Weekly Update: 004

Folks, while business is as usual in the world, our usual business is resisting the junta who’s been finding new ways everyday to oppress us. From stripping citizenship of NUG cabinet members to scorched-earthing villages in Central Myanmar, read all about the happenings from the past week here. 

Internal politics

Junta stripping citizenship of NUG ministers

This week, the junta announced that it decided to strip the citizenships away from eight NUG cabinet members and three activists/lobbyists. The reason apparent is “illegally leaving the country and harming the interest of the state”. NUG Minister for Human Rights U Aung Myo Min, who has been meeting leaders in Europe to get international support, clapped back that the illegal military council has no authority to do so.

AA talked about confederation

In Western part, the Arakan Army (AA) began the conversation of separation for the first time. AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha said, at a press conference held online on March 5, that if political aims of the Rakhine people cannot be achieved in current political space, they would build their own nation with the help of the international community. In terms of AA’s relationship with the Myanmar revolution, he clarified that AA is not involved in both NUG or NUCC, but respects the people’s struggle. The spokesperson also praised the PDF’s courage in fighting the regime soldiers, but said that they should improve in terms of discipline and unity.

Military proxy party show support of SAC’s legal team to ICJ

The military’s proxy party USDP members showed support to SAC’s legal team who traveled to The Hague to face the Genocide case against Rohingya people. Billboards were put up in support of SAC appointed Minister for International Cooperation U Ko Ko Hlaing, and Chief Justice Attorney Daw Thida Oo in Kyauk Phyu, Mrauk-U, Thandwe, Ranbye townships of Rakhine State.

Celebrities freed under pardon to help ‘nation building’ with their art

The regime has released five celebrities who were jailed for their anti-coup activities on March 2 and said the celebrities were pardoned so that they can use their art to help with “nation building”. The A-list movie couple, Pyay Ti Oo and Eaindra Kyaw Zin; the super model and actor, Pain Takhon, Director Wyne and Actor Lu Min were released with their incitement charges being dropped. Actor Ye Taik, Social Influencer Win Min Than and Singer Po Po also had their 505A charges dropped, but still remained inside for other charges, the lawyer said. 

Junta accuses foreign media of ‘persistent bias’

The junta-controlled information ministry complained in a statement on February 28 that foreign media is misreporting the situation in Myanmar and is presenting biased coverage based on information from “terrorists” to create instability. The “clear and persistent bias of certain foreign media towards terrorist groups” was troubling, the ministry said, which called for it to recognize “the return to normalcy in all major towns and cities” and to stop reporting without “fully ascertaining the facts”. Nay Phone Latt, a representative of the National Unity Government said the armed resistance was justified and defended the integrity of the media. “The people are in a defensive war with SAC members who arrest, torture and kill civilians and burn down peoples’ houses,” he told Reuters. 


International Affairs

NUG’s representative voted against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the UN resolution 

Myanmar, represented by NUG-loyalist ambassador Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun, voted in support of the UN resolution to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. SAC, who had openly supported Russia and its propaganda machine was spewing pro-Russian sentiments throughout the conflict, could not represent the country at the UN. Speaking for his vote at the UN General Assembly, Mr. Kyaw Moe Tun expressed his stances in support of the people of Ukraine and against the Russian aggression, by highlighting why the people of Myanmar can understand the plights of Ukrainians due to us currently facing violence at the hand of Myanmar junta’s military.

Myanmar ranking 9th in Global Terrorism Index

Myanmar ranks ninth place in Global Terrorism Index, 2021, among 163 countries. After Myanmar, Pakistan stands at the 10th. According to the index, the country was placed at 24th, and there were more than 20 cases of violent death in pre-coup Myanmar. After the coup, more than 500 cases have been reported. Some analysts said the situation on the ground counts more, and it is likely to exacerbate.

ASEAN Special Envoy planning a trip to Myanmar

ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar and Cambodia Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn is expected to visit Myanmar from March 20 to 23. However, observers are critical about to what extent the special envoy could deliver the five-point consensus. The special envoy’s request towards SAC to agree towards his meeting with NUG were previously rejected.

No-political representative of Myanmar will attend US-ASEAN Summit

ASEAN decided to keep its stance of inviting non-political personnel as representatives of Myanmar for US-ASEAN Summit meeting; the stance is supported by the American counterparts, US Foreign Department spokesperson confirmed. The summit is arranged to be held on March 28-29 and to be attended by heads of states.


Business Matters

Planned electricity cuts

Since the turn of the month, power outages have reached a level unprecedented in recent memory. BBC Burmese reported that most of the areas connected to the national grid get only six hours of electricity a day. SAC’s Yangon Electricity Supply Corporation announced that gas-fueled power stations have stopped running in the midst of rising oil and gas prices; observers noted the stalled purchasing of required gas is premeditated before the war in Ukraine and mostly due to SAC’s unwillingness to fund public amenities.  Leaked directives of MOEE dating mid-February reported by Khit Thit, supports the planned electricity cuts

Steep fuel prices

Fuel prices passed the MMK 2000 threshold for a liter of diesel and reached a record high due to domestic instability made worse by rising global oil and gas prices; consequently rise of prices in both locally produced and imported commodities were reported also. Electricity outages, combined with high fuel prices, are posing increasing challenges for local companies, particularly in the manufacturing sector, who are already besieged by the pandemic and coup. Observers fear that continued and exacerbating further challenges may lead to huge jumps in unemployment and poverty in the country.

NUG added more companies in the blacklist

NUG announces additions to the list of companies supporting airplane fuel to SAC for military uses. Three companies: Golden Myanmar Airlines, owned by CB Bank Chairman Khin Maung Aye, Brighter Energy, owned by KBZ Bank Chairman Aung Ko Win, and Shwe Byaing Phyu Co. Ltd owned by Thein Win Zaw, are added further to the list. The previously-listed companies include Yangon Aerodrome Company, Myat Metta Mon Company and Asia Sun Energy Company.

Malaysian corporation decided to leave Myanmar

BLand, a Malaysian corporation becomes the latest foreign investor in Myanmar to leave the country. A $750million real-estate project was signed between the company and Yangon Region Government in early 2020 and planned to include affordable to medium-priced housing, luxury condominiums, business venues, hospitals, schools and other public areas. The 74 hectares project was agreed to be launched at one of the least-developed townships of Yangon, in Dagon Seikkan Township.


Civil Disobedience Movement & Fundraising

Air force captain joining CDM

The first high-ranking officer from the junta’s  Air Force, Captain Zay Thu Aung, joined the Demawso-People’s Defense Force on February 15 with the family.The reason for joining CDM was that he could no longer tolerate the killings of civilians by the junta’s forces.

CDM lecturer from Yadanarpon University arrested

A CDM participant, an assistant lecturer from Yadanarpon University, U Myo Myint Aung was arrested on February 27. His family still doesn’t know his whereabouts since his arrest. The junta’s forces attempted many times to arrest many CDM participants in the same university. Last year’s February, they took computers and money from the university when they came to search for the rector, Dr.Aung Aung Min, who joined CDM very early.

NUG raised more than USD 160,000 within three hours for PDFs

In New York, the National Unity Government (NUG) raised USD 168,200 within three hours of launching the bond sale.The proceedings will go to fund the defensive wars of the people defense forces (PDF). Up to now, almost 50,000 zero-interest bonds have been sold.

Yangon’s underground fundraisers were traced and arrested 

In Yangon, underground funding networks have been traced via WavePay, a digital financial service platform, and increasingly many fundraisers have been arrested. Phone numbers and money transactions were tracked, and those arrested were tortured to make phone calls to their networks. It was reported there were cases where freedom fighters were tortured to death during the interrogations without a trace.


Attacks on Junta’s Lackeys and Properties

March 2 Saw Two Deaths of Lackeys 

Daw Sandar, a military captain’s wife from Monywa, Sagaing Region who had been feeding the intelligence of resistance soldiers to her masters was shot and killed. She was shot six times. Similarly in Mon State, junta-appointed village ward administrator Man Tin who had been forcefully collecting electricity bills in Kyaikmayaw Township was shot and killed by a local PDF.  

Two Dalans Killed in Bago

Ko San Win, a former teacher and Ko Mg Zaw, a ward administrator both known as military informers from Kawa Township, Bago Region were found dead on the morning of March 4. Locals said the two men were on a motorbike when they were shot at least 12 times and pronounced dead. Ko San Win who had been dismissed from the teacher position during NLD’s reign due to numerous sexual harassments claims against him had sued at least 30 people in the region for protesting the regime while Ko Mg Zaw acted as a business developer for SAC by extra-taxing the general public. 

67 SAC’s Soldier Killed Under NUG’s Operation During a Month

Pyan Hlwar Aung operation which is under the command of NUG has killed at least 67 soldiers from the junta during February 4 to March 4, according to Yangon Regional Military Command. Means of attacks involved detonation blasts, grenade launchers and ambush shootings. In addition to body counts, one  MyTel Tower, two fighter jets and security trucks were also destroyed.  

Electricity Office and Ward Administration Attacked

Yangon’s Kyauktan Township’s electricity supply office was detonated with a blast and a security soldier was killed on the morning of March 5. Later in the evening, Hlaing Tharyar’s ward administration office was blown up with a remote control.

Thanlyin PDF Continues to Deliver

March 6 began with rather positive news from Thanlyin, Yangon that a notorious junta-appointed ward administrator Mg Phone was shot and killed. The incident prompted intensive investigation from SAC’s forces who blocked Thanlyin-Yangon Bridge to search trespassers, putting hundreds of cars to a halt. Unverified news described that two more junta’s lackeys were murdered in the Thanlyin on March 6. 


Arbitrary Arrests, Killing and Violence

Villages Continue to be Targeted Again

In Sagaing Region, Thabyay Aye Village from Yinmabin Township was targeted again as it was attacked from the sky by junta’s two military choppers on February 28. Following the incident, the 200-household village was also set on fire by about 60 soldiers, forcing the whole population to flee. Likewise, Latpanhla Village from Pauk Township of Magway Region was set ablaze by junta’s forces on the morning of March 3 after Pyu Saw Htee members raided and ransacked the location. Dangone Villge, which is one of thirty villages from Sagaing which have been cut off of internet was also met with similar fate as junta’s forces committed arson in the village on March 5.

Person Helping HIV Patients Detained

U Yarzar, a close comrade of Daw Phyu Phyu Thin, NLD’s prominent candidate and current member of the National Unity Consultative Council ( NUCC), was detained at his Nurture AIDS Center (N.A.C) by plainclothed policemen on March 2. His posts on social media was cited as the cause of the arrest and the family was not allowed to meet him until March 4. HIV patients fear the worst for U Yarzar’s wellbeing as well as theirs. 

Five Arrested in Pakokku 

In Magway Region, four students and a civilian were detained on March 5, according to Pakokku’s Students’ Union. Only one has been identified so far who is Ko Lin Sat Aung, a first year student from Pakokku’s Technical University and the others are yet to be named. 

Three Detained in Mandalay for Helping Political Prisoners

Three people such as Ko Aung Myo Ko, the chairman of Mandalay’s Education Degree College, Ma Thiri Yadanar, the secretary of All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) and Ko Kyaw Zin Latt, CDM teacher from Mandalay’s Education Degree College were detained during their meeting at the home of Ma Thiri Yadanar on the evening of March 6. All three were actively involved with supplying food and letters to those who had been detained unfairly by the junta due to the pro-resistance movement.


Armed Resistance

Magway PDF Ambushed Junta’s Forces 

The military convoy on the way back from Chin State was ambushed by Magway’s local PDF on March 3, which saw at least five deaths from the junta’s side. At least 80 artillery were shelled towards the convoy that consisted of 140 military personnel that were coming back from providing supplies to its forces in Kyindway Town of Chin State. In addition to deaths, the attack destroyed four military vehicles.

SAC’s Forces Faced Guerrilla Attack in Katha

Local PDF from Sagaing Region carried out an ambush against SAC’s forces in Katha Township on March 3. According to Katha’s PDF’s spokesperson Ko Thanmadi, 70-soldier-convoy was attacked, of which at least 10 were killed and plenty were injured.

Nine Killed During the Junta’s Operation

On March 4, about 100 junta’s troops raided two villages in Sagaing Region that had been cut off of the internet. During the incident, SAC’s soldiers killed at least nine civilians and detained two children and one woman. The dead victims included Ko Aung Thu, Ko Phoe Mae, KO Chanmyae zaw, Ko Phone Naing, KO Pyae Phyo Aung and three unidentified villagers. The detained persons were the wife of the fallen Ko Aung Thu and his children who were one-year-old and five-year old.


COVID-19

Two Chinese trade borders closed after Chinese custom staff and truck drivers test positive for COVID-19

The Kyin San Kywat and Lweje trade border gates with China were temporarily closed after reports of positive COVID-19 cases within the trade community. The Kyin San Kyawt gate in Shan State’s Muse Township suspended operations for two days from March 2 after Chinese customs personnel and truck drivers transporting goods from Myanmar tested positive for COVID-19. The Lweje border trade gate in Kachin State’s Momauk Township was suspended for three days from March 1 after COVID-19 was detected in shipments of tissue-culture bananas destined for China and four truck drivers tested positive for the virus. 


Others

Mass internet cut across Sagaing

The junta cut off the internet in Sagaing Regions on March 3 as battles with People’s Defense Forces continue to intensify. Yinmabin-PDF said the junta has cut off internet connection in 33 townships of Sagaing starting from 11pm of March 3. In Kani Township, mobile internet was cut off when the clashes between region forces and PDF members broke out in the township on March 3 as well, the residents said. Mobile internet in every township in Sagaing Region apart from Monywa, Shwebo, Sagaing and Kalay Townships was no longer working on March 4. The local PDFs warned the people to prepare for more intense clashes as the junta forces seem to escalate the clashes by cutting off the mobile internet. 

House of Killed Photojournalist Sealed

Ko Soe Naing was the freelance photojournalist who was detained on the silent strike day of December 10 and killed during interrogation four days later. On March 3, his house in Sanchaung was locked and sealed by the junta’s forces although no concrete reason was disclosed. Ko Soe Naing is survived by his wife and three-year-old kid.

At least 50 people missing after landslide at Hpakant jade mine

At least 50 people are missing after an overnight landslide at a jade mine near Phar Pyin village in Hpakant Township, Kachin State on February 28. A jade scavenger told The 74 Media that scavengers and a mining company’s employees were engulfed by the landslide. A rescue worker said the company was yet to request assistance from community search and rescue groups. “It happened on their property, and we cannot do rescue activities if it does not ask,” he said. 

Mining for rare earth minerals damaging environment, say Kachin State residents

Residents said the unregulated mining of rare earth metals, which can be used in modern electronics, is damaging the environment. Under the military council, the situation had worsened, and the rare earth materials were being exported to China, the residents added. According to the Chinese Tax Administration, between May 2017 and October 2021, Myanmar exported more than 140,000 tonnes of rare earths to China, valued at more than US$ 1 billion. Now an unregulated mine in Kachin State’s Pangwa area has destroyed forests and mountains, a local environmental activist said. A miner who worked in the mining of rare earth told RFA Burmese that for the mining of rare earths, there are five strong chemicals, including Oxalic acid and Ammonium bicarbonate, which are used, so the workers had to retrieve drinking water from a distance because the water was not clean near the mines.

Source: The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Now, Khit Thit, DVB, Reuters, The 74 Media

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