Weekly Update: 016

Hi folks, 

It’s time for yet another weekly update of what’s happening in Myanmar. No surprises here: civilians’ lives still being shattered, dalans refusing to quit and SAC’s atrocities continued but it’s crucial to keep reminding the junta that its crimes are being recorded and seen by the world. And who knows justice might just be found at the end of the tunnel. Here’s a series of highlights of the week:  

Internal Politics

New Mon State Party asked the coup leader for a new constitution 
Update on Min Aung Hlaing’s peace dialogues, New Mon State Party (NMSP) met with the coup leader on May 23 in Naypyidaw, which marked the second ethnic armed organization (EAO) to meet with the military. In an interview with RFA Burmese, NMSP’s spokesperson Nai Aung Ma Ngae said that the party requested the junta to write a new federal constitution during the meeting, and he promised he would. 

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s family filed a complaint at a UN body for the arbitrary arrest
On behalf of the family members of the state counselor, two lawyers filed a complaint at the UN Working Group for Arbitrary Detention. The file mentioned that the current situation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention is a ‘judicial kidnapping’ with no legal basis, and that it is a kidnapping disguised as a trial. She is currently detained at an unknown place in Naypyidaw, is disconnected from the world, and shows up at the junta’s makeshift courtroom for fortnight hearings. The Lady is turning 77 on June 19. 

Bureau of Special Investigation made up corruption charges against civilian leaders
Junta’s Minister for Home Affairs Soe Htut ordered two officials from the Bureau of Special Investigation to build up fraud cases against the detained civilian leaders U Win Myint and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. According to Khit Thit media’s exposé, the junta’s minister gave the order only after the arbitrary arrests on February 1, 2021, and the order was received and implemented by two directors from the special investigation bureau: U Soe Naung Oo and U Maung Maung Myint. The pair made up corruption cases against the civilian leaders.

Corruption charges were opened against NLD’s Yangon Region cabinet members
Junta’s anti-corruption commission opened a lawsuit against some of Yangon Region cabinet members on May 26 with the accusation of committing corruption in leasing the state-owned land plot for Yangon Petro. The administration members who face corruption charges are NLD’s Minister for Forest and Energy U Han Tun, Yangon Mayor U Maung Maung Soe, Yangon Deputy Mayor U Soe Lwin, Secretary of the YCDC Daw Hlaing Maw Oo, and co-secretary U Than. Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein, who testified against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi last year, was excluded from the charges.

UNSC members met with some EAOs
With the arrangement of the Norway Mission, some ethnic armed groups (EAOs) had a meeting with the United Nations Security Council on May 25 according to the statement made by the Kachin Alliance. The ethnic groups discussed the need to sanction the regime’s oil and gas sector which remains the main source of foreign currency, to hold a dialogue with all EAOs and the UNSC, and to distribute humanitarian aid to people in need via border areas. 

Veterans received call-back orders
The military regime issued an internal directive which called back all veterans to service according to the document leaked by Khit Thit media on May 28. The justification for the call-back is that the threat of the Western influence looms, and the country’s nationalistic identities including the religion is at danger, hence, the veterans are contacted and asked to join the service again. Three forces are categorized depending on the age of veterans: under 50s, between 50 and 60, and between 60 and 65. According to an anonymous veteran who talked to Khit Thit media, they are not allowed to refuse the call-back except for health problems, that each veteran will be working at his respective neighborhood, and that they will be armed with live ammunition. 

International Affairs

UNSC divided over a condemnation statement on Myanmar
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) failed to agree on a statement aimed at pushing junta Min Aung Hlaing to take steps towards a peaceful solution to the country’s ongoing crisis. The disagreement was between the UK, who drafted the text, and China, as the two countries blamed each other for the failure of negotiations over the statement. The original text proposed that the UNSC expressed deep concern over “limited progress” in implementing ASEAN five-point consensus on ending the crisis, after more than a year since consensus, where China preferred a softer tone on the statement. The UNSC meeting, ASEAN envoy for Myanmar, Mr. Sokhonn Prak and the UN envoy to Myanmar, Ms. Noeleen Heyzer provided an update on the situation.

US Special Envoy to Myanmar Ms. Noeleen Heyzer discloses about her invitation to visit Myanmar by junta Min Aung Hlaing 
While she has plans to visit in the future she queries the view of Cambodian Prime Minister and ASEAN Chair Mr. Hun Sen. News outlets described that while she has been given approval for visit, there remains doubts over whom she will be allowed to meet. The UN is insisting that she is to be able to meet with all concerning stakeholders, not just the generals and their appointees. The two met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum (May 22-26) in Davos, Switzerland and Hun Sen claims that Cambodia remains committed to assisting Myanmar in finding a permanent solution to ending the ongoing crisis and providing humanitarian assistance to those in need as well as spurring a dialogue between all parties to the conflict. (However, in the latest development of this news, CNA’s Myanmar Correspondent Leong Wai Kit verified that Dr Heyzer was quoting Min Aung Hlaing from his speech made in February where he made the public invitation to the envoy). 
 
NUG minister said diplomatic front is important, but the revolution is paramount
In May, we witnessed the NUG’s ministers traveling and meeting international actors: Foreign Minister Daw Zin Mar Aung in the US, and currently Ministry of Health Dr. Zaw Wai Soe in the UK. NUG’s Minister for Human Rights Dr. Aung Myo Min claims diplomatic front is an essential area in combating the junta who is brutally slaughtering the citizens across the country and to pave ways for a federal democratic country of the future. However, he also admitted that the people’s revolution still commands the most importance.
 
Business matters

US$-MMK exchange rate reached an 8 months high 
While the junta’s central bank of Myanmar (CBM) declared an official rate of MMK1,850 to US$1, the market rate reached MMK2,090 for US$1 over last week. The traders complain that it remains very difficult to buy US$ despite high rates. This is the highest since late September when the exchange rate suddenly dropped around MMK2,700 for US$1. However, compared to the sudden increase and equally sudden drop of Sept 2021, the increase this time has been consistent, relatively gradual and shows no sign of drop, which could have severe and prolonged effects on the essential imports such as medicine and fuel. Poor, oppressive and senseless measures by CBM and overall junta’s administration, SAC, have consistently weakened the economy and increased poverty. 

Fuel-shortage returns this week 
Gas stations in major cities return to limiting sales of fuels. Drivers in Yangon and Mandalay complain of long queues and hunting for gasoline posing challenges to mobility and trade. Despite assurance by Myanmar Petroleum Trade Association of having enough gasoline in the market and more imports incoming, the fuel remains scarce in the retail markets. 
 
Humanitarian Affairs

IDPs along Moei River suffered from floods and landslides
According to relief workers, more than a thousand villagers displaced by clashes in Karen State are facing extreme hardship due to recent flooding along the Moei River, Myanmar Now reported on May 26. The person in charge of the Palawtapo IDP camp in southern Myawaddy Township said two days of heavy rain late last week caused water levels to rise, sweeping away many temporary shelters and triggered a number of landslides near the river. As a result, there is a desperate need for food and other basic supplies, including firewood, raincoats, and cooking utensils.

14.4 million of 54 million People in Myanmar need humanitarian assistance: OCHA Myanmar
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA Myanmar) reported on May 24 that about 14.4 million people in Myanmar are in need of humanitarian assistance. The statement said half of Myanmar’s population, 25 million people out of 54 million, were already living in poverty. OCHA Myanmar said it planned to provide assistance to 6.2 million people in need through the United Nations Humanitarian Program.

Nearly 10,000 civilians flee Junta’s raids in Sagaing
Since May 25, nearly 10,000 civilians from 19 villages from Sagaing Region’s Salingyi and Yinmabin townships have reportedly fled their homes amid raids by junta forces. The displacement began when the junta soldiers raided Aung Chan Thar, Mya Yeik and Htan Taw Gyi villages in Yinmabin Township and torched civilian houses on May 25. The next morning, more than 80 junta soldiers stationed in Yinmabin Township advanced towards Salingyi Township and torched War Tan village.

Attacks on Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

Ward administrator killed at home in Minbu Town, Magway Region
Notorious military informer/ward administrator Sein Thaung was shot four times and killed in Minbu Town of Magway Region on May 22. He was widely recognized as the State Administration Council (SAC)’s the most reliable administrator in the region as he organized pro-military protests, and groomed new Pyu Saw Htee members. M.S-PDF claimed responsibility for the attack.

Seven policemen ambushed, three killed in Yesagyo Tsp, Magway Region
Around 10am on May 23, seven policemen on a shopping mission were attacked by combined resistance forces in Yesagyo Township, Magway. Police were from Myaytaw Police Station of Myaytaw village. Three were killed instantly and two were wounded severely while a few weapons were also seized. Bagan-Nyaung Oo PDF, MGN-Tiger, YSO.ISA and Black Wolf PDF-MDY coordinated the attack.

Ward administrator killed at home in Dagon Tsp, Yangon
U Khin Mg Than, the ward administrator of North Dagon Township, Yangon, was reportedly shot and killed on the morning of May 24.Civil Guerrilla Force – Ygn and Southern Division – PDF coordinated the attack and claimed that U Khin Mg Than was corrupt, profiting off people’s misery by collaborating with the military’s forces and blackmailing the public in the area.
 
Two killed during attack in Mandalay
An assault inside a liquor store was reported in Mahaaungmyay Township of Mandaly on May 28, during which two persons were said to be killed. One of them was Yan Naing Kyaw, a well-known military informer while the true identity of the other victim U Aung Kyaw Moe is yet to be verified. His wife claimed that U Aung Kyaw Moe was just a carpenter who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.  
 
Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

Telephone service & internet cut off in Sagaing Region
As the regime’s forces have reportedly entered multiple villages in Sagaing Region with excessive forces, all communication channels from the area such as telephone lines and internet networks have been cut off since May 24. At least nine townships such as Khin-U, Mingin, Monywa, Ye-U, Kyunhla, Yinmabin, Pale, Kani, Kantbalu, Kawlin and Myinmu have experienced the suspension and more townships are set to follow suit according to local PDFs.  

Former boxing champion of Chin State shot and killed
Ko Hein Htike Zaw @ Har Shane Omm, former Chin national boxer was reportedly shot and killed on his way home in Mindat Township, Chin State on May 25. Locals said that the boxer was surrounded in his house as he came back to Pyay Village and attempted to jump out of window to escape arrest. However, he was hurt in the foot before being shot to death by the junta’s soldiers.  

Engineering student given life imprisonment in Yangon
Ko Htet Myat Naing, a third-year student of Yangon Technical University, was sentenced to life by the junta’s court on May 18. He was detained on March 2, 2022, charged for associating with PDF, and given the harsh verdict almost three months later, according to the family.  Ko Htet Myat Naing is known as a brilliant student who had passed the matriculation exam in 2017 with distinction in all subjects.
 
Six civilians used as human shields by SAC’s forces found dead in Myaing Tsp, Magway Region
Six dead bodies were found near Myaing Town, Magway Region on May 26. They were later identified as some of the 40 civilians taken as human shields by SAC’s forces on May 23. As they fear detonation attacks by local PDF, the junta’s forces tend to bring civilians as hostages during their march and these six were among those. Each victim reportedly had two bullets in their head and seemed to be shot and killed from close range.
 
Three civilians including a mother killed by SAC’s artillery in Kalay Tsp, Sagaing Region
On the evening of May 28, an artillery shell fell on civilians’ homes right behind a hospital, killing three civilians on the spot in Tarhan Ward of Kalay Town, Sagaing Region. The victims were a young mother with a six-month-old child, and two internally displaced persons (IDPs). The young mother was called MC Vanlalawmpuii (Puipui).
 
Employees of Chinese Copper Mining Company murdered by SAC’s forces in Sagaing Region
Two bodies were found murdered in Yinmabin Township of Sagaing Region and they were later identified as employees of Chinese Copper Mining Company Yangtse Copper Ltd based in the area. The deceased were named Ko Kyaw Nyein and Ko Chit Thein Zaw, both of whom were reportedly abducted on May 25. Both victims were found with a series of injuries that suggested that they were tortured by the troops before eventually being killed.
 
Armed Resistance

Clashes reported in Ann Tsp, Rakhine State
On the late evening of May 22, people witnessed back and forth firing between the regime’s forces and the Arakan Army (AA) in Ann Township, Rakhine State. Locals said heavy artillery and gunshots were fired by both counterparts during the clash. Also on May 26, clashes were between the same parties were reported in Paletwa Township, Chin State. Above 20 artillery shots were heard in Pe Chaung Village Tract, according to witnesses.

Rift among PDFs in Mandalay and Sagaing regions
Reports came up that five members of Myin-chan based Chaung O PDF from the Mandalay Region have been detained by Chaung Oo PDF from Sagaing Region on May 25 and there was fear of disharmony among local PDFs. Later, it was verified that said members had committed theft and robberies on civilians in Myaung and Chaung Oo townships in Sagaing Region, and hence they were detained to face such crimes. NUG has ordered that those detainees be kept properly and given a chance of a proper trial.

Members of urban guerilla forces abducted in Mandalay
MDY Revolution Force shared the news that a few members of Mandalay urban guerilla forces such as Yatanabon Phoenix Guerilla Force – YPGF were detained by SAC on May 25 and May 26. YPGF was an active group that had conducted multiple attacks on the junta’s lackeys and properties. People close to detained members have been warned to stay vigilant. In the same region, Sintkine PDF announced that they would have to leave town temporarily due to the arrest of eleven rangers including its leader along with various weapons.

50 regime soldiers killed in clashes over two days in Sagaing Region
Local PDFs claimed that they had killed over 50 soldiers of the junta during attacks last week. The military’s forces were ambushed by local resistance forces near Gon Nhyin Seik Village in Myinmu Township and two were killed. Nine more died due to a detonation attack on the same day. During the same period, Chaung Oo PDF also said that they had killed 41 soldiers of the junta in Chaung Oo Township.
 
BGF retreated after warning from KNLA in Bilin Tsp, Mon State
Junta’s alliance Border Guard Forces (BGF) reportedly left Laykay Station in Bilin Township, Mon State during the third week of May following a warning from Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO).  KNDO has issued a stern warning that the junta’s forces must leave Laykay Station and Wintarpan Station since April and BGF has now retreated from Laykay Station in which only the regime soldiers reportedly remain.
 
Others

U Zaw Htay, former spokesperson of NLD government passed away
U Zaw Htay, prominent spokesperson of USDP-led government and NLD-led government during 2011 to 2020, passed away in his Nay Pyi Taw home on the morning of May 23 due to heart failure. The 48-year-old man last served as the director-general of the Ministry of the State Counsellor office until the coup. Although he had been a strong supporter of the military previously, he refused to serve under the State Administration Council (SAC) and was detained for a brief period. U Zaw Htay was widely criticized for his cover-up of the military’s genocide of Rohingya people in 2017.

More than a dozen Rohingya died as boat capsized off Coast
A boat carrying at least 90 Rohingya from Rakhine State to Malaysia capsized and sank in the Bay of Bengal during a storm, killing more than a dozen people, including women and children on May 21, RFA Burmese reported. The passengers reportedly paid US$ 1,500-2,5000 each to traffickers to take them to Malaysia where they hoped to find employment. Out of the 90, more than 50 passengers were still reported to be missing, and about 20 survivors had been detained by local authorities in Ayeyarwady Region’s Shwe Thaung Yan Township.

16 private schools banned in Nay Pyi Taw
The Department of Basic Education announced that 16 private schools in Nay Pyi Taw must be shut down due to political involvement, Eleven Media reported on May 26. The closure of private schools included Maha Pyinnyar from Zabuthiri Township, CAE from Oatta Thiri Township and Pyinnyar Lwin private schools which are very popular with the students and parents.

Narcotics use on the rise among youths in Kachin State following Coup
In the 16 months since the military coup, the sale and usage of illegal narcotics by young people have significantly increased in Kachin State, according to residents and anti-drug activists. The activists said at least two of every five men in all 18 townships of the state, which is home to about 1.7 million people (as of the last national census in 2014), consume illicit drugs, mainly heroin from opium. According to the most recent figures from the Myanmar Police Force’s Central Committee for Drug Abuse Control, there were 11 cases of drug trafficking in Kachin in March 2022 and drugs worth 900 million kyats were seized.

Sources: Khit Thit Media, Mizzima, DVB, The Irrawaddy, Myanmar Now, RFA Burmese, Bangkok Post, Eleven Media, Chindwin News Agency, Burma VJ, People’s Spring

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