Weekly Update: 058

by mohingamatters

 Folks, we have returned with another weekly update. As the Thingyan festival fast approached, the resistance groups request the public not to partake in the regime’s normalization agenda. The UNCHR denied its involvement in the military’s Rohingya repatriation process except for “providing logistical support”. The armed resistance continues to intensify across the country. Today marks the birthday of Phyo Zeya Thaw, and he would have turned 42 if he was still with us. Netizens remember him today, and share his song lyrics and speeches to gain strength and ignite the spirit of revolution further.

Internal Politics

  • Resistance groups requested the public not to celebrate Thingyan

As the Myanmar new year celebration Thingyan Festival approached, anti-coup activists warned the public not to take part in the festival organized by the regime in Yangon, Mandalay and Naypyidaw as a part of its normalization agenda. Artists and musicians have been hired to perform in those celebrations, and the resistance groups warned them not to support the regime. According to DVB’s report, a spokesperson of the resistance groups said, “If you want to enjoy the festival, do so quietly because there are many people who cry quietly and want to be joyful but have no chance to feel it.”

  • ALP split into two

Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) expelled Deputy Chairperson Saw Mra Yarzar Lin for failing to follow the party’s rules and regulations according to the party’s statement issued on March 19. The statement said that Daw Saw Mra Yarzar Lin appointed herself as the party chair and reformed the party. ALP’s spokesperson Khaing Kyaw Khaing told VOA Burmese that the former deputy chair reformed the party without the knowledge of 90% of the party members which defied the party’s rules and regulations. Saw Mra Yarzar Lin responded that she has already left ALP and formed her own party, and hence, the dismissal has no impact on her. The Rakhine party, one of the NCA signatories, is now spilt into the ALP led by Saw Mra Yarzar Lin and the ALP led by Khaing Ye Khaing.

  • Three members of the Northern Alliance met with the regime’s peace team

On March 22, delegations from three northern alliance groups, namely, United Wa State Party (UWSP), Mong La’s National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), and Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP), held a meeting with the regime’s peace negotiation team. According to the regime-controlled media outlets, the meeting took place at the Peace Center in Naypyidaw, and the regime’s delegation was headed by General Yar Pyae. The delegations discussed the upcoming election, a potential peace conference, amendment of certain parts of the constitution, and stability in the region, while the EAOs raised their concerns and demands. These three EAOs also met with the regime in January this year.

  • Follow up on the regime’s Rohingya Repatriation Pilot Project 

Last week, the regime’s delegation travelled to refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar to gather personal data and household information. The 17-person delegation led by regime-appointed Rakhine State Social Welfare Minister U Aung Myo Oo returned to Naypyidaw on March 22 and verified 711 out of 1000 refugees who have listed for repatriation to Myanmar. The military’s spokesperson General Zaw Min Tun told AFP News that the refugees will be repatriated in mid-April and relocated in 15 villages. Kamal, a 40-year-old from the Kutupalong refugee camp, told Myanmar Now that they proposed four demands to the regime’s delegation including official recognition of the name Rohingya; the right to live with dignity in their origins of residence; and equal rights with all other ethnic groups living in the country. To their requests, the delegation said it will consult with the military and respond through the Bangladesh government. However, Kamal said that they are aware of how the Myanmar military can exploit the project for its political gains. 

International Affairs

  • The UNHCR provided logistics to the regime in the Rohingya repatriation pilot project

Over the past weekend, netizens discussed the UN’s involvement in the regime’s Rohingya repatriation pilot project. On March 19, the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) issued a statement acknowledging that it provided transportation for the junta’s officials using unmarked UN boats on March 15. Several human rights activists and netizens raised concerns since it violates the UN’s position on neutrality. While the UN agency said in the statement that it “supports efforts that could lead to the verification of all refugees and pave the way for eventual return”, it denied its involvement in the discussions and that the pilot project is solely conducted between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

  • EU economic sanctions blocked the sales transactions of $200 million to the regime

U Tin Tun Naing, the NUG’s Minister for Planning, Finance and Industry said during the media conference with regards to MOGE that the sales transaction of fuel to the regime has been blocked due to the EU economic sanctions. When Korea’s POSCO imported the fuels from Shwe natural gas from the Rakhine coast in Myanmar to China, the payment transaction is in euro currency. After the military coup, the EU sanctioned Myanmar, and thus, these sales transactions to the regime have been blocked. Moreover, the NUG also sent a demand letter to Thailand’s  PTTEP company which is doing business together with the regime starting from March 20, with regards to the Yadanar project. The letter stated that if the company does not respond within 30 days, the NUG will proceed a legal action after informing the arbitration tribunal in Singapore according to U Soe Thura Tun, the NUG’s Minister for Electricity and Energy.

  • The US imposed sanctions on the regime’s arms brokers

Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States announced on March 24 that it has imposed sanctions on seven individuals including Tun Min Latt, the arms broker of the Myanmar military. The latest round of sanctions included Tun Min Latt, his wife Win Min Soe, and their companies Star Sapphire in Yangon, Naypyidaw and Singapore. In addition,  Asia Sun Group of Companies, Asia Sun Trading Company for supporting the regime’s aviation fuel, and Cargo Link Petroleum Logistics for delivering aviation fuels to the military bases. This round of sanctions was imposed before Armed Forces Day which falls on March 27.

  • China provides university scholarships to strengthen ties with the military

In Beijing’s latest effort to consolidate its ties with the regime, China launched the PaukPhaw scholarship which provides MMK 500,000 (approximately US$ 180) each to students from 12 different fields of study for the 2022-23 academic year. The first batch of students was selected from Naypyidaw State Academy founded by junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, and the scholarship ceremony was held on March 17. According to the junta media, the PaukPhaw scholarships will be awarded to a total of 800 university students from East Yangon University, Yangon Education University, Yangon University of Foreign Languages, Dagon University, and Naypyitaw State Academy, with funding from Alibaba Philanthropy for the current academic year. The China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation in Myanmar Office (CFPA) launched the PaukPhaw scholarship project in 2015. 

  • Thai authorities inspect residences where Myanmar live in Mae Sot, detained two people

Thai military and immigration authorities raided a four-story building in Mae Sot, the border town located in Thailand’s Tak Province on March 22, and arrested two Myanmar nationals, including a 14-year-old boy accused of being linked to the armed resistance movement after the military coup in Myanmar. The next morning, another raid occurred in another area around 11 a.m. According to sources who spoke to Myanmar Now on the first raid, there were about 40 Thai authorities, including plainclothes intelligence officers who started the raid around 2pm in an area where many Myanmar are residing. About 200 residents living in 40 rooms were brought out for interrogation and arrested a 24-year-old man and a 14-year-old boy after discovering a drone, walkie-talkies, and some camouflage uniforms. Reportedly, the Thai authorities were looking for two individuals and were showing photos, asking if they lived in the area. During the second raid on March 23, no one was arrested as most Myanmar nationals living in the area had work permits and documentation.

Business Matters

  • Junta-linked cronies donate to Armed Forces Day Parade

Junta-controlled media reported that about 163 companies and individuals donated 1.13 billion Myanmar kyats (approximately US$ 400,000) towards the Armed Forces Day parade happening in Nay Pyi Taw on March 27. Sources at the Quartermaster General’s Office in Nay Pyi taw told The Irrawaddy on March 25 the identities of around 20 of the companies making donations. Some of these companies are owned by long-established cronies affiliated with the junta since the 1990s. These include Shwe Taung Development Company Limited run by Aik Tun, who was linked to the drugs trade and Yuzana Group of Companies owned by Htay Myint, who was the former Union Solidarity and Development Party MP between 2011 and 2016. Others reported to have made donations are military-owned Myawaddy Bank, key distributor of the military’s Dagon Beer, Dagon Win Win Company Limited, and arms brokers for the junta, Star Sapphire Group of Companies, International Gateways Co.,Ltd and Miya Win International Co., Ltd.

  • More than 400 workers in a garment factory were laid off ahead of the annual holiday period 

The Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM) reported that more than 400 workers are being let go from the Fitex (Myanmar) Garment Manufacturing Co., Ltd ahead of the upcoming Thingyan water festival holiday. Fitex is a Chinese-owned company, producing the AMISU brand and is located in the Shwe Lin Ban Industrial Zone, Hlaing Tharyar Township. Some of the dismissed workers said that they are being laid off before the holidays because the company did not want to provide holiday pay, and this was not the first time as some workers were also dismissed before the Thingyan holiday in April 2022. One female garment worker also said that some of the workers were informed to work only until April 12 and the company did not post a notice letter in advance. Fitex garment factory was also reported to have forced some workers to work overtime against their will and threatened termination for missing a single day of work. This factory has been accused of violating multiple labor rights, including mistreating workers.

  • Electric Vehicles (EVs) unpopular in Myanmar’s market

The military junta has been actively promoting EVs in Myanmar, but there is little interest from the public. This has resulted in a lack of demand for EVs in the local market. To reduce the number of imported fuels, the regime has limited car import permits, while also exempting EVs from custom duty and welcoming investment in the local market. Around 20 China-based companies have offered to import EVs to Myanmar, with BYD Auto being the first to enter the market. Despite this, local car dealers report low demand due to the high cost of at least 600 lakhs Myanmar Kyats per car and that it is not accessible to grassroots people. Additionally, as the battery performance declines, the value of the car depreciates, making EVs unpopular in the Myanmar car market.

  • Fuel shortage temporarily halts sales in Myanmar cities

According to the sources from the fuel and gas sector, there has been a shortage of fuel in Yangon, and other cities across Myanmar, and fuel sales were temporarily stopped. In Yangon, one litre of 92 Ron fuel costs MMK 2040, 95 Ron costs MMK 2130, and one litre of diesel costs MMK 2060. Compared to the price in the week of March 14, the price fell to about 100 MMK. Although the price has decreased, most of the fuel stations stopped sales. A truck driver spoke to DVB News that he could not find any fuel. Smaller gas stations also reported shortages because they have limited supplies. One businessman said that the supply is only available for three days a week, and they were warned that they’d face consequences if they closed their shops.

Protests & Fundraising

  • Continuing protests across the country 

Protests are still going strong, including in Monywa, Yinmarbin, Laung Lone, Myaing, Kalay, and Kyan Khin regions. 

Humanitarian Affairs

  • About 250,000 displaced in Karenni State

The Karenni Human Rights Group reported that there are up to 250,000 people fleeing the Karenni State due to the junta’s clearance operations, according to the recent data collected in the third week of March. On March 25, there were reports of more than 100 homes destroyed due to escalating attacks and airstrikes in Karenni State’s Demoso Township, RFA Burmese reported. 

  • Junta has torched over 60,000 buildings in two years since the coup

Data for Myanmar reported that a total of 60,459 houses were destroyed by junta forces in the two years since the February 2021 coup. According to the data compiled until February 28, 2023, junta soldiers and members of junta-aligned militias, such as the Pyu Saw Htee, have destroyed 47,778 homes in Sagaing Region, 9,019 houses in Magway Region, 1,485 houses in Chin State, and 2,177 in the remaining states and regions.

  • Houses across Myanmar destroyed and torched within this week

Sagaing Region: In Khin-U township, a 50-strong military column entered Mya Kan village on the morning of March 23, burning down an undisclosed number of houses as they conducted their raids. 

Mandalay Region: About 700 houses were demolished by junta forces with machinery in Mandalay Region’s Pyi Gyi Tagon and Chan Mya Tharzi townships between March 20 and 22. According to the RFA report on March 22, every type of building from thatched huts to three-story buildings were destroyed on the grounds that they are encroached upon. In another part of Mandalay Region in Madaya Township, about 70 houses from Po-Wa village were burned down during a junta’s raid on March 22. 

Tanintharyi Region: Between March 20-21, three villages in Tanintharyi Region’s Launglon Township were raided and torched by junta troops, the residents told RFA Burmese. Thapyay Shaung village was raided on March 20 and the junta forces torched the temporary workers’ huts, and two more villages, Out Kyaut Wut and Nyaw Pyin, were torched on March 21 in which about 146 houses were torched.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • Explosion in Mandalay’s government office injured four staff

On March 20, an explosion occurred in the Department of Transport Planning Office in Mandalay, resulting in four people being injured. A man reportedly attacked the facility with a grenade around 11 am, located on 83rd Road between 34th -35th  streets, Chanayetharzan Township. Four staff including the deputy officer were wounded by the blast, but injuries were not severe while the man managed to escape from the scene. A Mandalay-based urban guerilla force named AST-MDY claimed responsibility for the incident. The group’s spokesperson said that this was a part of the Aungsidaw Operation that aimed to disrupt the regime’s revenue streams. The Transport Department was included in this category as the staff were reportedly forcing people to pay tax.

  • More frequent attacks saw deaths of regime’s lackeys in Mandalay Region

The junta’s lapdogs and assets have been targeted more frequently in Mandalay Region this month. On March 22 alone, three of the regime’s conspirators were killed in two incidents. In the afternoon, Amarapura Township Court was attacked with a grenade, killing a soldier on security duty named San Oo and injuring another solider. Moreover, U Soe naing and U Win Ko, two ward administrators were also shot and killed in a teashop in Aungmyaytharsan Township on the same day. All attacks were claimed responsibility by AST-MDY.    

  • Grenade attack led to back-and-forth firings in front of Insein Prison, Yangon

On March 24, people who live near the Insein Prison reported hearing gunshots from the detention facility. According to sources on the ground, unknown gunmen attacked the entrance gate of the prison with grenades, prompting an exchange of gunfire with the soldiers on security duty. It’s unknown who was responsible for the attack and the casualty remains undisclosed too. Following the incident, prison staff told local media that the security had been tightened in the compound and the staff were instructed not to step out.

  • Military generals’ business advisor shot and killed in Thanlyin tsp, Yangon Region

On March 24, a gun attack was reported in Thanlyin Township, resulting in the death of Min Tayza Nyunt Tin, an alleged business advisor to military generals. He was closely associated with the regime’s air force chiefs Major General Myat Hein and Major General Maung Maung Kyaw, for whom he had moved money through offshore accounts, getting around sanctions. The man was also known for being vocal about his support of the regime and the coup. Urban Owls, a Yangon-based urban guerilla force, claimed responsibility for the attack. It said that Min Tay Za had transferred money for the generals worth millions of dollars. The rangers who shot him to death from close range in this mission have escaped although the regime’s forces immediately locked down the township for a thorough investigation. 

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Reports of rape and murder by regime’s soldiers in Mandalay and Sagaing regions

Between March 13 to March 18, two columns of the regime’s forces raided villages in the west of Mattaya Township, Mandalay Region, and villages on the bank of Ayawaddy River in Sagaing Region, committing multiple crimes against humanity. On March 14, a 30-year-old mother named Khin Moe Moe Swe was raped before she was shot and killed by the soldiers in Shwegepyan Village, Mattaya Township. Her dead body was found and reported by resistance rangers after the soldiers left the village. In Maesali Village, Sagaing Township, a 50-year-old monk was killed by an artillery explosion. A disabled woman from Mwaykhala Village was also burned to death as the soldiers set her house ablaze.

  • Two civilians shot dead by Pyu Saw Htee group in Thaketa tsp, Yangon

Pyu Saw Htee group, a junta’s death squad, shot and killed two civilians in Thaketa Township, Yangon on the evening of March 19. Two victims, Ko Nyo Gyi and Ko Phyo Wai Aung, sold sugarcane juice in their neighborhood and they were working in the shop when the Phyu Saw Htee members came and shot them to death. Both of them were not associated with political activities but the shop owner Ko Nyo Gyi had once fought with a Pyu Saw Htee member Ye Sain, who was shot and killed by resistance forces in December last year. And many speculated this was a revenge act from Pyu Saw Htee group.

  • Ko Kaung Sett Paing, ABFSU member handed life imprisonment

On March 22, the regime’s military tribunal sentenced Ko Kaung Sett Paing, a member of the All Burma Federation Students’ Union (ABFSU) to life imprisonment.  The 20-year-old held the ground mission officer role at the North Oakkalapa Branch of ABFSU until he was abducted by the regime’s forces in December 2022. For his political activism, Ko Kaung Sett Paing was charged with sections 505A and 50J under the Penal Code. Similarly, in February, Ko Hein Htet, the vice president of ABFSU-North Oakkalapa was given a life sentence. 

  • Three dead bodies found with Thway Thout lanyards in Mattaya, Mandalay Region

On March 22, three dead bodies of young men were found with the “Thway Thout” lanyards draped over their necks near Mattaya Town, Mandalay Region. The victims were estimated to be aged between 20 to 25 years old, but their identities remained unknown. “Thway Thout” lanyards proved that they were killed by the military-sponsored dead squad named Thway Thout, which was formed in early 2022 as a counter-operation to the resistance by targeting pro-revolution civilians in the central part of Myanmar. Local sources said that Thway Thout had disappeared for a while and this was the first time of a similar attack in months.

  • Regime’s airstrike killed two and injured child in Hpa-an tsp, Karen State

Karen National Union (KNU) reported on March 25 that the regime’s forces deployed in Nyaungkone Station, Hpa-an Township shelled artillery toward villages, resulting in deaths and injuries of civilians on March 22. A 66-year-old nun was killed and a 13-year-old teenager was wounded in the chest in Tada-U Village. On the same evening, two fighter jets dropped bombs on Larngengaw Village where a village was killed and farmland was destroyed.

  • Seven elderly villagers killed by arson attack in Budalin tsp, Sagaing Region

On March 25, the regime’s military forces set a village on fire, resulting in the deaths of seven people in Budaline Township, Sagaing Region. Sikone Village, located two miles south of Budalin Town was torched at 8 am and seven elderlies who could not run to safety in time were killed in the fire. The victims were Daw Khin Myint (70), Daw Kyi Aung (71), U Japan Gyi (73), Daw Pyae, (82), Daw San San Myint (60), Daw Tin Ei (83), and Daw Khway (73). A total of 175 houses in the village were burned to the ground.

Armed Resistance

  • Four-day battle resulted in nearly 100 regime soldier casualties in Demoso tsp, Karenni State

A major skirmish broke out between the regime’s army and the local resistance forces in Dawtamagyi Village, Demoso Township, Karenni State from March 20-March 23. The battle began as a coalition of Karenni forces mounted an assault on the village that was held by the regime’s army. According to Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF), over 90 soldiers from the regime were killed and about 50 were injured in the clash while four rangers from the people’s side also died. Several guns and weapons were seized after the battle. Although the number of casualties cannot be verified, the video footage of the dead bodies of the regime’s soldiers being carried out in carts and weapons being occupied by rangers was speculated on social media.

  • SAC forced to retreat due to KIA and PDF offensive in Tigyaing tsp, Sagaing Region

On March 20, the joint forces of the Kachin Independence Army and PDF coordinated an offensive on the junta’s army that held a station in Kyautmhaw Village, five miles northeast of Tigyaing Town, Sagaing Region. The battle lasted six hours until the regime’s forces abandoned the village to retreat back to Tigyaing Town after suffering dozens of casualties – about 30 soldiers were killed according to a local resistance ranger. Three from the alliance force also sustained minor injuries. On the following day, another battle occurred Zeekone Village, two miles from the town. About 1,000 people from Zeekone and Kyautmhaw villages have left their homes to find satefy.

  • Four PDF members and local woman killed during battle in Pale tsp, Sagaing Region

On March 21, local resistance forces conducted an offensive on Zeephyukone Village in Pale Township, Sagaing Region. The village is also known as Pyu Village because it was used by the military to train Pyu Saw Htee members. Myanma Royal Dragon Army (MRDA) led the attack, raiding the village at 5 am in the morning. Pyu Saw Htee members and regime soldiers returned fire with artillery, one of which hit a house in the village, killing a 60-year-old Daw Khin Win. At 8 am, the regime sent a helicopter as reinforcement and conducted an airstrike. The resistance forces had to retreat after four were killed and five more were wounded by the aerial attack. There were casualties on the junta’s side too although the exact figure was not verified.

  • Airstrikes and ground operation in Tamu left 3 PDF members dead in Sagaing Region

The State Administration Council (SAC)’s army reportedly attacked a PDF station located on the border of India-Myanmar in Tamu Township, Sagaing Region for three days. Both ground operation and aerial strikes were witnessed as about 200 troops were deployed on the ground and two airstrikes were conducted. Three PDF members were killed and four others were severely wounded in the battle. A few buildings in the station was also destroyed by the aerial attack. Shanni National Army (SNA) allegedly coordinated the battle with the regime’s forces. As of reporting, the station remains under the control of the PDF.

  • Dozen reportedly killed during detonation attack on the regime’s VIP convoy in Mandalay

On the morning of March 25, a major explosion took place in Mandalay near the regional government office. PDF reportedly conducted a landmine detonation attack on the convoy of the junta-appointed regional minister U Myo Aung at the corner of 64th and 25th Streets in Aungmyaytharzan Township. Twelve soldiers on security duty were killed on the spot while two high-ranking officers were also said to be dead due to the blast. It’s unknown whether U Myo Aung suffered any injury.

  • Clash broke out in Myawaddy and Kawkareik townships in Karen State

Since March 25, clashes have broken out between the regime’s forces and the joint forces of Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and PDF in Myawaddy and Kawkareik townships, Karen State. The KNLA and PDF launched an offensive on the regime’s military stations, which resulted in at least 15 soldier deaths. In response, the regime conducted airstrikes and artillery fire.Two military helicopters opened fire on Kyonedoe Town, located 15 miles from Kawkareik, killing two local men. More victims including women and children also suffered injuries due to the artillery fires. KNLA has advised people not to travel between Kyonedoe and Myawaddy towns while the regime has also imposed a curfew in the area.

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit, The Irrawaddy, The DVB, RFA Burmese, Mizzima News, KNU, UNHCR.

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