Weekly Update: 061

by mohingamatters

Folks, we are all disheartened by the Pazigyi massacre which took place earlier this week in Sagaing Region. The military’s airstrike deliberately killed more than 160 civilians including 40 children among them. Only this kind of immense atrocity hits the international news headlines these days. Unfortunately, the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing is listed in Time magazine’s most influential people list this week, angering Myanmar people who are mourning the Pazigyi incident. The NUG marks its second anniversary today, and President Duwa Lashi La requested the international community to provide defense equipment to protect civilians from aerial attacks in his speech. Tomorrow marks the first day of the Myanmar New Year, and we wish nothing but the fall of the Myanmar military regime with less bloodshed in the coming year.

Internal Politics

  • Death tolls reached 168 after the regime’s airstrike at Pazigyi, Kantbalu 

On April 11, the military launched aerial attacks at Pazigyi Village, Kantbalu Township in Sagaing Region. The regime’s forces deliberately dropped bombs on a gathering event taking place at Pazigyi Village, killing up to 160 civilians including children. The news reports said that the indiscriminate shooting from helicopters took place after two aerial attacks, killing more people who attempted to collect the dead bodies. According to the latest figures by the National Unity Government (NUG), the deceased include six children under age 5, 19 children aged between 5-14, five children aged between 14-18, ten children whose ages cannot be identified, 97 adults over the age of 18, and 31 adults whose ages cannot be identified. The images of the scene spread on social media, and it took at least three days to collect the dead bodies. Fearing further airstrikes will occur, thousands of residents around Pazigyi village are fleeing the area, according to a resident who spoke with BBC Burmese. The Myanmar military claimed responsibility for the aerial attack, saying that it targeted a ceremony held by the NUG. However, the NUG’s Minister of Defense U Yee Mon said, “The event at the Pazigyi is not a secret meeting. It was a public event. The military’s indiscriminate attack shows that it is intentionally killing civilians who refuse their rule”. The Kachin Independent Organisation (KIO) said that it was a “cowardice move” for the military to attack unarmed civilians at a charity gathering. 

  • The NUG President delivers State of the Union Address on the second anniversary of its formation

April 16 marks the second anniversary of the formation of the NUG. President Duwa Lashi La delivered the State of the Union address virtually and highlighted the military regime’s recent airstrike, urging the international community to provide defense equipment to protect against future aerial attacks and to stop international companies that are still selling aviation fuels to the regime or facilitating the sales. During the speech, the president also acknowledged the shortcoming of his government regarding the provision of humanitarian support to millions of IDPs in the country, and the provision of arms and weaponry to resistance forces across the country. He admitted that challenges were faced in purchasing and distributing arms for the PDFs. While he urged the public to continue supporting the fundraising campaigns, he also welcomed constructive criticisms and feedback for the NUG. Lastly, he stated that the NUG has continued its work in progress to press charges against Min Aung Hlaing and his military at international courts. At the end of the speech, President Duwa Lashi La pledged to hold the Myanmar military accountable for its crimes, ensuring that there will be no impunity for them this time.

  • Myanmar people refuse to celebrate the new year

In the third year under military rule, Myanmar people continue to refuse to celebrate the New Year despite the regime’s desperate attempt to organize the celebration. The military administration built festival pandals and made sure its followers and lackeys showed up at the event. Some of the local celebrities were seen performing at the regime-organized concerts, making it on the blacklist by the public. Namely, model Paing Takhon and rapper G-fatt were seen participating in one of the festival pandals organized by the military. The former was arrested by the military in 2021 for his participation in anti-regime protests, and the latter had to flee from the country because of a song he dedicated to one of the fallen protesters. The public showed disappointment towards the artists who they once loved and supported for their anti-regime effort. Netizens encourage one another not to feel discouraged by seeing these artists for it is one of the regime’s tactics to dispirit the revolution.

  • Commander-in-Chief of KNU/KNLA-PC committed suicide

General Saw Eh Ku, commander-in-chief of the Karen National Liberation Army/Peace Council (KNU/KNLA-PC) committed suicide on April 11 according to RFA Burmese. The 60-year-old took his own life at his home in Hta Lot Village, Myawady Township. General Saw Kyaw Nyunt of the KNU/KNLA-PC told RFA Burmese that Saw Eh Ku tried to escape from the stress he suffered from the political pressure amid deteriorating physical health. It has only been two years since the deceased took the role of commander-in-chief at the ethnic armed group. The KNLA/PC is one of the NCA signatories and is still engaging with the military’s peace team after the coup.

  • The NUG’s Ministry of Education opens three online schools

The NUG made an announcement on April 10 that they will be launching three virtual schools, namely the Eastern Sun Federal School, Myanmar Yadana Federal School, and Mya Nandar Federal School, which will operate according to the guidelines provided by the NUG Ministry of Education.

International Affairs

  • Time magazine listed the junta chief among its influential people of 2023

On this week’s episode of how the international community letting Myanmar people down, Time magazine included the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing in its Time100: Most Influential People 2023. The junta chief was listed in the “Leaders” section alongside US President Joe Biden, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska, and other prominent activists and leaders. Time’s writer Charlie Campbell might have written about Min Aung Hlaing to raise awareness about the atrocities that he and his army have been committing against civilians. However, seeing the man who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people on a list that primarily celebrates icons, talents, and leaders comes as a slap to the face of the Burmese people. Netizens showed their anger towards the magazine’s choice of person. One can only wonder how Joe Biden or Olena Zelenska would feel knowing that they are being listed in the same category as the person who has been ruining the lives of millions of people for his own greed. 

  • Russia and China block the UN from issuing a statement on the Pazigyi incident

Following the Pazigyi massacre, the UN issued a statement that condemned the incident. On April 12, Reuters News ran a story regarding the incident in which it reported that Russia and China blocked the Security Council from issuing the statement drafted by the United Kingdom. Russia’s representative Dmitry Polyanskiy was quoted in the Reuters story saying, “There is conflicting information on the circumstances of the attack in question. We need first to have a clear picture”. It seems that the graphic images of the dead bodies spreading online were not enough. A Chinese diplomat also said that the Security Council ought to “encourage the parties in Myanmar to solve differences through dialogue and reconciliation, and it should refrain from taking sides in the international affairs of any country. 

  • ASEAN Secretary-General met with the regime’s representative 

Speaking of having dialogues, ASEAN published on its Facebook that Dr Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary-General of the 10-member bloc, held a meeting with Ambassador Aung Myo Myint who is appointed by the junta to represent Myanmar at the ASEAN on April 13. The Facebook post stated that the pair discussed the implementation of the Five-Point consensus, the recent developments in the country, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance. The post further angered Myanmar netizens who are still mourning the Pazigyi incident. While international diplomats preached peaceful dialogues, reconciliation, and remaining unbiased regarding the Myanmar crisis, the ASEAN keeps on inviting the junta’s representatives to meetings and forums. What does it say about ASEAN’s stance then?

Business Matters

  • ENEOS Holdings terminates Ye Tagun project in Myanmar

On April 12, ENEOS Holding, a Japanese company and one of the shareholders of the Ye Tagun Crude Oil and Natural Gas project in Kappali sea, announced that it has terminated its involvement in the project, following the departures of Malaysia Petronas and Thailand PTTEP. Nippon Oil Exploration (Myanmar), a joint venture by ENEOS, the Japanese government, and Mitsubishi Corporation, owned one-fifth of the project. The departure of ENEOS from the project is not expected to have a significant financial impact on the company. However, it is still unclear whether Petronas, the project operator with over 40% share, and PTTEP, which owned about 20% share, have also left the project.

  • New EU-funded textile scheme criticized by the rights activists

A group of workers’ rights campaigners has criticized a new scheme funded by the European Union (EU) aimed at boosting textile production in Myanmar, claiming that it will not benefit employees and will instead legitimize the military rule. The project called the Multi-Stakeholder Alliance for Decent Employment in the Myanmar Apparel Industry, or “MADE in Myanmar,” will be conducted by the European Chamber of Commerce (Myanmar) and the German-based Seaqua Group over a four-year period, with a budget of €3 million from the EU and additional contributions from several clothing brands. However, Khaing Zar Aung, president of the Myanmar Industrial Workers’ Federation (IWFM), argued that the project would give the military council credibility within the International Labour Organization (ILO) and hide labor rights violations, describing it as a mere public relations exercise.

  • OECD Report: Myanmar’s economic growth could be the lowest in ASEAN

According to a report by the OECD on the economic growth of Southeast Asia, China, and India, Myanmar is predicted to have the lowest economic growth among ASEAN countries. The report states that due to the global economic slowdown, the economic growth of Southeast Asian countries may decline to 4.6% in 2023 from 5.6% in 2022. However, Thailand is predicted to improve its economy in 2023 and rank 6th in the region. While Vietnam’s GDP is predicted to be the highest in the region at 6.4%, followed by the Philippines at 5.7% and Cambodia at 5.4%, Singapore and Myanmar are predicted to have the lowest economic growth at 2.2% and 2%, respectively.

Protests & Fundraising

  • Continuing Protest

Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Yangon, Tant Sae, Yinmarbin, Kalay, Kani, Pauk, Myaing, Monywa, Mandalay, and Phar Kant regions. This week, the protesters were seen holding banners that read, “Revolution Thingyan” to keep the anti-regime spirit in the time of Myanmar’s new year celebration.

  • Student groups urge the public to boycott Thingyan celebrations in Yangon

The Township Students’ Strike Committee and the Thaketa Student Union have called on the public to refrain from participating in the Thingyan celebrations in Yangon. The students hung a banner in front of the Township Hall with the message “We will not celebrate the Fascist Tagu.” The military junta has arranged Thingyan festivities in various cities and towns, including Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw.

  • Rebel-themed Thingyan fundraising event held in Amsterdam

On April 8, a fundraising event with a rebel theme was held in Amsterdam, Netherlands, which was attended by Burmese community members from Belgium, France, and Germany. The event featured traditional music and aimed to raise funds to support the ongoing Spring Revolution.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • 15,000 people displaced by clashes between April 5-11

Shan State: The fighting between the military forces and the Mandalay Region’s People’s Defense Forces near Hokho and Thambo villages in Naung Hkio Township on April 5 has resulted in more than 3,000 residents displaced. As a result of the clashes, residents from Hokho, Thambo, Kone Gyi, Hokhe, and Kyuu Inn villages are fleeing to nearby villages, monasteries, and relative houses in Naung Hkio and Pyin Oo Lwin towns. On April 11, the residents of Nyaung Wine village, located about three-mile away from Hokho village, also had to flee due to sounds of clashes near the village.

Khin-U Township, Sagaing Region: More than 3,000 residents from seven villages on the border of Ye-U and Khin-U townships of Sagaing Region fled to Khin-U Township side on April 11 after a 60-strong junta column advanced into the area, the residents said. A spokesperson from Khin-U Real News Team also said the residents are from Inn Pat, Chan Thar Kone, Ywar Thit, Kone Thar, Ma Yann Inn, Nyaung Pin Chan, and Sel Gyi villages. It was also reported that on the morning of April 11, the junta forces fired heavy artillery into Inn Pat village, injuring four IDPs who were trying to flee for safety.

Taze Township, Sagaing Region: On the morning of April 11, around 5 am, a 150-strong military column raided Chaung Yoe village, causing around 5,000 residents from seven nearby villages to flee their homes, the residents told RFA Burmese. Around 1,500 households from Chaung Yoe, Ta Nae, Kywel Swel, Kha Paung Kyaing, and Shwe Ta Kyay, Dae Yaut and Phan Khar Zin villages are reportedly fleeing. A local resident, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told RFA Burmese that the military column raided the village suddenly because an informant reported that weapons were being made in the village. During the raid, the military discovered a few weapons as well. Three houses from Chaung Yoe village and a house from the neighboring village of Ta Nae were also burned down by military forces.

Salingyi Township, Sagaing Region: A 100-strong military column raided Sagaing Region’s Salingyi Township on April 12 on its clearance operations, causing over 4,000 residents from five villages, including Htan Taw village to flee their homes, residents said. The residents who fled are from Htan Taw, Ywar Shay, Oh Ma, Pa Laung, and Shwe Hlay villages. The junta column also torched eight houses in Htan Taw village.

  • Over 100 houses torched in Mandalay Region’s Madaya Township

Residents of Madaya Township, Mandalay Region, said that on April 11, more than a hundred houses from Kin village were torched and destroyed by the junta soldiers. Junta forces reportedly set fire to the village after the local People’s Defense Force attacked the column that had been stationed at the monastery in Kin village with mines, a resident told RFA Burmese. Afterward, the junta soldiers started setting fires to the village from nine in the morning until late at night, torching over a hundred horses, the resident added. 

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Bomb explosion killed four and injured six in regime’s Thingyan pandal in Lashio, Shan State

On April 13, the first day of the water festival, a bomb exploded near the central water festival pandal organized by the regime’s forces in Lashio Town, Shan State (North). The pandal was located near Yan Taing Aung Pagoda, at the entrance of Lashio Town. The explosion occurred around noon and initial reports described that at least four were killed and six were injured. Sources on the ground said that civilians had no interest in joining the celebration held by the regime and the casualties could have been the regime’s lackeys or their family members. Prior to the water festival, the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing and his family visited Lashio.

  • Seven died during attack on Thingyan pandal in Pyu Saw Htee-filled village in Sagaing Region

On the evening of April 13, an explosion occurred in Kwal Pone Village, on the west side of Sagaing Township, Sagaing Region. The blast, caused by a bomb from a drone, took place in the water festival pandal near a school, 24 miles from Sagaing City. Apparently, the junta’s lapdogs Pyu Saw Htee members were partying and celebrating in the pandal. At least seven of them were reportedly killed in the incident while 30 others were injured. The regime’s forces were witnessed following the drone in an unsuccessful attempt to shoot it down. The junta’s lobbyists used this incident to sell the news that the resistance rangers were targeting civilians and children. It’s still unknown who was responsible for the attack, but local resistance rangers said there were unlikely any children in the area since it was largely occupied by Pyu Saw Htee members and the regime soldiers.

  • Bomb attack on regime’s Thingyan celebration injured dozens in Loikaw, Karenni State

On April 15, the third day of the water festival, the celebration organized by the regime in the regional government office in Loikaw Town was attacked with free-flight rockets and bomb-carrying drones. The operation that took place around 8 am resulted in injuring at least 25 people, that included the junta’s high-raking officers, village heads, and general administrative staff. Six of them were said to be in critical condition. The responsible party for the attack remained unknown.

  • District Police Chief’s house targeted in Hinthada, Ayeyawaddy Region

On April 15, an explosion occurred inside the house compound of Kyaw Mya Than, the regime’s Hinthada District Police Chief which is located on Yonegyi Road, Hinthada Town, Ayeyawaddy Region. A bomb was triggered with a remote control by a local resistance force around 8.50 pm. It’s unknown if there was any casualty although the drunk and armed soldiers on security duty were seen running back and forth following the incident. Security in that area is usually tight due to the presence of many government offices nearby.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Regime’s airstrike on school killed nine including a headmaster in Falam tsp, Chin State

Around 11 am on April 10, the regime’s forces conducted an airstrike on a school located in Waibula Town, 10 miles northeast of Falam Town, Chin State (North). Despite no active battle going on nearby, two aerial bombs were dropped on the school compound, killing nine people in total including a headmaster and his wife, and injuring many. The school was closed at the time of the attack and only civilians were staying in the compound according to Chin National Defense Force (CNDF) and Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) although the regime’s lobbyists said it was occupied by the resistance forces.

  • Textile business owner family from Mandalay unreachable since the arrest

On March 24, the regime’s forces arrested a family of three, the owner of the prominent “A Nyar Thar Gyi” textile business from Mandalay. The arrest took place in their home in Pyilonechanthar Ward, Aungmyaytharsan Township, Mandalay. Two weeks later on April 5, the regime’s forces came back and sealed the same house. However, no news was heard of the detainees since, and the remaining family and friends are worried about their well-being and safety of them. The victims were Ko Kaung Kyaw Zan, his wife Ma Naw Mardi @ Marlar Wai, and their daughter Ma Moe Nge @ Moe Thidar Tun. The regime’s lobbyists said that the family had been financially supporting PDF.

  • Wanbao’s security police’s artillery killed teen in Yinmabin tsp, Sagaing Region

In the early morning of April 12, the regime’s police station that was providing security to the Chinese Wanbao Copper Mining Company fired artillery toward a nearby village, killing a teenage girl on the spot. The police station was manned by 30 junta men and the local resistance forces had reportedly conducted an ambush on it on April 9. As retaliation, the policemen were shelling heavy weaponry indiscriminately into the neighborhood and the young girl became a victim. Her grandmother was also said to be injured by the fire. The Chinese Wanbao Copper Mining Company has made a negative impression on the Myanmar people due to its close ties with the military since its inception.

  • Six villagers taken as hostages in Kyaukkyi tsp, Bago Region

On April 13, the regime’s soldiers arrested six villagers from Kyaukkyi Township, Nyaunglaypin District, Bagon Region, and took them as hostages on their march. Five of them were from Kyautmawphayargyi Village and one from Kawtharsay Village. Although one was said to let go of, five others were taken to their military station. The area is under the territory of the Karen National Union (KNU)’s Brigade 3.

  • Regime’s airstrike set houses on fire in Mindat tsp, Chin State

On the evening of April 16, the regime’s forces reportedly conducted an airstrike on Panpar Village, Mindat Township, Chin State. Around 5.10 pm, two fighter jets dropped bombs on the village without an active battle in the area. The initial reports described that three houses caught fire due to the bombs. Chin Defense Force (CDF) has warned people to be wary of aerial attacks from the regime day and night.

Armed Resistance

  • One of three PDF rangers transferred to regime by Thai gov killed by BGF in Karen State

Last week, we reported the rumors of the killings of three rangers from Lion Battalion Commando who were returned to the regime by the Thai government after they were arrested by the Thai police on their way to a hospital. This week, we learned that one of them was indeed shot and killed by the junta’s ally Border Guard Force on their return as they all attempted to run. The dead victim was 26-year-old Ko Saw Phyo Lay. The other two were 38-year-old Ko Thiha, the deputy commander of the battalion, and 31-year-old Ko Htet Nay Win, both were also shot and wounded before being taken to the interrogation center based in Mawlamyine, Mon State.

  • Clashes intensified in Nayungcho tsp, Shan State

Since April 5, the regime’s army and the local resistance forces have been clashing in Naungcho Township, Shan State (North).  Mandalay People’s Defense Force (MDY-PDF) and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) has been coordinating the frontline from the people’s side and MDY-PDF said that the armed conflict is based around Hokho Village on the border of Mandalay’s Pyin Oo Lwin and Shan’s Naungcho townships and the battleground has expanded day by day. The regime has utilized artillery and airstrike in the ten-day-and-counting battle that has resulted in casualties from both sides. Unverified reports said that up to 75 soldiers of the regime were killed so far. Seven PDF soldiers also died and 15 were injured. Sources on the ground said that the junta’s artillery had resulted in the death of civilians as well. On April 5 when the battle began, two children, an 11-month-old Sai Wah Wah Tun and her 14-year-old sister Sai Ma Aye were killed by artillery while their parents were also sent to a hospital with wounds.

  • Battles continued near Myawaddy trading zone on Thai-Myanmar border

Since April 3, clashes between the regime’s forces and local resistance forces were reported in Myawaddy, a Thai-Myanmar border town in Karen State. The skirmishes intensified as allied forces under KNU’s control conducted an attack on the regime’s military stations near the Shwe Kokko New City Project which was the key revenue of the BGF on April 5. The regime’s army retaliated by shelling artillery toward the civilians’ neighborhoods. As a result, thousands of civilians have been displaced and they have fled to the Thai side of the river.  

  • All vehicles destroyed during attack on junta’s convoy in Hakha tsp, Chin State

On April 13, the junta’s military convoy consisting of over 30 vehicles was attacked by Chin National Army (CNA) near Khon Kyone Village, 10 miles near Hakha Town, Chin State. CNA’s spokesperson said that almost all vehicles including a tank were destroyed during the attack. The convoy was heading from Sagaing Region’s Kalay Town to Chin State’s Hakha Town reportedly carrying food and weapons. Following the incident, the regime’s forces conducted at least four airstrikes near the Khon Kyone Village. 

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit, RFA, Burmese, DVB, Mizzima, BBC Burmese, Time, ASEAN, Reuters

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