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DAILY BRIEFING

Myanmar’s thorny diplomatic game

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by Kevin Pringle, partner
1 March 2021

Good morning,

After weeks of largely peaceful protests against the 1 February military coup in Myanmar, the situation on the ground has done nothing but escalate over the weekend. According to the United Nations Human Rights Office, at least 18 civilians were killed on Sunday in several cities, including Yangon, Dawei, and Mandalay.
 
The dramatic turn of events began on Friday, when the country’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, gave an emotional speech before the organisation’s general assembly urging member states to pressure the military to cede power by using “any means necessary”.
 
Tun, who accompanied his speech with the three-fingered salute adopted by the anti-coup protesters, was fired the following day by Min Aung Hlaing’s junta, not before winning international praise for his extraordinary rebuke of the coup.
 
While this happened, police arrests turned violent on Saturday, as security forces started to charge at demonstrators with live bullets, stun grenades, and teargas, in an attempt to suppress a civil disobedience campaign that has shown no sign of ending.
 
Uncertainty has also grown over Aung San Suu Kyi’s whereabouts, as her own party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said on Friday that the ousted, elected leader had been moved from house arrest to an undisclosed location.
 
The NLD now plans to form an “interim government” to rival the junta, for which the party is seeking official recognition from the US, UK, and UN. In response, Myanmar’s military has called on foreign embassies, UN agencies, and other international organisations not to talk to “illegal entities” representing the NLD.
 
In western countries, condemnation of the coup has been the norm. President Biden imposed sanctions on Burmese generals behind the coup in his first concrete step as US leader earlier this month. In the UK, foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced last week further sanctions on military leaders “for serious human rights violations”, along with a ban on all trade promotion and aid involving the country’s government. Sanctions from the European Union are also in the works.
 
On the other hand, the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), which includes Myanmar, has proven rather sluggish at responding to what is a regional challenge. Indonesia, Asean’s largest country, is pushing for the 10-member bloc to hold Myanmar’s junta to its promise of holding elections in a year’s time.
 
However, the proposal falls short of the public demands of protesters and some western countries for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and the recognition of her party’s landslide win in last November’s election.
 
With China yet to reveal its hand in the game, the crisis in Myanmar presents an unusually complex diplomatic challenge.

News

Public Health England and the Scottish government have confirmed the first cases of the Brazil Covid-19 variant have been detected in the UK – all of them linked to people flying back to Britain from the South American country. Health officials say it is “possible” vaccines may be less effective against it, but more evidence is required to establish whether that is the case.
 
The former president of the US, Donald Trump, has ruled out launching a new political party. Speaking before a conservative conference in Florida in his first speech since Democrat Joe Biden became president, Trump strongly criticised his successor and said starting a new party would split the Republican vote. The former president also hinted that he might run for office again in 2024.
 
The 78th Golden Globes took place last night in a half-virtual ceremony marred by technical difficulties. The night’s top prize – best drama film – went to Nomadland, while Netflix’s prestige royal family drama The Crown won for best television drama series. Chloé Zhao was named best director, becoming only the second female winner of the category in the awards’ history.

Business and economy

The chancellor of the exchequer has hinted at an extension of the furlough scheme beyond April and until the end of June ahead of Wednesday’s budget. Rishi Sunak has warned, however, that public finances need to be restored after government borrowing soared over the past year to pay for the response to the pandemic, which could see the government raising taxes now before cutting them in a pre-election budget.
 
The cabinet minister is also expected to reveal a £5bn “restart” grant scheme aimed at retail, hospitality, and other businesses most affected by the coronavirus crisis. The scheme, which is intended to support firms in England through to 21 June and be administered by local councils, would take total spending to £25bn and be worth £18,000 for the biggest companies.
 
AstraZeneca has sold its 7.7% holding in Moderna for more than $1bn, following the American biotechnology company’s rally off the back of its Covid-19 vaccine. The British-based pharmaceutical, which was Moderna’s second largest investor last year, will use the extra cash to bolster its finances as it develops new drugs and finalises the $38bn purchase of American rare diseases specialist Alexion. (£)

Columns of note

Writing in the Financial Times, David Allen Green calls for institutions to establish whether vaccination passports or certificates are workable before considering any ethical dilemmas. Assuming a system of vaccine certification would work in terms of policy implementation, Allen Green writes, moral and legal difficulties emerge, namely that all certification is discriminatory. He concludes that certificates will not only show the fact of a vaccination, but also confer privilege. (£)
 
Commenting on a report published today by the Female Lead, Edwina Dunn writes in City AM that the burden has fallen disproportionately on women during the coronavirus pandemic, in an example of the effects of an “unentitled mindset” among female workers. Dunn highlights the reinstatement of gender pay gap reporting and greater transparency around pay negotiation as two of the most crucial keys to address this mindset.

Cartoon source: The Telegraph

Markets

The week ahead

The UK budget is due on Wednesday this week, when the chancellor of the exchequer is expected to announce the government’s latest financial plans and economic measures to tackle the Covid-19 crisis, as well as flesh out the government’s “build back better” slogan.
 
In the US, Joe Biden’s $1.9tn stimulus package will turn to Senate consideration this week after being passed by the House of Representatives. Employment data will also give the latest update on the country’s economic recovery at the end of the week.
 
Meanwhile, China’s National People’s Congress presents the nation’s economic goals on Friday with the announcement of the communist leaders’ annual budget, economic growth goals, and detailed targets.
 
In terms of corporate offerings, some of the leading UK insurers, housebuilders, and bookmakers report earnings this week, while big box retailers Target and Costco Wholesale report in the US.

What’s happening today?

Finals
Afc Energy
Aggreko
Greencoat Rene.
Mti Wireless
Quartix Hlds
Seplat Petrol.

Interims
Craneware

AGMs
Driver Grp

UK economic announcements
(09:30) M4 Money Supply
(09:30) PMI Manufacturing
(09:30) Mortgage Approvals
(09:30) Consumer Credit

Int. economic announcements
(08:55) PMI Manufacturing (GER)
(09:00) PMI Manufacturing (EU)
(14:45) PMI Manufacturing (US)
(15:00) ISM Manufacturing (US)
(15:00) Construction Spending (US)
(15:00) ISM Prices Paid (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

There are only three countries in the world that don’t officially use the metric system: the United States, Myanmar, and Liberia. (source: @UberFacts)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
 
Education (including topical questions)
 
Motions
Motion to approve the Draft Electricity Supplier Payments (Amendment) Regulations 2021 – Kwasi Kwarteng
 
Motion to approve the Draft Electronic Commerce Directive (Education, Adoption and Children) (Amendment Etc.) Regulations 2021 – Vicky Ford
 
Motion to approve the Draft Automatic Enrolment (Earnings Trigger and Qualifying Earnings Band) Order 2021 – Guy Opperman
 
Motion to approve the Draft Major Sporting Events (Income Tax Exemption) Regulations 2021 – Jesse Norman
 
Adjournment
Protection of leaseholders from fire safety remediation costs – Stephen Morgan

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Allowing cadet forces to resume face-to-face activities – Lord Lingfield
 
Use of domestic energy efficiency retrofitting to meet the goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 – Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle
 
Conducting diplomatic relations with the government of the United States on the basis of sovereign equality – Lord Wallace of Saltaire
 
Requests from Commonwealth countries to discuss reciprocal pension agreements in the last two years and which countries have made such requests – Lord Randall of Uxbridge
 
Statements
Recent judicial review ruling which found the Government had acted unlawfully in respect of Covid contracts – Lord Bethell
 
Supreme Court’s ruling on Uber – Lord Callanan
 
Legislation
Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) (No. 2) Bill – report stage – Lord Greenhalgh
 
Statement
Education Return and Awarding Qualifications in 2021 – Baroness Berridge
 
Orders and regulations
Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (All Tiers and Self-Isolation)
(England) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 – Lord Bethell
 
National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2021 – Lord Callanan

Scottish Parliament 

No business scheduled

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