Freedom Memoirs – Day 158

Electricity bill collections by SAC is getting more intensified.  In recent days, junta-controlled Department of Electricity staffs guarded by soldiers and polices going to houses to collect bills and cutting off services to those who fill to pay are getting more common. As a form of resistance to starve junta of funds, the majority of people have decided against paying taxes or bills since February 1. 

In Mindat, Chin State, restriction by junta’s forces in transporting foodstuffs and fuel is affecting the displaced populace. While the ceasefire between junta’s forces and local PDF has been in place for some time, local media reports that the price of a bag of rice has increased by 40% now.

In a sign of weakening economy and fleeing foreign investment, Telenor, the Norwegian telecommunication provider and First Japan Tire Services (FJTS), authorized dealer of Bridgestone Tyre today announced that they will be ceasing operations in Myanmar. Both of them entered Myanmar market 7 years ago and today Telenor finalized sales of its operation in Myanmar to Lebanese M1 Group for $105millions, while FJTS terminated its distribution and dealership. 

Telenor has been showing signs of leaving Myanmar market since the coup have sparked prolonged conflict and human rights violations, the biggest being writing off of almost $800mil of its assets in Myanmar in early May. With reports of junta pressuring telecoms in Myanmar to installing surveillance technologies and forbidding telecoms executives from leaving the country without its consent, the viability of telecoms in the country to operate freely has been in question for some time. Telenor, widely seen to be one of the largest FDI in Myanmar, the sale value of $105mil is considered meagre, and considering even that sum is divided into payments over 5 years, the company’s willingness to leave seem to stem less from financial reasons. Its buyer M1 Group is known to have business ties with military-owned Mytel telecom and part of the list of companies which are feeding the war machine in Myanmar, according to human rights campaigners. With the exit of Telenor, people fears intensified that junta will increase its surveillance activities.

Today’s afternoon, an explosion at gold shop owned by Daw Thet Thet Khine junta’s cabinet minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement caused one injury and property damage. Thet Thet Khine, a prominent jeweler, is a well-known junta associate and subject to sanctions by western democracy countries. With her openly pro-junta remarks and allegations of attempting to finance the military regime, she drew quite the attention from the resistance fighters. Previous her construction project was a target of bombing by a Yangon-based PDF although there is no confirmation of culprit for today’s attack yet.

In Yay Oo Township, Sagaing Region, clash between junta’s forces and the local PDF claimed the lives of one each from both side. In Dawei Township, a clash lasting around 3 hours was reported between junta’s forces and the local PDF, casualties from the clash is yet to be known.

As usual, peaceful protests are observed in Monywa, Tazal, Kanbauk, Hpakant, Sagaing, Dawei, Myaing, Paung, Yin Mar Pin, townships of Yangon and Mandalay.

Today, according to junta-controlled Ministry of Health, COVID claims another 51 deaths. Today’s positive test rate is 27.68%. Myanmar has been recording a daily positive test rate of more than 25% consistently for almost a week now. Public and private hospitals, even the most expensive ones reserved for the elite class, are turning down the patients due to full occupancy. The oxygen shortage is getting more problematic day by day. The sights around the city indicate a grimmer future to 51 deaths. 

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