for continuous positive impact.


Sovinda Po is a Research Assistant at the Griffith Asia Institute.