Weekly Update: 048

Folks, this week is all about the 2023 sham election that the junta has planned to hold this year. From the resistance side, people are rejecting it, and from the regime side, its forces are trying their best efforts to legitimize it. Although the whole country knows the election is a play-acting to keep Min Aung Hlaing in power, we must keep reporting it to the international community, some of whom may have a soft corner for the military-led elections. While the development in internet politics is imminent, the armed resistance is going strong, which also means that the regime’s violent crackdowns continue. Read all about it in this week’s update from us.

Internal Politics

  • The NUG promises not to become a government on air

On the 82nd cabinet meeting held on January 10, the National Unity Government (NUG)’s president Duwa Lashi La said that the civilian-elected government has received supports from the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), and vowed not to become a government-on-air. He further said that the NUG has been carrying out relief and resettlement, and social affairs projects despite limitations. At the same time, since the conflict area has been expanded, the NUG is trying to emphaize on the civilian administration mechanism to enforce strongholds in the areas. The NUG works to achieve positive results in both political and war fronts in 2023. 

  • More severe crackdown on resistance forces and supporters proposed in a junta meeting

Junta-appointed border affairs deputy minister General Khun Thant Zaw Htoo said in a meeting in late December that as the pressure from international community is more intensified, things will be more difficult for the military council, and hence, he proposed harsher punishment and severe crackdown on resistance forces and their supporters. According to Khit Thit media’s report, the said meeting was held in Naypyidaw on December 23, led by the junta’s Minister of Home Affairs Soe Htut, and police chiefs across the country were in attendance. During the meeting, General Khun Thant Zaw Htoo cited the recent development in international stage such as the approval of BURMA Act in the US, the resoulutation of the United Nations, pressure from China, ASEAN, G7 and G20 meetings. He further suggested the military council to adpot harsher punishment towards supporters of the PDF and the NUG with no amnesty to control the armed resistance. The attendees of this meeting also discussed to intensify crackdowns on the armed resistance forces.

  • The regime’s 2023 sham election in the making

Since junta chief Min Aung Hlaing’s legitimacy as the caretaker is due this month, the regime gears up to organize an election which many know to be a sham election with his puppets. Although an exact date has not been announced, the Irrawaddy News predicted that it might take place in August this year since the emergency caretaking council needs to transfer power within six months, and announcement of the election date is expected to take place in Apirl or May. Coup leader is determined to hold the election as we can see from his New Year speech or interview with Russian media. The junta-organized Union Election Commission introduced the new PR system in later half of 2022, and has been providing training sessions for election commission observer. The regime has also been urging residents in Yangon to update the UEC’s voter list with their current household registrations. The military’s proxy party Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has been meeting other pro-military political parites and nationalist groups while the National League for Democracy (NLD) plans to boycott the election.

  • KNU to boycott the regime’s election

On January 15, the Karen National Union (KNU)’s spokesperson Pado Saw Taw Nee told RFA Burmese that the central committee of the ethnic group decided not to participate in the 2023 election organized by the military regime. Having control of certain areas in Karen and Mon states, Bago and Taninthayi regions, the KNU will not allow to hold elections in its control area, and is determined to oppose any activities related to the upcoming election. Saw Taw Nee also said that the KNU does not accept the regime’s attempt to revitalize the 2008 Constiutution for its legitimacy.

  • Election in Rakhine State will hardly take place without AA’s support, says a Rakhine politician 

In his interview with Myanmar Now on January 14, U Pe Than, a former parlimentarian representing Myebon Township of Rakhine State who also escaped the regime’s arbitrary arrest after the coup, said that the 2023 election is an exist strategy for the military regime from its political predicaments. With the election, the regime tries to showcase the multiparty PR system by persuading like-minded pro-miltiary political parites, and to display that the country is peaceful and stable enough to hold elections nationwide. U Pe Than analyzed that this election will only extend the military rule in disguise and will not have any impact on ethnic political parties which hold the federal dreams and political rights. He also predicts that the endorsement of Arakan Army (AA) will determine the impelementation of elections in Rakhine State. To this day, the AA has not interfere activities of the junta’s UEC due to the temporary ceasefire agreement, but AA’s spokesperson U Khaing Thu Kha has publicly said in the military’s successive elections have not positively affected the Rakhine people. Although AA hasn’t made any decision on the 2023 election, U Pe Than believes that AA’s decision will determine the possibility of election in the state. 

  • Updates on situations in Pathein Prison 

If we recall, we reported last week that Ko Wai Yan Phyo, a political prisoner in Pathein Prison, was killed during the violent crackdown of the regime’s soldiers and prison guards on January 6. His family told Myanmar Now this week that the military organized a cremation in Tha Yaung Chaung cemetery in Pathein Township, where the family members were allowed to see the body before cremation. The ashes were later handed over to the family although the cause of death was not disclosed to the family. On January 9, after the protest and crackdown inside the prison, prison guards shaved the heads of remaining political prisoners, confiscated their personal belongings including clothes sent by their families, and only allowed to wear prison uniforms. On January 10, inmates were reshuffled, and only one meal per day is served according to Myanmar Now.

International Affairs

  • Assets of Min Aung Hlaing’s children were found in Thai drug raid

If we recall the name Tun Min Latt, he was a Myanmar national who west arrested by Thai police in Bangkok last September. He was arrested with three other Thai nationals for trafficking narcotics and laundering money. Online conversations were made on how Tun Min Lat was close to the coup leader’s family and has been supplying weapons to the military, but no concreat proofs. But this week, Justice for Myanmar released that properties of Min Aung Hlaing’s offsprings were found among confiscated items from Tun Min Latt’s condo. Title documents include Siam Commercial passbooks belonging to Khin Thiri Thet Mon, the daughter, and a four-bedroom condo in Belle Rama 9 belonging to Aung Pyae Sone, the son. Although these items were found in Tun Min Lat’s possessions, the two adult children of Myanmar junta chief will not be taken any legal charges as Thai authorities consider them irrelevant to the case against Tun Min Latt. 

  • Thai-Myanmar border bridge reopens after three years

The Thai-Myanmar border bridge No.1, connecting Myawaddy town in Karen State and Mae Sot in Thailand’s Tak Province reopened on January 12 for the first time in three years. Sources in the area told Myanmar Now that the bridge, which has been closed in 2020 as part of Covid-19 preventative measures, is now open to small vehicles carrying vaccinated travelers. According to Thai media reports and sources in Myawaddy, residents of Myawaddy are allowed to stay on the Thai side for a week while other Myanmar citizens are only allowed a day, and all Myanmar travelers can only travel about 17 km from the border.

Business Matters

  • Security Training for Jewelry & Gold Shops in Yangon 

Due to the proliferation of robberies after the coup, Yangon Region Gold Entrepreneurs Association (YGEA) planed a security training for jewelry and gold shops in Yangon Region. Anyone from the industry is open to attend the training which will only take place January 17. However, Mizzima’s news report said that robberies have been taking place not only in Yangon but also in Mandalay, and in addition to jewelry shops, other businesses also suffer from these crimes after the coup.

Protests & Fundraising

  • The UNICorn Guerrilla Force raised funds with lottery tickets

The UNICorn Guerrilla Force requested to help buy lottery tickets for two drones bought on credit to be used in attacking the regime’s forces. Since December 25th, 2022 the necklace of a revolutionary soldier has been resold as a voting ticket, and nearly 600 tickets have been sold. The representative of the UNICorn Guerrilla Force said that they need to quickly complete and settle the debt before the scheduled date of January 31, and hence, the team pleaded to purchase the lottery tickets. 

  • Fourth Dancing Ladies fundraiser to attack the regime’s central military headquarters

Together with the NUG’s Ministry of Defence, a collective of fundraisers launched the fourth “Dancing Ladies” fund raising program this week. The aim is to raise fund to attack the regime’s headquarters in the central region. With several agents from different countries, supporters from both inside and outside of the country can contribute to the Dancing Ladies fundraiser.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Sagaing Region continues to face arson Aattacks by junta troops

Townships across Sagaing Region continued to be targeted by junta troops in apparent arson attacks against the residents between January 6 and 13 according to several media reports. In Salingyi Township, a total of 207 houses from five villages near the Letpadaung Chinese Copper Mine project between January 6 and 8, causing over 1,000 residents to be homeless. In Myaung Township, over 150 houses from Pan Nyo village were burned down after a three-day arson attack between January 7 and 9, and an 80-year-old woman was reported missing afterward. On January 10, Shaw Phyu village in Ye-U Township was raided by a column of 200 junta soldiers, and at least 90 out of 120 houses in the village were torched and destroyed the next day. On January 12, around 100 junta soldiers launched an arson attack on Kan Gyi Taw village in Shwebo Township. At least 50 houses and a monastery were reported to be destroyed in the attack. The village is located near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hanlin village in Wetlet Township, and residents believe that Kan Gyi Taw was once part of the same Pyu city as Hanlin. In Pale Township, two villages, Taung Ywar Thit and Thayet Hla villages were torched and destroyed within a day on January 13. 

  • Junta torches houses for no reason in Tanintharyi’s Launglon & Dawei Townships

Tanintharyi Region seemed to be another target of junta troops’ arson attacks this week. On January 8, Wa Kone village in Dawei Township was raided by junta soldiers and about 15 houses in the village were torched, causing over 400 to be homeless. The incident occurred due to a skirmish between junta troops and the local People’s Defense Force near the entrance of Wa Kone village. However, in Launglon Township, despite not having any fighting in Hinchotaw village, junta troops torched houses in the village on January 11. One local said three houses, four motorcycles, and a furniture store were destroyed by the arson attacks.

  • Almost 90,000 IDPs still stranded in Rakhine & Chin States

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on January 11 that the junta troops and the Arakan Army (AA) have stopped fighting in Rakhine State and Chin State’s Paletwa Township, but almost 90,000 IDPs have not been able to return home. There are reportedly more than 16,000 IDPs who have fled their homes due to resurgent fighting, and there are over 89,000 who were still displaced from before and currently. Most IDPs do not dare to return to their homes due to the danger of landmines planted around the villages and near the village the junta troops deployed.

  • Military jet hovers in Pekon Township, residents fleeing & hiding

On January 10, a military jet was reported to be hovering above in the vicinity of Renii and Lai villages in southern Shan State’s Pekon Township, causing the residents to hide out and flee the houses in fear, Karenni State Youth Association’s Co-Secretary No. 1 Mu Maria told RFA Burmese. The first sighting of the jet was reported at 8 a.m., the second time around noon, and the last sighting was reported in the evening. The event has caused over 50 children studying to hide and flee in fear, and there were also concerns among the residents and IDPs as well. The spokesperson from Karenni State Youth Association said that there was no fighting ongoing in the area, and military jet flying around is disrupting the daily lives of the children and the residents.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Explosions took place in Yangon and Mandalay, targeting the regime’s election plans

As the regime is accelerating efforts to hold the sham election this year, its lapdogs are hard at work collecting the population list in many places of the country since January 9. It’s speculated that conducting the census is not only for the election but to investigate the size of PDF. The resistance forces have urged the civilians not to participate and support the regime’s plans. At least seven explosions took place in the regime’s offices in Yangon and Mandalay where the activities had been conducted to support the election. On January 10, Htautkyant’s municipal office in Yangon was blasted by Yangon Underground (YUF), warning the staff not to participate in these activities. Nobody was hurt. On the following day, a minor bomb blast was reported in Tamwe near those that had been collecting census. On the same day, five locations saw explosions in Mandalay. No more Dictatorship People Defence Force (NMD) claimed responsibility for all attacks.

  • Regime’s followers targeted while conducting census in Launglon tsp, Tanintharyi Region

On January 9, two resistance forces coordinated to ambush the junta’s lapdogs made up of soldiers, policemen, and ward administrators that had been collecting the population list in Launglon Township, Tanintharyi Region. The incident took place in Kamyawkin Village, where the armed people were attacked by Lounglon PDF and Dawei Guerrilla Revolutionary Force. A policeman was killed on the spot and a soldier was wounded. AK 47 rife, ammunition and magazines were also seized.

  • SAC’s immigration office burned down in Yesagyo tsp, Magway Region

On the morning of January 12, a local-based PDF mounted an assault on the immigration office of the regime in Yesagyo, Magway Region. According to local sources, the immigration office had been collecting population data in order to help set up the regime’s election this year. PDF burned down four buildings where the documents and data were stored. The rangers also captured four staff alive and encouraged them to join the Civic Disobedience Movement (CDM) before setting them free without a scratch.

  • Junta’s lapdogs conducting census for election shot and killed in Thaton tsp, Mon State

Two people working for the regime were shot and killed in Thaton Township, Mon State on January 13. Village administrator U Soe Thein and his clerk were shot dead by Thaton PDF in their office in Taungsoon Village. Two of them had apparently threatened the villagers to submit the household list or else, face detention. Both were shot twice, the clerk was killed on the spot and the administrator died at the hospital.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Two MPs from NLD and family members abducted in Pwint Phyu tsp, Magway Region

The news came from Magway Region that U Win Win, the member of parliament from the NLD party representing Minbu Township and U Tun Tun, another MP from NLD representing Pwint Pyu Township were abducted along with U Phoe Kyaw, NLD officer from Salin Township on January 8. Early morning on that day, the regime’s soldiers opened fire and raided Shar Taw Village, Pwint Pyu Township where all of them had been hiding. All three were captured by the regime’s forces together with their family members; about 27 people in total including CDM staff and children as young as four-year-old. Witnesses said the MPs were blindfolded and beaten-up during the arrest. The detainees are now believed to have been sent to an interrogation center.

  • Another private hospital closed and sealed for hiring CDM doctor in Mandalay

The regime ordered to closedown of another private hospital named Kyal Sin Lin in Mandalay, making it the sixth private hospital to be sealed off for having CDM staff. Two owners, who have not been identified yet, were also said to be arrested along with the close of the facility. At least five hospitals faced the same fate in Mandalay previously such as Myodaw, Nandaw, Kantkaw, Htet Nay Lin, and Sein Pan. The regime has been targeting such private hospitals so that medical staff on CDM will be forced to go back to the public service its control.

  • Regime conducted CDM-clearance operation in Shan-north

In the second week of January, the regime’s forces have abducted more than 20 people under the name of CDM clearance operation in Thibaw, Lashio and Kyautme towns in northern Shan State. On the evening of January 9, two young activists, four education staff in CDM, three medical staff in CDM were abducted in Lashio and sent to the North Eastern Command located in Lashio. Similarly, a doctor and a dentist in CDM from Kyaukme and two teachers in CDM from Thipaw towns were abducted on January 12. Thirteen more CDM staff were said to be arrested by the regime on January 13.  

  • Church attacked, five including two religious leaders killed in Karen State

On the evening of January 12, the regime conducted airstrikes in Laywar Village, Paykay Village Tract, Luthaw Township, Muthraw District under the Karen National Union (KNU)’s territory in Karen State. The aerial attack targeted a church, killing a reverend pastor, a minister, a mother, a three-year-old child, and a villager. According to witnesses, two fighter jets flew above the building, dropping two bombs each. Many more villagers were also wounded and have now fled their homes due to the fear of similar attacks.

  • SAC’s artillery killed one civilian and wounded another in Indaw, Sagaing Region

The junta’s artillery fire killed a civilian named Ko Naing Win and injured his wife in Indaw Town, Sagaing Region on January 13. The shell resulting from the indiscriminate shooting by the regime’s soldiers fell near the victims when both were working on their farm just outside the town. The culprits were Light Infantry Unit 416 and it arranged the funeral of Ko Naing Win on its own and only allowed a few family members to attend.

  • Eight family members robbed and murdered in Kantbalu tsp, Sagaing

On early January 14, eight family members including three children were murdered in the Pyu Saw Htee-strong area in Sagaing Region. The tragedy occurred in Ngar Myaung Village, Kantbalu Township where unknown men robbed the family before brutally killing them. It’s unknown who committed the atrocity. But since the family had supported the NLD during the 2020 election and led the party’s activities and the regime’s military camp is located near the crime scene and Pyu Saw Htee groups are also based nearby, many speculated it’s one of them. The victims were 70-year-old U Kyaw Hlaing, 65-year-old Daw Mae Nyunt, 50-year-old Daw Hnin Mya Hlaing, 15-year-old Ma Su Mya San, 40-year-old U Tin Myo Win and Daw Hnin Mya Khine, 13-year-old Ma Shwe Bon San and 6-year-old Mg Khant Zeya Myo. All of them had multiple wounds on the body and the neck.

Armed Resistance

  • SAC attacked CNF headquarter with fighter jets in Chin State

On January 10, the regime attacked Victoria Camp, the headquarter of Chin National Front (CNF) with aerial bombs. Three YAK 130 and two MIG 29 aircraft flew five times, dropping explosives on the location. Five rangers from Chin National Army (CNA) were killed, the victims were Mai Ngun Hlai Par, Mai Sui Len Par, Salai Van Ro Piang, Salai Duh Tin and Salai Kil Mang. CNF officials said that no major building was destroyed during the attack. One of the bombs fell in Indian territory and the Indian army was said to have inspected the incident. The junta’s plan to attack the CNF’s headquarter has been leaked since last year and it has finally been implemented despite its ceasefire announcement toward the ethnic armed organizations.

  • Junta’s convoy detonated with landmines, six killed in Myothar, Mandalay Region

On the afternoon of January 10, the regime’s military convoy was detonated with multiple landmines by Ngagani local resistance force in Myothar Town, Nganzon Township, Mandalay Region. Five vehicles carrying about 60 troops were on target, and at least six soldiers were killed on the spot and ten more were severely injured. The soldiers opened fire randomly into the neighborhood before blocking the area immediately and abducting two civilians nearby for investigation.

  • Two women sacrificed their lives and took down soldiers in Kawlin tsp, Sagaing Region

On January 7, two women were stopped on the road by the junta’s forces in Kawlin Township, Sagaing Region. Those women were 45-year-old Daw Su Su Yee and 20-year-old Ma Hnin Si Hlaing, the rangers of Kawlin PDF and they were carrying hand-made grenades on their motorbike. As they had no option but to give in to the soldiers, the women triggered the grenades, killing themselves and the soldiers. Daw Su Su Yee and Ma Hnin Si Hlaing have been praised for their ultimate courage and hailed as martyrs.  

  • Regime’s soldiers ambushed, seven killed in Sarlingyi tsp, Sagaing Region

On the evening of January 12, many local-based resistances coordinated a guerilla attack on the junta’s forces that had been terrorizing the villages in Sarlingyi Township, Sagaing Region. The ambush was carried out from close range as the soldiers were too busy setting Phaungkahta and Kine villages on fire. At least seven soldiers were killed and nine were severely injured during the attack. One ranger was also wounded. Since the incident, the regime’s soldiers have retaliated by conducting an offensive in the area.  

  • Tension rises between SAC’s militia and KIA in Hpakant tsp, Kachin State

A tense situation between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the regime’s militia has been created since the former had warned the gold-mining businesses to leave Shaduzut Village by January 14. The village is in Hpakant Township, Kachin State where many armed conflicts had occurred due to the gold-mining opportunities. Many businesses left following the KIA’s order and the junta’s militia also blocked the roads and set up landmines. There is no active fire yet but due to all the signs, the fight is speculated to take place imminently. 

Others

  • Over 20 Myanmar, including children arrested in Northern Thailand

Thai media reports that over 20 Myanmar workers, including seven children, were detained in Thailand’s Chiang Rai Province on January 13 for illegally crossing the border. The border guards reportedly went to investigate after receiving a tip that a group of Myanmar nationals had entered the Golden Triangle area of Chiang Rai Province by crossing the Ruak River. There was a total of 22 people: seven children, six men, seven women and two guides. 

Sources: Khit Thit, Myanmar Now, Mizzima, Irrawaddy, RFA Burmese, Justice for Myanmar

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