Weekly Update: 003

Hi folks, with things unfolding in Ukraine, this week has been rather intense both nationally and internationally. Regardless, the fight for freedom and against the tyrants continue in Myanmar, and elsewhere. From leaked meeting minutes from the junta meeting to the increase of commodity prices, we’ve covered what’s happening in Myanmar in the past week.

Internal Politics

SAC’s Meeting Minutes Leaked

This week, Khit Thit media leaked internal meeting minutes of the State Administration Council, where the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing talked from anything to everything. The 29-paged meeting minutes revealed that Min Aung Hlaing was so pleased to hold big celebrations such as Union Day and Diamond Jubilee of Myanmar Radio and Television (MRTV) without having to discuss the budget spending at the parliament. He blabbered on and on about the utopia that he created in his head, and nobody seemed to give him a reality check. Khit Thit also reported that the coup leader repeatedly requested the NLD government to hand over some state-owned factories such as production of tractors, and metals, but NLD refused to do so. Hence, the military has taken control of those factories after the coup. These revelations only remind us that when an egoistic person with an inferiority complex has access to weapons, he won’t care about the world but only his ego.

Veteran Ethnic Leader Criticized the PDF Fighters

Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) chairperson General Yawd Serk talked to a local media that he did not support the people defense force (PDF), and that the National Unity Government (NUG) might not be able to control them in the future, and the PDFs would turn into rebels and thug groups. The interview was aired on October 16, 2021, in response to the SAC’s accusation of the RCSS providing military training to the PDFs. However, the video footage resurfaced on our social media this week, and netizens discussed the issue. Demoso PDF’s spokesperson condemned the remarks of the experienced ethnic armed leader and questioned his revolution in an interview with DVB News. General Nagar from Sagaing Region told DVB that General Yawd Serk should be criticizing the regime’s soldiers instead of PDFs who are under proper command chain, and encouraged his army to join the anti-regime revolution. Karen National Union (KNU)’s spokesperson Pado Saw Taw Nee refused to comment on General Yawd Serk’s remark, but said that the KNU doesn’t discourage young resistance fighters, but helps them to improve them. 

NUG Finally Able to Withdraw State’s Funds from Czech Bank

In other news, NUG announced that the government was finally able to withdraw the state funds from a Czech bank. The NUG has raised funds from donations and sales of treasury bonds, however, due to an objection from the SAC, a Czech bank held the money from withdrawal. The NUG representatives tried multiple times to explain the situations to bank representatives, but finally after conversing with Czech Foreign Minister, the fund was released this week.

Arakan Army Detained Member of Arakan National Party for Criticisms 

News reported that the Arakan Army (AA) detained U Khine Kyaw Moe, a central committee member of Arakan National Party (ANP). Prior to the detention, U Khine Kyaw Moe criticized U Oo Hla Saw, who was formerly one of the ANP leaders, for attending the junta’s Union Day celebration representing AA’s political wing United League of Arakan (ULA). 

International Affairs

ICJ Hearing on Genocide Allegations Against Myanmar Continued

Following the first hearing in December 2019, another round of hearing was held at International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague, Netherlands on Gambia’s case against Myanmar for committing Rohyingya genocide. Myanmar representatives, led by junta-appointed Minister for International Cooperation, continued to plead that the ICJ does not have the jurisdiction for the case, which was the same argument when the detained state counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi faced the same court in 2019. Arguments and counter arguments have been made, and one final day of court hearing will be held on February 28.

NUG and SAC Chose Sides in Ukrainian Affair

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine received widespread attention in Myanmar, with the people of Myanmar expressing empathy and solidarity with the people of Ukraine in their fight against militarism and aggression. NUG issued a statement condemning the unprovoked act of war against Ukraine and the people, and expressing concern as a major obstacle to the maintenance of international peace, security and human development. SAC spokesperson General Zaw Min Tun expressed support of Russia claiming the invasion was appropriate for two reasons: (1) to protect Russia’s sovereignty, and (2) to provide balanced power in the global order.

UN Special Rapporteur Called the Security Council to Convene an Emergency Session for Myanmar

UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Mr. Tom Andrews, urges the Security Council to convene an emergency session to debate and vote on a resolution to, at a minimum, ban arms sales to Myanmar military which is using the weapons to attack and kill civilians. He claims that UN Security Council members China and Russia, as well as Serbia have continued supplying the junta with weapons since the coup.

Business Matters

EU Imposed Sanctions on Long-awaited MOGE

The European Union announced sanctions to four organizations, and 22 individuals comprising SAC cabinet members, Union Election Commission members and top generals. Oil and gas sector, which critics said was the main provider of foreign currency (accounting to roughly 50% of foreign currency revenues) to the junta, is the biggest target of the sanction package with state-owned enterprise Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) and the ministry overseeing the sector included. However, human rights groups are concerned about responsible withdrawal from the western oil and gas companies.

Telenor Sales to Go Through While SAC Lures New Investors

Following the people’s effort in intervening Telenor Myanmar’s sales to a junta-affiliated company, Telenor Global head office affirmed this week that the sale has been approved by the junta. 

Since the coup, Myanmar witnessed a massive exodus of foreign direct investments (FDIs). SAC’s Minister of Information Chit Naing spoke of initiating a campaign to attract new investors, starting from China and Russia.

Regular Tax to Resume under SAC 

SAC internal revenue department announced tax incentives provided as stimulus for economic relief under the pandemic will be discontinued after March 31. This comes after the junta bemoaned about low tax collection in December, 2021. Massive jumps and volatility in gold and fuel prices reported after Russian invasion to Ukraine; hikes in commodity imports are reported too. 

Myanmar’s Copper Cathode No Longer Accepted

London Metal Exchange will no longer accept delivery of copper cathode produced from Myanmar for warranting purposes from May 24. The metal is excavated by a joint venture between military-owned MEHL and Chinese-owned Myanmar Wanbao Mining Copper ltd, and reportedly a major source of income to the junta.

Civil Disobedience Movement

CDM Railway Staff Kicked Off from Housing in Myitnge and Myitkyina

Over 1,000 railway staff from Mandalay’s Myitnge and about 80 from Kachin’s Myikyina Railway compound were evicted for participating in the civil disobedience movement this week. There were about 1,700 railway staff living in the railway compound, and when 700 staff went back to work. Similar instance occurred in Myikyina where about 80 CDM railway staff and their families were forcibly evicted from the housing compound.

A Lieutenant General Joined CDM

A lieutenant general, who served as a battalion commander, from the junta military defected and joined the CDM according to military personnel who already switched to the resistance side. This marks the highest-ranking officer joining CDM since the coup.

A Police Officer Who Supported CDM Colleagues Faced Jail

A lieutenant from the police’s special branch received three years of jail time for raising money to help the defected police officers. Lt Thant Zin Aung took a medical leave after the coup but police chief Than Hlaing offered to give promotion and urged him to return to work. He was arrested in November, and received the court sentence on January 31.

Humanitarian Affairs

Number of Displaced People in Myanmar at New High

The number of internally displaced persons in Myanmar reached a record high of 453,000 between February 1, 2021 and February 21, 2022 shows an emergency overview map published by the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, on February 22. The figure includes 226,400 people displaced by fighting in Kayah, Kayin, Shan and Mon states as well as those displaced in Tanintharyi and Bago regions. In Sagaing Region, about 146,500 people are reported to have been displaced, along with 34,000 in Chin State and 21,400 in Magway Region.

Diarrhea Affecting Children Camped Beside Thaung Yin (Moei) River

Diarrhea is affecting nearly 300 children among thousands of IDPs camped beside Thaung Yin River in Kayin State’s Myawaddy Township, health workers said. They said there was not enough medicine for the children, who are also suffering from shortages of food and inadequate shelter. Thousands of people from five villages fled their homes on February 16 after renewed fighting between junta forces and the Karen National Liberation Army and People’s Defense Forces.

Lay Kay Kaw IDPs Face Isolation Difficulties due to COVID-19

About 20 people at a camp holding more than 550 IDPs in Kayin State’s Lay Kay Kaw town have tested positive for COVID-19 but cannot be properly isolated because of crowded conditions, aid workers said. They said two people had tested positive on February 17, rising to 20 the next day, and all those at the camp needed to be tested. A camp management committee member told The Irrawaddy that a makeshift isolation area had been created with tarpaulins, but a proper isolation ward was needed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Karenni IDPs Could Face Starvation Soon

Internally displaced persons and villagers affected by the growing conflict in Karenni State are on the verge of starvation as food supplies become low, a humanitarian affairs administrator for the Karenni State Consultative Council, Banyar said. Over half of the state’s 300,000 people impacted by the violence, local humanitarian organizations also faced difficulty in providing enough assistance to all of the IDPs, and she called on international agencies to provide needed assistance to Karenni IDPs as soon as possible.

Fresh Displacements Reported in Chin and Kachin

A three-day clash between regime’s forces and local resistance forces during February 20 and 22 in Chin State’s Kanpetlet Township displaced over 1,500 residents from six villages in Kanpetlet Township. More than 300 residents of Chin State’s Mindat town fled to safety after fighting there between regime forces and the Chinland Defense Force – Mindat on February 19. About 5,000 in Putao and Myitkyina have also been displaced due to the continued clashes between Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and regime’s forces.

Attacks on Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

Military Informers Get Served

Two Dalans/military informers were found dead on the morning of February 21 in Mandalay Region. Notorious Bo Shein from Nahtoegyi Township who was responsible for the arrest of at least 40 people in the village was killed by Nahtoegyi PDF. Similarly, junta-appointed ward administrator/informer Aung Sein was also shot twice and killed in Mandalay’s Pyigyitakhon Township on the same day. Local based Dragon Warrior and Yadanarbon Phoenix Guerilla Force coordinated the attack. On February 27, Pyu Saw Htee member Zaw Moe Lwin who showed CDM teacher’s house to SAC’s soldiers on the previous day was shot and killed. The CDM teacher house was destroyed and confiscated by regime’s forces.

Denko Gas Stations Targeted Again

Junta’s crony U Chit Khaing’s businesses continued to be targeted as another outlet of Denko Gas Station in Budalin Township, Sagaing was set ablaze by local resistance forces on February 22. Staff were told to move before the attack took place and nobody was harmed.

Junta’s Outposts and Revenue Channels Attacked

On the early morning of February 23 around 1am, the northern military head quarter of PDF attacked a security outpost and two staff housings of railway police stations in Naung Cho Township, Shan State, causing a brief exchange of gunfire until Min Aung Hlaing’s forces decided to flee. The junta’s building was set on fire and three PDF members reported minor injuries.

On February 23 evening, a truck carrying junta-owned Myanmar Beer bottles was attacked and set ablaze in Ywarngan Township, which is under self-administration of Danu in Shan State. On a related note, 15 restaurants from nine townships of Yangon were warned by Yangon Urban Guerrillas- YUG to end the sale of Myanmar beer and other junta’s products in their outlets. On February 24, the staff housing of military owned Shwe Phee Oo instant tea mix factory was also set on fire by a resistance force.

A municipal office from Pakokku Town, Magway Region was attacked with a bomb, by Young Force- UG on February 25. Young Force- UG which is led by a female freedom fighter said that the municipal office was helping with the revenue flow of the junta by forcefully distorting tax from the public and threatening  CDM staff.

Killings, Arbitrary Arrests & Violence  

Four Victims Tortured, Raped and Killed in Kawlin, Sagaing

On February 23, four dead bodies including two females, one of whom was ward administration clerk on CDM were found on a hill at the top of Min Kone Village, Kawlin Township of Sagaing Regions. Victims were local villagers U San Min aged 50, Daw Khin Saw aged 49, Mg Saw Min Oo aged 27 and CDM staff Ma Nay Chi Min aged 22 who was seeking refuge in the village. All of them were blindfolded and killed by SAC’s soldiers and two female victims had signs of sexual abuse.

Over 80 Children Detained as Hostages in Yinmabin

Following an ambush of PDF’s completion ceremony of military training on the morning of February 26, SAC’s soldiers have detained over 80 kindergarten students as hostages against PDF’s defense in Chinpone Village, Yinmabin Township of Sagaing Region. Total number of detainees are up to 90 including teachers. No contact has been made since February 26 and villagers are worried sick for the safety of everyone, especially children.

Unlawful Killings Continue in Sagaing

In Taze Township’s Kankalaykone Village, Ko Soe Moe was tortured and killed as he ran into patrolling soldiers with his motorbike on February 21. His dead body was found three days later, and his vehicle was also confiscated. Fifteen villagers from Depayin Township’s Gwaypingone Village were abducted by Min Aung Hlaing’s forces on February 24 and three of them were forced to come along with the army to show directions in the region. Among those three, one was shot and killed. On February 25, SAC’s soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members raided Chaung Sone (South) Village of Taze Township. They opened fire on those working in the paddy fields for no reason, killing 40-year-old Ko Nay Win Tun on the spot and injuring another. The dead body was burned afterwards. Junta’s lackeys also set three houses on fire before moving on to other villages.

One Killed and Twelve Detained in Yangon for Peaceful Protests

A safe house of guerrilla protest organizers was raided by junta’s forces in Mayangone Township of Yangon on February 25, resulting in one death and six arrests. The soldiers followed the demonstrators on their way home right after the protest and opened fires during the ambush where one was killed on the spot while six others were wounded and arrested. In relation to that, five more women were also detained in the same township. During a separate operation, another young protester was also snatched on the same day in Yankin Township.

One Woman, Two Men Sexually Assaulted During Interrogation in Mandalay

A woman in her twenties and two men were sexually assaulted by regime forces at an interrogation centre in the former royal palace in Mandalay, the All Burma Federation of Students’ Union (ABSFU) said. The woman was a member of the ABSFU who was injured when she was raped but was denied medical treatment.

Armed Resistance

Villages Set on Fire and PDFs Killed in Shwebo and Pale Townships

Since the early morning of February 25, SAC’s soldiers fired heavy artillery towards Nhamasaryit Village of Shwebo Township, Sagaing Region, resulting in multiple deaths of local resistance forces as well as civilians. The village was set ablaze right after the numerous launchings of artillery shelling and about 400 households of total 600 were reportedly turned into ashes. At least nine PDF members were found dead, and six others were feared for the worst while the deaths of civilians including three elderlies were also reported but the exact number could not be verified yet. Similarly, at least five villages including Pan Ywar in Pale Township, Sagaing Region were also burned down.

PDF Ceremony Ambushed and Attacked

Information about completion ceremony of military training by Yinmabin PDF was breached and met with a violent offense by SAC’s forces on the morning of February 26 near Chinpone and Nyaungkine villages in Yinmabin Township, Sagaing Region. Five military choppers including two MI 35 arrived at the scene, going on shooting spree from the sky before sending at least 50 paratroopers onto the ground. The casualties are still unknown, and hundreds of people have been stuck in monasteries while Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers detained over 80 children as hostages as reported in the above section.

SAC’s Heavy Defeats in Kawthoolei

A total of 67 skirmishes took place between SAC’s forces, Border Guard Forces (BGF) and Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Karen National Democratic Organization (KNDO) in Kawthoolei (Karen State) during February 1 to February 20, according to Karen National Union (KNU). At least 227 soldiers were killed and 159 were injured from junta’s side during those encounters while KNLA and KNDO also had five casualties and 20 were injured.

And in Chin & Shan States

Due to the constant interferences of local resistance forces, SAC’s military convoy traveling from Magway Region to Chin State took 6 days to make 33 miles during this week. Four detonation attacks coordinated by CDF-Kanpetlet, Saw PDF and Chin National Army (CAN) during February 19 to February 22 saw over 20 deaths of regime’s soldiers. Theinni PDF also released a statement that a battle between its force and regime’s soldiers on February 26 killed at least 30 personnel from junta’s side near Kutkai, Shan State.

Skirmishes Reported by Region during February 20 to February 26

Others

Five Prisoners of Conscience Treated Unfairly in Pathein’s Prison

On February 22 (22.02.2022), the detainees inside prisons across the country participated in 222222 protests by organizing movements behind the bars varying from silent strike to putting on ethnic attire. Five of those brave souls in Pathein Prison of Ayarwaddy Region including U Win Tun Naing, U Sithu Aung, U Aung Aung were put into solitary confinement cells for playing a part on the day.

Three Companies Blacklisted by NUG

Three local companies such as Yangon Aerodrome Company Ltd (Subsidiary of Asia World Group), ASIA Sun Energy (local partner of PUMA Energy) and Myat Myittar Mon Group of Companies have been put into the blacklist by NUG for sourcing petrol for Min Aung Hlaing’s air force. NUG urged the public and investors to avoid dealing with those companies and said they would continue naming and denouncing more businesses providing supplies to junta.

Over 200 People Arrested in 20 Days

Over 200 people have been detained for supporting and participating in the Silent Strike campaign on February 1. The detainees showed their stance against Min Aung Hlaing’s reign by speaking favorably of the campaign on Facebook and SAC retaliated by going after everyone. Even after the silent strike, people who spoke out on social media are still terrified of going back to their own homes.

Commodity prices increase more than twice within a year of the coup

Since the military coup last February, the prices of general consumer goods and gas have doubled within the year. In Yangon, the price of sunflower oil and one pound of onion cost about 4,000 MMK and 300 MMK respectively a year ago, but today, the price rose to about 8,000 MMK for sunflower oil and 800 MMK for one pound of onion.

References: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, Mizzima News, The DVB, The Irrawaddy, RFA Burmese, Kantarawaddy Times.

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