Weekly Update: 057

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, here is another weekly update from our team. Read the highlights of the week below: 

Internal Politics

  • The regime to meet with 7 NCA signatories

On March 13, RFA Burmese reported that the regime planned to hold a meeting with seven ethnic armed groups which signed Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). General Saw Kyaw Nyunt, the spokesperson of the National Solidarity and Peacemaking Negotiation Committee, said that the meeting will take place on March 28 and 29 in Naypyidaw. The EAOs that will attend the meeting are the New Mon State Party (NMSP), Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), Karen National Liberation Army-Peace Council (KNU/KNLA-PC), Lahu Democratic Union (LDU), Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO), and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS). General Kyaw Nyunt said that this meeting marked the first dialogue where all signatories of the NCA came together, and the regime had requested it since November 2022. 

  • SNLD to op out on the regime’s sham election

After the two-day party convention on March 16 and 17, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) agreed to exclude from the upcoming election and decided not to re-register the political party. General Secretary Sai Laik told RFA Burmese that the designated election day has not been announced, and the party could not find a solid reason to put its trust in the regime-assembled Union Election Commission and its work. To remain a political party, the party could not travel to collect the opinions of its party members and their supporters who are in Kachin and Kayah (Karenni) states, hence, the party decided not to re-register this time around. According to the new political party registration law, the SNLD will be dissolved if it does not re-register its party. To that, Sai Laik said that SNLD will consider alternatives to contribute to the building of a federal nation. 

  • Rohingyas in Cox’s bazaar have no faith in the regime’s repatriation process

On March 15, the regime’s delegation led by Rakhine State’s Minister for U Aung Myo Oo met with Rohingya refugees at Transit Center in Taknaf, Bangladesh to gather information to prepare for the repatriation process. A Rohingya from the Balukhali refugee camp told Myanmar Now that the regime’s 17-person delegation told them that about 1000 Rohingya who fled from Myanmar will be taken back, but no exact detail on the repatriation process was shared with them. Ko Aung Myaing from Kutupalong refugee camp also said that there has been missing information in the list of refugees such as incomplete family member lists. He said that he does not believe in the Myanmar military regime’s repatriation process for it could be politically motivated to gain a few points from the international community. In a similar fashion, the regime-administered Department of Immigration issued National Verification Cards in Thet Kay Pyin refugee camp, two miles away from Sittwe, Rakhine State on March 9. 

  • Organizations o report if they travel to its controlled area, the NUG says

On March 17, the National Unity Government (NUG)’s Ministry of Home Affairs issued a directive which requested local and international NGOs, and civil society groups to report to the civilian government if they make movements in its controlled areas. In the announcement, the NUG said that organizations that, trespass, collect information, or conduct projects must inform the respective ministries of the NUG for security reasons, as well as, for cooperation purposes. The announcement did not specify the NUG-controlled areas but in September 2022, President Duwa Lashi La said that the resistance forces controlled 250 out of 330 townships in Myanmar. 

International Affairs

  • Dr Noeleen Heyzer presented the current Myanmar situation at the UN assembly

On March 16, UN special envoy to Myanmar Dr Noeleen Heyzer said that the violence and atrocities committed by the military regime has been continued in the third year with “an alarming scale”. In her presentation to the high-level UN meeting, she emphasized the regime’s use of extreme forces such as aerial attacks, collective punishment, four cuts strategy, and other grave violations against civilians to “maintain its grip on power”. She also included the recent massacre in Pinlaung, Shan State where the regime beheaded and mutilated 28 people including civilians and PDF fighters. In addition, Dr Heyzer highlighted that 17.6 million people are in need of assistance, and concluded her presentation by mentioning the people’s “unprecedented solidarity” against the military regime.

  • US Counsellor Derek Chollet visited the NUG office in Washington D.C.

Derek Chollet, Counsellor of the US Department of State, paid a visit to the D.C. Office of the NUG according to his tweet on March 14. Counsellor Chollet was received by Deputy Foreign Minister U Moe Zaw Oo and Minister of Communications and IT U Htin Lin Aung. In his tweet, he wrote that they discussed how the US could increate assistance to the people of Myanmar, and seek a peaceful transition to an inclusive, democratic country. This is the second visit by a US official since the NUG opened its office in mid-February. At the opening ceremony, Ms Uzra Zeya, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights attended the event and gave a speech.

Business Matters

  • Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) revoked business licenses from 20 currency exchange companies including state-owned airlines

The Central Bank of Myanmar, controlled by the junta council, announced on March 16 that 20 companies that operate foreign exchange counters, including the state-owned Myanmar National Airlines, had their foreign exchange licenses revoked. According to the announcement, these 20 companies will no longer be allowed to operate their foreign exchange services starting from March 14. An exchange counter owner from Yangon, whose license was revoked, was notified by the junta council on March 15 but wasn’t informed of the reason for being revoked. However, the source close to CBM shared his opinion that these companies got their license withdrawn as they had failed to provide the monthly and yearly reports to CBM. Although there are over 400 currency exchange companies with licenses to operate in Myanmar, only a few, fewer than 100 of the companies, are doing the currency exchange services. Last year, MNA airlines issued a notice to ticket agents to set the air ticket fares at the rate of 3,000 Myanmar kyats per US dollar, while the junta set the price at 2,100 Myanmar kyats per US dollar.

  • MPTA warns petrol stations against refusal to sell retail 

Myanmar Petroleum Trade Associated (MPTA) warns that it will take actions against petrol stations that refuse to sell to individual sellers. MPTA argues that certain petrol stations are only authorized to serve individual buyers, and are not permitted to sell wholesale. When they engage in wholesale, the supply of fuel runs out quickly. However, petrol station owners counter that the shortage of fuel is due to fuel-imported companies limiting their quota. A medium-sized petrol station owner says that the petrol import company is limiting the amount of fuel to each petrol station, making it impossible to obtain the requested quota. 

  • Almost 3,000 factory workers unemployed due to factory shutdowns and layoffs

Around 2,800 workers from Yangon’s Shwe Pyi Thar Township lost their jobs in the past three weeks after the closure of two garment factories in War-100 Industrial Zone and the FITEX (Myanmar) factory inShwe Lin Ban Industrial Zone laid off over 400 workers. The Chinese-owned factories which manufactured Primark-brand clothes were closed in the last week of February. The factory reportedly informed the workers about two weeks in advance. About 1,245 workers from GTIG Huash and 1,180 workers from Primseng Guo factories lost their jobs, according to a workers union member. On March 13, over 400 workers from the FITEX (Myanmar) factory were laid off without prior notice, a worker from the factory told RFA Burmese. One of the reasons that all of the workers who lost their jobs were given was that there were no new orders coming in for the factories, and none of them were given compensation for these haste decisions.

  • Yangon Peninsula Hotel Project to resume 

The Yangon Peninsula Hotel project, which was once the location of the Myanmar Railways Headquarters, will resume, according to the hotel project’s operator Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Group (HSH Group). Following the military coup in February 2021, HSH Group CEO Clement Kwok confirmed that the Yangon Peninsula Hotel project, which was part of the downtown Yangon redevelopment plan, had been halted. This hotel project’s local partners are Singapore-based Yoma Strategic Holdings Ltd. (YSH) and First Myanmar Investment (FMI), both subsidiaries of business tycoon Serge Pan’s Yoma Group. This 88-room hotel project is part of the redevelopment of Myanmar Railways HQ, which began in 2014 and was expected to be completed in 2022, but construction had to be halted in mid-2021.

Humanitarian Affairs

Many residents across the country continued to be internally displaced under junta’s terror operations:

● Bago Region

On March 9, an 80-strong military column raided Shwe Kyi Township, terrorizing the residents from 12 villages in the township. Over 10,000 residents fled as a result of the raids.

● Kayah State

Starting from March 10, over 6,000 residents of Demoso Township fled their homes when a 200-strong junta column advanced into Kayah State’s Demoso Township as part of their clearance operations, according to Karenni Human Rights Group and Karenni Nationalities Defense Force.

● Magway Region

In Magway Region’s Pauk Township, more than 7,000 residents from 12 villages were internally displaced after the junta raided the villages in search for local People’s Defense Force members. A 200-strong military column raided San Pe village on March 13 and detained about 60 villagers at the monastery. The detained villagers were reportedly interrogated on the whereabouts of the local PDFs, according to a resident who told The Irrawaddy.

● Mandalay Region

Between March 13-17, nine villages in Mandalay Region’s Madaya Township were torched by junta troops, causing over 10,000 residents to flee.

● Sagaing Region

On March 17, about 100-strong military columns launched simultaneous attacks against villages in Myaung, Salingyi and Khin-U townships in Sagaing Region. The raids had caused a total of 54,000 residents to be displaced internally.

Protest & Fundraising

  • Tokyo protest against chairman of Japan-Myanmar Association 

On March 14, a protest was held in front of the Japan-Myanmar Association office in Tokyo. Many people spoke out against its chairman, Hideo Watanabe. “As a Japanese citizen, I am ashamed to see Watanabe accept the medal from the military leader who terrorizes and murders Burmese citizens. We must pay close attention to the current wishes of the people of Burma, ” said Yuki Kitazumi, a Japanese journalist imprisoned in Burma but released in May 2021. The regime recently awarded Watanabe and former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso medals. Since the 2021 military coup, Watanabe has met with Min Aung Hlaing at least four times. 

  • Continuing protests across the country 

Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Yangon, Yinmarbin, Pha Kant, Myaing, Kani, Laung Lone, and Kalay regions. 

  • Resistance Movie by Ko Pauk Screens in London

On March 18th, the resistance movie named, “Yaung Ni Lar Yar Lann ” directed by Ko Pauk screened at “The Comedy Store” theater in London, England. Dr. U Win Myat Aye, the Union Minister of the National Unity Government, who was in London on business, also attended the ceremony and gave a speech of encouragement. Union Minister Daw Khin Ma Myo and the representative of the UK, Dr. Thet Ko Ko, also said their greetings. The theater was filled with the audience and Director Ko Pauk also met with the fans online who donated funds for the ongoing revolution. 

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Explosion at interrogation center left four soldiers dead in Pyay Town, Bago Region

On the evening of March 12, an explosion reportedly took place in an interrogation center located on Mingyi Hill, Pyay Town, Bago Region. Three regime soldiers were killed on the spot and another one died with wounds in the hospital. It was unknown who was responsible for the incident but local sources said the blast was caused accidentally by their own explosives during transportation. The facility had been used by successive regimes for the interrogation of political detainees and it was usually heavily armed and surrounded by military staff housing.

  • Drone attack saw casualties in Natogyi Town, Mandalay Region

On March 13, a local PDF attacked two of the regime’s offices with bombs in Natogyi Town, Mandalay Region. Natogyi PDF dropped three bombs each from a drone inside the township electricity supply office and general administrative department office which were guarded by the soldiers. Five men were allegedly killed in both incidents. The regime said two of its men were killed and five were injured. The same locations are operating as usual in the following days, with five soldiers guarding each area. Local PDF frequently conducts attacks on military targets in Natogyi Township.

  • Two policemen killed during attack in Thaketa tsp, Yangon

On March 17, a deadly incident occurred in Thaketa Township, Yangon, resulting in the deaths of two police officers. While running an errand at a print service, three policemen were targeted by two gunmen on a motorbike who opened fire on them at close range. Police corporal Saw Lay Phaw and trainee Aung Htet were reportedly killed on the spot while another corporal on the scene, Soe Win Naing, was taken to the hospital with severe wounds. The attack took place around 1 pm, prompting regime forces to block the entire township for several hours for a thorough investigation. As of reporting this, there have been no reports of the arrest and no one has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack.

  • Failed Dalan mission resulted in the death of civilian in Insein tsp, Yangon

On the afternoon of March 18, unknown gunmen made an attempt to attack the junta’s ward administrator Kyaw Zaw Hein in Pauk Taw Wa Ward, Insein Township, Yangon. They only managed to shoot the man in the leg as he ran into a group of youths who were hanging out in a beverage shop nearby. The gunmen continued firing into the group, resulting in the death of 21-year-old Ko Min Khant Kyaw and injuring another, Pyae Phyo Aung who suffered a bullet wound in the chest and is now being hospitalized. The military informer/Dalan Kyaw Zaw Hein is notorious in the region for conspiring with the junta’s forces and oppressing people. While the attempted attack on him is justified, many criticized the gunmen for risking innocent lives for a mission. 

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Prominent Pyigyitagon Sayadaw missing following raid by regime forces in Sagaing Region

Sayadaw U Aggawontha, a prominent activist and monk in Mandalay, has been missing since March 5 following a raid by regime forces on the village where he was hiding in Sagaing Region. While it is believed that he has been placed under interrogation since his disappearance, many have speculated that he may have been killed by soldiers. On the day of the raid, seven guerrilla protestors were arrested along with Sayadaw in Lakkapin Village in Myinmu Township, and many believe they too have been killed. Sayadaw was known for leading flash mobs in support of pro-resistance movements in various central Myanmar areas and was placed on a warrant list by the junta in March 2021 under sedition act 505A.

  • Family of four Myanmar nationals detained by Thai authorities missing since transfer to regime

On March 1, Thai police arrested a family of four Myanmar nationals in Mae Sai Town, Thailand and transferred them to the regime. Ko Saw Hla, his wife, and two children had legal documents for staying in Thailand but were detained for allegedly helping Myanmar’s resistance by providing drones and combat accessories. They were handed over to the regime and reportedly taken to the interrogation center in Tachileik Township, Shan State (east). Believed to be in relation to their arrest, a Myanmar national named Thurein Win was also detained by Thai police on March 16. He too is expected to be handed over to the regime. As of reporting this, there is no news regarding the whereabouts of Ko Saw Hla and family. 

  • Seven civilians including teens abducted in Ye Phyu tsp, Tanintharyi Region

The regime forces have abducted seven people for associating with the resistance movement in Ye Phyu Township, Tanintharyi Region this month. On March 9, two teenage girls, Ma Kay Thi Thi Lin from Zinbar Village and Ma Thet Myat Noe from Kyautshat Village were detained at Kalain Aung Bridge Inspection Gate on Yangon-Dawei Road after the soldiers searched their phones. In relation to their arrests, five more people including 17-year-old Ma Moe Myat Nadi Htwe and Ko Kyaw Thu Win were detained by the regime’s soldiers in Kalain Aung Town. It’s speculated all of them are kept at an interrogation center in Kalain Aung Town but no news was released by the regime regarding their whereabouts.

  • Prisoner of conscience died due to medical neglect by regime in Tamu, Sagaing Region

On March 16, Ko Thit San Oo @ Thar El Nge, a political detainee in Tamu Police Station, died after being denied medication by the Myanmar regime. The 47-year-old man had been arrested on September 28, 2022, for allegedly posting anti-regime content on his social media account. He was sentenced to four years in prison for violating the Counterterrorism Act 52(A). Despite suffering from diabetes, his family’s requests for medication were denied by the regime’s officials, and his health deteriorated after a month in detention. The family is now worried about the condition of other detainees in the Tamu Police Station, which they believe is unfit for anyone.

  • Junta’s airstrike killed two and injured three in Shwebo tsp, Sagaing Region

On the afternoon of March 18, the regime’s forces conducted an airstrike in Seikkon Village, Shwebo Township, Sagaing Region, resulting in casualties of civilians. Although there was no active battle going on in the village, the junta carried out aerial attacks utilizing a Mi35 helicopter. Ko Toe Toe, aged 22, and Daw Kyi Win, aged 66 were killed while other villagers named U Htwar U Tin and Ma Mar Lwin were injured. It remains unknown why the attack was carried out despite the lack of PDF action in the area. 

  • Junta’ artillery killed 6-year-old child in Bilin tsp, Mon State

On March 18, a village in Bilin Township, Mon State was hit by artillery from the junta, resulting in the tragic death of a 6-year-old child from Awungyi Village named Saw Phoe Thagyan. According to local sources, the artillery was fired from the regime’s artillery regiment unit 314, which is stationed in Zeewun Village, also located in Bilin Township.

Armed Resistance

  • SAC forces occupied PDF station and inflicted losses in Myaung tsp, Sagaing Region

On March 15, the State Administration Council (SAC)’s forces launched an assault on the PDF station located near the Ayeyarwaddy River in Myaung Township, Sagaing Region. Hundreds of troops in two columns surrounded the station from different directions and took control of the outpost after a 30-minute battle. Although most of the rangers managed to escape, one was killed and three others were injured during the clash. Equipment used for the weapon production line, as well as mobile phones and motorbikes were destroyed before the entire station was burned down to ashes. The total loss was estimated to be around 40,000 USD. The station was under the command of the NUG’s Mandalay District Unit 5.  

  • Five urban guerilla rangers fell into regime’s trap and killed in Pakokku tsp, Magway Region

On March 15th, two resistance rangers, Ko Ma Kyee (aged-20) and Ko Yarma (aged-22), were detained by soldiers from the regime during an operation mission in Pokokku Township, Magway Region. The soldiers then forced the detainees to make a fake call to their fellow crew members, claiming they had run out of fuel and needed help. Seven rangers arrived to assist, but were ambushed by the regime’s soldiers, resulting in the deaths of Ko Dan Dan (aged-26), Ko One Moe (aged-26), and Ko Moe Gyi (aged-21), while the rest managed to escape. The detainees, Ko Ma Kyee and Ko Yarma, were also murdered by the soldiers after making the phone call.

  • PDF and KIA launched attack on SAC station, regime’s response killed civilians in Hpakant tsp, Kachin State

On the evening of March 18, the PDF and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) combined forces to launch an assault on the regime’s police station located near Lone Khin Village in Hpakant Township, Kachin State. The attack sparked a full-blown combat that continued throughout the night, resulting in the deaths of three policemen. In response, the regime’s forces shelled artillery fire, some of which landed in the nearby bus station and killed civilians. At least six people, including a 7-year-old child, were confirmed to have been killed by the regime’s artillery.

  • Detonation attack left regime army with casualties in Mattaya tsp, Mandalay Region

On the morning of March 18, Natsoe Underground Revolution Force triggered a landmine attack on the junta’s troops in Mattaya Township, Mandalay Region. The ambush occurred between Lamine and Makyikone villages, as approximately 60 soldiers were marching from Kyauktada Village. Three explosions in total killed two junta soldiers and injured several more while the rangers managed to retreat without any casualty. 

  • CDF-Mindat says Mindat-Kyaukhtu road can be used again in Chin State

On March 19, CDF-Mindat issued a statement informing the public that they can resume using the Mindat-Kyaukhtu highway road. Earlier on March 13, the junta’s 35-vehicle convoy was heading towards Mindat on that road, and CDF-Mindat had issued a warning to people to avoid using it due to the potential for conflict. On March 16, the convoy was attacked with a landmine detonation, resulting in the destruction of at least two vehicles.  In the aftermath, the convoy is witnessed turning back to Kyauthtu Town, prompting CDF-Mindat to allow the public to use the road again.

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, RFA Burmese, Mizzima News, The Irrawaddy, The DVB, Myaelatt Athan, UN 

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