Hi folks, here’s another weekly summary from our team. What happened in the women’s ward of Obo Prison last month requires more media and international attention. Dozens of women political prisoners were beaten up, tortured and cut off of basic necessities for a mere complaint and the incident did not make the news until more than a month later. Meanwhile, the regime is hurrying its efforts to arm its supporters as a way of admitting the loss of control in order while it continues facing more intensified warfronts. Read all about it in our highlights below:
- Hundreds of applicants for the license for arms after the enactment of the rights to bear arms law
Following last week’s news of the regime’s rights to bear arms law enactment, the Ministry of Home Affairs in Naypyidaw received hundreds of applications for arms within days after the enactment of the law according to Myanmar Now’s report on February 16. A police officer who remained anonymous told Myanmar Now that the ministry had been busy as a large volume of license applications were submitted. A source from Naypyidaw also said that the right to bear arms was enacted only after the pro-military entities have been armed, such as members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), veterans, military supporters, and Pyu Saw Htee members. Lawyer U Kyee Myint analyzed that enactment of this law means that the military council is crying for help.
- The junta to use the electronic voting system in the upcoming sham election
On February 9, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing had a meeting with the Union Election Commission (UEC) where the commission showcased the electronic voting system that they created for the 2023 election. According to the observers, the said electronic system is linked with the voters’ database such as household registration and personal information, and thus, voters who plan to boycott the sham election raise concerns for their security. An election observer also told RFA Burmese that the fairness of the election is questionable if the technical aspects of the system are adapted from the military’s technology. The observer also raised questions on the reliability and accountability of the new system that the UEC introduced. Political analyst U Thein Soe Naing speculated that by going all digital, the military can easily manipulate the voters’ lists or votes, which further flags that the upcoming election will not be free and fair.
- The regime removed Pu Gin Kam Lian from its council
If we recall, the military council reshuffled its cabinet and council members on February 1 of this year. Among the reshuffles, Pu Gin Kam Lian, General Secretary of Zomi Congress for Democracy (ZCD), was announced as a member of the State Administration Council. Since then, Pu Gin Kam Lian has been telling the media that the appointment was announced without his will and he was not informed beforehand. He also said that the regime’s announcement has had negative impacts on his political party ZCD as well. Two weeks later, the regime announced the replacement of Pu Gim Kam Lian’s position with Dr Mu Htan.
- The NUG to hold matriculation exam
According to the latest news, the Ministry of Education under the National Unity Government (NUG) will hold a matriculation exam for students who have refused to go to schools and take exams under the control of the regime. The news was first made public by the Ministry of Defense -NUG which said that many including local civilians and resistance rangers have been preparing to participate in matric exams held by NUG. And CDM teachers and CDM university students have been prepping them for at least two hours every day. However, there is no news released by the Ministry of Education on how and when these exams will be held.
- The NUG opened its office in Washington D.C.
On February 13, the National Unity Government opened its office in Washington D.C., United States. The opening ceremony was attended by the NUG Foreign Minister Daw Zin Mar Aung, Deputy Minister U Moe Zaw Oo, and Myanmar Ambassador to the UN U Kyaw Moe Tun. Ms Uzra Zeya, the Under Secretary of the US, was also present at the opening ceremony. In her speech, Ms Uzra Zeya warned that the military regime is planning a sham election this year, and the international community must be aware of its motives. The office is located less than half a mile away from the White House, and U Moe Zaw Oo said that the opening of the NUG office means that the US has recognized the NUG as the official government of the Myanmar people. According to the RFA’s data, the NUG has opened its offices in the US, UK, Australia, France, Czech Republic, South Korea, Japan and Norway.
- The junta chief vows to strengthen Russia-Myanmar bilateral relations
On February 16, the military regime hosted the “Myanmar-Russia Friendship and Cooperation Forum” in Naypyidaw in celebration of the 75th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said in his speech that, under the military council, the two militaries have enhanced their cooperation in defence, science and technology, trade and other sectors. He vowed to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries. NUG’s spokesperson U Kyaw Zaw said that the military council desperately holds onto Russia as other countries shun the regime.
- Singapore denied sales of weapons to Myanmar
On February 14, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said at a parliament session that there has been no sale of defence equipment to Myanmar. Prior to his statement at the parliament, Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), co-founded by former UN special rapporteur Yang Hee Lee, revealed in one of its reports that Singapore has been an intermediary state to transport raw materials for the Myanmar military to produce weapons. The report was published on January 16, and Singaporean MP Dennis Tan raised the question to Foreign Minister Balakrishnan whether prohibitions on arms transfers are being followed or not. FM Balakrishnan also continued that Singapore will “act responsibly” going forward.
- US to support additional $50 million funding to Myanmar
US Embassy in Yangon announced on February 16 that they will further provide a new $50 million funding for Myanmar. Due to the increased in displacements, armed conflicts, and food crises, the Embassy stated that they will provide emergency food and livelihood assistance as humanitarian aid. The support will be provided through USAID and includes monthly ration support, and nutritional food support to children under five-year-old, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers. Based on the UN’s report on the humanitarian need, over 17 million people (1 out of 3 people) in Myanmar are in dire need of humanitarian support in 2023, whereas the figure is not even 1 million back in 2020. The Embassy further added that USAID, along with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, will be able to tackle the nutritional deficiency for over 750,000 beneficiaries in Myanmar.
- 25% of the population in 8 townships in Yangon are surviving without income
According to the report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), one-fourth of the population from 8 townships in Yangon has frequently survived without income within the past 12 months. The survey is conducted in Hlaingtharyar, Shwepyithar, Insein, Dagon Seikkan, Dala, South Dagon, North Dagon, and Thanlyin townships, and the current worsening economic crisis is threatening the health and socioeconomic situation of the households in these townships. To solve their survival needs, each household member has to eat meals less, sell their assets, deprive them of proper healthcare, and encourage their children to drop out of school to find jobs for earning additional income. As per the UNDP survey, 27.5% of the household answered that they could not eat proper meals to meet the nutritional requirement, and 35.7% reported that they had to reduce the number of meal times per day as they do not have daily income. In addition, people have difficulty accessing public health support with the deteriorating public healthcare system and therefore had to primarily rely on private hospitals and clinics.
- China’s investment in Myanmar reached its lowest point within a decade
Although Singapore and China have been the top investment leader in Myanmar for a decade, their investments have gradually decreased after the military coup in Myanmar. Before COVID-19, the average foreign investment in Myanmar is around $5 billion, but within the last 10 months, only $1.4 billion in investments came into the Myanmar market, which is about 75% lower than the average investment. Although the military council has been trying in any possible ways to increase foreign direct investments (FDIs), their efforts have been in vain as no investor is willing to invest in Myanmar. January issue of the Myanmar Economic Report by the World Bank pointed out that economic development in Myanmar will be difficult due to the shortage of electricity, logistic challenge, trading and currency exchange burden, and inconsistency of the rules and regulations in Myanmar.
- Garment workers sued owners in Yangon’s Shwepyitha Industrial Zone
According to labor affairs employees, two garment workers who were fired filed a lawsuit on February 15 against two factory owners from Yangon’s Shwepyitha Industrial Zone. They are reported to be the owners from Yangon Fukuyama Appeal and Kingsrich Myanmar. Yangon Fukuyama Appeal Garment worker Ma Ei Po Po Hlaing and Kingsrich Myanmar Garment worker Ma Hnin Zarni Lwin were fired at the end of 2022 due to taking sick leave. According to Daw Myo Myo Aye, director of the Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM), the lawsuit was filed because the factory failed to pay compensation for workers who were fired in violation of their employment contracts. Since the coup, there have been more violations of labor rights by factory owners, including the dismissal of workers and the lack of compensation for them.
Protests & Fundraising
- Continuing protests across the country
Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Hpakhant, Kani, Yinmarbin, Yangon, Myaing, Laung Lone, Kalay, Wetlet, and Monywa regions.
- Protests on nation’s independence hero birthday
In honour of Myanmar’s independence hero, General Aung San’s 108th birthday, the people of Myanmar staged protests across the country including in Yangon, villages near the Chin Dwin River, Laung Lone, and Palae regions, by holding banners saying, “The spirit of General Aung San’s still alive”, “General Aung San’s blood is red and so we are”
- Civilian govt’s fundraising housing sale received 6,500 orders in a day
Spring Bliss, a housing project of the Myanmar National Unity Government (NUG), received pre orders for more than 6,500 apartments in a single day, as the shadow government seeks to raise funds for the ongoing revolution against the military regime by selling or auctioning off military-owned property. Spring Bliss houses will be built on military-seized land in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar, South Dagon, and Mingaladon townships. According to the MOPFI – Ministry of Planning, Finance, and Investment – the housing will prioritize good building ventilation, and the sites will include mini parks and playgrounds. A buyer stated that the Spring Bliss apartment prices were reasonable and suitable for middle-class people. This is the latest effort by MOPFI to raise funds for the ongoing revolution against the military regime. In January, the NUG raised over $10 million from pre-sales of apartments in the Spring Valour Condominium in just 18 hours.
- UG family raised funds in Bangkok
In Bangkok, Thailand, the UG Family group collected donations for Myanmar’s resistance forces and received a total of 34,100 baht.
Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties
- Military captain turned Dalan shot and killed in Kalay, Sagaing Region
On February 13, a former military man was targeted by a local resistance force in Kalay Town, Sagaing Region. U Ngwe Zin, who had previously served in the force as a captain, was shot and killed on his way out of a teashop on Kyansitthar Road, Taungthar Ward, Kalay Town. After retiring from the military, he was employed in the government office of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation. The man was accused by the resistance forces of being a Dalan/military informer and according to the rangers, they were proven right after months of monitoring his actions. The 53-year-old man was with his wife during the attack but the wife was let go. The rangers also seized the car and weapons he had on him including guns and magazines etc.
- Militia member taken out in Launglon, Tanintharyi Region
On the evening of February 16, a member of the militia group was shot and killed by unknown gunmen in Launglon Town, Dawei District, Tanintharyi Region. U Aung San Oo joined the militia, many of which have been formed across the country to target resistance forces and anti-coup people. The 42-year-old man was reportedly conspiring with the soldiers to spy on the resistance activities in the area. He was found dead in his house with bullet wounds on his head that evening. It is unknown who was responsible for the attack.
- Ward administrator died on the spot during attack in Mandalay
On the evening of February 17, ward administrator Zaw Win Tun from Shwe Phone Shein Ward, Chanmyathazi Township, Mandalay was attacked on the road and killed. He was shot on his motorbike near 79th Street, and two unknown gunmen on another motorbike stopped beside him and opened fire. The man died on the spot, and a pistol and 15 bullets were found on him. Zaw Win Tun was despised in the area for abusing his power as a hundred households’ ward administrator. On the same day, an administration office was targeted in Mandalay’s Chanayethazan Township. A grenade was thrown into the office before two gunshots were fired.
- Immigration office attacked in Monywa tsp, Sagaing Region
On the early morning of February 18 around 3 am, the township immigration office in Monywa, Sagaing Region was attacked with a grenade launcher. At least three shots were fired, and three soldiers were reported killed on the spot. The operation was carried out by Lightning People Defense Force based in Monywa, all rangers managed to retreat after the mission without a scratch. The immigration office was notorious for distorting and blackmailing people for failing to report household lists etc.
Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence
- Oppression of women political prisoners continued at Obo Prison, Mandalay
In our previous weekly report, we reported the abuse, torture, and oppression that the women political prisoners had been facing in Obo Prison, Mandalay. More insights were released this week by Khit Thit Media. The dispute inside Mandalay’s detention facility began in the first week of January when women prisoners complained about the newly changed shower schedule. On January 3, Ma Su Naing, one of those speaking out, was brought to the prison authority office where she was slapped by jail officer Thwe Thwe Oo. As Ma Su Naing attempted to respond, she was brought down and beaten up by guards before she was put in solidarity confinement. Other inmates protested the treatment of Ma Su Naing, on the following day, the guards from both male and female sections with all prison staff raided the women’s prison ward, beating up everyone. They used slingshots, police sticks, and vibrators in doing so. Afterwards, they started transferring inmates into different buildings, at least 42 were moved. More oppression followed as the food supply was reduced, meat was cut down from daily meals, parcel delivery was banned and women were also forced to shower with toilet water. The whole episode was overseen by warden Aung Myo Chon.
- Two women including a lawyer detained in Mandalay
Another lawyer was reportedly arrested by the regime’s forces in Mandalay. The incident took place on February 10 when the lawyer Daw Zin Mar Win was detained in a court along with Daw Zarni Htike, who is a government staff on Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). It is unknown why Daw Zarni Htike was in court despite her CDM status. According to military supporters, Daw Zarni Htike had been disguising herself as a lawyer alongside Daw Zin Mar Win to help those inside the bars, and now both of them have been taken under custody. Since the coup, at least 15 lawyers have been detained by the regime, and most of them were representing political prisoners. Among them, the most prominent is Daw Ywet Nu Aung who was the legal representative of the Mandalay Regional Minister Dr. Zaw Myint Maung, she was charged under Section 50 (J) of the Counter-Terrorism Lawand sentenced to 15 years in 2022.
- Former ABFSU leader slapped with five more years of imprisonment
Ko James @ Ko Lin Htet Naing, the former leader of the All Burma Federation of Student Union (ABFSU) was sentenced to five more years of imprisonment by the military tribunal on February 13. Ko Jame was arrested by the regime’s forces in June 2022 and he was charged with multiple violations. In December 2022, the Insein tribunal found him guilty of Sedition Act 505A and sentenced him to three years of jail time with hard labor. Now, he was given five more years, citing Section 52(B) of the Counterterrorism Law. In December 2022, when the parcel-receiving area of the Insein Prison was blasted and killed eight people, Ko James’s mother Daw Kyi Kyi Myint was one of the victims, she was there to deliver his favorite dish.
- Railway station explosion killed three and injured nine in Nyaunglaypin, Bago Region
On February 13, an explosion occurred at the newly-built railway station of Nyaunglaypin Town, Bago Region (East). The blast was considered major as people from four miles away felt the vibration, killing three and injuring nine, all of them were civilians waiting for a train on their way back home. The dead victims were Ko Thet Naing Tun, Ma Nwe New Win, and Ma Lei Lei Aye. According to the local sources, the railway station was newly built by the regime and it was scheduled to hold an opening ceremony soon. It’s unknown who was responsible for the attack, PDF units under the NUG denied their involvement in this incident.
- CDM teacher killed by military soldiers in Htantapin tsp, Bago Region
Another teacher of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) became the latest victim of the regime’s forces in the Bago Region on February 18. On that afternoon, U Myo Min Htike was shot and killed by the soldiers in Ywarlaykone Village, Htantapin Township. Usually, the CDM teachers and medical staff are targeted by the military; however, this time, the soldiers opened fire on U Myo Min Htike on his way back to his village without knowing his identity and left him dead on the roadside. The rest of the village also fled from their homes in fear of more unprovoked killings from Min Aung Hlaing’s army.
- Clash intensified in the regime’s station, thousands flee due to airstrikes near Myawaddy, Karen State
Since February 10, a coalition of Karen-based armed forces such as Karen Nationality Liberation Army (KNLA), Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO), Kawthoolei Army (KTLA), and PDF has mounted an assault on the junta’s stronghold near Myawaddy Town, Karen State. The regime’s forces have also been responding with excessive means that include carrying out airstrikes and shelling artillery on the nearby villages. As a result, about 3,600 civilians from 13 villages near the battlezone, south of Wawlay Town have fled to the Thai border to seek safety. However, they have been denied entry and are now forced to camp out on the banks of Thaungyin (Moei) River. Bo Sa Lone, the deputy colonel, and commander of Sin Phyu Column under Kawthoolei Army said that the battle has reached a stalemate. And he has pled the people to help arm his force in accomplishing the victory. In the clash so far, over 30 junta soldiers were either killed or injured, mostly by drone attacks and sniper missions. And 14 rangers were injured as well. Bo Sa Lone said his force is in need of food supply, medicine, and arms including drones and grenades. He has urged people to send the funds via the column’s Facebook page.
- The regime soldiers ambushed PDF, seven rangers died in Sarlingyi tsp, Sagaing Region
On February 12, local resistance forces set out on a mission toward the southern Sarlingyi Township, Sagaing Region as the regime’s forces were terrorizing villages in that area. The soldiers received the information in prior and attacked the rangers halfway near Shwe Kyat Ton Village, 17 miles south of Sarlingyi Town. Four rangers were shot and killed on the spot while many escaped the scene with wounds. Three of them who ran with injuries were found and killed by the soldiers shortly afterwards. Those who died in the battlezone were 32-year-old Ye Baw Min Thar, 30-year-old Ye Baw Nga Taw, 24-year-old Ye Baw Bo Kay and 24-year-old Ye Baw Kyan Sit, all the bodies were burned by the soldiers. Two of the three who were killed later were 28-year-old Ye Baw Galone and 20-year-old Ye Baw Nga Htoo. All three vehicles that the rangers drove to the scene were also destroyed and set on fire.
- The SAC forces conducted offensive on KIA’s station Kutkai tsp, Shan State
Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said that the State Administration Council (SAC)’s forces had been mounting an offensive on its station in Kutkai Township, Shan State. The station in question is located 10 miles northeast of Nantphatkar Village under KIA’s Brigade 6 territory. The attack lasted three days from February 13 to February 15, during which airstrikes were carried out on daily basis. On the ground, three military columns attacked from many directions accompanied by cannons and artillery from Nantphatkar and Muse stations.
- KA and the regime’s forces clashed near Shan-Karenni (Kayah)-Thailand border
On February 14, about 200 troops of the junta in 13 vehicles carrying food supplies marched from Linkhay Township, Shan State to Shartaw Township, Karenni (Kayah) State. As they approached the area that intersects Shan, Kareeni, and Thailand borders in the afternoon, Karenni Army (KA) carried out a guerilla attack. The clash took about an hour and five soldiers from the regime were killed while KA managed to retreat without a casualty. The junta’s convoy has now reportedly stationed a camp near the location where the battle broke out.
- The junta’s forces conducted airstrike to take control of Thantlang Town, Chin State
Chin National Army (CNA) said that the regime had been accelerating efforts in attempts to take back control of Thantlang Town, Chin State, following an attack that saw the loss of the police station to the resistance forces in early February. Since February 10, SAC forces were witnessed reinforcing the army and carrying out airstrikes on daily basis. However, Chin resistance forces have remained in control of 95% of the town and the junta’s army only has a station outside the town.
- The regime’s army brutally killed newlywed PDF couple in Yesagyo tsp, Magway Region
On the morning of February 17, the regime’s soldiers raided Thaetaw Village in Yesagyo Township, Magway Region where they abducted civilians and used them as hostages to seize a PDF station one mile from the village. The station was controlled by Southern YSO PDF, in which a battle occurred. At least two soldiers were killed and three were injured. However, the soldiers captured a newlywed PDF couple and killed them by burning both alive. The couple was serving for Urban Underground Revolution Force (UURF-YSO) to the day. The soldiers then burned down the station, where PDF lost guns, weapon-assembling equipment, motorbikes, and many other accessories.
Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, Mizzima News, RFA Burmese, The Irrawaddy, The DVB, Ayeyarwaddy Times