Weekly Update: 007

Folks, the past week has been eventful: from ASEAN Envoy’s visit to the junta’s arrest party. Read all about it in our weekly update below.

Internal Politics

  • Junta’s Arrest Party on Its Own Kind

On the night of March 21, the State Administration Council (SAC) arrested a crony businessman U Khin Shwe and his son Zay Thiha of ZayKabar Company. The father and son were charged under the Protection and Preservation of Ancient Buildings Law. Some staff members from ZayKabar Museum, owned by the crony, were also detained and questioned for a few hours, but later released. On March 23, junta arrested Minister of Commerce for the Yangon Region U Aung Than Oo, and Yangon Mayor U Bo Htay. The Commerce Minister was arrested for granting land at Thamada Beach in Dala Township to former general Hla Htay Win and family while Yangon Mayor was detained for being a complicit in the case.

  • NLD said ASEAN Envoy’s Visit Failed

U Aung Kyi Nyunt, one of the top leaders of NLD who is not under arrest, said that ASEAN Envoy Prak Sokhonn’s visit was a failure since he did not succeed in meeting all the respective stakeholders during the visit. We reported last week that former first lady Daw Su Su Lwin was one of the people to meet with the envoy but eventually the meeting did not happen. On the other hand, 88 Generation U Ko Ko Gyi met the envoy, representing his political party People’s Party despite it failing to win a single seat in 2020 General Election.

  • Junta Passed New Bill to Assign Police for Military Services

Min Aung Hlaing signed and amended the Article 18, Section 9 of Myanmar Police Force Law, which now allows the police forces to get involved in defense and security affairs of the state. On the Internet page of Myanmar Police Force, its duties are limited to enforcing rule of law, building peaceful communities, and preventing drug use, but not defense services. This new amendment could mean that due to the proliferation of attacks by guerrilla fighters as well as defecting soldiers, the military regime is running short of soldiers.

  • NUG requested an informal meeting with Arakan Army (AA)

NUG’s Alliance Relation Committee said that the parallel government has requested an informal meeting with the Arakan Army on March 24. Chair of the committee Daw Zin Mar Aung said that the meeting was requested to discuss trust-building and cooperation with the ethnic armed group, as well as about anti-military coup efforts. So far, the AA has not responded to NUG’s request.

International Affairs

  • ASEAN Envoy Admits Myanmar in Turmoil

ASEAN Envoy to Myanmar visited the country for three days and admitted that the Myanmar issue is complicated and would take a long time to resolve. During the visit he met with the junta Min Aung Hlaing, his cabinet members and others handpicked by the junta to meet, and none from his opposition. While there were allegations that Daw Su Su Lwin, the first lady of NLD-appointed President Htin Kyaw, and herself a prominent NLD member, was to meet the special envoy, later she declined citing poor health. The special envoy admitted that he did not make a direct request to Min Aung Hlaing to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as such request caused the junta to deny visit to the previous envoy. While disclosing his urging towards the junta to show restraints, the special envoy bemoans that neither the junta nor the people in Myanmar is willing to dialogue and the crisis will not be solved during Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship, and thus during his Special Envoy tenure.

  • US Recognized the Rohingya Genocide

U.S. Foreign Secretary Anthony Blinken remarked that the atrocities committed by Myanmar military on the Rohingya people amounts to genocide. He was making the remark during the visit to Holocaust Memorial Museum and that many of the military leaders who oversaw the genocidal campaign against Rohingya, including the general who led it, were also involved in abuses committed against other ethnic and religious minority groups, and these are the same military leaders who overthrew Myanmar’s democratically elected government last year and repeat similar tactics across the country.

  • US and Singapore to Discuss Myanmar Crisis

U.S. President Joe Biden will welcome Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on coming Tuesday; one of the key the agendas to be discussed is the crisis in Myanmar; other issues such as upholding freedom of the seas, supply chain resiliency and fight against climate change are also expected to be in the discussions.

  • More US Sanctions on the Junta and its Kins

The U.S. government poses further sanctions on the junta, his aids and those with strong economic ties. In the latest round this week, two generals and three businessmen were added to the list. Brigadier General Ko Ko Oo and General Zaw Hein are commanders of military regions and Naing Htut Aung (International Gateways Group of Company Limited), Aung Hlaing Oo (Myanmar Chemical & Machinery) and Sitt Taing Aung (a known defense contractor) and their companies were all put under sanction. Htoo Group of Companies and Asia Green Development Bank, both owned by Tay Za, allegedly favored crony during General Than Shwe’s dictatorship, were also put under sanction.

  • SAC Discussed Tourism Sector Promotion with Russia

Russian-Myanmar tourism promotion was discussed between SAC’s Minister of Hotels and Tourism and a Russian delegation led by Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) and composed of Russian officials and private sector lobbyists. The announcement includes discussion on topics such as arranging flights, public-private partnerships, memorandum of understanding (MOU) signing, and accommodating tourists from both sides. EAEU is a Russian-led economic union of post-Soviet states and comprised of pro-Russian states.

  • The Eurasian Economic Union Discussed Collaboration with the Junta’s Minister

The EAEU delegation met with junta’s Minister of Foreign Economic Relations Aung Naing Oo and Myanmar industrialists. Aung Naing Oo claims that a key milestone for long-term collaboration has been established between the two partners and priority sectors for improving business ties will be selected.

Business Matters

  • Telenor Myanmar Sale Finalized

The sale of Telenor Myanmar telecom was finalized and the transfer towards Investcom, a partnership owned by Shwe Byain Phyu, a local company with military ties and a Lebanese M1 Group, was completed. The sale was not completed without further controversy as the news of Khin Thiri Thet Mon, daughter of junta Min Aung Hlaing, owning a significant share in Shwe Byain Phyu surfaced after the sale was finalized.

  • FoodPanda Riders Continued to Strike

Local media report that over 7,000 FoodPanda riders are still on strike, after failure to reach agreement between the German-owned food delivery company and the riders. While the company announced the settlement has been reached, those on strike announced that the will of the majority of riders are not met. The labour strike met with public outcry last week after junta’s police took the records of the riders staging strike.

  • Golden City Announced the Intent to Divest

Emerging Towns and Cities (ETC), a Singapore-based investment holding company and a major developer behind a mega-real estate project in Yangon named Golden City, announced intent to divest from the project. The real estate project has been under fire since the coup due to its development on military-owned lands. The documents ETC files towards Singapore Stock Exchange indicates that the company has been talking to investors and consultants to divest the investment in Myanmar via the sales of its entire shareholding, and that interests for such sale is minimal and any proceed from sales could be minimal due to animosity from various countries towards investment in Myanmar.

  • Junta’s Spokesperson Addresses Nationwide Blackouts, Counterfeit Bills

The military council held a press conference on March 24 in Naypyidaw, during which its spokesperson Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun commented on the nationwide blackouts and on rumors concerning counterfeit banknotes. On the nationwide electricity cuts, Zaw Min Tun said the blackouts in large urban areas are likely to continue until the end of May. He said “by around May”, the military council will be able to “distribute more electricity” to households and “reduce ” power outages. Currently, the regime was reportedly trying to secure energy input from different sources such as purchasing 120MW from 120MW from Tarping (1) Hydropower Project, and to incorporate 220MW of electricity from Baluchaung Hydropower Project to the national power grid as well as “pushing” for the resumption of liquefied natural gas projects and solar power by helping with the “necessary tasks” though he didn’t specify what those tasks are. On the topics of counterfeit banknotes circulating in the market, Zaw Min Tun assured that people can trust the current banknotes and there had been seven arrests conducted by the officials to seize the people who had been selling counterfeit notes online. Central Bank of Myanmar figures show that there were 19 seizures of counterfeit notes in the 2019-20 financial year, six in 2020-2021, and 25 in 2021-2022, according to him.

  • Import Spending to be Reduced

SAC’s Secretary General Aung Lynn Dwe claims that the need for import spending will be reduced with the local manufacturing of Myancopharm, a COVID vaccine developed with technology transfer from Sinopharm. However, the people are afraid that this would lead to further restriction on importation of essential medicines and related products.

Social Affairs & Civil Disobedience Movement

  • Military and Lackeys Made Business out of Forced Evictions 

Victims of forced evictions in Hlaingtharyar, Yangon, told Khit Thit media that their homes that they were forced to move out in January are now on sale. Earlier in January, more than 200 houses were forcibly removed by the military together with military-appointed ward administrators and staff of the Development Affairs Organization (DAO). Now the victims saw the land, where their former homes once stood, are being sold by the same people who accused them of being squatters. They said they already have smart cards since 2009 that can prove they are residents of the lands.

  • Residents in Pyay Forcibly Removed by Military 

In Pyay township, including homes in Tharay-Khit-taya ancient cities and some suburban towns and villages in the township are told to remove them if they fall within 75 feet from the highway. These houses include residents who have the property ownership papers and some squatters. One of the victims told Voice of Myanmar that if the owners do not remove or destroy their homes, the military men bulldoze the houses. As usual, there is no compensation or relocation for the people.

  • Home of CDM Lawyer Burnt to Ashes in Shwebo 

According to the Tachileik news agency, the home of a CDM lawyer at Thattharpan ward of Shwebo town, previously sealed off, was burned down to ashes around 2:30pm on March 26. The junta forces came to search and arrest the CDM lawyer last month, however, they sealed off the house when they couldn’t find him at home.

  • CDM Participants of Thanlyin Oil Refinery Ordered out of Staff Housing

Some 500 CDM participants and family members were given a written notice to leave from the staff housing by April 8. More than 120 households are forced out of homes, and 39 of them have no financial means to rent places. If they do not leave by 8th of April, the military said they will use force.

  • Defectors on the rise with the news of asylum from Australia 

According to DVB news, soldiers who joined CDM reached 40 within three days of the news that Australia is granting asylum to CDM soldiers. 

  • Myanmar Spring Revolution Raised 34,000 USD in New York

Myanmar American Humanitarian Aid Association and New York City Burmese Community led a fourth fundraising campaign and raised 34,000 USD by selling Burmese food, handicrafts and arts at the St.James Episcopal Church on March 26. The funds raised will go to areas that are urgently in need of support. This event was attended by Burmese UN representative U Kyaw Moe Htun and other famous poets and artists.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • About 3,700 People Flee Homes in KNU Brigade 3 Territory in Bago Region after Junta Airstrikes

About 3,700 people from 17 villages in Kyaukkyi and Sawhti townships in Karen National Union Brigade 3 territory in Bago Region fled their homes after junta airstrikes at 2am on March 19, the KNU said. Two bombs each were dropped on Kwee Lar village in Kyaukkyi Township and Taketpu village in Sawhti Township. There were no reports of civilian casualties but villagers in fear for their safety fled their homes to seek refuge in nearby forests and were likely to face difficulty with their livelihoods.

  • Over 30 IDPs Arrested While Sheltering at Monastery

About 30 men were arrested when junta forces raided a monastery sheltering displaced people in Sagaing Region’s Yinmabin Township overnight on March 21, resistance fighters said. The IDPs at the monastery were reported to have fled Ywar Htaung and Lay villages about 3pm on the same day after raids by junta forces, said Ko Khant, a member of the North Yamar People’s Defence Force-Yinmabin said.

  • Number of IDPs in Myanmar Reach 899,000

Including the over 300,000 people displaced prior to the military coup last year and over 500,000 people displaced after the coup due to escalating violence across Myanmar have caused the total number of displaced/refugees to be 889,900 now, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on March 23. The latest report said the most displacement occurred in the northwestern region that includes Chin State and Sagaing and Magway regions with over 270,000 displaced and more than 31,00 of them had also fled to India.

  • Kawkareik IDPs Increase to Over a Thousand in a Month

More than 10,000 people from 21 villages in Kawkareik Township, Kayin State have been fleeing from the intensifying clashes since early March, the residents said. With the ongoing clashes between the regime troops and KNU troops since early March, the IDPs had not been able to set up camps and had to flee to nearby villages, and if the fights reached the village people were taking refuge, they had to pack up and flee again, one resident told RFA Burmese. The most displacements were reportedly from Ywar Tan Shay, An Ma Kyi and Ka Toe Hta villages with approximately 11,977 from the entire Kawkareik Township currently displaced.

  • Over 7000 Residents Flee Fighting in Sagaing Region’s Mingin Township

More than 7,000 residents from Kyaw village and nearby villages in Sagaing Region’s Mingin Township had fled their homes after the fighting between the regime troops and local resistance forces erupted near Kalaywa-Yar Gyi road on March 23, a spokesperson from Taungdwingyi-PDF said. The fighting had forced residents from a total of eight villages to flee into the forests nearby, an aid worker who has been helping the residents also confirmed to RFA Burmese.

 Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Biggest Dalan of Pindaya Found Dead

Moe Myint Thu, a member of Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) from Pindaya Township of Shan State, was reported to be shot and killed on the evening of March 21. The 40-year-old man was a reserved candidate of USDP during the 2020 election and known as the biggest dalan in the township – dozens of pro-resistance people were arrested because of him. He became the fifth military informer killed in Pindaya.

  • Military Doctor Killed during Blast in Sagaing

A private car carrying the regime’s medical doctor/Captain and a Corporal was blasted with a landmine attack in Tigyaint Township of Sagaing Region around 8pm on March 21, killing both on board. The doctor who was identified as Captain Win Thwin Soe from Defense Service Medical Academy Batch 15 died on the spot and the other corporal passed away at hospital. More explosives blasted when the regime’s forces arrived for help and at least six were injured, said Special 9 Guerrilla Force.

  • Pyu Saw Htee Leader Sent Back to Hell

In Yela Village, Pakokku Township of Magway Region, Sein Htay, a leader of military-sponsored thug group Pyu Saw Htee, was shot and killed inside a local market on March 23. Sein Htay was armed by the regime’s forces and he made living by torturing and blackmailing innocent civilians in his village. Pakokku People’s Defense Force (PPDF) claimed responsibility of his death.

  • Lawyer in Mandalay Shot Dead for Distorting

In Kume Town of Myittha Township, Mandalay Region, a female lawyer named Daw Theingi Nyunt was shot and killed on the morning of March 23. The local PDF that carried out the plot said that the lawyer was found distorting family members of those charged with Sedition Act 505 A and forcing them to pay her outrageous fees.

  • Various Locations Blasted in Yangon

On the evening of March 25 and the morning of March 26, Special Task Agency of Burma (STA) set three of the junta’s affiliated businesses’ properties on fire in Yangon. Those were Denko Petrol’s North Dagon outlet on Pinlon Road, KBZ ATM on Pyidaungsu Road, North Dagon and Myatmyittarmon Gas Station in Insein’s Ywarma Neighborhood. There were reportedly some firings but no civilian was harmed.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killing & Violence

  • Nattalin PDF Couple Gave-up Arms, 20-related People Detained

A husband and a wife, members of a local resistance force in Zee Gone Township of Bago Region came forward to the regime’s forces and gave up their arms on March 12. Consequently, more than 20 people from the resistance movement close to them were arrested in the following days. The man had taken a military training previously and they both were responsible for food supply in the camp. They were assumed to be under pressure from family and eventually ended up siding with the regime according to a Bago PDF.

  • Chair of Social Welfare Group from Kawmhu Killed during Raid

SAC’s soldiers raided Arr Mhan Social Welfare Group operating inside a monastery in Kawmhu Township of Yangon on the early morning of March 20, opening fires and killing the chair Ko Thant Zin Aung who attempted to run. The raid was reportedly taken place under suspicion that members of PDFs were hiding in the compound, which turned out to be false. The regime’s forces told the abbot that Ko Thant Zin Aung slipped on his own and passed away with a wound on his head but the dead body was taken with them. Two brothers of the dead victim were also abducted for undisclosed reasons.

  • Social Worker Denied Medical Treatment and Died under Detention in Mon State

Following a shootout that took place in Wal Paung Village, Ye Township of Mon State, the junta’s forces abducted two civilians from the neighborhood on March 18. Ko Aung Khant Hein, one of the detainees, was shot and wounded during arrest. He was denied a medical treatment and two days later passed away with wounds in interrogation. Ko Kaung Khant Hein was a former student of Technical University (Mawlamyine).

  • Two Journalists Jailed

 Ko Aung Zaw Zaw, 25-year-old part-time video editor from Mandalay Free Press who was arrested in January and charged with Sedition Act 505 A was sentenced to two years imprisonment by Kantbalu Court of Sagaing Region on March 23. Similarly, Myanmar Thandawsint’s Pathein-based reporter Ko Ye Yint Tun who was also charged with 505A was sentenced to two-year prison time within the same week. Ko Ye Yint Tun has been under detention since last year’s February.

  • 30 IDPs Detained in Yinmabin

Over 30 people who were taking sanctuary at a local monastery in Yinmabin Township, Sagaing Region were accused of being PDF members and abducted by the junta’s forces on March 21. The detainees were among those fleeing from 150-household Ywar Htaung and Lay villages as about 100 soldiers marched into the area. All 30 people were male and included elderlies as well.

  • IDPs Attacked & Child Killed in Ye-U

The regime’s forces fired heavy artillery towards IDPs in Htan Be Hla Village, Ye-U Township of Sagaing Region on the morning of March 22, injuring many and killing one child. The victims were fleeing from their homes as they heard the news of SAC’s soldiers marching towards the village, however, still met with the tragedy when their temporary haven was hit with heavy weaponry. Following the incident, at least ten men were also detained and tortured. Eight were later released but two named Ko Aung Phyo Tun who was wounded in the arm and U Sein Cho were taken with them.

  • Six Youths Abducted for Helping IDPs in Taunggyi

Ar Yu Pah La Blood Donation Group members such as Ko Min Min Tun, Ko Zwe, Ma Lin Lat Khine, Ma Htet Htet and two more were detained in Shan State’s Hsi Hseng on their way back from donating to IDPs in Karenni (Kayah) State. All of them were reportedly taken to the military compound in Taunggyi where three men have been beaten and tortured. No family members have been allowed meet them yet.

  • Five Burned Bodies Found in Kantbalu

 Ywar Thit Villagers from Kantbalu Township, Sagaing Region had to run for their lives when SAC’s soldiers stormed into their village on March 24. However, they were blocked in all directions on their way out and about 80 villagers were detained. The forces did not release them and leave the area until three days later on March 27. The villagers found 30 destroyed houses and five dead bodies that were burned as they returned to the village. The victims have not been identified as of reporting this.

  • Mandalay’s Protester/Activist Detained

Ko Philip, a peaceful protester from Mandalay was reportedly detained by the junta’s troops on the afternoon of March 27. Mandalay Strike Committee released the news and warned people close to him to stay vigilant and avoid picking up SAC’s distorted phone calls in relation to him.

Armed Resistance

  • Five PDFs Killed in Gantgaw

A battle that broke out on March 20 between the regime’s forces and PDFs near Ngan Khar Village, Gantgaw Township in Magway Region killed at least five PDF soldiers and injured four. The battle lasted three hours in which the junta’s side deployed 200 troops and utilized heavy weaponry and snipers. Four dead victims were 30-year-olds and the other one was in his 20s.

  • KNLA Occupied SAC’s Station in Myawaddy

Karen National Union (KNU) announced that its military arm Karen Nationality Liberation Army (KNLA) conducted a successful offensive against SAC’s soldiers and managed to occupy an outpost in Mawkhee Village of Myawaddy Township on the evening of March 21. The battle started early in the morning and lasted until 5pm. The outpost was manned by 28 SAC’s soldiers, one was killed during clash, one was kept captive while the rest fled away. The victory was even sweeter when KNU added it also seized various types of weaponry and bullets.

  • KNU Bans Use of Kawkareit-Myawaddy Road

KNU released a statement on March 26 that people must avoid using Kawkareit-Myawaddy route and Myawady-Wawlay route on Asia Main Road commencing March 27. KNU cited the SAC’s reinforcement in Kawkareit and Laykaykaw areas as the reason for the ban since such actions could potentially ignite clashes between two. KNU added that the order shall be obeyed until further notice and that it understood the struggle of the people without the access to the road, but also urged that people must realize the SAC’s strategies to take advantage of their needs during hard times. On the very first day of the ban, a battle broke out on the road near Taw Naw Waterfall and two trucks were set on fire.

  • SAC Drops Air Bombs in Karen State

On the Armed Forces Day on March 27, SAC’s troops carried out airstrikes towards an old high school and villages under KNU’s Mutraw District. KNU reported multiple houses were destroyed but no casualties were verified so far. 

  • Clashes Continued on the Border of Chin & Magway

Regime’ soldiers and people’s resistance forces have been in a headlock on the Chin-Magway border townships Laungshe and Kyaukhtu since March 20. It was ignited when local PDFs coordinated a landmine attack on the junta’s military convoy on March 20 where at least five soldiers were estimated to be killed. Again on March 23, firings between two counterparts were witnessed near Chin State’s Mindat and Katpetlet Towns. A shootout on Kapetlet Town on March 26 saw one death from SAC’s troops.

  • Nine Soldiers Killed in Tigyaing

At least nine of the junta’ soldiers were killed during blasts on March 26 in Sagaing’s Tigyaing Township. Early morning on that day, seven soldiers arrived at Kokhokone Inspection Gate and opened fire on what seemed like a bomb, triggering explosion and killing two of their own. More troops arrived at the scene for investigation, ended up on a landmine and seven more were killed.

Others

  • Insein Prison Violates Human Rights Once Again

Myanmar Now media reported that, according to a leaked letter from Insein prison through a trusted source, prison guards threaten to leak photos from inmates’ cells and sleeping chambers. In females’ wards, CCTVs are installed in sleeping chambers, shower areas and bathrooms which make it uncomfortable for the inmates. In addition, since March 9, electricity cus were imposed every night, two inmates were chosen and ordered to shout “All sleeping chambers are safe” until the morning. When the chosen inmates were no longer able to shout, the guards would blame that power cuts were imposed because people’s defense forces (PDFs) dynamited the power grid, which was false information. In the 22-line, wrinkled sheet of letter, the inmate wrote that the deputy warden of Insein prison ordered thugs inside the prison to beat up political prisoners that he doesn’t like. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have been urged by various local organization to conduct investigation inside prisons of Myanmar.

  • Bretford Football Club Honored Myanmar’s Comics on Strike

A young comedy group called Ha Ngar Kg (5 comedians in Burmese) were sent a signed football shirt from English Premier League Club Brentford as a tribute towards their efforts during the spring revolution.  Brentford is the only football club that has stood with Myanmar people since day one of the revolution. Ha Ngar Kg members such as Tine Kyaw, Poe Lay, Toe Kyaw, Wine Kyaw and Pyi Kyaw have taken refuge in an ethnic liberation area and consistently shown defiance against the regime.

  • Education Being Used as Propaganda for SAC, says Associate Professor of Yangon University

A total of more than 300,000 people, including more than 200,000 students, are expected to sit the matriculation exams that begin on March 31, show figures from the Department of Myanmar Examinations. Nearly one million people sat the exams in previous years and the decline this year is due to the number of teachers who have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement and the number of students who are boycotting the junta’s education system. A CDM headmaster at Thekkala town in Bago Region’s Kawa Township said the education system was being used as propaganda for the junta’s administration, referencing the pre-test for the exam circulating online last week. A question in the pre-test showed how the junta is trying to use education for propaganda. The question asked students to write an essay about the benefits of watching [military-run] Myawaddy TV.

Reference: Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now, DVB, The Irrawaddy, Mizzima News, BBC Burmese, Voice of Myanmar, Eleven Media.

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