Weekly Update: 042

Internal Politics

  • Junta’s courtroom sentenced 7 university students to death

On November 30, the regime sentenced seven university students to death in closed trials by a court martial. Dagon University students Khant Zin Win, Thura Maung Maung, Zaw Lin Naing, Thiha Htet Zaw, Hein Htet, Thet Paing Oo, and Khant Linn Maung Maung were detained in April this year for allegedly involved in the shooting of Saw Moe Win, a former military officer/branch manage of Global Treasure Bank. Dagon University Students’ Union confirmed the death sentence for the students and denounced the verdict as “an act of vengeance” by the military. The Students’ Union statement also emphasized the failure in the country’s judicial system.

  • An informal ceasefire between the AA and the military 

During a press conference held on November 28, the Arakan Army (AA)’s spokesperson Khaing Thu Kha told the media that the ethnic armed group had agreed on a temporary ceasefire with the military which was effective starting November 24. The informal truce was facilitated by Yohei Sasakawa, chairperson of the Nippon Foundation. The spokesperson emphasized that the ceasefire is only temporary as the AA prioritized the publican’s well-being and that the AA’s political goal which is for the Arakanese Sovereignty remains unchanged. According to Myanmar Now’s report on December 3, security has been tightened on both sides in Ponnagyun and Sittwe townships despite the ceasefire. 

  • U Tun Tun Hein, NLD’s top leader, received 20 additional years of imprisonment

U Tun Tun Hein, deputy speaker of the lower house and central executive committee member of the NLD, received additional 20 years of imprisonment for alleged high treason in the junta’s special court in Lashio Prison. He has already received 24 years of jail time for incitement and has been placed in Shan State’s prison. The 73-year-old has a history of having strokes twice, and his family members worry about inadequate medical care inside the prison. U Tun Tun Hein is still facing one more charge which is related to alleged electoral fraud.

  • The unlawful killing of a military informant in Tamu polarized the public opinion

A video leaked on social media showed a group of resistance fighters killing an informant publicly in Tamu Township of Sagaing Region. In the video, the alleged resistance fighters tortured and killed a civilian woman while they called her “a military informant”. While some netizens condemned the unlawful killing of an informant, some also pointed out that throughout the armed resistance, military informants have caused deaths and displacements of several civilians. A few also raised questions about the source of the video which was first shared on a Facebook page which posted military propaganda. Despite the polarization of opinions on social media, the civilian-elected National Unity Government (NUG) announced that an investigation will be conducted into the incident. 

International Affairs

  • ASEAN Special Envoy cancelled his third trip to Myanmar

According to Myanmar Now’s report on December 1, Cambodian foreign minister Prak Sakhonn cancelled his third trip to Myanmar on November 29-30 due to conflicting schedules as it coincided with ASEAN-EU Summit. The trip was initially announced in the special envoy’s statement which was issued to welcome the regime’s mass amnesty in mid-November. 

  • Russia’s military delegation visited the junta chief in Naypyidaw

Colonel-General Kim Alexey Rostislavovich, first deputy commander of Russian Ground Forces, visited the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw on Tuesday. The Russian delegation, comprised of a dozen of military officials, discussed “cooperation in defence and counterterrorism between the two militaries” which, they announced, would contribute to “regional and global peace”. 

  • UNHCR Chief shocked by the death sentences in junta’s courts

On December 2, UNHCR Chief Volker Türk expressed shock that more than 130 people have been on death row by secretive court-martials in Myanmar since the coup. The press statement was announced after the news of seven university students. He claimed that imposing the death penalty on dissidents confirmed the regime’s disdain for the efforts of the ASEAN and the international community. He also called on the military to stop the death sentences. 

Business Matters

  • Yoma Bank working with the junta’s Mytel network operator

According to Justice for Myanmar (JFM), Yoma Bank is providing banking services to Telecom International Myanmar Company Limited, the operator of the Myanmar military’s Mytel cell phone network. The activist group said that Yoma Bank, which is affiliated with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC), held more than US$10 million in a US dollar account for Telecom International Myanmar as of March 2022. Telecom International is a joint venture of the junta’s conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC).

  • World Cup jerseys and oppressed Myanmar garment workers

During the Qatar World Coup, the New York Times reported that Myanmar garment workers who made football jerseys of big brands such as Nike and Adidas which cost about $90 to $150 were paid only 4,800 kyats, or $2.27, per day. According to the report, about 7,800 workers at the Pou Chen Group factory in Yangon’s Shwepyitha Township made these jerseys for the world-famous Adidas brand. The Myanmar garment workers have long grappled with poor working conditions and wages, and whose troubles have been exacerbated by the pandemic and the coup. Now, with the biggest sporting event in the world underway, efforts by some labourers to improve their working conditions have been met with harsh resistance and punishment.

  • Chinese-owned clothing factory in Pathein to close down 

On December 3, Myanmar All Rich Garment Co., Ltd., a Chinese-owned clothing factory in Pathein, announced its closure for two months beginning December 25. The workers were informed about this matter on December 1, and Pathein residents said that workers’ livelihoods will be affected due to the shutdown. 

  • Around 200 workers of the Shwepyitha clothing factory were laid off

On November 29, around two hundred factory workers at the Yangon Fukuyama Apparel (YFA) clothing factory in Shwepyitha Township were fired without being given any reason. The factory asked all workers to sign a form on November 29, and the next day, workers were not allowed to enter the factory.

  • Livestock breeders responded to SAC’s extension of COVID-19 loan repayment period

Livestock breeders responded that there was no significant impact from the State Administration Council (SAC)’s announcement of one-year extension for COVID-19 loan repayment. During the civilian-elected NLD government era, NLD established COVID-19 funding from the government’s finances and established COVID-19 rehabilitation committee. However, after the military coup, SAC established a new committee with its own people. Starting from November 16th 2021, SAC started providing loans to 325 livestock businesses for a total value of 7.6 billion Myanmar Kyats (MMK) with 1% interest rate for one-year payable period. Fish and shrimp livestock breeders responded to the news that there is no significant change with SAC’s announcement although repayment period extension is good for businesses taking loans from SAC.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • 100 house from Yangon’s Mayangone Township demolished by the junta

About 30 soldiers, police and municipal workers bulldozed about 100 houses in the No.1 Ward in Yangon Region’s Mayangone Township where more than 300 people live on November 30. The residents said that the junta-appointed acting administrator of Mayangone Township issued an order to vacate the area in November. According to one resident, about 30 regime forces came to the ward around 6:00 am on the morning of November 30 and told the people to vacate the area by 8:00 am. He said that the thugs in blue clothing also accompanied them, and people had to stay in the football field and on the street while they were bulldozing the houses. The residents reportedly have been living there since 1982 and have never been regarded as squatters nor been told to vacate before. The data compiled by RFA Burmese said more than 10,000 houses and shops were demolished  in November for encroaching on military and government-owned land in Yangon and Mandalay regions

  • Humanitarian aid is still restricted in Rakhine State

The junta council still restricted humanitarian aid after a 24-hour ceasefire was agreed upon between the military and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State on November 26, organisations which deliver aid to refugee camps said. The junta had restricted delivering and providing humanitarian aid from organisations to refugee camps from August when there was intense fighting in the state. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on November 23 that the number of townships in Rakhine State where a travel ban has been imposed on the staff of domestic and foreign non-government organisations has been increased to eight. UNOCHA said the ban had been extended to Pauktaw and Kyauktaw townships earlier in November.

  • Religious buildings from Yangon’s Mingaladon Township were asked to vacate within two days

Monks living in the five wards, including pagodas, monasteries and nunnery schools in Pyin Ma Pin village tract in Yangon Region’s Mingaladon Township, which have been accused of encroachment, have been instructed by the military council to close down within two days. The military council reportedly informed on November 28. The monks and the nuns had started relocating at the time of reporting. There are a total of 11 religious buildings in Pyin Ma Pin village tract.

  • Houses torched in Sagaing Region, thousands of residents on the run

Between November 29 and December 2, at least three townships in Sagaing Region were the target of junta forces’ arson attacks. In Shwebo Township, over 600 houses from eight villages were torched and destroyed between November 29 and December 2 with at least 10 residents killed by junta soldiers. In Salingyi Township, four villages were burned down between November 30 and December 1. In Htigyaing Township, over 300 villages in six villages were torched on December 2. Thousands of residents from the attacked villages as well as from nearby areas were reported to be fleeing the areas as fighting between the junta forces and People’s Defense Forces were escalating as well. 

Protests & Fundraising

  • Myanmar protesters showed solidarity with ongoing protests in China

On December 3, pro-democracy protesters in Launglon Township of Dawei District rallied with a sign which read “the Chinese People’s Democracy Movement is the Alley for the Myanmar Spring Revolution”. 

  • Continuing protests across the country 

Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Sagaing, Yinmarbin, Kalay, Myaing, Monywa, and Kani. 

  • Sean Turnell at a fundraising event in Sidney 

On December 3, Sean Turnell, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s economist advisor who was released by the regime last month after 650 days in prison, attended a fundraising event for Myanmar’s Chin Region in Sydney on Saturday.

Attacks on the junta’s lackeys and properties

  • SAC’s major killed for resisting arrest with violence in Tanintharyi Region

On the evening of November 26, a regime major was detained by a local resistance force on an express bus near Boattaung on Pyidaungsu Road, Myeik-Dawei Road, Tanintharyi Region. The bus was let go and the major was taken for questioning by the rangers. However, as he attempted to loot a gun during process, he was shot and killed on the spot. The major was called Win Htay Naing and identifications verifying his army status were found in his belongings.     

  • Five policemen killed during ambush in Nyaung-U tsp, Mandalay Region

Pakokku Urban Guerrilla Force Unit.2 reportedly carried out a mission in Sintgu Village, Nyaung-U Township, Mandalay Region on December 1, killing five regime policemen. The incident took place in a local pub where six policemen were having drinks when four resistance rangers arrived out of the blue and opened fire on them. One escaped and five were killed on the spot while three guns were seized. A ranger from the people’s force also suffered a wound on his thigh. Those dead policemen were notorious for conducting indiscriminate shooting while drunk and distortion in the region.

  • Night bars targeted in Hlaing township, Yangon

The bars that open beyond the curfew time and rumored to by run by military-affiliated families were targeted by resistance forces in Hlaing Township, Yangon. The incident took place at 9 pm on November 2, The Idol Bar and Red-X Bar were both blasted at the same time by remote control system. Two civilians were reportedly hurt. Guardiens UG, responsible for the attack, said it had cautioned the public to stay away from military-owned businesses and this mission had also been carried out with many prior warnings.

  • Ward administration office blasted, two regime lapdogs severely injured in Mandalay

On December 3, an explosion took place in the ward administration office in Thanlyatmhaw Eastward in Maharaungmyay Township, Mandalay Region. Two officers including the administrator San Oo were severely wounded in the grenade attack. Special Task Force – Mandalay claimed responsibility for the operation. San Oo, the injured administrator, was known for acting like a gangster in the area and bullying people. It was the second time the same office was attacked. It was renovated after the first explosion in September.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Over 500 people arrested on Hpa An – Thaton road since coup, Karen State

Since the coup, security by the regime’s forces have tightened on the roads connecting to Karen State because people related to resistance forces and CDM movement usually take those roads for either military training or migration purposes. It was reported this week that over 500 people have been detained by the regime’s army at the check point on Thanlwin Bridge since February 1, 2021. About 60 troops are assigned at the checkpoint, inspecting every vehicle and checking phones, identification of the passengers on daily basic. They reportedly even check the deleted files using multiple software.  People are warned to be extra cautious if required to travel on the route.

  • Regime air-bombed mining facility for third time in 20 days in Karen State

On the early morning of December 1, the SAC forces conducted aerial bombing on a mine in the Karen National Union (KNU)’s-controlled area for a third time within twenty days. The mine facility is located near Hpayar Thone Su town in Kyarinseikgyi District, Karen State and controlled by the Brigade 6 of KNU’s armed wing Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). The casualty of the incident has not been reported yet. According the local witnesses, it’s likely such bombs were going to hurt the mine workers and villagers instead of KNLA’s soldiers. And the regime’s key strategy in those attacks are speculated to cut off KNLA’s businesses.  

  • SAC abducted local businesses for allegedly supporting PDF in Kyaikhto, Mon State

On the evening of December 2, the regime’s forces reportedly detained local businessmen in Kyaikhto, Mon State on counts that they had supported the People’s Defense Forces (PDF). At least four businessmen were arrested from their own homes. It has been a regular practice for the regime, abducting businessmen and blackmailing them until they “donate” money to its units, or else, those victims might end up being in jail with anti-terrorism charges. At least five businessmen were also arrested in October with the same accusations.

  • Four Chin men arrested with weapons on India-Myanmar border town

Following the visit of the India’s Foreign Secretary to Naypyitaw, we learned this week that security has been tightened at the India-Myanmar border. Case in point, four Chin men were arrested at the Tuipang Gate, Siaha District, Mizoram State by Indian authorities as they attempted to cross the border with two guns, camouflages, shoes, gunpowder and motorbikes on the early morning of December 4 around 2 am. Although it’s by law to ban the transportation of weapons as such, the Indian authorities are seizing the medical equipment and health-related accessories at the gate as well. There is a large number of displaced people in Chin State and they rely on the medical supply through India border.

  • Thirteen civilians killed by regime soldiers in Khin-U battleground in Sagaing Region

The regime’s forces have accelerated offensive in Khin-U area in Sagaing Region, using air force in addition to three military columns on ground. Within two weeks of operation, at least 23 people have been killed in the battle, 13 of them were civilians including a child. Monehla battle that took place on November 23 was the most intense clash and the regime used military choppers on that day. The 14-year-old Mg Ye Min Naung was killed as he ran into the reinforcement column on its way to Monehla battle near Kanthayar Village, two miles north of Khin-U. The rest of the victims were either killed by airstrikes or artillery.

  • Two elderlies killed by arson in Sarlingyi tsp, Sagaing Region

The junta’s army has been setting villages on fire in Sarlingyi Township, Sagaing Region since the end of November. As they burned down four villages such as Sarhtone, Latpankyun, Tawkyaung and Shwekyun, 90-year-old Daw Than Shwe who was blind and 85-year-old Daw Amar Gyi who had a stroke, were killed in the fire.

Armed Resistance

  • Skirmishes continued in Tanintharyi tsp, Tanintharyi Region

Multiple clashes was witnessed near Lalthit Village, Tanintharyi Township, Tanintharyi Region starting November 25 between the regime’s forces and the local resistance groups. Battles took place daily since November 25 and both sides suffered casualties. SAC’s army lost about ten soldiers and one resistance ranger was killed in four separate battles. The village has about 3,000 population and almost all of them have been displaced by the skirmishes now.

  • SAC conducted airstrikes on KNU’s Brigade 1 headquater in Bilin tsp, Mon State

At the midnight of November 26, the regime’s forces dropped four aerial bombs from two fighter jets on the headquarter of the Karen National Union (KNU)’s brigade 1 headquarter located in Totalkhee Village, Bilin Township, Mon State. There was no casualties but two buildings were destroyed according to a spokesperson. In the same Thaton District, the regime had been reportedly firing artillery toward villages as well.

  • MNDAA’s military station attacked by regime in Laukkaing District, Shan State

Starting November 27, the regime’s forces had reportedly attacked the military camp of Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) near Chinshwehaw Town, Laukkaing District Shan State for three days in a row. Three-day clash saw a dozen of deaths from the junta and no casualty from MNDAA was reported so far. MNDAA is the ally of Arakan Army (AA) which has recently declared an informal ceasefire with the regime and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) which has not been militarily active since the coup. Chinshwehaw is a border town between China and Myanmar, 20 miles south of Laukkaing Town.

  • AA withdrew inspection gates in Sittwe-Ponnakyun Road

Following the informal ceasefire agreement with the regime, the Arakan Army (AA) has reportedly withdrawn three temporary security checkpoints on Sittwe-Ponnakyun highway road. However, its forces are still assigned on the road and no less presence of military tension was witnessed according to the local sources in both Ponnakyun and Sittwe.

  • Clash killed dozens of regime soldiers in Demoso tsp, Karenni State

A-day long battle took place between the junta’s army and the resistance forces in Demoso Township, Karenni (Kayah) State on December 3. The clash began as the regime’s troops conducted an offensive toward Dawkamee Village in the township and the coordinated forces of Karenni Nationality Defense Force (KNDF) and Karenni Army (KA) defended the area. Despite the airstrikes from the junta that bombed at least four times on the battlefield, the junta’s troop suffered major casualties and at least 20 soldiers were recorded killed and four were captured alive. It is the same unit, Infantry Battalion 108 that committed the massacre of over 40 innocent civilians in December last year hence those captives will be tried and held accountable if found guilty.

Sources: Khit Thit, Myanmar Now, Mizzima, Irrawaddy, DVB, RFA Burmese, Ayeyarwaddy Times, Western News, New York TImes

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