Weekly Update: 044

Folks, this week, a strong earthquake centred in Central Myanmar caused damage to religious buildings, raising concerns for believers that a bad omen looms. We already are living the bad omen since Min Aung Hlaing took power of the country so nothing’s new. A couple of good news came from the United States for our revolution, but factory workers inside and outside of the country face unfortunate fates. Read all about it in this week’s update.

Internal Politics

  • Min Aung Hlaing to host Independence Day parade

Civil servants in Naypyidaw have been ordered to prepare for the Diamond Jubilee of the Independence Day which will fall on January 4 of 2023. Civil servants from several departments, soldiers from infantry, navy and Air Force are set to parade in Naypyidaw’s highway road and pay respect to the coup leader. As for preparation, staff members are ordered to practice the 6-mile distance as early as 4am according to a source who told Myanmar Now in anonymity. Another source from Naypyidaw also said that new fighter jets have been flying around for practice, and that the parade is to boast the regime’s firepower to the resistance and allied forces. 

  • Deputy Governor of CBM, received 20 year of jail time

On December 13, junta court sentenced deputy governor of the Central Bank U Bo Bo Nge 20 years of imprisonment with two anti-corruption charges. He was one of the earliest officials who was arrested on the day of the coup. One of the charges is related to the bank transaction of Open Society Myanmar, a charity of American philanthropist George Soros. U Bo Bo Nge is currently being detained in Mandalay’s Obo prison. 

  • Two brothers from Paletwa were sentenced for allegedly associating with the AA

Two brothers from Paletwa Township, Chin State were sentenced three years by a junta-court and sent to Sittwe Prison on December 15. Oo Saw Hla, 30, was charged with Penal Code 505-A for incitement on December 12 while Maung San Phyo, 25, was charged with Article 17 (a) of Unlawful Association Act. Since they cannot afford to hire a lawyer, they had to defend themselves in a junta-controlled court according to  Maung San Phyo’s wife. During October and October, a total of 324 people have been arrested by the military for allegedly associating with the AA, and only 85 have been released. 

  • Earthquake in Central Myanmar reminds public the traditional bad omen

A powerful earthquake with 5.2 Richter scale hit Mandalay and Sagaing regions on December 15, damaging several religious buildings. Netizens shared photos of the damage caused by the earthquake which centered east of Tada-U Township, Mandalay. Photos included severe damage of a Buddha image, the top of a stupa falling on ground, etc. A traditional bad omen said that whenever a strong earthquake hits, a change in authority will take place. Rumour has it, believers in military community now think that a change in power is bound to happen soon.

International Affairs

  • NDAA approved at the Senate

Following last week’s update on the NDAA which includes the BURMA Act, the US Senate passed the bill on December 15. As the last step, the bill will head to the White House where President Biden is to sign it into law. The NUG and Myanmar public at large is excited for a bill passed in a country half the globe because, as a part of the NDAA, the amended BURMA Act has now been approved and will be implemented. With the BURMA Act, the US government will now be able to provide the pro-democracy resistance groups with non-lethal aid. 

  • U Kyaw Moe Tun to remain in Myanmar’s seat

The UN’s Credential Committee gathered on December 12 and decided to reject the military’s request, and keep U Kyaw Moe Tun as Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN. The decision was made unanimously among all nine members of the committee. U Kyaw Moe Tun, who held this position before the coup, has declared his alliance with the pro-democracy forces and works closely with the National Unity Government. This is the second time that the regime’s attempt to replace U Kyaw Moe Tun got rejected. 

Business Matters

  • Myanmar factory workers appeal to Adidas 

Twenty-six workers from the Myanmar Pou Chen Co. factory, which manufactures Adidas shoes, have asked the global sportswear company to investigate labor conditions there and help them get their jobs back. The workers were fired in October after leading a three-day strike at the factory in Shwe Pyi Thar Township. Workers demanded an increase in the daily wage from 4,800 to 8,000 kyats in the face of economic hardship and rising prices for everyday goods. The factory’s management turned down the request. “According to labor law, this situation is regarded as a personal dispute between the workers and the employer. Workers have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the factory owner if they are not satisfied. The only choice left to us, however, is to go to Adidas since we don’t trust the junta’s legal system,” said a labor rights activist who is helping the Pou Chen workers.

  • More than 100 factory workers fired 

According to the Myanmar Federation of General Trade Unions (FGWM), more than 100 factory workers in Yangon have been fired for not working overtime. Labor rights activists say that since the coup there have been more and more violations of labor rights, such as not giving regular holidays. 

Ma Moe Moe, a factory worker, said she was fired for not working overtime at the Non Stop Garment Factory in Shwe Pytha with about 300 workers. The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) also stated that there are no guarantees for workers in Myanmar, where the military has seized power.

  • Burmese migrant workers in Thailand targeted by scammers

Activists supporting migrant workers in Thailand said that the workers were scammed financially on social media. Ko Nay Lin Thu from AAC who is helping Burmese migrant workers said that there are frequent cases where scammers tried to get familiar with migrant workers, and later conned them. The amount they got scammed ranged from 20,000 to 200,000 Bahts. In some cases, they were consciously tricked whereas in other cases, they were threatened to transfer money. In most cases, the scammer pretended as a western person in the profile picture and approached the victims as someone who wanted to either send gifts to them or give them parts of inheritances. In other cases, they would even give excuses that they want to make donations in Myanmar, or want to marry them. After making such offers, they said that they have sent gifts to the victims, and requested the latter to transfer service fees. Currently, there are about 20 cases of financial scams, but no legal action can be taken due to the lack of evidence.

  • NUG foreign minister discussed with EU representatives to sanction SAC’s businesses

NUG Foreign Ministry reported that Daw Zin Mar Aung, foreign minister of NUG, who is currently in Belgium, discussed with EU representatives to sanction the businesses of the SAC and their family members. On December 16, Daw Zin Mar Aung met with EU Minister of Finance general secretary Steffano Sannino in Brussel, Belgium. They discussed how the EU can more effectively cooperate together with neighboring countries to support Myanmar. In the NUG statement, it said that more discussions were also made to take action against SAC and their family members. Igor Driesmans, the EU-ASEAN special envoy for Myanmar, also attended the meeting. Senior leaders from ASEAN were invited to the EU-ASEAN meeting in Brussels, Belgium, but the military junta was not invited to the meeting.

  • Min Aung Hlaing urged citizens to use bikes and save energy

Min Aung Hlaing, the chairman of SAC, told civilians to use bikes more in a patriotic manner in an attempt to save the consumption of fuel which costs lots of USD during his meeting with SME owners in Myitkyin in Kachin State on December 13.  As Myanmar has to rely on the import of fuels from foreign countries annually, Myanmar has to spend a lot of foreign currencies. Therefore, the junta leader suggested that people would need to save the consumption of fuel, and instead, suggested using bikes, which do not need fuel to operate. Moreover, he also suggested relying more on trains for the transportation of goods across the country.

Protests & Fundraising

  • Continuing protests across the country 

Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Yangon, Pyin Oo Lwin, Monywa, Yinmarbin, Kalay, Myaing, Laung Lone, and Wetlet regions. 

  • Resistance Movie Screened in Malaysia and Protest Against Election by Junta  

It is reported that December 12: A resistance movie was screened as the last international screening in Johor City, Malaysia. There was also a protest against the election to be held by the Junta at the screening venue. There were also activities such as selling t-shirts, food, lottery tickets to raise funds for the ongoing revolution. 

  • 1600 Lakhs Raised to Support CDM Students 

It is reported that around 1600 lakhs were raised from the sale of tickets in Daegu, South Korea, under the theme “Supporting the children’s education” to support CDM students in Myanmar. Each ticket is set at 10,000 won, and is mainly sold to Korea, and they are being sold in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand as well. 

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Two policemen killed, youths abducted in Paung tsp, Mon State

On December 10, a shooting took place near Phalat Village in Paung Township, Mon State. Unknown gunmen reportedly opened fire on two policemen on a motorbike and both were killed on the spot. They were identified as Mg Ko Ko and Khine Zaw Tun from Zinkyaikt Police Station. Following the incident, the junta’s forces abducted at least 20 youths and a 70-year-old man from a nearby village called Oaktatar under suspicious charges. And the soldiers were witnessed carrying out indiscriminately shooting around the village.

  • Military-owned Mytel tower taken down by PDF for weapon supply in Wetlet tsp, Sagaing Region

Mytel telecom, the joint venture between the Vietnamese military and Myanmar military, faced its latest attack in Wetlet Township, Sagaing Region on December 15. Two joint PDF forces blasted Mytel tower in Sheinmakar Village with a blast and broke it down into parts to be used as raw materials for producing weapons. Although it was taken down on the same day, the rangers could not carry the parts back to the camp because the regime soldiers arrived and started firing at them. Hence, the resistance forces had to come back on the following day and complete the mission.

  • SAC soldiers on security duty faced drone attack in Kawkareik Township, Karen State  

On the morning of December 16 around 6 am, SAC soldiers who were guarding the electricity power supply factory were attacked with drone bombs in Kawkareik Township, Karen State. The incident took place in Ngar Taing Village, a coalition of resistance forces used a drone to drop at least 13 grenades inside the security compound of the factory. It’s very likely that there were casualties on the junta’s side but the exact figure cannot be verified yet.

  • MDY PDF set “deadline” for SAC’s ward administrators to leave their posts

On December 17, Special Task Force (STF-MDY) released a statement and warned the junta-appointed SAC ward administrators in the region to give up their positions by mid-January. STF-MDY leader said in the letter that they have the data of all administrators with their addresses, and they will not be very kind to them if they continue working for the military regime beyond the deadline on January 15. STF’s last mission took place in December 13, when the 65-year-old U Sein Win, the ward administrator of Maharaungmyay Township was shot in the head and killed in his house.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • More journalists sentenced to prison

At least three journalists were given imprisonment by the military tribunal this week. On December 16, Insein’s special court sentenced the reporter Ko Soe Yarzar Tun to four years in prison with hard labour. Ko Soe Yarzar Tun was charged and found guilty of the anti-terrorism act 52(A) for associating with “outlawed associations”. Moreover, two more journalists from Thingankyun Media, Ko Wai Lin Yu and Ma Htet Htet Aung were also sentenced to five years in prison by the same tribunal. The junta announced that they were detained with explosives back in September 2021; however, it was a setup according to their family. It was said that the junta’s judges did not even read the verdict for each accused, they simply gave the same sentence to everyone with the same charges.

  • More activists sentenced to prison

Prominent activists with different initiatives were given jail time by the junta’s special courts this week. Among them, Ma Sue Sha Shin Thant, an activist from Mandalay, who advocated for LGBTQ rights was given a 25-year-imprisonment verdict with anti-terrorism charges. Sue Shan Shin Thant was detained after the junta’s forces in a car rammed down her car in October 2021. There were reports that she was sexually harassed during the interrogation. In addition to her, three activists working for labour rights were also sentenced to three years each in prison. Daw Khine Thinzar Aye, communication officer for the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM), Daw Ei Phyu Myint, a member of the Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) and their driver Ko Nyan Sein were found guilty of Sedition act 505A. All of them were detained by the junta’s forces in April 2022 for carrying out a guerilla protest.

  • Elderly committed suicide as military approached his village in Sarlingyi tsp, Sagaing Region

On December 9, the regime’s troops passed through Taunggyar Village, southeast of Sarlingyi Township, Sagaing Region and the villagers abandoned their homes and hid in a different place in fear of torture and death. However, one of the villagers, 60-year-old U Khin Sein couldn’t run as he was of old age and sickness, he committed suicide in his home. His dead body was found three days later when the villagers returned.

  • Dead bodies of detainees dumped roadside in Myingyan tsp, Mandalay Region

On December 14, six dead bodies were found in Myingyan Township, Mandalay Region and they were identified as Ywar Thit Villagers who were beaten and abducted by the regime soldiers on December 6. On that day, about 60 troops arrived in the village and forcefully arrested Ko Aung Zeyar Phyo, Ko Aung Than Kyaw, Ko Min Thu, Ko Kaung Kaung, U Zaw Naing Win and U Aung Naing Win. And eight days later, the same soldiers dumped the dead bodies of those victims in three separate locations. It was Ko Aung Zeyar Phyo that they wanted for questioning and after intense interrogation, he was forced to give up five random names, and now all six of them were killed. The soldiers who committed the murders were said to be from Magway-based battalion 88.

  • Bomblet left over from clash exploded and killed two children in Yinmarbin tsp, Sagaing Region

On the morning of December 16, two young children were killed by an explosion of a bomblet left over from battle in Yinpaungtaing Village, Yinmarbin Township, Sagaing Region. A five-year-old Mg Htet Phone Naing and his 10-month-old cousin Mg Hein Thurein were the victims of the blast. The bomb, used by the junta’s military, was left over inside the house and it exploded when one of the children started playing with it. A major clash broke out in that area back in August 2022 when the regime’s forces carried out an aerial attack because they believed Chin resistance forces were staying there and ended up killing 19 civilians and this bomb is believed to be left over from that battle.

Armed Resistance

  • Clash broke out, casualties reported in Saw tsp, Magway Region

A clash broke out between the regime forces and the local PDF in Laungshay Village, Saw Township, Magway Region on December 10. It started when the junta’s trucks carrying about 70 troops were detonated with landmines by the PDF near Nyaung Pin Village. The regime soldiers responded by firing artillery back. At least five SAC soldiers were killed while two rangers from PDF also died in the battle.

  • PDF station seized by regime forces in Ywarngan tsp, Shan State

Ywarngan Urban Guerrilla (YUG) said that one of its military stations was located and seized by the regime forces in Ywarngan Township, Shan State. On December 13, the regime soldiers used a member of detained PDF ranger to bait and arrest another member. He was forced to give up the station location and about 50 troops raided it in the evening. Although everyone managed to escape before the offensive, YUG took many losses such as ammunition. The regime’s forces burned down the camp and they are said to be continuing to find the PDF rangers who escaped the scene.

  • Fight broke out, casualties in Kawkareik tsp, Karen State

On December 16, a major battle took place between the regime’s forces and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in Kawkareik, Karen State. It happened near Hlaing Kwe/Tadarkyoe Village and the regime utilized tanks and cannons in addition to aerial attacks. The clash lasted over two hours in which five SAC soldiers and one KNLA solider were killed. On KNLA’s side, Lion Battalion Commando Special Force and PDF fought together.

  • Distress in Shan State, caused by battle between TNLA and SAC  

Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and SAC’s army have been waging war against each other in Ta’ang Namhsan Township, northern Shan State since December 7. The regime’s soldiers first intruded on the TNLA’s territory and attempted an ambush. Since then, SAC conducted at least 28 aerial attacks and fired multiple cannons. Both sides suffered casualties although the junta’s side lost significantly more men. On December 17, SAC released a statement that its forces were only targeting PDF in that area and not TNLA and according to SAC, TNLA understood the situation and agreed to a ceasefire. However, TNLA responded by saying that nothing in that statement was true and disclosed the number of ammunitions it seized from the battle against SAC.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator Mr Ramanathan Balakrishnan meets the junta’s ministers 

The junta’s minister for investment and foreign economic relations Dr Kan Zaw met acting United Nations resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator to Myanmar Mr Ramanathan Balakrishnan on December 9 in Nay Pyi Taw and discussed cooperation between relevant ministries and UN agencies, residency matters of foreign employees from UN agencies and further cooperation of UN agencies regarding national programmes. On December 8, the junta’s minister for immigration and population U Myint Kyaing also met Mr Ramanathan Balakrishnan in Nay Pyi Taw. Topics including the collaboration of UN agencies in regard to humanitarian activities in Myanmar, the support of the United Nations Population Fund in taking a census in Myanmar and the arrangement of entry visas and accommodation for foreign employees of UN agencies were reportedly discussed during their meeting. 

  • Demolishing houses in urban areas is an attempt by the military council to weaken the revolution, says the NUG

The National Unity Government said that the demolition of houses in urban areas including in Yangon and Mandalay is a deliberate strategy by the military council to make the people’s lives more difficult and to weaken the revolution. Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless after the military council forced them to vacate poor areas in Yangon, Mandalay and other cities by claiming that they were squatters, said the NUG. It said the demolitions showed a lack of sympathy for people who were suffering from COVID-19 and the military coup and was a violation of their basic human rights. On December 8, state-owned newspapers quoted Yangon chief minister U Soe Thein as saying signs should be erected to prevent encroachment on all state-owned and departmental land and along road boundaries. 

  • Data for Myanmar says more than 38,000 houses burnt throughout Myanmar since the coup 

A total of 38,383 houses have been burnt throughout Myanmar since the coup, the Data for Myanmar monitoring group said in a statement on December 10. The houses were burnt by groups under the control of the regime council in the 22 months to the end of November, the statement said. Houses have been torched in Sagaing, Magway, Mandalay, Bago and Tanintharyi regions and in the seven states. Sagaing Region has suffered the most arson attacks, with 27,496 houses torched.

Other

  • Medical Charity Faces Access Restrictions 

MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, reports that its team in Rakhine State is struggling to provide health care due to restrictions imposed by Myanmar’s junta. “We operate in both northern and eastern Rakhine. We are having difficulties reaching out to our patients,” MSF’s Claudio Miglietta said when asked about the charity’s work in Rakhine during its 50th-anniversary celebration in Bangladesh. According to MSF, the February 2021 coup destroyed the public health system and jeopardized access to healthcare for millions of people. According to their International Activity Report from 2021, the organization employed at least 1,165 employees in Myanmar. 

  • The Bank of China Awards scholarships to 100 Yangon University students

The Bank of China awarded scholarships to 100 students at Yangon University at a ceremony held at the university on December 9. The scholarship will support the students for the four years of their studies. The ceremony was attended by the Chinese ambassador, officials from the Yangon office of the Bank of China, and the governor of the Central Bank of Myanmar, Daw Than Than Swe. 

Source: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, Irrawaddy, DVB, Mizzima, RFA, BBC Burmese, Global New Light of Myanmar

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