Weekly Update: 002

Folks, we hope you enjoy reading our first weekly update. This week was filled with unfortunate news from our resistance fighter on ground. Yet, the spirit of revolution continued to ignite in many parts of the country. Facebook memories remind us that we began our resistance with non-violent methods until Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers started using live ammunition at the people. Things have drastically changed ever since. 

Internal Affairs

Crony businessman testified against NLD’s Dr Zaw Myint Maung for corruption charge

Regarding the detained NLD leaders, crony U Maung Weik testified that he bribed money to Mandalay Chief Minister Dr Zaw Myint Maung to pay for his healthcare expenses. The detained leader is diagnosed with leukemia, and is used to receiving treatment in Thailand. After the false testimony at a court inside Mandalay Obo prison, U Maung Weik tried to pay respect to the strong-willed politician. This is not the first time that the crony appeared on the political scene. Last year, he testified that he bribed the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi while she was in power. Many believe that his testimonies are nothing but false accusations to defame NLD leaders.

Former Bago Region Chief Minister received long-term imprisonment

More NLD leaders were targeted by the junta this week. On February 18, junta media announced that NLD’s Bago Region Chief Minister U Win Thein received 20 years imprisonment with hard labor for corruption charges. Last week, seizure of houses of NLD parliamentarians were reported as well. 

Junta’s Union Election Commission demands political parties to disclose fundings 

The junta-appointed Union Election Commission (UEC) summoned political parties to submit financial reports and office inventory lists. National League for Democracy (NLD) and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) refused to comply with the UEC’s request. 

International Affairs

Burma Campaign UK calls for boycott of 33 military-linked businesses

Burma Campaign UK published an updated version of the boycott list of military products and brands on February 15. The list was initially published in January 2020 to pressure governments, donors, UN agencies, aid agencies, international companies and others operating in the country to avoid supporting the military companies. Since the military coup on February 1, 2021, the list has been a major indicator to identify military-linked companies in the anti-coup movement. 

ASEAN continues to reject junta

ASEAN foreign ministers gathered at Phnom Penh for the bloc’s annual meeting. State Administration Council (SAC)’s foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin was not invited due to failure to make progress in the five-point consensus. This caused an angry statement objecting to the non-invitation from SAC. ASEAN Chair and Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen implied his diplomatic efforts to solve conflict in Myanmar had reached a roadblock, saying it could take five to ten years and the next Chair of ASEAN can take care of the issue. Hun Sen admitted that the Myanmar junta is making no progress in resolving the situation and expressed his frustration by saying “How can the cart move forward when the oxen are in front of it?” Calls for ASEAN representatives to meet with NUG have become louder by regional diplomats. Malaysia’s Foreign Minister urged ASEAN envoy, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister, to meet with the NUG. ASEAN envoy himself also expressed that he should be given the blessing of the junta to meet with the NUG and act as a bridge.

SAC said It represents Myanmar at ICJ

Regarding the Rohingya Genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), NUG and SAC representatives left to the Hague, Netherlands, both in competition to represent Myanmar at the court. The people of Myanmar and Rohingya groups have expressed their favoring of NUG as representative. Yet, SAC spokesperson General Zaw Min Tun confirmed ICJ’s acceptance of Agent for SAC nominees as reasons behind their delegation’s travel.

Business Matters

New Zealand & Philippines won’t engage Myanmar in the largest free trade bloc

New Zealand notified other members of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes China, on February 17 that the country will not be dealing with Myanmar due to the violence and democratic setbacks that erupted after the military coup last year. The next day, the Philippines followed suit with the decision of New Zealand. Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. told other ASEAN foreign ministers during a meeting in Cambodia on February 17 that the Philippines will not accept Myanmar’s accession to the RCEP, a 15-nation free trade agreement that went into effect Jan. This means Myanmar’s instrument of ratification, the key document binding a country to the free trade pact, will not be recognized by these two countries. It is unclear if these actions from the two island countries would lead to Myanmar’s exclusion from RCEP. 

Norway can’t stop transfer of Telenor data to junta

Norway’s industry ministry, in charge of overseeing the state’s shareholding in Telenor, told the Norwegian parliament that the transfer of customer data from Telenor Myanmar to the country’s military rulers can’t be stopped by the government. Industry Minister Jan Christian Vestre said that as owner of a telecoms company with a subsidiary in Myanmar we cannot prevent that metadata from ending up in the hands of the military regime. The minister was answering questions from two lawmakers who asked how Telenor customer data would be protected and whether the ministry considered asking the company to postpone the sale. “It is not the government as an owner, but the company’s board and management that must make these decisions” and with that in mind, the government did not ask Telenor to postpone the sale. 

Telenor also told Reuters on February 16 in an emailed statement that the safest way for the company to exit Myanmar was by selling its operations. The Norwegian telecom giant explained that there were options of closing up the operations and delete data, or to delete data before it transfers the business to the new owner. “We cannot do this without exposing our employees to significant danger – it can have unacceptable consequences if we do not respond to direct orders or local law enforced by the military authorities,” it said.

More players leaving oilfield

Malaysia’s Petronas and Japanese Mitsubishi Corporation announced its intention to sell its stakes in a major oilfield in Myanmar, due to ongoing turmoil. This is the latest in a series of high profile international oil and gas giants from Myanmar. However, POSCO Energy, a subsidiary of Korean steelmaking giant POSCO, announced plans to start drilling in the next phase of the Shwe Gas Project, launched in partnership with SAC’s Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE).

Tesco announced a responsible exit

British retailer Tesco announced a responsible exit from Myanmar, following allegations of one of its suppliers, Gtig Easter Garment, a Chinese-owned factory, refusing to compensate thousands of workers after announcing closure. The factory was heavily damaged in a fire in March 2021 and declared its closing in October. Japanese brewery Kirin announced the finalization of the withdrawal process from Myanmar. Kirin has been in a protracted process of withdrawal since the coup and its sales within the country plummeted due to partnership with a military company. The military was nonchalant in a statement rebutting Kirin’s announcement of withdrawal, claiming there will always be other beer brands.

Humanitarian Affairs

Growing IDP population in central Myanmar and ethnic regions

Within the past two weeks, more than 6,000 residents of Kachin State’s Putao Township and about 200 from Kha Nang village in Momauk Township have been internally displaced due to escalating clashes between the regime troops and the joined forces of the Kachin Independence Army and the local People’s Defense Forces. The recent clash in Putao Township was reported on February 15, when the fighting broke out in Phat Mar village, about 8 miles away from Putao, where a couple running away on a bike was shot dead by the regime soldiers afterwards. In Kha Nang village of Momauk Township, fighting broke out on the morning of February 17, causing the villagers to flee abruptly and seek sanctuary. Since early February, the tension between two sides have erupted into clashes in at least two other village tracts, Sumpriyang and Lung Sha Yang, where the residents had to flee from their homes. As of today, over 20,000 people from Kachin State are displaced due to the instability after the military coup.

With clashes and arson attacks increasing almost daily in Sagaing Region, more and more residents are currently internally displaced. In Pale and Mingin townships, BBC Burmese reported on February 18 that the displaced villagers have returned to their homes despite the looming terror, and many fire victims are stranded at the village monastery as well. All of them are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance as the junta troops tried to loot from the donated items as well. 

Moebye clashes impact on the residents

The battle between the alliance between People’s Defense Forces and regime forces continued in Moebye Township on February 17, causing around 10,000 residents to be trapped inside the townships, RFA Burmese reported. The residents said the regime forces have also been raiding the houses in the township in the midst of fierce fighting with local resistance forces. “People in our environment do not dare to leave their homes. Some who have the bomb shelters are staying there. We have to live in the places that we think are safest. The clash was really intense this morning.,” said a resident who left the township while the clashes went quiet for a while. 

Junta forces steal K16 million from rural development project funds in Chin State’s Falam Township

The Chin National Organisation/Chin National Defense Force reported on the morning of February 15 that the military regime,based in Falam Township, had stolen K16 million from the Mya Sein Yaung project. The troops reportedly stole valuables and livestock from villages along the path they went and stole about K16 million the rural development project funds which the villagers of Lwan Zaw kept hidden in their farming fields, a spokesperson from CNDF told DVB News.

NUG donates over 360 million MMK for humanitarian aid within Jan

The National Unity Government announced on February 14 that it had donated about 361.1 million MMK (approx. USD 204,000) in humanitarian assistance nationwide within January. The largest amount of the donation went to providing assistance to the growing number of internally displaced people across the country with 306.92 million MMK. The NUG’s Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management also supported the Civil Disobedience Movement participants with 21.92 million MMK and about 17.34 million MMK to the CDM pregnant mothers and children under the age of 2 as well as to the vulnerable people and their families, including people with disabilities. About 11.75 million MMK and 3.18 million MMK were respectively allocated for the families of the dead and injured people and for general humanitarian assistance. 

Attacks on Junta’s Lackeys

Seven attacked during this week

During this week, the media reported at least seven attacks on junta’s lackeys across the country. In the evening of February 13, a dalan (military informer)/ Pyu Saw Htee member named Nga Tu from Yesagyo Township was killed by Urban Guerrilla Force – Pakokku. On February 15, three military informers from Yangon Region; one from Tontay Township, and one from Thaketa Township were shot to death while the last one from Hlaingtharya Township was killed by a sword. On the morning of February 16, a dalan named Moe Myint Than Kywe in Thingankyun Township, Yangon was shot in the head. Another notorious Dalan named U San Htoo from Lashio Town of Shan State was found dead on February 18. The man fled from Lashio to Muse where the killing of him took place eventually. The People’s Security Defense Army of Muse (PSDA) claimed responsibility. Lastly, on the morning of February 20, junta-appointed ward administrator U Htun Wai from Pyigyitagon Township of Mandalay was shot and killed in his own home. 

Denko continued to be targeted

U Chit Khaing, a prominent businessman/a crony of the successive military juntas also faced some losses during the week, although minor compared with his enormous wealth. His Denko petrol station in Hpa-an Town was reportedly blown up on the evening of February 19 in what seemed like an attack by resistance forces. Also on February 7, a truck of his collecting cash from Yangon’s petrol outlets was robbed in South Dagon Township. Those responsible for the attack seized cash up to 724 lakhs MMK (pprox.. 40,000 USD) and left a bullet for U Chit Khaing before allocating the funds towards various resistance forces. Another explosion took place in North Oakkalapa’s Denko Station last year’s May. Despite all this, U Chit Khaing remains a firm pro-military businessman, providing gas and petrol to the regime and its air force. 

Arbitrary Arrests, Violence and Killings

Families abducted in Taunggyi and Bago

A second-year medical student from Taunggyi, Shan State called Ko Kaung Chan Myae Shan was abducted along with his family on the evening of February 14. Regime’s forces had wanted his brother, a medical doctor on civil disobedience movement (CDM) and since he was not home, Ko Kaung Chan Myae Shan, his parents and an aunt were instead taken. A family of 17 people including a twelve-year-old was abducted in Yedashe Town of Bago Region on February 10 on accounts that they were related to the people’s defense forces (PDF). Thirteen were released five days later; however, four remain under detention and currently suffer from intense interrogation held inside Southen Military HeadQuarter in Kaytumani New Town.  Similarly, over 50 people from Nannwindawboe Village were accused and arrested for supporting the PDF on the morning of February 16. 

Social Worker Abducted and Tortured in Ayarwaddy

About 20 Regime’s soldiers abducted a social worker called Ko Aung Naing oo from Nyaung Tone Township of Ayarwaddy Region on the night of February 17 and reportedly tortured him until he was hospitalized on the next day. Ko Aung Naing Oo was accused of lobbying the public to avoid paying electricity bills to the regime by the online military supporter Han Nyein Oo who has multiple telegram accounts and reports on the pro-resistance people. Generally, those accused and mentioned on Han Nyein Oo’s online channels get abducted by junta’s soldiers on the same day wherever they are in the country. Read more about the organized online mob here.  

Myaing Targeted Again

About twenty people in Myaing Town of Magway Region were abducted during three days of midnight raids by regime’s forces on February 13. The detainees included those who participated in peaceful protests, those who provided food and snacks during demonstrations and members of National League for Democracy (NLD). Due to the run caused by constant raids, Myaing Town is now only accommodating to a third of its 8,300 population. 

Students Jailed for Supporting IDPs

On February 16, two female university students from Dawei Township, Tanintharyi Region were sentenced to 7 years in prison for supposedly supporting PDF. The 19-year-old Ma Ei Chu Chu Maw and the 20-year-old Ma Lin Lat Kyi were arrested in last year’s November and both were charged with Section 52(B) of Anti-Terrorism Act as they were reportedly found guilty of transferring 5,000 MMK (approx. 2.8 USD) each to internally displaced persons (IDPs) via Kpay. Apparently, supporting IDPs and PDF are the same crime to the regime. And on February 17, a two-year-old daughter of Ma Nyein Ei Phyo Kyaw who had been detained in Thandwe Town of Rakhine State for pro-resistance activities passed away inside the prison cell as a result of choking due to mucus in throat. 

Arsons Attack in Sagaing and Chin

Since the beginning of February, junta’s forces have set four villages ablaze in Sagaing’s Taze Township. Nearly 80 households were destroyed consequently: 20 from Pute Village, 4 from Pechaung Village, 15 from Kharutaw Village and 39 from Kapaungkya Village. In a year of the coup, over 120 households were burned down to ashes and 220 others were confiscated in Taze Township alone in Sagaing Region. Thantlang Township of Chin State too has once again been subject to arson attack as another one was recorded on February 13 for 25th time since last February following an explosion of landmine in which a SAC’s deputy colonel Myo Zin Tun lost a leg.  

Armed Resistance

About 43 intensified battles took place during February 14 to February 19 across the country between the regime’s military and the people’s defense forces. Highlights of the week were the battles of Khin-U and Moebye where several PDF members were sacrificed. 

PDFs killed in one-sided Khin-U Battle

The Khin-U battle broke out around 12.30pm on February 17 between junta’s soldiers, Pyu Saw Htee members and local resistance forces near the villages of Kangyikone, Myothit, Tapinkaung which are located four miles away from Khin-U Town, Sagaing Region. The initial plan of local resistance forces was to detonate landmines when regime’s forces returned from seizing paddy from nearby. However, the direction changed when SAC’s forces did not step out of their compound on the day, luring PDFs into their territory. 

The regime soldiers did not start shooting until the people’s forces arrived in the target and once they stepped on it, heavy artillery and machine guns were fired. The people’s forces were merely equipped with hand-made guns and simply unmatched in all departments such as manpower, weaponry, and ground situation. Two hundred soldiers stationed on a hilly location with concrete fences fired uncountable bullets and bombs towards the young comrades positioned in the plain fields for three hours straight. A total of 14 people including a teenager, a 22-year-old Geology Student Ko Zaw Hlaing Moe and a 50-year-old community leader were lost from the people’s side during the one-sided battle in which three soldiers of the regime were also reportedly killed.

One of the fiercest clashes took place in Moebye

Moe Bye Township of Shan State, which is a four-hour drive from Naypyitaw, is located close to clash-filled Karenni State (Kayah)’s Loikaw and Demoso towns and central to food and weaponry supply for PDF. And one of the fiercest battles since the coup has taken place there since February 17. Reports mentioned that the regime had been reinforcing its troops since February 15 and deployed up to 300 soldiers and two tanks in the area. On February 17, the battle lasted from 4am until 6pm in which Min Aung Hlaing’s forces had utilized tanks, heavy artillery and airstrikes throughout the day. 

At least 20 personnel from local defense forces were killed including 7 soldiers and 2 medics. About seven civilians were also injured due to airstrikes and artillery where one woman lost a leg. The joint forces of Moe Bye PDF, Pekon PDF, Loikaw PDF, Demoso PDF and Karenni Nationality Defense Force (KNDF), Karenni Army (KA) and GZ 21 and KGZ coordinated the defense. The battle has continued until today and reports said that almost 40 soldiers from junta’s side were killed during yesterday’s encounters against the local resistance forces.

Two locations that saw the multiple deaths of young PDF soldiers during the week
The strategic location of Moe Bye Town

Casualties

Still, the week saw far greater number of deaths from SAC soldiers than that of the people’s forces as usual. A total of 380 regime’s troops were killed while the people lost 41 soldiers. Clashes took place in various areas of the country. Fighting resumed in Karen’s Laykawkaw Town on February 16 where the regime used two military choppers, indiscriminately shooting across the location for 15 minutes as a retaliation for its defeat on the ground. A military convoy was ambushed and attacked in Mattaya Township of Mandalay Region on February 16, accounting for at least 6 soldiers’ deaths. Two encounters between regime’s army and resistance forces in Tamu Town of Sagaing Region saw at least ten deaths of SAC’s troops on February 17. Joint local resistance forces coordinated a guerrilla attack against junta’s soldiers who have been conducting training to form a militia in Kalay Town of Sagaing, killing at least ten soldiers etc. 

Casualties of SAC vs PDF (Feb 14 to Feb 19)

Despite the ever-growing number of junta’s casualties, it was one man’s death on February 16 that was celebrated widely across social media. Around 10.50am on that day, a Nanchang Q-5 fighter jet of the military junta crashed into a lake in Sagaing Region, killing the pilot instantly. The dead victim was identified as Captain Hein Htet Aung who had just celebrated the 1st anniversary of his marriage to a non-CDM university staff from Sagaing on February 12. Since Myanmar people especially PDFs, ethnic armed organizations and those in rural regions have suffered horribly at the hands of military pilots, the news was spread among netizens with much delight. 

Response to Air Attacks

Multiple locations of the military’s air bases were ambushed by resistance forces across the country. Hmawbi air base in Yangon, northwestern military command in Monywa, Sagaing Region, and a security post of an army base in Pakokku Township of Magway Region were reportedly attacked by PDFs with guerrilla bomb attacks. In the Hmawbi attack, PDF fighters told Myanmar Now media that they attempted to blow up two fighter jets which were used to operate aerial attacks in ethnic areas, but the damage was yet to be known. 

Others

Situation deteriorated inside Insein Prison

The Dagon University Students’ Union has released a letter written by a detained student from the union currently in Insein Prison about the lack of medical care for the tortured individuals inside the prison. Released around 10pm on February 16, the letter described that a person who suffered a stroke was not able to receive necessary medical treatment but was just put on watch at the prison hospital during the time the person was waiting for treatment at an outside hospital. One of the protesters who was hit by the military vehicle during the Yangon’s Kyimyindaing protest crackdown, reportedly suffered severe untreated headaches and nosebleeds from head injuries received during interrogation, and the person is in need of urgent outpatient care. The letter said that there could be many other similar incidents going unreported. The detained student called on the international community and relevant organisations in Myanmar to provide adequate medical care and assistance to the existing political prisoners and other detainees.

More houses of activists locked and sealed

As reported previously, Min Aung Hlaing’s regime tends to lock up and seize the houses of those actively participating in the pro-resistance movement, especially if they cannot be found and abducted. This week, such cases rose again as the house of prominent online celebrity Pancello who is now seeking refuge in the US was sealed while artists such as Chit Thu Wai, Lin Lin, Chan Chan, Mg Mg Aye, all of whom have joined the movement and out of country also faced the same fate. These actions have also been sparked and initiated by Han Nyein Oo’s telegram channel mentioned in the above section.

Five Myanmar Charged for Protest in Malaysia

Among Thirty-one Myanmar citizens in Malaysia who were detained for staging a protest in front of Myanmar’s Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on the morning of February 3, five have been charged with illegal stay and demonstration without permit. Twenty-five were fined and released on February 15. The Myanmar Embassy has also requested Malaysia authorities to punish the detainees severely. 

Omicron wave gains momentum

The junta’s Ministry of Health reported that daily COVID-19 cases soared past the 3,000 mark on Friday, February 18. This is the highest recorded daily cases since February 1 according to the ministry’s data and the infection rate stands at 9.3 percent currently. With the resurgence of the virus in the country, many merchants and traders at the Myanmar-China border are concerned that the border trade would be shut down once again. Since the reopening of the border trade back in November 2021, there have been stricter restrictions for the Myanmar merchants by the Chinese authorities, and many are worried and selling perishable goods at a huge loss due to fear of border traffic shutting down again due to increasing COVID cases in the border region.

References: Myanmar Now, The Irrawaddy, Khit Thit Media, Mizzima News, DVB, Reuters, RFA Burmese, BBC Burmese, Associated Press

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