Weekly Update: 047

As a ritual on the 75th independence day of the country, the regime released a number of political prisoners. Some are high profile, some not. Friends and families rejoiced and shared hugs on a rare day full of joy. Rumors spread out widely that the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi would be put back under house arrest in Yangon instead of a prison facility, but it remained a rumor to this day. 

If it was up to them, the coup leaders would jail forever each and everyone who dares to defy them. They are only acting now in order to relax pressure from the international community. In the background, the junta’s forces have been abducting youths day and night, denying travel passports to tens of thousands of people because they believe funds from overseas are extending a lifeline to the resistance. We will keep digging, speaking out, and reporting the crimes and the international community must keep imposing pressure on them.  

Approaching the third year since the coup, we are positive about the outcomes of 2023. We have been too optimistic before but we do believe now that the regime’s days are numbered. Let’s make it happen.

Internal Politics

  • Junta released about 7000 prisoners as the Independence Day amnesty

Celebrating Myanmar’s Independence Day from the British on January 4, the military council released a total of 7012 prisoners, and among them, about 200 were political prisoners according to Irrawaddy News. The NLD’s former minister of religious affairs Thura U Aung Ko, writer/Yangon municipal committee member Daw Than Myint Aung, student activists Aung Phone Maw and Lay Pyay Soe Moe from Yangon University, about nine journalists and a few activists were released on January 4 according to multiple news reports. 

  • The coup leader hosted an extravagant Independence Day celebration in Naypyidaw

On January 4, the military council organized a parade in Naypyidaw to commemorate the 75th Independence Day. For months, civil servants who continued working under the military regime had been practising the march for this very day. On January 2, People’s Spring media reported that two civil servants died due to excessive practice for the parade. On the event day, the junta chief gave a speech at the event where he promised the power transfer after the 2023 Election. A series of award-giving ceremonies were held in honour of Independence Day, where U Wirathu, an ultranationalist monk, received the honorific “Thiri Pyanchi” title for his “outstanding work for the good of the Union of Myanmar”. 

  • The regime torched about 41,000 civilian houses in 2022, the NUG said

The parallel government National Unity Government (NUG) announced that the regime’s forces have burned about 41,000 civilian homes in 2022. The data was analyzed through media reports and the local residents, but the NUG expected that the actual number can be greater. Sagaing Region, where armed resistance is strong, suffers the most with more than 31,000 houses being torched. Political analysts conclude that the regime has been conducting scorched-earth policy in regions where resistance is strong.

  • Three officials from ALP were assassinated in Sittwe, AA denied responsibility

On January 4, three officials from Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), on their way back from the Independence Day celebration organized by the military council, were shot dead. The deceased included ALP’s Commander in Chief General Khine Soe Mya, Colonel Khine Soe Kyaw, and Captain Khine Thureinda. The ALP said that the assassination was conducted by the Arakan Army (AA), but AA’s spokesperson U Khaing Thu Kha rejected the accusation. 

  • Passport offices shut down without further notice 

Residents of Yangon said that the passport issuing offices across the country, including Yangon, have been shut down from December 26, 2022, stating that the computer system needs to be upgraded. An employee at the Yangon Passport Office said that it is not yet known when the office will be reopened. Since the coup, about 200 people used to line up at that office every day to get passports. The online booking system for applying for a passport was also suspended on December 3. Myanmar consulate office from Chiang Mai, Thailand also announced on January 5 that it suspended the extension of passports until further notice. Military generals believe that the resistance has been kept strong thanks to the fundraising from Myanmar diaspora and they are now plotting to cut that stream and this is one of their strategies to force people to leave their jobs and studies overseas.   

International Affairs

  • China demands Myanmar to reopen border gates

Myanmar Now reported on January 5 that China urged the military council’s Ministry of Commerce to reopen border gates which were closed to contain the spread of Covid-19. During the Covid-19 outbreak, border gates between Muse District of Shan State from the Myanmar side and Yunnan Province from the China side have opened and closed from time to time. As of November 2022, one of five gates in Muse 105 Mile Trade Zone was reopened. The regime-administred ministry has yet to make the decision on reopening border gates as Covid cases surge again in China. 

  • The late Phyo Zeyar Thaw was listed in World Figures who died in 2022

The US-based Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) published ten world figures who died in 2022, and Myanmar’s Phyo Zeyar Thaw was listed as one among Queen Elizabeth II, Japan’s longest-reigned prime minister Shinzo Abe, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. He was portrayed as a “Burmese hip hop star, political activist, and legislator”. Phyo Zeyar Thaw was detained by the regime in late 2021 and hanged inside Insein Prison in July 2022 alongside other pro-democracy activists Ko Jimmy, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw. 

  • Conflicts to Watch in 2023, Myanmar rated “Low Priority”

This week, the Center for Preventive Action, run by the abovementioned Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), published “Preventive Priorities Survey 2023” which ranks current and potential conflicts and their impact on the US interests. While the tension between China and Taiwan, the Russia-Ukraine war, and North Korea’s nuclear threat made it to the Tier I – high priority list, Myanmar was ranked in Tier III as low impact and likelihood. In December 2022, when the US passed the BURMA Act, Myanmar people were hopeful of incoming support towards the NUG and the resistance forces. However, this report reminds us that, with several crises in the world, we are on our own as the revolution prolongs. 

Business Matters

  • Adidas shoe factory offers limited back wages to laid-off workers

Officials at a Taiwanese-owned factory in Shwe Pyi Thar Township, Yangon named, “Myanmar Paung Chain Factory” where famous brand Adidas shoes are made, have recently offered to reinstate workers who were fired as they went on a strike to demand higher wages. A secretary from the factory said that no settlement has been reached yet since the offer is with some limitations. She said that the contract consists of seven points, of which only two are favorable and the other five are with limitations. On October 25, 2022, more than 2,000 Myanmar pound factory workers protested to raise the minimum wage from 4,800 kyats to 8,000 kyats a day, and 26 workers believed to be the leaders of the strike were fired on October 27th.

  • Myanmar among top 10 countries buying condos in Thailand

Yangon-based CIM Property Consultants Company Managing Director Carlo Pober said that wealthy Myanmar citizens buy houses in a stable market, especially the neighboring country Thailand, for their second homes. He explained that people bought houses in Thailand for three reasons, firstly, for wealth investment, secondly, for better healthcare services, and thirdly, for educational investment for their children. According to real estate information data from Real Estate Investment Calculator (REIC), the number of condos transferred to Burmese nationality improved from 30 in 2021, and 26 in 2020 to 188 within the first six months in 2022. In 2018, 48 condos were transferred to Burmese citizens, and rose to 54 condos in 2019, but declined to 26 condos in 2020. The reason for decline in 2020 is due to COVID-19 and the closing of airports. However, after airports in Myanmar reopened in 2022 June, there is an increase in buying condos in Thailand by Myanmar citizens within the first 9 months in 2022.  

  • Only few numbers of tourists enter Myanmar

Although SAC is trying hard to improve the tourism industry, the number of tourists is still very low as there are very few direct flights to Myanmar. Beginning from April 17 2022, Myanmar officially allowed international flights to operate to Myanmar, but there are only few inbound visitors although the outbound visitors are significantly higher. Currently, there are visitors from Thailand coming as package tours, but visitors from other Southeast Asian countries are almost non-existent. Backpackers from western countries who visited on their own plan are also very few. SAC permits one-year visa exemption to promote Russian travelers, but there are very few Russian travelers as there is no direct flight between Myanmar and Russia. According to statistical data from the Hotel and Tourism Department, there are 1.3 million visitors in 2018 and 1.8 million in 2019. However, after the military coup, only about 10,000 visitors traveled to Myanmar during January to October 2021 , and over 60,000 visitors came to Myanmar during  the same period of 2022.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Over 40,000 houses torched and destroyed in 2022

Within 2022, more than 41,000 civilian homes were burned down by regime soldiers according to an announcement by the National Unity Government (NUG). The figure is based on the reports by the news media and local residents’ statements, and the actual figure on the ground could be more, the fire department of the NUG government stated. Among the total, Sagaing Region was hit hard the most with over 31,000 houses torched.

  • Military plans to force IDPs out of 25 camps in Rakhine State

Regime officials initiated a shutdown of 25 temporary settlements for IDPs near Sittwe in Rakhine State, forcing the residents to sign pledges to leave, an IDP staying at one of the camps told Myanmar Now. The officials called for a meeting on December 29 with the IDP communities’ representatives and told them that the camps will be shutting down soon, and that the IDPs have three options: to move to a new place of their own choice, live in a place assigned by the military council or return home where the area is infested with landmines. IDPs are asked to sign and submit a letter to the township administration by January 3. The officials also warned the IDPs from speaking with the media about this but a few IDPs spoke with Myanmar Now under anonymity.

  • Over 10,000 Salingyi residents on the run

Columns of military troops advanced along the road in between Nyaung Pin Gyi village and Salingyi town in Sagaing Region, causing over 10,000 residents from 20 villages from Salingyi Township to flee in fear of arbitrary attacks. On January 6, two villages out of 20, Bengar and Phaung Ka Tar villages were raided, and houses were torched, a resident of Bengar told RFA Burmese.

  • Regime closed down 5 hospitals in Mandalay

Five well-known private hospitals in Mandalay city, Myot Taw, Nandaw, Kantkaw, Htet Nay Linn and Sein Pan, were instructed by the regime official to close down temporarily on December 31, according to some of the hospital staff and the healthcare community. An employee at one of the hospitals told the Irrawaddy that due to the forced closure, these hospitals could not accept new patients and are in the process of transferring their patients to others. Sources close to the healthcare community believed that the temporary closure of these hospitals may be related to the arrests of a CDM doctor and two non-civil health workers from Myot Taw hospital on December 24-25.

  • Half of the population displaced in Karenni (Kayah) State

Karenni Human Rights Group (KnHRG) said the number of refugees and internally displaced population in Kayah (Karenni) State has increased to more than 180,000 where fighting continued to escalate within 23 months between February 2021 to December 2022. KnHRG’s Director, Ko Banya told RFA Burmese that the residents are scattered across seven townships in Kayah (Karenni) State and in southern Shan State. According to the statistics of the General Administration Department in 2019, nearly four hundred thousand (390,210) people live in Kayah State, and based on this figure, almost half of that population, 46.1 percent, have fled their homes.

  • Myaung residents’ houses being looted by regime soldiers

Residents of Myaung Township in Sagaing Region told Myanmar Now that more than 3,000 residents from four villages had to flee their homes due to the patrols by the regime soldiers in Myaung Township, starting on January 2. One Myaung resident said the soldiers had been looting residents’ belongings from the empty houses. In Nagar Pauk village, the residents’ furniture was reportedly looted two days in a row, and on December 3, the items were carried out on four boats on December 3.

  • IDP population more than doubled in 2022

ISP-Myanmar, a research organization, reported on December 27 that in the nearly two years between February 1, 2021 to December 14, 2022, there are nearly two million (1,912,769) refugees and internally displaced people across the country in Myanmar. In 2021, there were more than 557,625 refugees, but in 2022, the figure has doubled to over 1.3 million (1,355,144). Before the military coup, there were nearly 500,000 IDPs inside Myanmar and there were over one million (1,009,190) refugees who fled across the border before and after the coup, according to ISP-Myanmar’s statistics. The total number of refugees and IDPs is now over 3.5 million.

Protests & Fundraising

  • Continuing protests across the country 

Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Yangon, Mandalay, Hopong, Yinmarbin, Myaing, Laung Lone, Kalay, Myaung, Monywa, Kani regions.

  • Global strike campaign in cooperation with local and foreign revolutionary forces

Local revolutionary comrades and foreign revolutionary forces joined together to launch the “We Must Win” campaign as the first global strike campaign of 2023 on January 4. The campaign was jointly organized by Yangon Drone, Milk Tea Alliance Yangon and Together with Satomi, and was supported by international Burmese resistance forces. Along with the PDF soldiers from the liberated area, revolutionary forces from Myanmar, Singapore,Thailand, England, Japan, Taiwan, United States, Vietnam, Israel, Qatar, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Netherlands also joined hands. 

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Pyu Saw Htee leader killed in Thabeikkyin tsp, Mandalay Region

A local PDF from Thabeikkyin Township, Mandalay Region carried out a mission on January 4, taking out Pyu Saw Htee leader Tun Naing in Taunglal Village. The rangers raided Tun Naing’s house and as they found the information that he had been collaborating with the junta’s forces, they shot him dead. Tun Naing had sent the intelligence about the PDF to the regime, and planned recruitment for Pyu Saw Htee groups and one of his sons is also in the police force.

  • Staff housing in SAC’s airbase targeted in Yangon

On the morning of January 7, a Yangon-based urban guerilla force named FEAR NO EVIL carried out an attack on the junta’s airbase compound located on Japan Road, near Mingalardone and Insein townships in Yangon, in collaboration with another force named ACPLF. The rangers utilized an M-79 grenade launcher, firing three shells toward the staff housing. Casualties and damages are still being investigated. After the incident, the junta’s forces conducted an overnight guestlist inspection in Ywarma Ward.    

  • Dalans shot dead in Mandalay and Bago regions

Military informer/Dalan Kyaw Myint who had been robbing and torturing people in Kyaukse, Mandalay Region was reportedly taken out. On the morning of January 7, White Eagle, a local-based urban guerilla force shot Kyaw Myit dead in his house in Kyaukse. On the same day, another Dalan/Pyu Saw Htee leader named Min Aung was shot and killed in Aung Myin Town, Kyauktakar Township, Bago Region. Bo Kyaukke Urban Guerilla Force claimed responsibility for the attack. Moreover, the junta’s soldiers who came to investigate the killing of Min Aung were detonated with a landmine by the same group, and at least three soldiers were critically injured.  

  • Police station attacked with grenade in Ingapu tsp, Ayeyarwaddy Region

On the evening of January 7 around 7.30 pm, people heard a loud explosion from the police station in Maezaligone area, Ingapu Township, Ayeyarwaddy Region. Later it was reported that somebody had thrown a grenade into the police compound. It remains unknown which group was responsible for the attack and the casualties or damages are not reported either. Locals are worried that the junta’s forces might target them for such a random attack.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • SAC soldiers killed 7-year-old in Seikphyu tsp, Magway Region

On January 1, a 7-year-old girl named Ma Amy Khine was shot and killed by the junta’s soldiers in Htamakaut Village, Seikphyu Township, Magway Region. The soldiers were posted in the village school when two resistance forces attacked them with drones on that morning. And they decided to respond by firing indiscriminately into the village, which killed Ma Amy Khine and injured another woman in the arm. Htamakaut Village is located on the way to the SAC’s defense ministry factory and hence about 50 troops are always deployed in the village to protect the transportation of weapons.  

  •  About 40 locals detained in Inle, Shan State

Since Inle-PDF posted pictures of its activities, the junta’s forces have been aggressively abducting people that may have a connection with it. So far, the regime’s soldiers have arrested up to 40 people under suspicion of being PDF members, or supporters. However, according to local sources, many of them are mere civilians and they are being blackmailed by the soldiers to pay money for their release. Those detained are from Thalaeoo Village, on the east of Inle Lake, Indain Village, on the west of the lake, Phayarngarsu Village, and Sisone Village, some are from Taunggyi as well. Pa-O National Organization (PNO), a local ethnic group, has coordinated with the junta in the area and participated in those arrests.

  • A shootout inside the Pathein Prison resulted in two deaths

On January 5, Ko Wai Yan Phyo, a political prisoner inside the Pathein Prison, was separated and beaten up for allegedly having found a mobile phone with him. The next morning, other prisoners demanded his release from confinement. However, police, prison wardens and soldiers beat up about 60 prisoners for “causing riot” inside the prison, which went extreme and Ko Wai Yan Phyo was shot dead with three gunshots in the head. His family was not allowed to see the body which was cremated by the prison authorities without a notice. Eight other political prisoners are in critical condition according to U Tun Kyi, a member of the former political prisoners’ committee. A follow-up report from RFA Burmese was updated on January 7 that one more prisoner was declared dead.

  • Monk and two civilians killed in Depayin Village, Sagaing Region

On the morning of January 6, the regime’s soldiers raided Depayin Village, in the west of Sagaing Township, Sagaing Region, and went on a killing spree. One of the victims was Ashin Gandatharya, one of the ten patrons of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy. The monk was found dead with gun wounds in the basement of Shwegu Monastery and the soldiers took away his Sangha ID. Moreover, the 32-year-old Ma Khin Su Mon was also shot dead. And the 33-year-old Ko Myo Tun who ran into the military convoy on their way to the village was beaten to death. On the previous day, a clash had taken place between the SAC soldiers and the resistance forces in the nearby village.

  • SAC’s artillery killed one and injured three in Htigyaint tsp, Sagaing Region

On the afternoon of January 7, an artillery shell from the junta’s army fell on Sarrtwin Village, Htigyaint Village, Sagaing Region, killing one and injuring three villagers. Daw Kyi Phyu, a 60-year-old woman was killed on the spot as the shell hit her house. Three other people, two men, and one woman, all aged around 30 were wounded on the head and body and taken to the hospital. About 10 houses were also damaged due to the fire.  

Armed Resistance

  • 16 members of urban guerilla forces from Mandalay abducted

Since new year’s eve, 16 members from Mandalay Young Force and Welet PDF have been abducted by the junta’s forces. The detainees included a monk whose name is U Eaindra Sakka and the rest made up of 13 men and 2 girls between the age of 18 to 22. They are Ko Kyaw Min Khant, Ko Hein Htet Aung @ Ko Hein, Ko Htet Aung Lin, Ko Lin Lin @ Fatty, Ma Moe Myint Thu, Ko Nay Thurein @ Aung Pyae Phyo, Hlaing Myo Win, Eant Phone Khant, Ko Yan Paing Tun @ Saw Bwar, Ko Arkar Phyo @ Saw Ka Ka, Ko Thar Htet Khant, Ko Myo Thu Aung, Ma Yamin Ko, Ko Aung Htet Kyaw @ Tiger and Ko Ye Thu San. A PDF member said that these abductions took place due to the increasing rate of SAC’s spies joining PDF groups. All of them are now kept in the interrogation center inside Mandalay Palace.

  • Epic battle broke out in Kyarinseikkyi tsp, Karen State

On the first day of 2023, the combined forces of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and PDF mounted assaults on several stations of the regime and its ally Border Guard Force (BGF) in Kyarinseikkyi Township, Karen State, effectively triggering a 6-day epic clash. Over 80 soldiers of the junta died in the fight while 11 rangers were also killed by airstrikes and artillery firings from the regime. The clash went on strong until December 6 and the number of casualties might be a lot more than reported. The regime has started utilizing newer weapons such as Point-5 machine guns and Su-30 fighter jets, according to local sources. Airstrikes have been witnessed more frequently as well.

  • Military convoy ambushed, five soldiers died in Kalay and Yinmabin, Sagaing Region

On January 2, the junta’s military convoy was detonated with landmines twice in Pyintha Ward, Kalay Town, Sagaing Region. About 60 troops were attacked by Kalay PDF in the afternoon, and at least four soldiers were killed. They retaliated by firing indiscriminately into the neighborhood. Similarly, on the previous day, a local PDF fired artillery toward the junta’s stations in Yinmabin Town, and at least one policeman was killed.

  • Three-day battle took place in Homalin tsp, Sagaing Region

On January 5, the junta’s forces accompanied by Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA) attempted to ambush an inspection gate of the Homalin PDF near Nat Nan Village, Homalin Township, Sagaing Region. About 60 troops arrived, pretending as travelers, and started opening fire on the station. The resistance rangers were forced to leave their ground and defend from the distance. HPDF said that the area around Nat Nan Village used to belong to the regime and its forces are now conducting an offensive to take control of this strategic location again. The battle lasted three days and both sides suffered casualties.

  • Ye-balu announced the control of village in Ye tsp, Mon State

On January 7, Yebalu, a local resistance force based in Ye Township, Mon State announced the control of Kyoneloung Ywarhaung Village which locates two miles from Ye Town. The junta’s authorities from various administrative bodies left the village and Yebalu said it will conduct the administrative processes in the best interest of the people. Ye Town is home to many military units of the regime. 

Source: Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now, RFA Burmese, BBC Burmese, People’s Spring, The Irrawaddy, Ayeyarwaddy Times, DVB

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