Weekly Update: 006

Folks, here’s the weekly wrap up.

Internal Politics

  • Khit Thit Media Leaked Another Audio File from SAC Meeting

On March 14, Khit Thit media uploaded an audio file from a meeting in State Administration on January 25, 2022 where SAC’s Minister for Home Affairs Soe Htut led the discussion. The meeting was called on to discuss how to halt the people’s Silent Strike on February 1 since the SAC perceives that people’s resistance movements such as closing of shops as part of the Silent Strike, were disrespectful to the SAC, and hence Soe Htut said that actions would be taken against store managers or even owners of the businesses. Last month, Khit Thit Media leaked coup leader Min Aung Hlaing’s meeting on February 13 as well. Due to these exposés, coup leaders in Naypyidaw felt unsafe according to Khit Thit’s source from the capital.

  • Former First Lady/NLD MP to Meet with ASEAN Envoy

According to RFA Burmese, Daw Su Su Lwin, former first lady and one of the top members of NLD, would be receiving the visiting ASEAN Envoy Prak Sokhonn. It was previously reported that she met the Japan Envoy Sasakwa during his visit, but NLD Central Executive Committee denounced that her meeting with Mr Sasakawa did not represent the political party. On the other hand, as of March 14, a total of 832 NLD members including 107 lawmakers have been under arrest since February 1.

  • Former Minister Thura U Aung Ko Received 12-year Jail Time

On March 14, junta court sentenced Thura U Aung Ko to receive 12 years imprisonment with corruption charges. Thura U Aung Ko was a parliamentarian representing the military proxy political party USDP during the Thein Sein Administration, but when NLD assumed office after the 2015 General Election, he took the role of Minister for Religious Affairs and Culture, and became an ally of the NLD. Despite his connections with the military, he was placed under arrest on February 1.

  • More Than 500 Houses Have Been Seized After the Coup

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), the SAC has seized about 530 civilian homes and buildings all over the country. Majority of the sealed houses are owned by NUG, CRPH members, NLD parliamentarians and members, and urban guerrilla fighters, and democratic forces. The AAPP’s report recorded that more than 135 houses in Sagaing Region were seized, followed by Yangon Region with 116 houses, and Mandalay with 85 houses.

  • Military begins the election process in Ayeyarwady 

SAC-appointed township and village administrators are reported to be collecting household registrations across Ayeyarwady region for the elections promised in August 2023, Mizzima reports. In the 2020 election, the National League for Democracy (NLD) claimed a landslide victory in the region. With an embarrassing defeat suffered by the military-backed party, the military staged a coup on an accusation of election fraud, imprisoning many NLD party members and having killed 16 of the party members since February 2021.

International Affairs

  • ASEAN Envoy Prak Sokhonn to Visit Myanmar 

ASEAN Envoy to Myanmar and Cambodian Foreign Minister Mr. Prak Sokhonn’s visit to Myanmar is set for March 20, and expected to meet with junta, his cabinet, pro-junta elements and other people the junta deemed agreeable; the most contentious among those he is going to meet is Daw Su Su Lwin, a NLD senior figure and First Lady of President Htin Kyaw of NLD administration. Observers fear that the junta could force her to do his bidding. Other senior figures of the NLD have already claimed that she cannot represent the party for such a purpose.

  • Russian Deputy Defense Minister to Visit Naypyidaw

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Alexander Fomin is to visit Naypyitaw for the junta’s Arms Forces Day parade on March 27. Khit Thit media reports that he will visit from 25-27, under the invitation of Min Aung Hlaing and expected to discuss military hardware transactions. The colonel general visited Naypyidaw for last year’s parade as well.

  • UNHRC Released a New Report on the Junta’s Human Rights Violations

A report detailing human rights violations by the junta was released for the ongoing 49th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council. With its release, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said “the international community must take concerted, immediate measures to stem the spiral of violence in Myanmar, where the military has engaged in systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses – some of which may account to war crimes and crimes against humanity”. 

Business Matters

  • Rumors off Counterfeit Myanmar Kyat Banknotes Circulated 

Rumors of fake Myanmar Kyat banknotes have intensified over last week. Facebook pages announcing the sale of fake bank notes were established in late 2021, however their presence is widely reported by unreliable social media accounts and pages over the past few weeks. On March 16, SAC’s Central Bank of Myanmar had rejected the presence of counterfeit notes in circulation. Investigations from Mizzima media shows pro-junta social media accounts are spreading fear of fake bank notes and accusing NUG and NLD of co-conspiring with the Karen National Union (KNU) to debase Myanmar economy. The KNU spokesperson denied these allegations in Mizzima interview.

  • International flights to Resume in April

Beginning mid-April, international flights will be allowed to resume operation in Myanmar, after 2 years of disruptions since COVID-19 outbreak. While this will create more convenience in commute, the tourism sector is not optimistic for attracting international tourists due to ongoing turmoil and conflict. Currently, tripadvisor groups and foreign countries such as the USA, designated Myanmar as a dangerous place to travel. In the interview with BBC Burmese, tour operators say even domestic travels are barely operational with general economic downturn and conflicts severely hampering the sector.

  • Foodpanda Faces Strike by Delivery Riders and Customers

German-owned food delivery company Foodpanda is facing strikes by its delivery riders over unjustified fees-cut. The riders claim that the company refuses to resolve their grievances and any complaints are faced with termination. The public later joined the strike by not using Foodpanda’s services after unrepentant explanation from the company and blatant display of power in an attempt to hire new riders to replace those on strike.

  • First Batch of Myanmar Migrant Workers to Officially Enter Thailand

First batch of legally contracted foreign workers from Myanmar to Thailand is to be released next month, employment agencies confirmed. The Thailand employers have demand for over 10,000 Myanmar workers and this first batch will cover 2,000. With political and economic turbulence, Myanmar workers have been trying to illegally enter Thailand in the past few months with arrests being reported frequently. Employment agencies said the slow regulatory process from the Myanmar side is shutting doors for legal employment.

  • Garment Factories Shut Down Due to Blackouts

Labour groups estimate that at least 20 garment factories in Yangon have already shut down in March due to electricity blackouts. There are no official statistics from the junta’s ministry in charge, and the numbers are just what the activists have witnessed, according to VOA. The same labor group, based on data from garment factory owners’ association, claims that over 200 garment factories have closed over 2021. This comes at a huge blow for the economy and poor people, with a mid-size garment employing around 500 people and large factories each hiring a few thousands.

  • Telenor Sale Finalized

Sale of Norwegian-owned telecom Telenor was approved by the junta on March 18. The authorization has been applied for months amidst widespread criticisms of handing user data to the junta by the activists.

  • Vice Coup Leader Soe Win Expected GDP Growth in Five Years’ Time

Junta’s top deputy Vice Senior General Soe Win said average GDP growth of 4.3% was planned for the next 5 years. He was speaking as Deputy Chairman of National Planning Commission and mentioned about the importance of attracting FDIs, political stability and other aspects, all of which are criticized as unrealistic (e.g. all FDIs are rushing to leave the country with no new ones coming in) and foreshadowing junta’s intention of ruling the country indefinitely by observers.

Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM)

  • KNU Orders non-CDM Civil Servants Working for SAC to leave Kawkareik

Karen National Union (KNU) brigade 6, Dupalaya district, issued a letter that asks non-CDM civil servants working for the military to leave their jobs in Kawkareik township and return to their hometowns. It says those who fail to do so will bear the consequences of their inactions. The clashes between the juntas’s forces and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) have been intense since March 18-19 leaving more than 20,000 people to be displaced.

  • CDM Doctors Continued to be Oppressed in Mandalay

In Mandalay, at least 15 doctor’s medical licenses have been revoked by the junta for joining the civil disobedience movement since last year’s February. The military pressures private medical facilities, clinics and hospitals not to hire CDM doctors or else they will be punished. More than 10 CDM medical doctors have also been detained in Mandalay, and many are under the military’s surveillance and manhunt. 

  • A Soldier from Border Guard Forces (BGF) Joins CDM

KNU Brigade-5 announced a member of BGF named Saw Maw Wah joined KNU with full weapons and ammunition on March 17. The reasons for leaving BGF were his disgust over having to fight his own Karen people and having to kill innocent civilians.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Over 1000 Kanpetlet Residents on the Run from the Skirmishes

The fighting between the military troops and Kanpetlet-Chinland Defense Force has intensified in southern Chin State’s Kanpetlet Township between March 10-17, causing over 1,000 residents from 10 villages in the area to have fled into the forests nearby. A resident told RFA Burmese that many displaced residents were facing food shortages while on the run, and with the ongoing clashes and heavy artillery shells dropping in the villages, many were unable to go back to their village to collect more as well. Since the military coup last year, nearly 100,000 people from Chin State have been displaced, a social welfare worker told RFA Burmese.

  • Nearly 200,000 Refugees in Karenni State, KCSN says

The Karenni Civil Society Network (KCSN) announced on March 16 that the number of people displaced by fighting between the military troops and Karenni armed groups in Karenni State has reached nearly 200,000 now. KCSN Deputy Resident Officer U Ruby told RFA Burmese that most of the people were displaced due to the airstrikes by the military troops.

Attacks on Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Aung Ban Min Aung Hlaing Ended-up Dead

Military loyalist who went by the name of Aung Ban Min Aung Hlaing from Aung Ban Township of Shan State was found dead in the evening of March 13. Aung Ban Min Aung Hlaing @ Dalan Mg Kyaw was walking home when he was shot by unknown gunmen and killed on the spot.

  • Home Wrecker Got Whacked in Mandalay

Moot Tar, a member of Pyu Saw Htee/military informer from Pyigyitakon Township, Mandalay was shot five times and killed on the morning of March 14. Moot Tar was reportedly threatening squatters in Zee Oak Quarter to either participate in pro-military protests or face their homes removed the day before his last day on earth as a dalan. Mandalay Youth Special Forces (MYSF) claimed responsibility of the attack. 

  • Ward Administrator Narrowly Escaped Death

A hundred household ward administrator U Maung Thein from Inndakaw Township, Bago Region faced an attempt on his life and survived. The incident took place on the morning of March 14 when unknown gunmen entered his teashop in Kyauktan Village which was the meeting spot for members of military’s proxy party Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), opening fire on him but somehow the bullet got jammed. Another try only managed to injure the man and he was admitted to the hospital afterwards.

  • Fate Eventually Sealed for Shwe Tun

Notorious dalan Shwe Tun from Htaukkyant Township, Yangon was found dead on March 16. Pro-resistance activists had tried to get rid of the man for a long time since he had put many people in trouble due to his connections with the junta’s forces. And eventually on the evening of the day of the incident, he was shot six times in the head while driving in Htautkyaunt Township.

  • Couple Killed for Tangling with the Junta

Dead bodies of a man and a woman were found on the side of the road in Dagon Seikkan Township, Yangon on the morning of March 18. They were later identified as Wai Phyo and his wife, military informers and very close acquaintances of ward administration office from Dagon Seikkan Township. The ward administrator immediately arrived at the scene and vowed to seek revenge for his former lackeys. According to the local sources, the couple was responsible for at least four deaths including Mg Nyein Chan who were brought to the administration office and tortured to death during interrogation.

  • Midnight Investigators Targeted in Hlaing Thayar

Staff of ward administration office from Hlaing Thayar Township, Yangon were attacked with a bomb blast as they were gathering to conduct midnight investigation in the neighborhood around 10pm on March 19. At least three people were severely injured according to Black Eagle Ranger (BER) who coordinated the attack along with Yangon Underground Force (YUF).

Arbitrary Arrests, Killing & Violence

  • Mother Sent to Jail in Place of PDF Son in Mandalay

In Mandalay’s Chanayetharzan Township, Daw Nilar was abducted on March 2 because the junta’s forces could not locate her son Ko Wai Yan Soe who had been accused as a PDF member. She was also arrested for the same reason in February but released a day later after questioning. This time, Daw Nilar was not shown any mercy by the junta and she has been said to be detained in Oh Pho Prison now.

  • Reporter Re-arrested in Hlegu

Freelance reporter Ko Soe Yar Zar Tun was arrested again on February 28, according to his family. He was initially detained during a coverage of a protest in March 2021, he was charged with Sedition Act 505 (A) and freed in June. Since the release, Ko Soe Yar Zar Tun had been staying away from home to avoid another detention, seeking sanctuary in Hlegu Township. However, he has gotten arrested again due to a military informer and has been reportedly detained in Hlegu Police Station. 

  • Mg Wathan from Thaketa Killed in Interrogation

Five youths including Mg Wathan were violently beaten and arrested on the evening of March 11 in their own apartment in Thaketa Township. Four were released two days later with tortured wounds all over their bodies: however, 32-year-old Mg Wathan was said to be killed while under interrogation. The victim was originally from Hainggyikyun Island, Ayeyarwady Region and he had been supporting his family by working in Yangon.

  • Soldiers Looted and Arrested the House of Eight in Bahan

Around noon on March 13, seven military vans full of soldiers stormed into Ko Soe Yar Zar’s neighborhood in Bahan Township, Yangon, before opening fire and abducting everyone in his house. The detainees were Ko Soe Yar Zar who was severely wounded, Ma Win Win Latt, Ma Thin Thin Shein, Mg Naing Moe Aung, Ma Ei Thazin Moe, Ma May Myat Noe Aung, Ma Yamin Pa Pa and Daw Su Su. According to local sources, the victims were accused of being members of PDF and their properties including cash and gold were also stolen during the raid.

  • Three Underage-girls Detained for Staging Peaceful Protest in downtown Yangon

A guerrilla protest staged by youths in Mingala Taungnyunt Township, Yangon was cracked down on the evening of March 14. Just five minutes into the action, about ten soldiers dressed in plain clothes dispersed the strike by violently beating up the participants, arresting three girls and injuring another five who narrowly escaped arrest.

  • Dagon University’s Students Slapped with Death Penalty

On March 17, the military court has sentenced 15 youths to the highest sentences. Among them included Ma Saung Lay Pyay @ Zu Zu and Ko Naing Aung @ Snake from Dagon University. Chemistry major’s student Zu Zu was given a death penalty while Myanmarmu major’s student Snake was slapped with life sentence. Since the coup, at least 90 university students from Yangon have been charged and sentenced with prison terms and 30 are from Dagon University.

  • Dead Bodies of PDF Left to Rot in urban Mandalay

Two PDF members on a motorbike transporting explosives faced an unfortunate death on March 14 as those bombs on board blasted accidently and killed them in the process near Mandalay’s Theikpan Street and 78 Street. The junta’s forces inspected the bodies but refused to pick up and even blocked the social welfare groups to clean up and cremate the corpses so that they can use those as baits to lure in other resistance soldiers. The bodies remained on the streets for two days before eventually put away.

  • Shoot-out in Kalay Prison Killed Eight Political Prisoners

The regime’s forces reportedly opened fire on prisoners of conscience in Kalay Prison, Sagaing Region on the evening of March 15, killing at least eight and injuring seventeen. SAC released a distorted statement that the prisoners had attempted to break prison by holding an authority as hostage and hence its forces had to resort to force. However, local reports described that the political prisoners were simply attempting to protest as they were extremely oppressed by those in power. Only six of the dead have been identified so far and they are Van Dame, a member of Chin National Organization (CNO), Myo Min Tun, Win Ko Naing, Mg Nyi, Chan Min Ko, Tu Khine and Nyunt Win Aung.

Armed Resistance

  • NUG Said 40 Soldiers of the Junta Killed in Naungcho

NUG released a statement on March 14 that two-day encounter between SAC’s soldiers and people’s resistance forces in Naungcho, Shan State on March 13 & 14 saw at least 40 deaths from the junta’s side and 15 more were injured. NUG also said that there were no casualties on the people’s forces in the battle in which SAC’s forces utilized two military choppers and dropped at least 30 bombs from the sky.

  • Dozens Killed as the Regime’s Navy Ships Attacked

On March 14, two navy ships cruising along the river of Ayeyarwady were attacked near Katha Town, Sagaing Region with electric free-flight rockets and resulted in at least 30 deaths according to Kathar PDF. Five were also injured and admitted into Katha Hospital.

  • Sniper Took Out Six Soldiers in Demoso

The junta’s troops that were camping in Ohkuyee Village, Demoso Township of Karenni (Kayah) State met with a coordinated attack by NUG’s Central Military Quarter’s Special Sniper Force and Loikaw PDF’s Sniper Force on March 17. Six soldiers including a captain were killed and the dead bodies were airlifted.

  • Pyu Saw Htee Faced Heavy Defeat in its stronghold Mingin

A fight broke out between people’s resistance forces and military-sponsored armed thug group Pyu Saw Htee in Mingin Township, Sagaing Region on March 15. The 4-hour-long battle near Kyway Village resulted in the deaths of five Pyu Saw Htee members and two dalans including a woman named Daw KK who had invited the military to hold ground in the village. Shortly afterwards, PDFs had to retreat from the battlefield as more troops from SAC arrived as reinforcement.  

  • Military Covoy Detonated with Landmines in Kyaukhtu

Local resistance forces in Magway Region detonated SAC’s 90-vehicle military convoy near Kyaukhtu Town on March 17, killing eight soldiers and injuring three. The convoy was on its way from Pakokku to Chin State’s Matupi for reinforcement. Despite the attack, the junta’s forces managed to continue the trip and arrived at Kyauthtu in the same evening. In preparing the attack, three PDF members were killed accidentally as they rushed to complete the set up before the convoy arrived.

  • SAC Fired towards Religious Event and Killed Civilians in Mon State

SAC’s troops fired heavy artillery towards a religious celebration at a pagoda in Kyaunttaung Village of Thaton Township, Mon State. The incident killed three civilians including a child and two women and wounded at least seven according to Thaton People’s Defense Force (TPDF).

  • Scandal in Sagaing- A Mole Detected among Local PDFs

Armed Resistance in Sagaing Region has been nothing less than impressive but not without any controversy. A total of 63 local resistance forces have signed and released a statement that says Yinmabin PDF (YMB PDF) has been responsible for the killings of 21 fellow resistance soldiers in the name of cleansing Dalans in the region during the period of October 27 to March 2. YMB PDF’s leader Bo Thanmadi, a monk-turned-soldier has also confessed the crimes of his followers and promised to accept the decision from NUG. NUG has formed a committee led by the Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Defence Nai Kaung Ywut to investigate the scandal in Sagaing.

Socio-political Issues

  • Power Outages Hurts Livelihoods of Blue-collar Workers

In Yangon’s industry zones, many factory workers suffer from low-paying wages and short working hours due to power outages plus increasingly high living costs. Many factories are reduced to rely on generators and some have reduced working hours due to the cost.Workers no longer ask for their rights and improvement of working conditions due to fears of job insecurity. Now the SAC made an agreement to supply the electricity to the industry zone from 9am to 5pm.

  • Junta Evicted Civilians near Police Station in Pyin Oo Lwin

Junta has threatened the shop owners near the police station and the sport stadium in Pyin Oo Lwin to leave their shops by the end of March. The shop owners said they have been paying 20,000 MMK ( 10-12 USD) a month to the police station for more than 10 years.  They bought the stalls from the contractors for 150 Lakh MMK (8500 USD), with the contract that says they will own the shops as long as the police station lasts, says one of the shop owners. Now, all the 162 shops were ordered to be removed.

  • French Embassy Condemned SAC for Vandalizing Mural

The French Embassy in Myanmar has condemned the junta’s destruction of public murals on Yangon’s Myaynigone flyover on March 17 that were the result of an artistic collaboration between the embassy and the democratically elected civilian government back in 2016.

COVID-19

  • Junta Claims Myanmar has Developed a COVID-19 Vaccine with China’s Help

The State Administration Council announced that a COVID-19 vaccine called Myancopharm will be produced with Chinese help, the state-owned newspaper Mirror reported on March 14. According to the report, the drug was developed in collaboration with China’s Sinopharm CNBG Pharmaceutical Plant in July, 2021 and that it would come in bottles containing five doses. The report did not specify when the vaccine rolled out.

  • Omicron Variant Infection on the Rise in Conflict-ridden Karenni State’s Demoso

Highly infectious Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus has been spreading fast in Karenni State’s Demoso Township where tens of thousands of civilians have been fleeing their homes due to ongoing intense attacks by the regime’s military, according to on-ground health workers. Omicron cases reported to have been spreading throughout the township for over a month, several local humanitarian groups informed Myanmar Now, with one social-welfare worker estimated that at least half of the residents in displacement camps have caught the virus.

Others

  • Reports of Fake Banknotes on the Rise Among the Public

A growing number of posts documenting counterfeit 5,000 MMK and 10,000 MMK banknotes have appeared on social media in recent weeks, revealing that fake banknotes have been included in public cash transactions. Facebook users complained about fake banknotes and said the dye from the counterfeits could be washed off by holding it under running water.

  • List of Social Media Pages Monitored by the Junta Revealed

In the leaked audio tape of Minister for Home Affairs Soe Htut (mentioned in the first section), he also listed the names of social media pages that SAC had been monitoring. The list of pages included General Strike Committee Board (GSCB), DVB, Mizzima TV, Khit Thit Media, Ayarwaddy Times, Mekong News, NUG, NUG’s Deputy Minister Nai Htoo Aung, Dr Tay Zar San, Moe Thway, Ma Shwe Moe and Myo Yan Naung Thein.

References: Irrawaddy, RFA Burmese, Khit Thit Media, BBC Burmese, Mizzima News, Myanmar Now, DVB News

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