Hi folks, here’s a recap of another week. Energizing news comes from many areas that the resistance forces are in control of territories in Chin, Magway, Sagaing, Karenni, Sagaing and Karen. Meanwhile, the junta has passed a law for the civilians to bear arms, which means it is determined to arm its “supporters”, effectively inflicting armed clashes among the people. Read all about it in our highlights:
- The regime passed a law for civilians to bear arms
Dated on January 31, 2023, the military council’s Ministry of Home Affairs enacted a law to allow civilians to bear arms with licenses. Five different kinds of small guns are allowed with licences while rifles, pistols and submachine guns are allowed with permits registered at local police stations. The application for licences and permits requires a person to be “loyal to the State”, “good character”, “in actual need of guns”, “mentally well”, and “not to disrupt peace, security and stability of the State”. The announcement said that the decision to enact this law was approved at a cabinet meeting held in December 2022. The announcement of the law coincided with the last day of Min Aung Hlaing’s emergency rule before its extension on February 1. Experts and netizens show concerns over more violence in the country after the enactment of this law.
- Four political parties including the military-backed USDP registered for the sham election
According to RFA Burmese’s report on February 11, four out of 91 existing political parties have registered to enter the 2023 Election. Namely, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), Federal Democratic Party, Union Democracy Party and Myanmar Public Democratic Party have applied for new party registrations from February 1 to 10. Federal Democratic Party was formerly known as Democratic Party (Myanmar) founded by the late political U Thu Wai. People’s Pioneer Party (PPP), founded by the former NLD MP/businesswoman who now serves as the regime’s Minister for Social Welfare Dr Thet Thet Khine, announced that it would renew its registration for the upcoming sham election as well.
- The regime’s peace committee requested KNU to control its arm wings
On February 6, the regime’s peace committee sent a letter to the Karen National Union (KNU) to control and discipline armed groups under its supervision. The letter was addressed to the KNU Chair General Mutu Say Phoe and C-in-C General Saw Johnny, and said that the KNU’s armed wings and their brigades have allied with People Defence Forces (PDF) and clashed with the regime. The military has also accused that, from February 1, 2021, to January 31, 2023, the KNU’s brigades and PDFs have attacked and detonated public properties 116 times in Karen State, 317 times in Mon State, and 662 times in Bago Region. The KNU’s spokesperson confirmed the receipt of the letter, and has not disclosed the ethnic armed group’s response to the military.
- AA, MNDAA and TNLA to support the anti-regime resistance fighters
On February 9, the second anniversary of Monywa People’s Strike, the Three Brotherhood Alliance, which consisted of the Arakan Army (AA), Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), sent a message recognizing and appreciating the Monywa public for showing their defiance in non-violent ways. The message also said that the Alliance stands together with the public and shares political goals. Among the three ethnic armed groups, the AA has currently ceased fire with the military informally. The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) is likely to be abolished according to the regime’s new party registration law.
- The ASEAN’s military envoy must engage with all parties, says an Indonesian former general
During its ASEAN chairmanship, Indonesia president Joko Widodo said last week that a special military envoy will be sent to Myanmar in order to resolve the current situation in Myanmar. On February 9, retired Lt. General Agus Widjojo told Benar media that the envoy must engage with all parties including ethnic armed groups and ousted civilian leaders. He elaborated that the resolution will not be possible if the envoy only engages with one side, and the military envoy position must be appointed to someone who “supports civilian control over the military and understands democratic transition”. Lt Gen Agus Widjojo took part in Indonesia’s help towards Myanmar’s democratic transition from 2007 to 2011.
- It’s time for the ASEAN to officially engage with the NUG, says Malaysian former FM
In his exclusive interview with Radio Free Asia, Malaysia’s former Foreign Minister Saiffudin Abdullah said that it is time for the ASEAN to officially engage with the civilian-elected National Unity Government (NUG) for he has seen the confidence-building work done by the NUG and NUCC has been “fruitful”. Although there has been no substantial progress with the ASEAN’s five-point consensus, the former minister is hopeful about Indonesia’s leadership as President Joko Widodo and FM Retno Marsudi are “passionate”. He is optimistic that something will happen under Indonesia’s chairmanship. In the interview, he also “salutes” the people of Myanmar for their resilience in fighting against the military junta for the past two years.
- White House extends the National Emergency in relation to Burma for another year
On February 6, President Joe Biden signed and extended the National Emergency with respect to the Situation in and in Relation to Burma for another year. In the Executive Order released on February 10, 2021, President Biden declared that the Myanmar military coup imposed an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” as the Myanmar military overthrew the democratic leadership, jailed civilian leaders, journalists and human rights defenders, and undermined the result of the 2020 General Election. The national emergency has now been extended to February 10, 2024.
- Opium poppy cultivation allured poor farmers
Since the 2021 military coup in Myanmar, opium poppy cultivation increased by 33 percent during the first poppy cultivation season. According to a UN report, this increase is due to some changes in the methods of poppy cultivation and the profits from this cultivation are growing exponentially. With the epidemic, the country’s collapsed health system, the hunger crisis, and forced displacement, opium poppy cultivation has become a huge incentive for poor farmers. Without economic stability and alternatives, opium poppy cultivation is likely to expand, said Jeremy Douglas, UNODC Regional Representative for the United Nations Office on Drug Control.
- Myanmar’s trade With Thailand declined since coup
Myanmar’s trade with Thailand has declined since the 2021 coup as the junta imposes restrictions to prevent weapons from reaching resistance forces. According to the junta’s Ministry of Commerce, border trade fell from more than $4 billion in 2019-20 to $3.6 billion in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022-23. According to a trader in Myawaddy, goods sold in the Thai border town of Mae Sot are largely out of stock across the border in Myawaddy because traders can only import if they also export to Thailand. The regime imposed restrictions, such as the requirement that imports and exports be equal in value and that payments be made in dollars or baht through a junta-controlled bank. It has also required traders to obtain permission from Myanmar’s Food and Drug Administration before importing and exporting. Meanwhile, trade is frequently hampered by border fighting. Traders must also pay high taxes along the way.
- EuroCham Myanmar presented the challenges of doing business in Myanmar to UMFCCI
Ms. Karina Ufert, the CEO of the Euro Chamber of Commerce in Myanmar, and their members met with the representative of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI) to discuss the current situations of doing business, challenges, and difficulties in Myanmar. UMFCCI said that EuroCham Myanmar is facing the main challenges, such as bank regulations, policy changes, and the irregularity of electricity availability. Moreover, in order to promote foreign investments, Euro Cham Myanmar advised to ease down the restriction on import licenses, effectively preventing illegal border trade, visa extension, and availability of accurate information sources. EuroCham Myanmar is the representative organization of European businesses in Myanmar, and there are over 120 companies that are investing in Myanmar.
- SAC granted import permit of palm oil to crony Tay Za
According to the palm oil businessmen, the State Administration Council (SAC) approved the import permit of palm oil that is worth USD 5.4 million to Htoo Group, which is currently under sanction by the United States. Htoo Group is owned by U Tay Za, who is sanctioned by the U.S. government for providing armed weapons to the Myanmar army. Currently, the sons of U Tay Za are leading Htoo Group of Companies. Local businessmen confirmed that Htoo Trading Company, a subsidiary of Htoo Group of Companies, is importing palm oil starting from last month. According to a palm oil trader in Yangon, SAC allowed Htoo Group to import a minimum of 15,000 tons of palm oil monthly whereas other importers faced restrictions, such as the amount of imported palm oil, and the selling permit of current palm oil stored.
- Workers from Panko Bago textile factory forced overtime-work without compensation
It is reported that workers from the Panko Bago textile factory, based in Nyaung Yin village in Bago township, Bago Region, had to work overtime shifts at night last January, but they were not fairly compensated for working hours. Panko Bago factory, which is owned by a Korean nationality, set the minimum wage for trainees as 3,600 Myanmar Kyats (MMK) whereas skilled laborers get 4,800 MMK. The overtime fees are set as 1,200 MMK per hour, and the bonus is set from 15,000 – 30,000 MMK per month. One of the factory workers spoke to Mizzima News that there is an emergency need for textiles, and therefore, they had to work the night shift free of charge. There are 24 sewing lines in Panko Bago Textile Factory, and each line has about 20 – 30 staff. Overall, there are about 1,000 employees, of which about 100 of the staff did not get compensated for overtime hours.
Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys and Properties
- Union Election Committee office blasted in Chauk, Magway Region
On the night of February 8 around 9 pm, the resistance forces blew up the junta’s election committee office in Chauk Town, Magway Region. Chauk Guerilla Force (CGF), Hanter Dragon Group, Nway Oo FM Online and Chauk PDF coordinated the mission. CGF’s spokesperson said that the election office had been following the regime’s orders to hold the rigged election and hence they decided to blast it. He also warned people to stay away from the junta’s properties and facilities for security concerns.
- Junta’s weapon-manufacturing factories targeted in Magway Region
Factories that manufacture weapons known as KaPaSa and run by the junta’s Directorate of Defence Industries (DDI) located in Magway Region were targeted by local resistance forces on midnight of February 8. The facilities are based 11 miles south of Ngaphal Town, which borders Rakhine State’s Ann Township. People’s Revolution Alliance (PRA-Magway) which led the mission said they targeted the buildings that produce gunpowder for the factory from 100 meters. Similarly, another factory in Thayat Town, 100 miles south of Ngapal Town was also attacked at the same time with electric free-flight rockets, led by Eagle Force. In both missions, there was no response from inside the factories which are normally heavily armed. The regime’s army has 25 weapon-manufacturing factories across the country, 15 of them located in Magway Region. A report last month issued by the Special Advisory Council on Myanmar (SAC-M) said Companies from 13 countries – including France, Germany, China, India, Russia, Singapore, and the United States – have been providing supplies that are “critical” to the production of weapons in Myanmar.
- Newly-appointed village administrator killed in Paungde tsp, Bago Region
On the afternoon of February 10, Pyay PDF carried out an operation and killed a new village administrator from Thapyaygyisu Village, Paungde Township, Pyay District, Bago Region. The man was called Maw Gyi @ Maw Win and he was replacing his predecessor Mya Han who was also shot dead recently. Maw Gyi was shot four times and killed, although new to the position, he willingly coordinated with the regime’s soldiers by forcing people to collect census, holding gambling events, and taking illicit taxes, etc.
- Traffic policeman killed in Magway Region
On the afternoon of February 10, a traffic policeman was shot and killed in Magway City. The incident took place in front of Kaungmon Shopping Mall in Pyitawtha Ward, the shooter opened fire five times and killed the policeman on the spot. Magway Urban Guerilla Force claimed the responsibility and said the regime’s traffic police attempted to harass the silent strike on February 1 by abducting more than 100 bikers on the day for no apparent reason.
Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence
- Wife of political prisoner arrested and jailed for 6 months in Pathein, Ayeyarwaddy Region
On January 7, Ma Sandar Aye was arrested in her home by the regime’s soldiers in Pathein, Ayeyarwaddy Region. She was charged with allegedly smuggling a phone into the Pathein Prison for her husband, who is a political prisoner serving time inside. Regarding the phone incident, a riot was staged and dispersed by the prison guards and soldiers, resulting in the death of another political prisoner Ko Wai Yan Phyo. More than 60 other prisoners of conscience were beaten up and oppressed heavily. Ma Sandar Aye was framed as the culprit for the root cause and she is now given 6-month imprisonment.
- Husband killed in interrogation, wife still detained in Chauk, Magway Region
On the evening of February 1, U Kyaw Tint and his wife Daw Tin Mar Ni were arrested by the regime’s soldiers in their home and taken to the Narga 60 interrogation center in Chauk Town, Magway Region. U Kyaw Tint was killed overnight and his body was cremated by a social welfare community the next day. Daw Tin Mar Ni is still under interrogation to this day. The couple has a son and two daughters and their business is selling beans and peas in the Chauk Myoma Market. It’s unclear why they were arrested in the first place although the junta supporters claimed the couple had supported PDF and U Kyaw Tint died of heart failure during interrogation.
- Man killed from unprovoked shooting by SAC soldiers near Muu River, Sagaing Region
On February 6, the regime’s soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members carried out a shooting spree by firing at people who were spraying pesticides on a mango farm near Muu River between San Thit and Kywal Pone villages, Sagaing Region. Two people escaped but the 44-year-old U Win Aung was caught by a bullet and dropped to the ground. The soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members put three more bullets in his head, effectively ending a life. They went on and burned down the tractor that U Win Aung was using.
- Five women abducted in Yephyu tsp, Tanintharyi Region
At midnight on February 10, five women from the Kanbauk area were arrested by the regime’s soldiers in Yephyu Township, Tanintharyi Region. All victims are civilians and identified as Daw Mi Than Kywe, her daughter Ma Ywet Nu Wai, Daw Cho Cho Aung, Daw Mar Wai, and Daw Than Than Soe. Local sources said that these women were arrested in relation to the previous arrests the soldiers had made. Since the turn of the year, at least 30 people have been arrested in the Kanbauk area and detained in Mawyawadi Station.
- Over 70 women political prisoners beaten up in Mandalay’s Obo Prison amid leaks of sexual abuse
Following news that four women political prisoners were raped by the junta’s officers during the interrogation, the female inmates inside Obo Prison conspired a response. They mixed chili powders with water and splashed it on the male guards, causing a massive brawl inside the facility. At least 35 women were beaten up heavily and put in solitary confinement. Some of them were tortured so bad that their ears almost fall off and their survival is uncertain. The guards used slingshots to attack the inmates and more than 70 were injured in the process. The victims who have been placed inside solitary confinements are Ma Cherry Su, Ma Aye Nyein Thuzar, Ma Khine Thazin, Ma Hnin Yu Wai, Ma Yamin Kyaw, Ma Khin Sandar Nyein, Ma September, Ma Zin May Kyaw, Ma Su Myat Kyaw, Ma Moe Moe Myint, Ma Poe Phyi Thu, Ma Ei Myat Noe Oo, Ma Chaw Su Su Wai, Ma Moe Moe Htwe, Daw Marlar Myint, Ma Khin Sandar Nyein, Ma Chit Phoo Ngon, Ma Kay New Wai Khine, Daw Kyi Kyi Win, Ma Shan Ma, Ma Saw New Ni Han Ma Saw Ohm Mar Chit, Ma Shwe Yi Soe, Ma Khin Aye Maw, Ma Shweyi Win Kyaw, Ma Zin Myat Noe oo, Ma Wine Nge Nge, Ma Khine Thazin, Ma Naing Zar Htwe, Ma Win Theint Theint Zin, Ma Thet Phoo Naing, Ma Aye Thandar Soe, Ma Hnin Pwint Wai, Ma Aye Myat Paing, Ma Aye Nyein Thuzar, Ma Poe Thinzar Kyaw, Ma Ei Phyu Win, Ma Ei Myat Noe Oo, Ma Chit Phoo Ngon, Ma Chaw Su Su Wai, Ma Kay Khine Mg Mg, Ma Marlar Myint, Ma Mya Mya Maw, Ma Khin Sandar Nyein, Ma San Myint Nai, Ma Po Pyae Thu, Ma Nan Shwe Sin Oo, Ma Aye Thet Nai, Ma Win Su Hlaing oo, Ma May Zin Ko and Ma Zin Mar Cho. Those who are feared for survival are Ma San Linn May, Ma Aye Yu San @ Ma Aye Thandar Tun Aung, Ma Ei Phyu Win.
- 10 regime soldiers died during ambush in Yesagyo tsp, Magway Region
On February 7, Pakokku PDF released news that its rangers had carried out an ambush on two vehicles carrying regime soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members on the evening of February 4. The attack took place three miles north of Pakhangyi Village on Pakokku-Yesagyo Road. PDF waited on the road and opened fire on two vans, which lasted for about five minutes. The first car drove away and the second car was forced to a complete halt. Seven men on board were found dead with bullet wounds and their weapons were seized. People in the first car that escaped initially were also said to be injured and they died while being treated for wounds later.
- Two PDF station burned down by regime’s forces in Sarlingyi tsp, Sagaing Region
On February 7, the SAC forces carried out an offensive and destroyed two PDF stations located in Sarlingyi Township, Sagaing Region. Those stations are based between Sarlingyi and Yinmabin townships and are controlled by Myanmar Revolution Army (MRA) and Thamankyar Guerilla Force. About 80 troops arrived at the MRA station around 11 am and opened fire for about five minutes. Since there was no response, the soldiers entered and burned down the whole area before they went on and did the same to another station nearby. Due to inferior manpower, rangers decided to leave the station beforehand and managed to escape although one was captured and killed while many properties were also seized.
- SAC lost control of Thantlang Town, Chin State
On the evening of February 8, a coalition of resistance forces led by the Chin National Front (CNF) mounted an offensive on the regime’s police station in Thantlang Town, Chin State. The clash lasted over four hours until the regime’s soldiers and policemen abandoned the station. Inside the station, four dead bodies were found and at least 40 weapons were seized. SAC admitted the defeat although it said its forces retreated from the area “strategically” and the weapons left behind were damaged. As of reporting, the resistance forces have 95% control over Thantlang Town. SAC has vowed to occupy the police station it lost. Military choppers were sent for food supply and reinforcement but no solid attempt from the junta has been witnessed.
- PDF raided two military stations in central Sagaing Region
In the early morning of February 9, Local Defense Forces (LDF) and People’s Defense Forces (PDF) conducted an assault on two of the junta’s stations in Kantbalu and Tanze townships of Sagaing Region. Nantthar Village Police Station on Shwebo-Myitkyinar Road in Kantbalu Township was ambushed and a clash broke out for more than five hours. The station was manned by 80 people made up of militia and Pyu Saw Htee members. The rangers managed to burn down two bunkers inside the compound but had to retreat before taking control of the station due to the warning alarms of aerial attacks. Both sides suffered casualties although the exact figure cannot be verified yet. At the same time, another station of the junta was attacked in Seinnar Village, between Kantbalu and Tanse townships. The one-hour-long battle saw the station burn down while two rangers were lost.
- Regime increased manpower in Moebye on Shan-Karenni (Kayah) border
Resistance forces said that SAC had sent reinforcements to Moebye Town on the border of Shan and Karenni (Kayah) states following a battle on February 8. On that day, the regime’s forces clashed with a coalition of local resistance forces such as Karenni Nationality Defense Force (KNDF), Moebye PDF (MBPDF) and Loikaw PDF near Sattawyar Pagoda. The regime’s soldiers based in Loikaw fired artillery toward the battlezone and accidentally killed five of their own soldiers. Following the incident, the regime has expanded its army base in Moebye by sending reinforcements, and hence more clashes are expected frequently in the area, according to MBPDF.
- Junta’s closure of passport offices disrupted People’s Lives
Due to political uncertainty, economic decline, and educational needs, an unprecedented number of people have fled Myanmar since the 2021 military coup. People seek opportunities in search of freedom, better jobs, and education abroad, having been deeply depressed by the coup, persecution, and bleak economic outlook. Many people flee to Australia, Canada, the United States, and other countries in search of safety from oppression. Tens of thousands of people in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia are attempting to work under the MOU system. The sudden closure of passport offices has been disastrous for them. Passport appointment bookings have been halted since December 12, and the passport office’s reopening date is still unknown.
Source: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, Mizzima News, Ayeyarwaddy Times, RFA Burmese, The Irrawaddy