Folks, here’s the weekly update by our team to fill you in with what’s STILL happening in Myanmar. The week was eventful: from the detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s current update in solitary confinement to the International Court of Justice’s ruling to proceed with the genocide case.
- Daw Aung San Suu Kyi experienced extreme weather in solitary confinement
Myanmar Now reported on July 22 that the 77-year-old leader has been suffering extreme weather and temperature in Naypyidaw prison. A trusted source told Myanmar Now that the prison building where the Lady is kept is exposed to heavy wind and severe temperature. Another source said that the leader, much loved by the public, gets visibly thinner than before within one month of solitary confinement. Initially, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was placed in an unknown location in Naypyidaw with her family members, but moved to solitary confinement in Naypyidaw prison on June 22.
- KNU distanced itself from formation of new Karen armed group, Kawthoolei Army
On July 16, Saw Nedah Mya, former commander of Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO), signed and formed a new Karen armed group “Kawthoolei Army”, stating that the new army was formed due to the requirement of Karen’s resistance. Saw Nedah Mya told Karen Information Center (KIC) that the formation of Kawthoolei Army did not mean that he was neither opposing the parent organization Karen National Union (KNU) or the Karen public. However, on July 20, KNU denounced the formation of a new armed group, and disassociated itself from the Kawthoolei Army. In KNU’s statement, Saw Nedah Mya was suspended from his position as the commander of KNDO last year as an investigation was in progress for the extrajudicial killing committed by KNDO under his command, and eventually dismissed from the position permanently in January 20200 due to his failure to cooperate in the investigation process as a leader. The statement also claimed that the son of former KNU leader Saw Bo Mya violated rules and regulations of the Defense department, and failed to follow military commands while he was under the KNU’s leadership. KNU concluded that the actions of Saw Nedah Mya and his Kawthoolei Army are no longer “relevant” to the armed group.
- Ko Jimmy and Zeyar Thaw received family visit for the first time
RFA Burmese reported that the two resistance leaders were visited by their families in the evening of July 22 in Insein prison. This marked the first time the pair received a family visit since their arrest last year. Sources from Insein prison told RFA that the visit was conducted via videoconferencing, and they were allowed to receive food items that the family delivered. In early June, junta’s spokesperson General Zaw Min Tun said that the pair, who received death penalty, would be eventually executed. However, the military received harsh criticism from the UN, ASEAN and international community for the statement.
- ICJ ruled to proceed Gambia v Myanmar genocide case
On July 22, judges of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) voted to proceed with the court case of Myanmar’s genocide against the Rohingya community. The case was submitted by Gambia in 2019 to the ICJ, and the preliminary hearings were held in December 2019 and March 2022. For the first hearing in 2019, the detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi represented the state, defending the Myanmar military at the world court for which she received harsh criticism. For the second hearing in March 2022, the junta’s legal team presented the objections that Gambia does not have a standing to press charges, and the ICJ has no jurisdiction to move forward with the case. This week, the international court rejected junta’s objections, and voted to proceed with the case. It means that Myanmar will now face years-long legal battle, in addition to its downward spiral to a failed state.
- Japan invited the junta to funeral service of the late Shinzo Abe, angered Myanmar public
Human Rights Watch (HRW)’s official Teppei Kasai broke the news on July 22 that Japan Ministry of Foreigh Affairs invited the junta to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s state funeral which is scheduled to be held on September 27, 2022. The human rights advocate wrote that the Japanese government “paved the way” for the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing to “possibly visit Japan” by extending the invitation. Netizens wrote that Japan’s invitation to the junta is an insult to Myanmar people who have been defying military rule.
- Special Envoy said ASEAN will not put its unity at risk for Myanmar
Speaking at a webinar hosted by Singapore’s ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar and Cambodia foreign minister Prak Sakhonn reassured that the unity of ASEAN will not be risked while the 10-member bloc attempts to help resolve Myanmar’s political turmoil. While Malaysia has shown tremendous support to the parallel government National Unity Government (NUG), the border-sharing Thailand government has “downplayed and obfuscated the scale of the atrocity crimes and humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Myanmar” according to an opinion piece in the Diplomat this week. Oftentimes, ASEAN with its non-interference policy receives harsh criticisms for being soft on the Myanmar junta, but the special envoy said that he had opened a new space for dialogue after two visits to Myanmar.
- TotalEnergies left the Yadana oil field for good
On July 21, TotalEnergies announced a complete pullout from Myanmar which was effective on July 20, 2022 citing that the company can no longer provide positive contributions in Myanmar. The parallel government NUG, the public at large, and diasporic groups have been calling for the energy company to stop the revenues going to the military through the state-owned company Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprises (MOGE) from the Yadana field production, in which TotalEnergies owns 31.4% stake. Total’s operation will now be taken over by the US’s Chevron and Thailand’s PTTEP.
- Junta-administered CBM forcibly converted civilians’ owned foreign currencies into Kyats
Junta-controlled Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) instructed local banks to convert all the remaining US dollar balances in banks owned by businesses, organizations and individuals to Myanmar kyats by 6pm of July 22. The conversion rate as instructed by the CBM was MMK1850 which was far lower than the market rate where USD 1 was equivalent to MMK2300. Almost all businesses registered at the Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration (DICA) were affected by this order. Later in the day, DVB News reported that the junta appointed six lieutenant generals to the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) on June 6. It is no surprise that such directions were imposed after the appointment of generals with limited knowledge in the nation’s financial institution.
- World Bank speculated 3% growth in Myanmar’s economy, yet 40% of the population remains below the poverty line
According to the Myanmar Economic Monitor released on July 21, 2022, the World Bank estimated that Myanmar’s economy will witness 3% growth despite the 18% contraction last year. The report said that the country’s economy faced both ‘external and internal disruption’ resulting in weak economic activities with the absence of substantial rebound in growth. The report further elaborated that livelihoods will continue to be severely strained, and about 40% of the population is living below the national poverty line in 2022.
Protests & Civil Disobedience Movement
- Martyrs’ Day protest in Myanmar
On July 19, protests of various forms took place to commemorate the Martyrs’ Day when the leaders of the independence movement of Burma were assassinated in 1947. Small scale protests and anti-coup campaigns were observant from the north to south such as Kalay, Sarlingyi, Myaung, Myaing, Ayadaw, Palae, Letpadaung, Kani, Pakokkum Butalin, Mattayar, Monywa, Taze, Myitkyina, Hpakant, Maymyo, West Bank of Chindwin river, Yesagyo, Kanpauk, Kyarinseikkyi, Shwebo, Khin U, Thayetchaung, Yangon and Mandalay. These were organized by student unions, women groups, NLD members, village members, PDF members and other anti-coup activists.
- Protest in Japan for the Japanese government to support the people of Myanmar
On July 24, Myanmar citizens from eight big cities in Japan organized a protest to call for demands from the Japanese government. Myanmar citizens from Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Shizuoka, Okayama, Fukuoka, Hokkaido and Okinawa joined these protests taking place at the same time.The protest demands are to stop official development assistance to the military, to recognize and cooperate with the National Unity Government (NUG), to listen to the voices of Myanmar people and not to cooperate or recognize the genocial military junta. Fundraising activities were also held.
- Defections from military and police force in Chin and Karen states
This week, Khit Thit media reported that a total of seven soldiers and police have defected their posts from Kanpelet, Mindat, Matupi of Chin State and joined Chin Defense Force-Matupi and Karen National Union (KNU). Those who had fled their posts and joined CDM with weapons were also given monetary rewards. In Chin State’s Matupi town, a soldier had joined CDM with his wife.
Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties
- Military captain and wife shot dead in Yangon
On July 18, military captain Aung Naing Phyo and his wife Ma Ju Ju Aung were reportedly shot and killed in Hlaing Township, Yangon. The couple was in their car when the gunmen attacked them in the morning. The captain was killed on the spot while the wife passed away at the hospital. Anonymous Urban Guerrillas claimed the responsibility.
- Ward administrator and follower killed in Hlaingthayar, Yangon
On the evening of July 18 around 9.30pm, a ward administrator and his follower were said to be killed in Hlaingthayar Township, Yangon. They were identified as No (6) ward administrator Kyaw Soe Tun and his lapdog Phoe Htoo. Following the incident, security was extremely enhanced by the junta’s forces. Around 11 pm on the same night, a motorbike was shot down by the soldiers for “suspicion” and one of those civilians on board was reportedly killed.
- Cooperative dept officer shot dead in Mattaya Tsp, Mandalay
On the morning of July 21, a cooperative department officer from Mattaya Township, Mandalay Region was reportedly shot dead in his office. The township-level officer U Thaung Kyaing was in his office when two unknown gunmen put two bullets in his head. He was killed on the spot.
- PTTEP office targeted in Yangon
Thailand-based petroleum exploration and production company PTTEP made the news this week as a minor explosion occurred in the car parking of its Yangon office in Mayangone Township on July 22. The incident did not result in any casualties although police and regime soldiers were witnessed blocking the roads and inspecting the passersby. PTTEP has been heavily criticized for coordinating with the junta in many investments; it has recently purchased all the shares of French company TOTAL who is set to leave the Myanmar economy.
Arbitrary arrests, killings & violence
- Two political prisoners requesting to pay respect to martyrs, beaten brutally in Insein Prison
On July 17, two young detainees formally requested authorities from Insein Prison that they wanted to pay homage on martyrs day which was on July 19. There was no immediate response; however, a few hours later, those two were taken to a separate room and got beaten brutally. One of them was hurt terribly and even feared for death. The victims have not been identified yet but they were said to be friends of All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU).
- Underage students abducted in Pyay, Bago Region
At least four young students were reportedly detained by the junta’s forces in Pyay City of Bago Region on the evening of July 19. They are all aged fifteen and said to be abducted for taking classes at outlawed Kaung for You Education, the alternative digital education solution for the junta’s schools. The detainees are now being interrogated inside the military compound and not allowed to talk to their families. Last week, at least 15 teachers including its founder were reportedly arrested by the junta. This week has seen young students being targeted.
- Nine people sentenced to three years in prison for associating with AA in Kyaukphyu, Rakhine
On July 21, a tribunal from Kyautphyu Township of Rakhine State sentenced nine civilians to three years each in prison for associating with the Arakan Army (AA). They have been charged with the counterterrorism act 52 (A) and facing trial since August 2020. Last week, two civilians from Sittwe were sentenced also to the same act. So far, about 32 people have been imprisoned for associating with AA while 40 more are facing trial.
- American citizen under detention of SAC
According to a spokesperson from the U.S. Embassy, an American citizen has been under detention of the State Administration Council (SAC) and they are trying their best to secure his release. The identity of the detainee was not disclosed. He was said to be detained in Naypyitaw Prison for about a year before he was sentenced to seven years in prison for an unidentified case and transferred to Yamethin Prison last week.
- Twenty dead and burned bodies of civilians found in Kantbalu Tsp, Sagaing Region
Above twenty dead bodies of civilians who were beaten, tortured, killed and burned by Min Aung Hlaing’s soldiers were found in Kyisu Village, Kantbalu Township of Sagaing Region this week. On July 18, we learned that the junta’s forces conducted airstrikes on the village and set the households on fire on two days straight afterward. So far, twenty dead bodies were found and seventy more were said to be missing. Kyisu Village houses Islamic people mostly, the soldiers reportedly burned down at least 500 houses, two mosques, and religious schools.
- Four-day battle killed two dozen regime soldiers in Thandaung, Karen State
According to Northern Thandaung Force (NTDF), clashes took place between the regime soldiers and NTDF in a span of four days from July 15 to July 18 in Thandaung Township, Karen State. At least five encounters occurred during the period and resulted in the deaths of at least 25 military soldiers. The defeated forces of SAC reportedly retaliated by picking on the civilians, robbing and thieving on the people’s properties in nearby villages. NTDF spokesperson also added that it was only NTDF that attacked the junta in those areas but a number of people are using and profiting from the battle news on social media.
- Police station targeted in Sarlingyi Tsp, Sagaing Region
On the evening of July 19, a coalition of resistance forces led by Brother Defense Force mounted an assault on the police station of Sarlingyi Township, Sagaing Region. It was called a tribute to martyr’s day as heavy artillery was shot at those soldiers guarding the station from two locations. Ambulances were witnessed going inside the compound, but no exact casualties were known. This was the third attack on the station since early June because police in the region were oppressing the civilians along with military soldiers.
- Maingchaung battle cost both sides in Phaungpyin Tsp, Sagaing Region
A clash between the regime soldiers and local resistance forces took place in Maingchaung Area, Pyaungpyi Township of Sagaing Region on July 22 and it reportedly resulted in several casualties from both sides. It was started when the military column of the junta attempted to enter the villages in Phaungpyin Township and the people’s forces put a collective effort to defend the territory. The junta’s forces shelled artillery and killed at least eight resistance rangers. About six to eight soldiers from SAC were also said to be killed in the battle. In the ground clearance mission, the resistance soldiers found the leftover drugs used by the junta’s soldiers.
- Five-day of airstrikes reported in Yaw Area, Gantgaw Tsp, Magway Reigon
Civilians and PDFs from Yaw Area, Gantgaw Township of Magway Region have called for attention as the junta’s forces have been conducting airstrikes on their villages since martyr’s day on July 19, and yet there was no media coverage. Townships from Magway such as Gantgaw, Htilin, Kyauthtu, Kyaw, Saw have been cut off from internet access for nine months now and people from those areas have been attacked by the excessive forces of the junta both on the ground and on air without much help from outside their region.
- Safehouse in North Dagon raided by regime soldiers
On the afternoon of July 24, a shootout was witnessed in North Dagon Township, Yangon. It was later reported to be a raid of the junta’s forces on the safe house where young members of urban guerilla forces were residing. Multiple gunshots were heard by the neighbors from 3pm to 6pm. According to the unverified sources, two members inside the house were killed and two others (one of them were terribly wounded) were abducted by SAC’s soldiers.
- Torture and human rights violations in Thayarwaddy and Dawei prisons
Political prisoners are facing serious human rights violations in the prisons. In Thayarwaddy prison, prison guards have repeatedly beat the political prisoners daily and the prisoners were forced to endure various forms of torture such as having to squat in uncomfortable positions for hours, having to wear iron chains at feet and being held in narrow solitary confinement.Even though they were tortured, they were given no medical treatment.
- Monsoon season sports events were held in schools under NUG
In Sagaing’s Yinmarbin town and Magway’s Myaing town, monsoon season sports events were held under the guidance of the National Unity Government (NUG) this week. In Myaing, some schools under the NUG held sports events to commemorate 75th Martyrs’ Day.
- In Karen State’s Thandaung town, schools under NUG are in need of school supplies
Schools which are under the National Unity Government (NUG) are in need of school supplies for about 400 students according to CDM teachers. Currently, there are eight schools in eight different villages with students from kindergarten to grade-11. All the teachers have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) since last year.
Source: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit media, Irrawaddy, RFA Burmese, KNU headquarters, DVB News, Burma VJ, People’s Spring, Reuters, Straits Times, Diplomat, World Bank Myanmar Economic Monitor