Folks, the third year of Min Aung Hlaing’s illegal coup has fast approached, and the public gears up for the Nationwide Silent Strike on February 1 to show their undaunted revolution spirit and defiance against the military regime. To legitimise its illegal power grab, the regime needs to hold an election soon, and despite the people’s rejection, the military is committed to holding that sham election. This week, the regime introduced the new party registration law which can abolish the National League for Democracy easily. Meanwhile, the military-backed USDP party is hard at work, campaigning for the win. Armed resistance, on the other hand, continues with frequent clashes in Karen State this week, displacing thousands of civilians. On the international front, the rights group JEM exposed the international support that the regime has been receiving. Read all about it in our update.
- The military’s new political party registration law is tighter than the previous regime’s
On January 27, the military-controlled newspapers published the new political party registration law. Political analyst U Thuta Zaw told Myanmar Now in an inclusive interview that the new law contains regulations which are more tightened than the rules from General Than Shwe’s regime. The new law stated that any existing political party which fails to register in 60 days (i.e. by the end of March 2023) will be abolished, and all the party properties including buildings and headquarters will be confiscated and nationalized. U Thuta Zaw said that this bylaw was not new as it was also in the 2010 version of this law, but the clause which says confiscation and nationalization of party’s properties were not included in the 2010 version, and thus, even though the NLD did not register to enter the 2010 election, the NLD’s headquarters remained intact. If the NLD does not register its party soon, Min Aung Hlaing’s forces can abolish the NLD according to this new law. U Thuta Zaw also speculated that, because of this new party registration law, a group of NLD members who wish to keep the party going will step up, causing polarization inside the party as well as among the public. If we recall, former NLD parliamentarian Daw Sandar Min and party member U Toe Lwin visited the detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw Prison last year, requesting her permission to reopen party offices to which the state counsellor said no.
- 84 party members killed, more than 1200 are arbitrarily arrested, NLD reports
The National League for Democracy’s Human Rights Documentary Team (NLD-HRDT) announced on January 29 that 84 party members have been killed by the junta including two members of parliament. The report, which was recorded since the coup on February 1, 2021, to January 5, 2023, also said that 1232 party members remain under detention to this day. The NLD-HRDT’s report also highlighted that 12,670 people have been detained, 3,758 have been released, and 9,812 remain detained. The military council has also destroyed and/or confiscated a total of 35,969 houses, the report said.
- The military’s proxy USDP party campaigning for the election regardless of the uncertainty
Although the upcoming 2023 election is uncertain, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the military’s proxy party, has begun its campaign activities since October 2022. Under the new leadership led by military hardliner U Khin Yee, the USDP has increased its party activities in the past few months, organizing and mobilizing in Naypyidaw, Yangon, Bago, Mandalay, and Southern Shan State. Some party activities were seen in Rakhine State where the military had an informal ceasefire with the Arakan Army (AA). The notorious former military man Bullet Hla Swe, who now chairs the USDP’s Naypyidaw office, has been campaigning for the USDP, meeting voters in January and asking for their votes.
- President U Win Myint’s family members’ location unknown
President U Win Myint, who has been detained at a secret location in Naypyidaw with his five other family members, was transferred to Taungoo Prison on January 14. While security has been tightened in his new location, the location of his family members has been unable to be traced according to Myanmar Now’s report on January 24. The five people include the president’s wife Daw Cho Cho, daughter Ma Phyu Phyu Thin and her husband who is also a regional parliamentarian U Soe Moe, the president’s sister Daw Ma Ma Lay, and U Soe Moe’s mother. These people have been arbitrarily detained for almost two years for no substantial reason. The fate of two helpers in the president’s household is also unclear.
- Junta chief pressured to take action against information leaks from the military
During a meeting in Naypyidaw on January 27, the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing said that the information leaks from the military have been worsened and actions should be taken more seriously. A source told Khit Thit media that during the meeting, Min Aung Hlaing said that the information leaks about the regime’s plan have ruined the regime’s propaganda, revealing the instability inside the army bases. The source also said that higher-ranked generals in the army attempted to leave the military as they worried for the future of their families and relatives.
- Rights group revealed that more than 60 governments and international organizations are supporting the military regime
On January 25, Justice for Myanmar (JFM) issued a new report which disclosed that 22 foreign governments, 26 intergovernmental organizations (including 14 UN entities), 8 foreign financial institutions, and 8 other international organizations have been supporting the illegal military council. Four main types of support have been identified in the report which are: 1) Political Support through diplomatic relations and actions such as inviting the junta’s representatives to forums and meetings, 2) Technical Cooperation which transfers knowledge and skills to the junta or those who sever the regime’s interest, 3) Financial Support such as development initiatives, loan disbursement, direct or indirect business deals, and 4) Renting Properties such as hotels, offices spaces and residences from military-linked businesses. The JFM acknowledged that among the cases in the report, 13 organizations have taken actions towards ending their support to the regime, and the group continued to call on the governments and organizations to end their ties with the military regime.
- Opium cultivation surging under military rule, UNODC reports
On January 26, the United Nations Office on Drug and Crimes (UNODC) issued a report which stated that opium poppy was harvested on more than 99,090 acres in Myanmar in the year 2022, which was 33% increase compared with the year before. The data was collected by the UNODC in February 2021. UNODC’s Asia Regional Coordinator Jeremy Dogulas said that due to the insecurity in livelihood, safety and poor administration, farmers in Northern Shan State and those in border areas resorted to cultivating opium. The UNODC stated that Myanmar is the second largest producer of heroin and opium, wherein Afghanistan stands first. The UN office also estimated that Myanmar generated between USD 660 million to 2 billion in income from opium. Jeremy Douglas warned that attention should be continued to put on Myanmar’s opium business amidst the instability inside the country.
- Japanese Construction Company Gave $1 million to military-owned MEC
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on January 24 that a major Japanese construction company has given more than US$1 million to the military-owned business conglomerate Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) for a project being built with the help of the Japanese government. “The Japanese government is supporting the brutal actions of the military council through the business relationship between the Yokogawa Bridge Company and the Burmese military-owned MEC,” Teppei Kasai, HRW’s Asia Program Officer, said. “The Japanese government should stop providing funds to the Myanmar junta. Japan should not be a supporter of their brutal crimes,” he continued.
- Chinese car company BYD Auto will manufacture electric vehicles in Thilawa
After the import of electric vehicles (EV) is approved in the local car market, dealership agents spoke to DVB news that Chinese company BYD Auto will build a factory and manufacturing cars for sales on SKD system at Thilawa. Although the regime prohibits the car import permit to reduce the amount of fuel consumption locally it allows the import of electric vehicles and welcomes investors to manufacture cars on the SKD system. Thus, over 20 companies have offered to manufacture EVs in local market, and currently, BYD Auto company will be the first company to manufacture cars on SKD system. An agent with a dealership license from BYD Auto said that BYD will build their factory in Thilawa, just like Suzuki. Their plan is to start operating within 6 months. For the first 6 months, they will import cars from China. Within the next 6 months, they will sell cars manufactured by this company.
- Thai imported products have rising prices in the local market
Due to the changes in import policy, difficulty in transportation and inflation, Thailand’s food and beverage products, cosmetics, and agricultural devices prices have increased in the local market. Myawaddy-based merchants said that the current exchange rate of Thai baht is 1 baht = 86 Myanmar Kyats (MMK), and the flow of trade in the Myawaddy-Kawkareik road has temporarily stopped due to the ongoing conflict. In December 2022, 1 baht is equal to 80 MMK. A distributor selling Thai food and beverage products and groceries from Yangon spoke to Irrawaddy News that as the buying price for these products has increased, newly imported condensed milk and evaporated milk prices could slightly increase their prices.
Protests & Fundraising
- Myanmar’s civilian govt raises $10 million
The presale of apartments in the Spring Valour Condominium, which will be built on military-owned land in Yangon, raised more than US$10 million in just 18 hours for Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG). The sale is the NUG’s Ministry of Planning, Finance, and Investment’s (MOPFI) latest attempt to raise funds for the ongoing revolution against the junta by selling or auctioning the military-owned property. MOPFI has raised approximately $100 million from various similar projects, including the sale of two houses owned by junta boss Min Aung Hlaing and other military-owned lands. It hopes to raise approximately $250 million by the end of this year.
- Continuing protests across the country
Protests across the country are still going strong, including Yinmarbin, Myaing, Kalay, Laung Lone, Monywa, Myung, Hpakant, and Khin-U.
- Nationwide Silent Strike on 1st February
The Democratic Youth Council has announced that there will be a nationwide silent strike on February 1, 2023, which marks the second anniversary of the military takeover. As not to burden people’s livelihood activities, the time will be from 10 am to 3 pm. The plan for Silent Strike has been endorsed widely among Myanmar netizens to show the people’s rejection towards the military rule.
- Thousands of civilians displaced by Karen State clashes
Between January 20 and 26, junta troops had been firing heavy artillery near the town of Kyondo in Karen State’s Kawkareik Township, forcing almost up to 20,000 people to be displaced from their homes, according to local sources. A village called Kanni, located in the southwestern part of Kyondo was heavily shelled, the spokesperson of a resistance force, Lion Battalion told Myanmar Now. Indiscriminate shelling also displaced residents from eight other communities in the surrounding area.
- Over 9,000 displaced in Sagaing Region’s Ye-U and Tabayin townships
On January 23, junta troops advanced into Ye-U Township, causing about 2,000 residents to be internally displaced, and the next day, the troops continued onto Tabayin Township and fired indiscriminate attacks against the communities in Lat Yat Kone and Nyaung Hla villages, resulting in over 7,000 residents to flee for safety. Residents said there were also reports of arson attacks in some of the villages in Tabayin Township.
- Over 3,000 freshly displaced in Demoso Township
A 100-strong military column with full armor and tanks advanced into Kayah (Karenni) State’s Demoso Township on January 22, causing over 3,000 residents in the eastern Demoso Township to flee as of January 26. The Director of Karenni Human Rights Group, U Banyar told RFA Burmese that residents from 11 villages and three IDP camps are on the run without any preparations, so the residents are in dire situations. According to KnHRG, there are currently over 180,000 internally displaced people in Kayah (Karenni) State in the past two years.
- 17.6 million Myanmar people in need of humanitarian assistance, UN reports
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) announced that out of Myanmar’s 56 million population, 17.6 million need humanitarian assistance. Originally published on January 15, the 119-page report offered the 2023 humanitarian needs overview on Myanmar. The report said 1.7 million of the 17.6 million are currently residing in Rakhine State. Among the newly displaced populations, food (88 percent), shelter (55 percent), protection services (35 percent), and livelihoods (31 percent) are the top needs. The report also highlighted that 25 million Myanmar people are living in poverty.
Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys and Properties
- SAC major in charge of interrogation centers assassinated on Yangon-Mandaly Expressway
Major Than Htut, who oversaw the notorious interrogation operations in Yangon was lured into a trap and killed by PDF members last Sunday. On the afternoon of January 22, Than Htut and his followers disguised themselves as resistance rangers and planned to meet fellow comrades to buy weapons, a usual tactic that had resulted in the losses of many PDF members. This time, PDF had received the intelligence beforehand. The vehicle carrying Major Than Htut, another interrogation officer Myint Aung and two other spies ran into a setup by PDF near the 161 milestone on Yangon-Mandalay Expressway, igniting a brief shootout. Outnumbered, Than Htut and Myint Aung were shot dead on the spot, and two others were said to be killed as they tried to run from the arrest. PDF Battalion 3501 claimed responsibility for the attack. News reported that another vehicle carrying the junta’s military captains and interrogation officers was supposed to have followed the major but it had a flat tire. Suspicious of the soldiers’ loyalty, all those in the car with a flat tire have reportedly been put under interrogation as of reporting this.
- Military and administrative offices set on fire in Kyarinseikkyi tsp, Karen State
On the night of January 23, the resistance forces conducted raids on the junta’s offices in Phayarthonezu Town, Kyarinseikkyi Township, Karen State. The Military Affairs Security office, General Administrative office, Immigration office, and Municipal office were broken into at the same time and set on fire. Most of the buildings were burned into ashes in the operation that was meant to warn the government staff to join the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). Locals said that resistance forces under the control of the Karen National Union (KNU) carried out the mission, and claimed to have heard back-and-forth firings in the town following the incident.
- Retired major and wife shot and killed in Mayangone tsp, Yangon
On the morning of January 25 around 8.30 am, a husband and a wife were shot and killed in Manyangone Township Ward (1), Yangon. They were later identified as a former SAC major and his wife, both died on the spot. The area was immediately blocked by the regime forces who conducted a thorough investigation afterward, thinking the shooters were still in the neighborhood. The soldiers were also witnessed demanding to hand over CCTV records from the ward administrators. There was no news of arrests as of reporting.
- Notorious ward administrator taken out by Urban Guerilla in Pyigyitagon tsp, Mandalay
On the evening of January 27, Mandalay Urban Guerilla carried out a mission and killed a notorious Dalan from Pyigyitagon Township. The man was Khin Maung, who served the regime as a hundred household administrator and he was said to have been coordinating with the soldiers in destroying people’s lives. Khin Maung was shot and killed in his own home. The urban guerilla members vow to continue targeting those informers and Pyu Saw Htee groups in order to protect the people.
Arbitrary Arrests, Killings and Violence
- Another lawyer representing political prisoners detained in Mandalay Region
On the evening of January 22, U Kyaw Soe Win, a legal representative of political prisoners was arrested by the junta’s soldiers from his home in Kyikone Village, Patheingyi Township, Mandalay Region. The 40-year-old man was assisting legal advice to the detainees from Mandalay’s Obo Prison up to his arrest despite many threats. The junta’s supporters lobbied on telegram channels that the soldiers must arrest U Kyaw Soe Win for supporting the resistance. They shared his Facebook post from March 2021 in which he said he would risk his life by representing political prisoners, calling for his head. U Kyaw Soe Win, also a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) is now said to be put under interrogation.
- A child and a woman killed by regime’s unprovoked shooting in Wuntho tsp, Sagaing Region
The resistance forces and the regime’s army clashed for two days near Lwingyi Village, Wuntho Township, Sagaing Region starting January 21. About 80 junta troops retreated when they suffered multiple losses. Later reinforcement arrived, and they conducted an offensive again. The troops fired artillery at a nearby Panenekone Village, thinking PDF was based there. One of those firearms hit and killed a year-old child and injured the father. A woman was also shot dead as she tried to flee when she saw the soldiers entering the village.
- SAC conducted airstrike on monastery, injured IDPs in Mindat tsp, Chin State
On the morning of January 23, the regime’s air force conducted aerial attacks on a monastery where internally displaced people (IDP) were staying in Palatehtwee Village, Mindat Township, Chin State. The monastery was destroyed by the airstrikes, and households nearby were also ruined. At least five IDPs were injured, and two of them suffered severe injuries.
- Three civilians abducted and tortured for allegedly helping PDF in Indaw, Sagaing Region
The regime forces reportedly detained three civilians for allegedly communicating and supporting the PDF in Indaw Town, Sagaing Region. On January 23, U Chit Ko Ko @ U Phoe Si, the owner of a stationary store was arrested after being accused of donating books and accessories to the schools under the control of the National Unity Government (NUG). On the following day, a military informer was detained by resistance forces in a local restaurant and the junta’s soldiers responded by abducting the owners, husband, and wife of the restaurant. The victims are U Mya Win @ Kan Htoo Aung and Daw San San Kyi @ Daw Thit Sone, both have been beaten up under interrogation according to the pictures released by the junta’s supporters.
- Ten civilians arrested following attack on soldiers in Hakha, Chin State
On the morning of January 25, two SAC soldiers were attacked by the Chin Defense Force (CDF) on Hakha-Matupi Road in Chin State. Both died on the spot as CDF rangers collected a G4 gun. The regime’s forces retaliated by arresting civilians that live near the scene of the attack. At least ten people including children were arrested. Not satisfied with mere abductions, the soldiers went on to demolish houses nearby using a bulldozer. At least two houses were knocked to the ground.
- Detained civilian tortured to death in Interrogation in Sawhti tsp, Karen State
Karen National Union (KNU) released news that the junta had killed a detained civilian within three days of his arrest. The victim was Ko Kyaw Zin Latt @ Shan Gyi from Seikkalaysuutaw Village, Sawhti Township, Nyaunglaypin District, Karen State. He was a motorbike taxi driver and was arrested by a junta officer on January 22. He was accused by another civilian he had taken her husband to the PDF. On January 25, the regime only returned the dead body to the family, where severe torture wounds were found.
- Major clash broke out in Kawkareisk tsp, Karen State
Since January 20, the regime’s army and the resistance forces have been clashing near Kanni Village across Kyondoe Town, Kawkareik Township, Karen State. The ongoing battle intensified on January 25 and both sides have suffered losses. Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO), Lion Battalion Commando and PDF are reportedly fighting on the people’s side against the junta’s forces. According to KNDO, the regime has been targeting civilians since its forces have fired artillery and conducted airstrikes on the villages that are inhabited by civilians mainly. The artillery was recorded more than 100 times and airstrikes 10 times. The junta lost about 90 soldiers and the KNDO suffered three deaths.
- PDF lost a station due to airstrike in Mogok tsp, Mandalay Region
On January 20, a PDF station near Maihone Village was attacked from the sky by the junta’s forces in Mogok Township, Mandalay Region. Three fighter jets bombed at least 30 times from above and at the same time, the ground operation was also conducted by about 200 troops. A PDF commander was killed and three others were severely wounded before the rest had to desert the station due to the outnumbered enemies. They were able to bring weapons along but had to leave behind other items such as generators and food. In that area, PDF Battalion Units 1221 and 1222 under NUG are active and involved with operations that take place in Shan north.
- Six rangers killed as they ran into military convoy in Wetlet tsp, Sagaing Region
On January 25, a 12-member scout team from PDF ran into the military troops near Wetlet Town, Sagaing Region. The encounter turned into a 30-minute battle in which six rangers were killed and two were captured with wounds. The incident took place between Muugyi and Makyitone villages, two miles west of the town. The PDF rangers were only carrying handmade guns and they were forced to fight an 80-troop equipped with automatic guns. Only four escaped from the scene alive and two of them also suffered severe wounds.
- PDF and KIA coordinated attacks on SAC stations in Kachin State
PDF and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) joined forces and mounted assaults on four stations of the regime located in Hpakant, Karmine, Salzin etc within two days. Around 8 pm on January 25, the resistance forces attacked Mhawsisar Police Station in Hpakant Township. On the early morning of January 26 around 4 am, the forces opened fire on the regime’s strategy station in Karmine Town, the military station in Moekaung Township, and the joint station of the regime and Shan National Army (SNA) in Salzin Village. The regime’s army responded by shelling artillery toward KIA’s base.
- Junta stops issuing passports
As of January 17, the junta fully suspended issuing and renewing passports, as well as accepting new passport applications. The reasons behind the suspension and how long it will last have not been specified by the regime. Young and middle-aged people have been leaving Myanmar daily in the hope of better economic prospects since the coup. Top destinations for people leaving Myanmar include Thailand, Malaysia, Korea and Japan. Employment agencies and labor rights activists warned that the suspension of passport services will result in an increase in the number of people leaving Myanmar illegally.
Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, The Irrawaddy, Mizzima News, The DVB, RFA Burmese, Ayeyarwaddy Times, BNI, YKT News