Hi folks, here is another weekly report from the team. This week, the regime played familiar yet cheeky cards, broadcasting the news of the former President U Htin Kyaw receiving honorary awards for his father and father-in-law as well as sentencing a minimal fine for the former Yangon Regional Minister U Phyo Min Thein for his alleged crime under the same law that saw the president and the state counselor receiving prison terms. All those efforts sing the same tune, under the title of antagonizing the pro-resistance people. We are known for splitting opinions too soon and too easily but this time, it will take a lot more than U Htin Kyaw and U Phyo Min Thein to even slow down the people’s dedication to win this one. Read the weekly highlights below:
- After imposing Martial Law in 3 townships in Sagaing, the regime intensified attacks
On February 22, the military council imposed Martial Law in Shwebo, Wetlet, and Ayadaw townships in Sagaing Region where the resistance forces have a stronghold. Since the announcement, the military has intensified attacks in these townships according to Myanmar Now. On February 23, the military deployed hundreds of soldiers into some villages in Ayadaw Township in addition to aerial attacks with three helicopters. Prior to the Martial Law, about 80 regime soldiers entered villages in the western part of Shwebo Township and torched 50 civilian homes according to local resistance fighters.
- Junta ordered church-goers in Chin State to inform one week in advance to attend church services
In Chin State where the anti-regime resistance is strong, the junta’s administration announced that church-goers must inform one week in advance to attend the Sunday church service. The directive was announced on February 13 in eight townships in Chin State where more than 85% of the population is Christian. According to the Chin Human Rights Group, the military regime has bombed and destroyed more than 70 religious buildings in the state since the coup. Salai Htet Ni, the spokesperson of Chin National Front (CNF), told Myanmar Now that this directive is “a violation of religious rights”. It is yet to disclose what kind of actions will be taken when church-goers fail to comply with the directive, and several locals raised concerns as they do not want to follow it.
- Karen civil societies and diaspora groups demanded a change in the KNU’s leadership
Dated 23 February 2023, a total of 68 Karen societies across the globe issued an open letter addressed to the General Secretary of the Karen National Union (KNU), and demanded to change the members of the central executive committee for failing to take action against one CEC member who involved in China-backed new city project where underground businesses thrive. The letter said that Pado Saw Roger Khin was seen at an opening event at a place which was known as a gambling area in 2022. The letter also said that Saw Roger Khin gave permission for the Huanya International City Project, quoting Thai BPS news. The Karen groups said that these involvements violate the KNU’s political philosophy, policy and regulations, and negatively impact the KNU’s reputation.
- Former president U Htin Kyaw received the regime’s honorary award on behalf of his father and father in law
This week, photos of former president U Htin Kyaw receiving the honorary award from the junta were spread widely on Myanmar’s social media, creating controversy amongst netizens. U Htin Kyaw was accepting the awards on behalf of his father Min Thu Wun, a late prominent Myanmar poet, writer and scholar and his father-in-law U Lwin, a late career army officer/former party treasurer of NLD. The coup leader Min Aung Hlaing gave out awards to the prominent Myanmar figures including those two in commemoration of the Independence day on January 4 and as U Htin Kyaw could not make it to the event, the envoy was sent to his house to deliver those awards. U Htin Kyaw was a close friend of the detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. His appointment as president was an unexpected move by the lady, and U Htin Kyaw himself told the media then that he listened to the “big sister’s instruction”. While some people condemned U Htin Kyaw for receiving the award, some also argued that he might have been in a certain predicament where his life or the security of his family were threatened if he refused. Although some NLD cabinet members are still under detention, 24 NLD cabinet members including Minister of Information U Pe Myint, Minister for Irrigation Dr Aung Thu, and Minister for Transport U Thant Sin Maung, received “Thiri Pyan Chi” and “Wunna Kyaw Htin” awards.
- Former Prime Minister of Yangon fined 100,000 Myanmar Kyats
The former Yangon prime minister U Phyo Min Thein was fined 100,000 Myanmar Kyats (MMK) by the court in Dagon Township, Yangon this week after he was found guilty of influencing and abusing the electoral power under Section 130 (a). Under that section, the culprit can be given either a 3-year sentence in prison or a fine, or both. President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi were also charged with the same section. Although they have been given a sentence in prison, U Phyo Min Thein got away with a minimal fine. After the military coup happened on February 1, 2021, U Phyo Min Thein was initially arrested and detained in the interrogation center, before being placed under house arrest. U Phyo Min Thein appeared as a government witness in one of the trials of the State Counsellor, confessing that he had bribed the lady in order to promote his political role in the country.
- Passport office to reopen on February 24
The Myanmar Passport Issuing Office announced on February 23 that passport applications can be made through a new online booking system starting from February 24 and there were reportedly over 8,500 applicants on the first day so the office suspended the booking for a day to fix its system, according to another announcement on February 25.The initial notice on February 23 explained that online bookings can be made through http://www.passport.gov.mm website and applicants will need to pay 35,000 Myanmar kyats at the same time. Anyone facing difficulty with online passport applications can apply at township police stations, the notice also added. There were about 8,529 applicants on February 24 as reported by Daily Eleven.
- EU imposed sanctions on nine new individuals and seven entities
On February 20, the European Union (EU) announced its sixth round of sanctions on Myanmar military generals and businessmen who assist in the regime’s arms trades. The list includes Chief of General Staff General Maung Maung Aye; Navy chief General Moe Aung; Brigadier General Zin Min Htet, new Deputy Minister of Home Affairs; Major General Ko Ko Maung, Northern Command Chief; and Lt Colonel Myo Myint Aung for involving in the execution of four democracy activists last year. On the business side, Aung Hlaing Oo from MCM Company; Sit Taing Aung, the chair of Aviation Support and Suntac group of companies; and Kyaw Min Oo from Sky Aviator are placed on the sanction list for brokering the military’s arms trade.
- Chinese Envoy visited the China-Myanmar border and met ethnic leaders in the area
On February 21, Chinese special envoy Deng Xijun visited the Mong La area and met with leaders of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) according to Irrawaddy’s report. The report said that the envoy also met separately with delegates of the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), the Shan State Progress Party (SSPP), the Arakan Army (AA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). This visit marked Deng’s second visit to the border area after his visit in December. Political analysts noted that Dang Xijun’s movements took place after the US’s enactment of the BURMA Act at the end of last year, which indicated China’s concerns over the US’s support of the pro-democracy forces.
- Australian mining company cashed in its sale of subsidiary via military-affiliated firm
Mallee Resource (Myanmar Metals), the Australian mining company reportedly one of the affiliates of the Myanmar military for the sale of its investment in Shan State. In April 2021, the company announced its exit from the Baw Dwin mining project due to the coup, which was being operated in collaboration with local companies Win Myint Mo, and East Asia Power (EAP). In doing so, its shares were sold to Win Myint Mo for USD 12.04 million in 2021 August. However, the company apparently used 24-Hour Group as a proxy to cash in its sale by providing a 15% commission (USD 2 million) citing the difficulties in transferring money. MAI airline, which is frequently used by the military junta for foreign trips, is owned by U Aung Zaw Zaw’s 24-Hour Group which has a close tie with the military generals. Mallee Resource stated that Australia-based ANZ Bank failed to provide services for transactions, and hence, it was forced to use the MAI airlines’ subsidiary.
- Junta-owned companies maintained international economic ties despite sanctions
According to leaked documents obtained by Myanmar Now, Myanmar’s military-owned companies are attempting to avoid growing international sanctions by channeling funds through affiliate firms. According to the documents, the firm Myawaddy Trading Limited, a subsidiary of the sanctioned entity Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL), has established a new firm under the name Bhone Min Myat, which it has been using to import fuel and palm oil from abroad. MEHL, which is owned by the military, has also attempted to accept international transfers through another affiliate company, Ever Meter. Under the military regime, enterprises in Myanmar face few barriers to establishing subsidiary firms. A new company can be formed for only 150,000 kyat (USD 70) in registration fees. Despite activist pressure to cut all ties with the coup regime and foreign governments imposing sanctions, a number of Myanmar companies, including military-owned enterprises, have conducted business with international partners with near impunity since the military seized power in February 2021. Junta-controlled enterprises generate approximately half of Myanmar’s revenue. To effectively impede the flow of foreign currency to the military council, the US and UK governments would also need to impose sanctions on the military-owned Myanma Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB), according to the report. The junta issued a statement on February 5 arguing that the international community has chosen to blame the military council for Myanmar’s ongoing conflict rather than exposing resistance fighters as the true perpetrators of terrorism and violence.
- Continuing protests across the country
Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Laung Lone, Yinmarbin, Myaing, Kani, Sagaing, Kalay, Monywa, and Wetlet regions.
- Democracy activists protested against Thai energy giant’s support for the Junta
The Dawei Democracy Movement Strike Committee has called on the people to boycott Thai energy giant PTT in Launglon Township, Tanintharyi Region. The boycott, according to the committee, was a “fight without arms” because PTT Exploration and Production (PTTEP) and the Petroleum Authority of Thailand (PTT) were funding Myanmar’s junta. It stated that PTT and PTTEP are investing heavily in the offshore gas fields of Yadana, Yetagun, Zawtika, and Shwe, providing large sums to the regime. “The junta is using this money on weapons and fuel for jet fighters and helicopters. It is murdering people every day with this money, so we must boycott its operations,” a committee member stated. The committee stated that it will continue the boycott until blood money stops flowing to the junta.
- WFP cut rations for Rohingya in Bangladesh
The U.N World Food Program announced on February 17 that starting March 1, it will cut back its assistance for all Rohingya living in the camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh for the first time in six years. WFP said that it will reduce its General Food Assistance voucher value from USD 12 to USD 10 per person per month, due to a USD 125 million funding shortfall. Domenico Scalpelli, WFP Country Director in Bangladesh said that this cutback is a devastating blow to the Rohingya and the repercussions of the rations cut – even just two dollars less – will be dire. According to WFP, the vouchers can be used to purchase 40 dry and fresh food items at the outlets in the camps.
- Landmine-inflicted casualties increased by 237 Percent in 2022
According to Unicef Myanmar published in January 2022, there have been a total of 390 reported incidents of landmine and explosive remnants of war in 2022, accounting for a 137 percent increase from 2021. A total of 284 casualties were reported in 2021. The casualties from 2022 included 288 people injured and 102 killed. The most casualties were reported in Shan State, accounting for 32 percent of the total casualties. Sagaing Region reported 17 percent, followed by Rakhine and Chin State at 10 percent, Kachin State at 9 percent, Karen State at 6 percent, and Kayah (Karenni) State at 5 percent.
- Junta’s airstrikes and artillery fire destroyed 12 schools in KNU Territory this academic year
The Karen Education and Culture Department (KECD) under the Karen National Union told Than Lwin Times that 12 schools in KNU territory have been hit by junta airstrikes and artillery fire this academic year. KECD’s Secretary Law Eh Moo said that the military targeted civilians during clashes with the KNLA and KNDO in KNU-controlled territories, destroying schools and injuring students and teachers. Some buildings are reported to be damaged and others are destroyed, and as a result, the students have to resort to studying in bomb shelters and forests, Law Eh Moo added. There are more than 1,200 schools under the KECD, and more than 100,000 students are enrolled in the program.
- Junta blocked aid in Karenni State
Aid workers and IDPs in Karenni State told RFA Burmese that the junta has confiscated food and medicine at dozens of security checkpoints along major land routes in the eastern part of the state. One aid worker named Helen told RFA that humanitarian groups were no longer able to provide food and medicine to displaced residents. The soldiers were reported to be stopping all cars and motorcycles passing through the nearly 40 checkpoints along central roads and intersections in the state, most of which are in the capital Loikaw, residents said. Banyar, the director of the Karenni Human Rights Group said that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees tried to provide emergency relief supplies to more than 25,000 IDPs in Loikaw and Demoso townships in early June 2022, but failed to reach all of them due to junta’s aggressive security checkpoints and confiscations.
Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys and Properties
- Ward administration office targeted, two killed in Yuzana Garden City, Yangon
On February 19, a shootout followed by an explosion took place inside the No.94 ward administration office in Yuzana Garden City, Yangon. First, gunshots were heard, and grenades were blasted afterward, killing two ward administrators, and injuring four. The incident occurred at the same time when many ward administrators were gathering in the office. Both injured and dead were all hundred households’ ward administrators. Win Myint and Tun Tun Win were killed while Mhuu Myint Wai, Phyoe Ko Ko Maung, Ma Khin Swe Win, and Aung Win were,e injured. The regime took this news hard and carried out an excessive retaliation. Masked and armed men entered the ward market on February 22 and terrorized the whole compound. On the next day, they brought bulldozers and removed the shops in the market saying they were encroaching into the municipal area. However, people understood it was a tactic by the junta to discourage the public from resistance.
- Regime’s military station attacked with cannons in Naypyitaw
On February 22, the People’s Defense Force (PDF) fired artillery toward the junta’s military station located on the border of Leiway and Pyinmana townships, Naypyitaw Region. Two cannons were shot in the direction of the Air-raid Prevention Station Unit.2031 in the morning around 9.30 am. The cannons arrived at the targets although the damage was unknown and the spokesperson of the responsible PDF unit said that it was still in the testing phase. The regime forces carried out indiscriminate shooting toward the neighborhood following the attack.
- Deputy police officer killed in Mandalay
On the evening of February 25, it was reported that a policeman was killed during a house raid in Pyigyidagun Township, Mandalay. The man was identified as Win Min Thant, a deputy police officer from the Railway Police Department. He was shot three times and killed as he was visiting a friend in their house. It’s unknown who carried out the operation, but the latest news mentioned that it was a robbery attempt and the policeman was killed by coincidence. His pistol, bullets, and walkie-talkie were seized by the alleged attackers.
- Ward administrators and Dalans targeted in Tanintharyi Region
On the early morning of February 25 around 5 am, a local-based PDF carried out an attack and killed the village administrator from Lattaungya Village, Tanintharyi Township, Tanintharyi Region. The village administrator U Yan Aung Soe was attacked on his way back as two PDF ranges followed his motorbike and shot him dead on the spot. The man was notorious for collaborating with the regime’s soldiers and abducting PDF members. It was the second time in the week that the junta’s lackeys were targeted in Tanintharyi Region. On February 22, a hundred households’ ward administrator Lin Tun Aung and his wife were also shot and killed in their home in Khamauknge Village, Kawthoung Township, Tanintharyi Region. Kawthoung PDF was responsible for the attack.
Arbitrary Arrests, Killings and Violence
- CDM nurse killed for refusing to give up location of PDF station in Okpho tsp, Bago Region
On January 29, a nurse named Ma May Zun Moe in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), who had been contributing to the resistance by her profession in a liberated area, was arrested on her way back to Bago Region. Two rangers were accompanying her but they were shot and killed by the regime’s soldiers while Ma May Zun Moe was captured alive. She was kept under detention until February 16, when the soldiers took her back to the scene where they found her and asked her to show the location of the PDF station. As she refused, the soldiers blindfolded her and told her to run before opening fire on her head three times and killing her. Ma May Zun Moe had been an active member of the resistance since the early days of the coup, she and her husband Ko Aung Zin had participated in the protests together. Her husband was arrested in 2021 and he has been serving in Thayarwaddy Prison with Sedition Act 505 for three years.
- 17 villagers untraceable after abduction in Kawlin tsp, Sagaing Region
PDF members said that 17 villagers from Kawlin Township, Sagaing Region could not be traced following the abduction by the regime’s soldiers. On February 17, the junta’s troops entered Taungbalu Village where they were cornered and ambushed by PDF forces. The reinforcement of two columns was sent to evacuate those troops, PDF retreated as they would be outnumbered. The soldiers combined forces and, on their way out, they arrested thirteen villagers from Kathitkone Village, a mile away from Taungbalu, one from Hlaepwal, and three from Kyakhetaite Village. All seventeen are men and are said to have been tortured inside a military camp. Some of them are rumored to have been killed but the families are still kept in the dark about all the detainees.
- Photographer killed in interrogation within hours of arrest in Mandalay
On February 19, the regime’s forces abducted a photographer named Aung Win Htut @ Ko Aung and killed him in interrogation within hours of the arrest in Mandalay. Ko Aung, who also owned a noodle shop on the corner of 82 and 44 streets, Maharaungmyay Township, was shot twice during the arrest according to the witnesses. It is unclear why he was abducted but it is speculated to be related to the killing of the ward administrator Zaw Win Tun (described in the previous weekly report). The 40-year-old man was a strong supporter of the National League for Democracy (NLD). And the regime’s soldiers reportedly attempted to arrest him in the early days of the coup for his ties with the party but he escaped then. He moved back to his house after things cooled down, and now he was killed in the interrogation.
- Family of five including a 3-year-old killed by militia in Hlegu tsp, Yangon Region
On the evening of February 22, a family of five including a three-year-old child and an 85-year-old grandfather was shot and killed in Yeittha Ward, Hlegu Township, Yangon Region. The family sold sausages in the market for a living, and although they had actively participated in the anti-coup protests in the early days, they were no longer involved much in the resistance according to the local sources. Initially, the military lobbyists said in their Telegram channels that the family was killed by PDF members. Later, it was revealed the family had a CDM teacher as a family member and hence they were targeted by Pyu Saw Htee, the military-sponsored thug group.
- Regime’s artillery injured three civilians in Hpakant tsp, Kachin State
On the morning of February 24 around 10 am, the regime’s soldiers based in Sankha Prison fired artillery more than 10 times toward the nearby villages in Hpakant Township, Kachin State. Three civilians were injured by the unprovoked attack. A 24-year-old woman was injured in her arm, thigh, and waistline as she tried to get children inside. Also on February 22, a community worker named Ko San Lin Aung was shot in his leg as he was spotted by the soldiers around 10 pm on his way to a pharmacy.
- NLD member’s wife and daughter arrested in Khin-U, Sagaing Region
On February 24, the regime’s soldiers arrested Daw Nilar and her daughter Ma Ei Nandar Aung, the wife and the daughter of the NLD member Dr. Win Aung in Khin-U Town, Sagaing Region. It’s unknown why they were arrested but many speculated it was related to a tragedy that had happened one day prior. Dr. Win Aung’s younger daughter and her husband were killed in an accident while making gunpowder in Ye-U Township, Sagaing Region. Now, the regime’s army has detained the remaining family members. Dr. Win Aung was elected as a member of parliament representing NLD in Khin-U Township in two successive elections in 2015 and 2020, and now he is continuing political duties in a liberated area.
- NUG disbanded PSDA for killing deserters, sentenced lengthy prison terms to culprits
The National Union Government (NUG) has reached a verdict on the killing of six rangers by the Shan-north-based People Security and Defense Army (PSDA) that took place in November (See Weekly Report 41). After an investigation into the incident, the NUG disbanded PSDA this week and gave lengthy sentences to those responsible for the murders. Six members who carried out the mission were given 20 years imprisonment and the other six who were involved were given five years each, the other 15 were deported from the Shan-north area and banned from joining another armed force. The convicts will be serving time in the detention facility controlled by the NUG.
- Detonation attack killed 20 soldiers in Magway Region
Kyaukhtu PDF released news this week that its rangers had carried out detonation attacks on the regime’s convoy five times last week from February 16 to February 18 in Magway Region. The attacks took place on the 30-mile road connecting Kyaukhtu and Htilin towns, on the border of Chin State and Magway Region. The convoy consisted of one military truck and two vehicles that were given security by 100 troops on foot. The attacks killed at least 20 soldiers.
- PDF seized SAC station near Chindwin River in Sagaing Region
On the evening of February 19, local resistance forces managed to take control of the SAC’s station located on the bank of Chindwin River between Sarlingyi and Yinmabin townships in Sagaing Region. The rangers had been attempting to seize it since the first week of February and eventually succeeded this week. One ranger was killed and another was injured during the clash. There were casualties from the regime’s side too but it is still being verified according to Dragon Brothers Task Force, one of the those that held the station now.
- Regime’s army suffered losses during clash on Kareeni (Kayah)-Thai border
On February 19, a clash broke out between the regime’s forces and a coalition of Karenni resistance forces led by the Karenni Army (KA) 15 miles south of Maesam Town on the Karenni-Thai Border in Karenni State. About 30 regime soldiers were transporting food supplies to their military stations near BP 12 Border Gate. In the clash, at least six soldiers were killed, and five including a commander were captured while 10 MA guns were also seized.
- PDF attacked three military targets in Ayadaw tsp, Sagaing Region
On the night of February 23, PDF conducted an offensive and targeted three locations of the regime in Ayadaw Township, Sagaing Region. Three targets were Thitkyinkyi Village where militias were located, Naunggyieine Police Station, and Sapartwin Village where about 30 troops were deployed. At least two soldiers were killed in the attacks and more casualties are still being verified now. Martial law has been declared in Ayadaw Township since February 22. And as the regime’s forces were intensifying offensives in the southern part of the township, PDF took advantage and attacked the less focused military stations located in the north and the east.
Source: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, Mizzima News, Ayeyarwaddy TImes, RFA Burmese, The Irrawaddy, World Food Program, Than Lwin Times, Daily Eleven, The DVB, UNICEF