The Silent Strike was held successfully on February 1 as the people’s power and dedication in this resistance was shown once again. Yet, many arbitrary arrests followed that success behind the curtains. The junta’s forces have been doubling down on their leader’s restriction on the freedom of expression, by detaining everyone who “like, comment, share” on any pro-resistance posts on social media. This week alone saw half a dozen people being arrested for merely sharing or posting on Facebook regarding the silent strike. Many more abductions would have gone under the radar, certainly. In the meantime, the regime was forced to admit instability under its reign, extending six more months of emergency rule and imposing martial law in several townships which would bring court martial into the picture in thousands of political charges. Meanwhile, NUG announced that its PDF rangers shot down a military chopper in Sagaing Region. Although no concrete verification has been shared so far, millions of people rejoiced at the news since the inability to stop the junta’s aerial attacks has been the only factor keeping the resistance from going further. Read our highlights below:
- The military council extends another 6 months of emergency rule
On January 31, Min Aung Hlaing organised the National Defense and Security Council meeting with a group of his puppets, and extended the emergency rule for another six months, claiming that the country is not ready to hold an election. The 2008 Constitution only gives two years of emergency rule, which is due on January 31, 2023. The coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, with his self-proclaimed prime minister title, said that the General Election must be held at once in all townships of the country, but the current situation in the country doesn’t allow as such. His presentation at the NDSC meeting admitted that the military is only able to control 198 townships out of 330 in the country, whereas 67 townships have security concerns and tightened security measures are in immediate need in 65 townships. These figures translate that the regime has lost control of 67 townships, and can only partially control 65 townships. The junta chief’s attempts to carry out formalities under the 2008 Constitution reflect that he is trying extremely hard to legitimize the coup he staged two years back.
- The regime imposed 37 townships under martial law
On February 2, the regime-controlled media outlets broadcast that 37 townships across eight states and regions are placed under martial law. The said townships are the places where armed resistance is going strong such as up to eleven townships in Sagaing Region, seven townships in Chin State, five townships in Magway Region, five townships in Bago Region, four townships in Karenni (Kayah) State, two in Karen State, and one each in Mon State and Taninthayi Region. Political analysts said that the announcement of martial law further proves that the regime has lost control in these regions, but also raised concerns that more violence and atrocities can be expected under martial law-imposed areas. Martial law also means the military can arrest and execute anyone under the military tribunals which can be translated that there will be no justice for arrested individuals.
- Reshuffling of the military council’s cabinet
Following the extension of the military council at the NDSC, the regime further announced the reshuffle of its cabinet members and central advisory body members. Notable new appointments include U Than Swe, experienced former diplomat, replacing Wunna Maung Lwin’s position as Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Rakhine State Chief Minister position is now filled by former General Htein Lin. The position of Minister for Ethnic Affairs was replaced by Jeng Phang Naw Taung, but he later said to the media that he was forced to take the position.
- US and UK imposed further sanctions to mark the second anniversary of the coup
The US Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on six individuals including one current military council cabinet member, former and current military officials, notorious former USDP lawmaker Bullet Hla Swe, and Rachel Tay Za, the adult daughter of notorious crony Tay Za. Three government entities under sanction include the regime-assembled Union Election Commission, No. 1 and 2 Mining Enterprises. The UK’s latest round of sanctions targeted the businesses which supply aviation fuel to the military, including two companies under the Asia Sun Group, and two individuals, Zaw Min Tun and Win Kyaw Kyaw Aung who are current and former directors/shareholders of the trading group.
- US Senators called for immediate release of Myanmar’s leaders
The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations published a statement on February 1, the second anniversary of the military coup. The statement reads “Today, we reiterate our vehement condemnation of the Tatmadaw’s merciless killing and torture of the people of Burma, including the executions of pro-democracy activists and decades of atrocities against ethnic minorities like the Rohingya, and speak with one voice in calling for the regime to immediately release all political prisoners, including President Win Myint and State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi.” The senators went on and called the military’s planned election “sham” and it would never lead to legitimacy in the eyes of the Burmese people or the broader international community.
- Myanmar’s failing economy since Coup to continue, World Bank says
According to a World Bank report released on January 30, Myanmar’s economy is expected to grow by 3% this year but it will still be lower than it was before the military coup in 2021. It is also estimated that Myanmar’s economy will decline by more than 10 percent compared to the period before the outbreak of the Covid-19 epidemic and the coup. The value of the Myanmar Kyat has been declining since July 2022, and it fell by half in December compared to the previous two years.
- American Petroleum Company Chevron to sell shares in Yadanar Project
After French-owned company Total left Myanmar, the biggest share-owned company of Mottama gulf Chevron is now going to start selling its shares in Yadanar Project. Chevron announced that it would also leave Myanmar’s biggest gulf petroleum project since last year, and it will sell its shares to Canada-based MTI Energy. Chevon owns 41.4%, MOGE owns 21.8%, and Thailand-based PTT owned 37% of Yadanar Project, which has been selling petroleum to Thailand and is working as an operator. The Guardians News wrote on February 1 that Chevron will sell all of its shares to MTI Energy’s subsidiary Et Martem Holdings from Canada.
- Regime sold state-owned factories, following in previous regime’s footsteps
Min Aung Hlaing is reported to be selling off state-owned businesses to the private sector, following in the footsteps of the business mantra that former regime leader Than Shwe initiated about 30 years ago. Junta’s industry minister Dr. Charlie Than said 55 out of 107 state-owned factories and workshops under the Ministry of Industry had already been sold to the private sector about four months ago. The exact number being sold is not known at the time of reporting, but state-owned newspapers have had regular advertisements inviting those who would like to take over operations of state-owned businesses since December 2022.
- SAC running railway on despite few customer
As most Myanmar railroad staff participated in CDM after the military coup, there have been not enough human resources, and there are fewer riders. Therefore, SAC cannot run railroad trips on a normal schedule and is now operating at a loss. Before Covid-19, there is an average of 8,000 – 10,000 rail riders daily. However, there are only about a few hundred to a thousand daily riders, and there are fewer trips run on a daily basis at a loss according to the network of CDM railroad officers. One of the CDM workers from Myanmar Railroad spoke to DVB that current railroad trips are not very successful financially. On a freight train, the military generals could probably make some profits, but for railroad transportation for the general public, they are taking a loss. There are only a few staff on each train station, and in the past, there are about six staff, but currently, the same station is run by only two staff. As there are not enough staff in some stations, they will have to permanently close some stations according to CDM railroad staff’s network.
- Junta’s rampage in Sagaing Region’s Kanbalu and Salingyi townships displaced thousands of residents
Between January 29 and February 4, over 10,000 residents from Sagaing Region’s Kanbalu and Salingyi townships were displaced respectively, as the result of clearance operations in Salingyi Township and more arson attacks in Kanbalu Township. On January 29, over 120-strong military columns raided Chaung Kyar village and torched 23 houses, causing over 10,000 residents from nearby 12 villages to flee. Between February 3 and 4, a 150-strong military column raided the northern part of Salingyi Township and shot a resident of Kywae Kho Taw village to death, causing over 10,000 residents from almost 20 villages to be internally displaced.
- Karenni State reports 1,300 houses torched within 2 Years, around 5,000 houses burned down across Myanmar in Jan 2023
The Progressive Karenni People Force issued a statement on February 1, 2023 and said that within the two years under the control of the military, over 430 residents of Karenni State and over 1,300 houses were burned down. Additionally, the Ministry of Interior and Immigration and Fire Brigade Department under the National Unity Government reported on February 1 that a total of 4,807 houses were destroyed in a series of brutal arson attacks across the country, and about 23 people were burned to death in January 2023 alone.
- Over 1 million people displaced within 2 years of coup, NUG and Irrawaddy report
The National Unity Government issued a statement on February 1, 2023, which disclosed that a total of 1.5 million people have been displaced in the two years since February 1, 2021. The Irrawaddy’s “Conflicts in Numbers” report on February 1, 2023, also echoed NUG’s figure, and said the impact of military rule has displaced about 1.1 million people from their homes, caused 15.2 million people to face food insecurity and 5 million children to require assistance.
Protests & Fundraising
- Nationwide Silent Strike held successfully
The people of Myanmar once again showed our defiance against the military rule on February 1, 2023. To show resistance to the illegal coup staged by Min Aung Hlaing, the Silent Strike was held across the country where people did not go out from 10 am to 3 pm, emptying the streets and refusing to function under military rule. The streets of Yangon, Mandalay, Naypyidaw, Monywa, Pathein, Myaungmya, Maubin, Myitkyina, Bhamo, Hpakant and other cities remained empty all day as residents stayed indoors.
- Live message on wall of UN secretariat in New York
On the second anniversary of Myanmar’s military coup, activists in New York projected a live message on the UN Secretariat’s wall, urging the world body to stop legitimizing the junta.
- Continuing protests across the country
Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Myaing, Kani, Kalay, Khin Oo, Yinmarbin, Sagaing, Monywa, Laung Lone, May Myo, Myawaddy, Pyin Oo Lwin, Wetlet, and Kachin regions.
- Fundraising activity by UG family in Thailand
1st February: In Thailand, the UG Family received a total of 1,369 baht in donations for the ongoing revolution.
Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys and Properties
- Village administrator shot to death in Thayetchaung tsp, Tanintharyi Region
On February 1, a village administrator from Thayetchaung Township, Tanintharyi Region was shot and killed. The man was U Kyaw Soe, he had been serving the junta not only as a village administrator controlling Panetaw Village but also as a member of Pyu Saw Htee. He was shot eight times and killed in his own house that afternoon. The rangers who took care of the mission requested anonymity since they were not back in a safe area.
- Irrigation office blown up in Kalay, Sagaing Region after martial law announced
After the regime imposed martial law in 37 townships on February 2, on the following day the urban guerilla force named God of Empire raided the irrigation office under the control of the regime in Kalay, Sagaing Region, one of the areas placed under martial law. The forces took over the office around 7:45 pm, before setting the facility on fire. At least one bulldozer was destroyed. The military forces were said to have responded by shelling artillery but the God of Empire team managed to retreat safely. Although martial law was placed, the incident showed the military had no complete control even in the urban areas. God of Empire, one of the most active UGs in the region, urged people to donate money to fund its operations.
- Ward administrator shot and killed in Mandalay Region
On February 4 around 10 am, a Mandalay-based urban guerilla force carried out a mission, taking out a notorious ward administrator in Pyigyitagon Township, Mandalay Region. The man in question was U Thar Htay, the administrator from Thinpankone Ward. He was recently promoted by the regime for duly conducting his duties in oppressing people such as forcefully collecting population lists for the election and removing households for allegedly being squatters. The UG, which carried out the mission under the name of Aung Sithu Operation, warned the rest of the junta’s lapdogs not to risk their own lives working for the regime.
- Explosion took place near township administrator’s house in Naypyitaw
On the evening of February 4, a bomb blast occurred near the township administrator’s house on Ngawon Street, Shwekyarpin Ward, Zabbuthiri Township, Naypyitaw. However, there was no damage done to the junta-appointed administrator U Tin Khine’s house. Sittaung Urban Guerilla Force (Naypyitaw) claimed responsibility for the attack and said that the 40-year-old man had been coordinating with the regime for the election campaign and oppressing the people. It was the second time that the same administrator was targeted, in November last year, a parcel bomb was sent to his house but it was found before the explosion. U Tin Khine is often seen in the military-support rallies organized by the military.
Arbitrary Arrest, Killings & Violence
- Arbitrary arrests across the world followed the Silent Strike
After the Silent Strike was successfully organized across the country on February 1, the junta started abducting people who supported the strike in one way or another. A beauty salon owner from Pyinmana Town of Naypyitaw Region was arrested for posting a video on Tiktok with the title “Let’s do it again on February 1” with three finger sign. Ma Khine Bhone Zaw, also from Pyinmana was arrested for posting on her Facebook “If it weren’t for Min Aung Hlaing who committed the coup two years ago, I would have been traveling across the country”. Phyu Phyu, a middle-aged woman from Mudon Town, Mon State was detained for sharing a post about the Silent Strike. A young man was also taken under custody for posting posters at bus stops, calling for the Silent Strike. Another young woman named Ma Soe Yadnar Oo from Naypyidaw was arrested within hours after she posted that the regime was terrified of silent strikes. The military’s lapdogs have been doubling down the regime’s efforts to oppress freedom of expression as they report anyone who “like, comment, share” on the pro-resistance social media posts.
- Regime’s launched cannons and wounded three children and a woman in Mindat, Chin State
On the evening of January 31, the regime’s forces fired cannons and injured civilians in Ohn Village, 20 miles south of Mindat Town, Chin State. The shell fell near the village clinic, wounding three children and a woman. The victims were two 12-year-olds, one 14-year-old, and one 42-year-old and all of them were female. The regime’s soldiers were targeted with a landmine attack recently in the same area and at least 25 people were killed from the unit hence they have been firing non-stop indiscriminately as retaliation.
- Six-year-old child killed by the regime’s soldiers’ unprovoked shooting in Sagaing tsp, Sagaing Region
On February 2, the regime’s forces raided Tadaoo and Tartine villages on the bank of Muu River in Sagaing Township, Sagaing Region. They reportedly opened fire indiscriminately and set the villages on fire. A 6-year-old named Lin Yupar Myo was shot in the stomach and killed during the chaos. At least 60 houses were also burned to the ground. The girl was on her way back from private tuition accompanied by her aunt when the raid took place. The soldiers yelled “Kill them all” as they started shooting toward the village, while the adults were able to take cover behind trees, a bullet hit the kid and tragically killed her.
- SAC’s artillery destroyed civilians’ houses and church in Loikaw, Karenni (Kayah) State
On the evening of February 4, the State Administration Council (SAC)’s forces reportedly fired artillery toward Wayikawku Village, Loikaw Township, Karenni (Kayah) State. According to the local sources, there was no active fire nearby and the attack was completely unprovoked. The one-sided firing lasted more than 4 hours from 10 pm to 2 am in the morning, the heavy weaponry was launched more than 60 times. Among many damages, a church was also included in addition to at least ten civilian houses.
- Three-day battle occurred in Saw tsp, Magway Region
A battle took place between the resistance forces and the junta’s military in Saw Township, Magway Region starting January 29. Since January 26, the regime’s army consisting of 70 troops had been conducting an offensive in the villages between Saw and Kyauthtu villages, on the way from Magway Region to Chin State. When the troops reached Pauktaw Village, a coalition of PDF units carried out an ambush. A landmine detonation attack was conducted the next day followed by another ambush on the third day. At least 20 men from the junta’s side were said to be killed and a scout drone was also destroyed.
- Three resistance rangers killed by SAC’s artillery in Shwebo tsp, Sagaing Region
On February 1, a clash broke out between the resistance forces and the SAC’s army near Bhonebwae Village, five miles south of Shwebo Town, Sagaing Region. The 30-minute-long battle saw three deaths from the resistance force resulting from the army’s artillery, they were 18-year-old Ko Khant Thiha, 30-year-old Ko Paing Gyi, and 27-year-old Ko Win Soe. The rangers were on their way to a mission when they ran into the military column and were forced to enter a full-blown battle. The youngest victim, Ko Khant Thiha, was a member of Yangon’s Strike Committee and his best-known contribution to the resistance was documenting guerilla demonstrations, he was also a main photographer for Nway oo Photography. He was in this battle area so that he could collect footage and organize an exhibition in a liberated area. Due to his often-worn spiderman mask during demonstrations, he was nicknamed “Spider”, and social media poured in “condolences” to the Spider’s death and two other rangers.
- Six junta personnel captured alive and weapons seized during ambush in Htantlang, Chin State
On the early morning of February 1, the allied Chin National Army (CNA) and Chin Defense Force (CDF) conducted a raid on the junta’s forces stationed inside the Central Bank compound, in the downtown of Thantlang Town, Chin State. Without opening fire, the Chin forces managed to capture four policemen and two soldiers, along with their weapons before retreating to the base. Following the incident, the regime’s forces carried out aerial attacks with a military chopper but they were not able to locate the base, and no damage was done. This is the first time an attack was reported in Thantlang Town, where the regime’s military and the resistance forces took control partly since most of the residents left the town at the end of 2021.
- PDF continued to hold territory in Shwepyiaye Town, Sagaing Region
Local-based PDFs mounted an assault on the regime’s forces based in Shwepyiaye Town, Homalin Township, Sagaing Region on February 1, and they have been able to take control of the territory since then. Shwepyiaye Town is located east of the Chindwin River and 20 miles south of Homalin. Until reporting this, battles are still occurring in the area with hundreds of troops on both sides. PDF said it is occupying 90% of the town while it lost three rangers to the battle so far. The news was spread that the resistance forces shot down a military chopper on February 2 but there is no verification of that yet.
- SAC’s inspection gate attacked, seven soldiers killed
On the morning of February 2, local-based PDF reportedly attacked Myadaung Inspection Gate, controlled by the junta’s soldiers in Htigyaint Township, Sagaing Region. The attack killed at least seven soldiers and the rangers also picked up four guns. About 30 soldiers manned the station and the battle took two and a half hours until PDF was able to occupy it. Reinforcement was immediately sent for the regime’s side hence PDF rangers decided not to hold the territory, leaving quickly after weapons were picked up.
- Over 80 Myanmar refugees arrested in India, Myanmar Nationals detained in Thailand
On January 27, about 81 refugees, including 10 children, from Sagaing Region’s Tamu Township were arrested by authorities in India’s Moreh, Manipur State. DVB reported that most of the refugees are Chin ethnics who fled to India after disputes between junta forces and People’s Defense Forces in Tamu Township. Between January 28 and 29, two more people were reportedly arrested. In Thailand’s Ranong, about 655 undocumented Myanmar workers went on a hunger strike, demanding to be released from being detained in an overcrowded and inhumane conditioned-detention center for up to eight months. Thai authorities agreed to repatriate the workers on January 30 with the announcement detailing that 220 migrants will be sent home on February 2 and the rest will be on February 8 and 15.
- Military regime announced News media to be taken action in the court martial
On February 1, 2023, the regime issued a statement announcing the extension of a “state emergency” and imposing additional townships which were imposed martial laws. In the statement, the regime included that the news media would be inspected and take necessary action in military tribunals. The statement said the offenses and crimes under the News Media Law, the Printing and Publishing Law, High Treason, and Defamation would be handled within the court-martial, and there will be no rights to appeal against the punishments and decisions.
Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, Mizzima News, RFA Burmese, DVB News, The Irrawaddy, Ayeyarwaddy Times, Myanmar Pressphoto Agency, Chindwin Media, State Newswire