Folks, the regime pardoned some 2000 detainees for Vesak Day and many of them are political prisoners. While many of us are happy to see our friends returning home, we must remember that they should have not been behind bars in the first place. The People’s Defense Force celebrated the second year of its formation and the NUG President alerted that the armed resistance has been accelerated. The oldest ethnic armed group KNU installed its new leadership this week, and India’s increasing business ties with the regime have been observed as well. Read all about it in this week’s update.
- The NUG’s president alerts of accelerated armed resistance on the PDF’s Second Anniversary
May 5 marked the second anniversary of the formation of the People’s Defense Force (PDF). President of the National Unity Government Duwa Lashi La delivered a virtual speech on the day and alerted the public that the armed resistance has been accelerated. In the speech, he informed the public to be vigilant and requested to cooperate with the PDF soldiers such as donating money, raising funds, or providing intelligence. A total of 300 PDF battalions and columns have formed and more than 250 community-based public administration groups have been organized. These groups have been coordinating with allied ethnic armed organizations, Central Command and Coordination Committee, and Joint Coordination Committee according to the NUG leader. In addition, the production of weapons and ammunition has also been successful, the NUG has kept on trying to attain weapons to prevent airstrikes. President Duwa Lashi La also called on the international community to recognize the NUG as Myanmar’s sovereign government and engage with them officially.
- The regime’s Vesak Day pardon included political prisoners
On May 3, the regime released 2153 detainees from prisons across the country in commemoration of Vesak Day. Among the released individuals, 1277 are political prisoners as confirmed by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Five journalists were also released in the pardon. On the same day, the regime also announced that 38 detainees who received death sentences are now reduced to life sentences although the names of these individuals were not disclosed. News reported that the majority of the pardoned detainees have almost finished their jail time, and some pointed out that this is the junta’s yet another attempt to gain international support. According to the data collected by the AAPP, 112 detainees have received death sentences and 42 have been allegedly executed due to their anti-regime activities. Despite these pardons, more than 17,000 people remain in detention.
- KNU named Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win as its new leader
After the one-week-long congress, the Karen National Union voted for its new leadership where Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win as the chairperson. Pado Saw Hser Gay, who previously chaired the KNU’s Kler Lwee Htoo (Nyaung Lay Bin) District, now takes the vice-chair position according to the votes. He also replaced Saw Roger Khin as the lead of the defense department. Padoh Saw Tadoh Moo, who is the current general secretary, is reported to have been re-elected along with other officials. Padoh Saw Thaw Thi Bwe has been chosen as joint secretary 1, Padoh Saw Hla Tun as joint secretary 2, and Padoh Naw Myaing Poe as the chief justice. Additionally, Padoh Saw Taw Nee will continue to be responsible for foreign affairs, which is one of the 12 departments within the KNU’s governance system. Lt-Gen Saw Baw Kyaw Heh and KNLA commander Gen Saw Johnny will retain their respective roles. During the voting process, representatives from Brigades 2 and 5 did not participate. Back in February, Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win, Saw Roger Khin and other high-ranking KNU leaders have been accused of involving in the development of a “new city” project which was suspected to become an illegal gambling hub in Myawady Township. More than 60 Karen CSOs and diaspora groups called on the ethnic armed group to remove its CEC members.
- New Federal Education High School opens in Mizoram, India for Myanmar refugees
On May 5, the NUG’s Ministry of Education opened the Federal Education High School in Mizoram State, India. The Vice President of Mara Autonomous Region, C. Chehnei attended the opening ceremony along with the Chairman of the Social Welfare Committee for Refugees. The managing director and a teacher from the Federal Education High School – Kyapi expressed their gratitude for the opening of the school. The village of Kypi in Sai Har District of Mizoram State has currently sheltered about 678 displaced people who have fled from Matupi, Thantlang, and Paletwa townships in Chin State, Myanmar.
- Military and government officials enjoy a steady electricity supply despite the nationwide power cuts
The power shortage in Myanmar has worsened since the coup, with residents experiencing scheduled power cuts and receiving only four hours of electricity in some areas. However, according to a recent report by Myanmar Now, military authorities, ministries, government departments, and civil servant housing do not face this problem. In Zeyar Thiri Township, where the junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, former dictator Than Shwe, and other high-ranking officials reside, there are no power cuts. According to an anonymous electrical worker, there are two ways to obtain electricity: personal connections with high-ranking officials or bribing electrical workers in the area. Although government housing experiences occasional power cuts, housing inside army bases do not suffer from them at all. A civilian from Naypyidaw suggests that the regime is attempting to keep its employees content.
- U Kyaw Moe Tun calls for the UNSC to act on the regime’s crimes
Myanmar’s permanent representative to the UN U Kyaw Moe Tun questioned the Security Council on how it can help the Myanmar civilians who are being killed by the military. He raised the question at a ministerial dialogue on Confidence Building for Sustaining Peace. U Kyaw Moe Tun pointed out that while the international community as a whole endorses the ASEAN’s five-point consensus, the military kept on terrorizing and killing civilians as recently as the Pazigyi Massacre. He continued that while he understood the division of views at the UN Security Council, the council should take action against the Myanmar military for committing crimes against humanity because, with impunity, the military will keep on attacking civilians. U Kyaw Moe Tun suggested that the UNSC should take effective measures against the Myanmar military, and by doing so, it will not only solve the current crisis but also contribute greatly to the post-conflict peacebuilding in Myanmar.
- China’s FM visited Naypyidaw
On May 2, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang met the junta chief Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw where the pair expressed their “friendship” and commitment to improving bilateral relations amidst the escalating violence in the country. Qin Gang’s trip marked the highest-ranking official from China’s visit to Myanmar since the coup. According to the statement from the Chinese foreign ministry, the FM said, China advocates that the international community should respect Myanmar’s sovereignty and play a constructive role in helping it achieve peace and reconciliation”. The day before his meeting with the coup leader, Qin Gang also met with the UN Special Envoy Dr. Noeleen Heyzer, and reiterated China’s stance on Myanmar. Qin reportedly said that China will support the UN Special Envoy if she plans an intervention to de-escalate the violence in Myanmar.
- Bangladesh delegation and Rohingya people visited repatriation sites in Maungdaw Township
On May 5, a delegation of the Bangladesh government and about 20 Rohingya people arrived in Maungdaw Township in Northern Rakhine State to observe Hla Po Khaung, Nga Ku Ya, and Taungpyo Let Wae repatriation sites. Ko Aung Myaing from Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar told Myanmar Now that none of those visitors represented the actual Rohingya refugees in the camps. He said that they were selected from a group of people who have been verified with the regime’s delegation in March as a part of the pilot initiation. Many analyzed that this visit was orchestrated by the military regime as the deadline to file Counter-Memorial at the ICJ has approached. Earlier this year, the regime convened and mobilize the Rohingya in northern Rakhine to defend at the ICJ.
- Thai broadcasters accused of broadcasting Myanmar junta propaganda
Justice for Myanmar said in a recent press release that Canal+ and its satellite partner, Thaicom, are broadcasting Myanmar junta propaganda against their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines, and international law and norms. Canal+ and Thaicom are reported to be broadcasting junta-owned MWD, state-owned MRTV and the junta’s international propaganda channel, MITV in which the junta regularly distributed images of individuals that the junta has captured and accused of being People’s Defense Force members. Some of the images of prisoners shown on junta channels showed close-ups of individuals with signs of torture such as swollen faces and with their names identified. Justice for Myanmar stated that broadcasting of these images are against the Article 13(2) of the Third Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (1949).
- Rice exports in April decreases by 45% compared with March
The Myanmar Rice Federation released a list of rice exports in April, which shows that the country exported just over 80,000 tons of rice, a 65% decrease compared to the same period last year. In the first month of the previous fiscal year (2022-2023), Myanmar exported over 250,000 tons of rice and broken rice, which decreased to more than 163,000 tons this year in April. This is a decrease of around 45% compared to the export volume in March as well. Some traders believe that the limited control on the quantity of foreign exports and the high domestic rice prices have caused a decrease in exports. The rise in domestic rice prices has also reduced the profits of rice exports, leading to business suspensions in the rice industry community.
- Indian company Adani continues business with regime despite sale of port
India’s Adani, a construction giant involved in port and special economic zone development, completed the sale of its Yangon port for 30 million as it pledged to cut ties with the military-owned company and leave the country in October 2021. However, reports from Justice For Myanmar reveal that Adani is still continuing its business dealings with the regime council. The Indian company has invested millions of dollars in purchasing port cranes that benefit the military-owned Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), and Adani Power Limited has expressed its interest in coal production in Sagaing Region and exporting it to India. This news has sparked criticism from civil society groups monitoring the economic and human rights situation in Myanmar.
- Fuel price drops slightly in May
The price of fuel oil has been decreasing since the end of April, and it has fallen below 2,000 Myanmar Kyats (MMK) per liter at the beginning of May, according to fuel stations. Previously, in mid-April, the price of Octane 92 and 95 was around 2,100 MMK and 2,200 MMK per liter, respectively. After the Thingyan period, the price of gasoline has been slowly decreasing, and as of May 4, in Nay Pyi Taw fuel stations, the price of 92 per liter is 1955 MMK and 95 per liter is around 2035 MMK. However, people are still unsure if the prices will continue to drop, as, in the past, prices have decreased for a short period before increasing again. This is the first time in 2023 that the prices have gone below 2,000 MMK per liter in Nay Pyi Taw.
- Sittwe port, direct trade between Indian and Myanmar, to open
Sittwe Port, a joint project between India and Myanmar, is set to open soon, allowing direct trade between the two countries. The opening is scheduled for May 9 and the port will receive the first shipment of more than 3,000 tons of cement from India. However, some Rakhine businessmen have expressed doubts about the sustainability of the direct trade relationship. They argue that there are almost no products available for export from Rakhine and that most people in the region rely on foreign goods. Furthermore, it may be challenging to fill cargo ships with 5,000 to 6,000 tons of goods, making the venture less viable in the long run.
- Indian state-owned oil company plans to establish petroleum shops in Sagaing
Indian state-owned Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) is reportedly planning to establish retail petroleum shops in the war-torn Sagaing Region according to Indian media sources. The NRL has been supplying oil to Myanmar via a 421-kilometer route connecting Numaligarh in Assam State to Moreah on the border with Sagaing, according to NRL chairman and managing director Bhaskar Jyoti Phukan. However, Sagaing has been a hotbed of armed resistance and has seen some of the most heinous war crimes and atrocities committed by junta troops. U Nay Zin Lat, a member of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) and the operations commander of People Defense Force (PDF) Battalion 2 in Sagaing’s Kantbalu Township, has opposed the NRL’s entry into Myanmar.
Protests & Fundraising
- Continuing protests
Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Yangon, Monywa, Yinmarbin, Myaing, Wetlet, Kyan Khin, and Laung Lone regions.
- New resistance movie screened in New York
Resistance movie, “We will share the merit, only after we are free” directed by directors Sein Thee and Aung Thaw screened at The Kaufman Astoria Studios in New York City. At the screening event, a memorabilia auction was conducted by the revolutionary group NYCBC to raise funds for the ongoing spring revolution in Myanmar. The proceeds from the auction will be sent to the area in need.
- 19,000 residents displaced in Magway and Sagaing regions
Residents of Sagaing and Magway Regions were displaced from their homes between April 30 and May 5 after junta troops advanced into the regions and raided villages.
● On April 30, the junta troops raided the village on the border of Khin-U and Kantbalu Townships in Sagaing Region, causing about 5000 residents from eight villages to forcibly abandon their homes.
● In another part of Sagaing Region in Ye-U Township, another military column raided three villages between April 30 and May 1, torching homes in Nga Yote Tone, Sal Gyi and Pauk Thar villages. As a result, over 5000 residents from 20 villages in the township fled their homes.
● On May 2, three villages in Myit Chay-Kyun Chaung area in Magway Region’s Pakkoku Township, resulting in over 1000 residents to flee in fear of arbitrary attacks.
● About a 70-strong military column raided five villages in Sagaing Region’s Htigyaing Township on May 5, causing over 2000 residents to run from their homes.
● On May 5, a 100-strong military column raided the villages on the northeastern side of Ayadaw Township in Sagaing Region, resulting in the displacement of over 6000 residents from six villages.
Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties
- Regime’s military affairs officer killed in Hinthada tsp, Ayawaddy Region
A member of the regime’s Military Affairs Security Force (SAF) named U Aung Htike was shot and killed on Natmao Road in Konegyi Village, Hinthata Township, Ayawaddy Region. The incident occurred on May 5 at around 7:00 pm when the Mahura Thwae Ma Shao Regional Defense Team fired at U Aung Htike and his companion while they were riding a motorcycle. The man died on the spot, and his companion managed to escape. The deceased was from Hinthata City and had previously arrested people protesting against the coup, according to the local witnesses. After the shooting, the junta troops and police arrived at the scene, blocked off the area, fired intimidation shots, and arrested two residents of Konegyi village.
- Immigration office targeted in Amarapura tsp, Mandalay
On May 5, an office of the Township Immigration Department in Amarapura Township, Mandalay Region was attacked with a handmade bomb that fell on the roof and exploded. Two employees and a family member were injured, all of whom were women. Two motorcycle riders were reportedly responsible for throwing the bomb but it is not yet clear they are from which organization. The same office was also bombed on January 16, 2023, by the No More Dictatorship PDF MDY.
- Police targeted in Bogale tsp, Ayawaddy Region
In Bogale Township, Ayeyawaddy Region, the township police station was reportedly attacked with 40 mm at around 8 pm on May 6. Local residents said that they heard a loud explosion but were uncertain about the casualties. After the attack, the regime troops conducted strict checks near the police station and in the town. On May 4, the Bogale Township People’s Defense Force and Irrawaddy Black Shark UG team jointly attacked an outpost under the regime’s Battalion (27) near the village of Chaung Bye Gyi, killing a sergeant and seizing a gun and a dozen of bullets.
Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence
- Family of five including underage children detained in Meikhtila tsp, Mandalay Region
A philanthropist/music composer named Sawpa Baloo was arrested by the regime’s forces on May 1 in Meikhtila Town, Mandalay Region. Along with him, his wife, who suffers from diabetes, and their three daughters, all under 10 years of age, were also taken into custody. The family’s home was reportedly disturbed during the arrest. The wife was briefly released on May 2 but was taken back by armed soldiers in plain clothes. As of reporting, the entire family remains under arrest and their situation is under investigation. The reason for their arrest remains unknown, causing worry among their friends and the community. Two of the detained young children have speech difficulties.
- 50 villagers taken as human shields by regime soldiers in Shwebo tsp, Sagaing Region
On May 3, the regime’s troops in Shwebo Township, Sagaing Region abducted around 50 local villagers as human shields while they were transporting food and ammunition to each other in two cars. The convoy had about 40 soldiers with them while delivering food to a military camp in Kyautmyaung Town, around 16 miles east of Shwebo. The locals who were found along the road were taken to a monastery in Ohn Phok Village near Kyautmyaung. A local defense group, Black Wolf PDF, said that the soldiers released those captured near Taong Village after the delivery. The soldiers were then ambushed by local defense groups after the locals escaped, and four soldiers were said to be killed while three were wounded.
- Regime’s aerial strike killed seven and injured ten in Minkin tsp, Sagaing Region
Seven civilians, including three children, were killed, and ten others were injured in a regime aerial bomb attack in Minkin Township, Sagaing Region on May 4. According to witnesses, the junta’s fighter jet shot three times and dropped three bombs near the soccer field on the village of Pikkhara in the Taungdwinchaung area, located more than 20 miles west of Minkin. Among the deceased were Mg Phoe Aye (aged 3) and his grandmother Daw Myint Win (aged 50), U Than Swe (aged 53) and Daw Ma Lay (aged 45). Two unidentified children (aged 3 & aged 5) also died of the wounds during medication. The bombs caused severe injuries to more than 10 people, including an eight-year-old child who had his leg muscles severed. Additionally, about 20 houses were damaged, and some cows were also killed.
- School destroyed and burned down by regime soldiers in Ye-U tsp, Sagaing Region
In the village of Chantha, Ye-U Township in Sagaing Region, the regime’s soldiers raided the village for the fifth time on May 4 and destroyed the remaining high school with mines. The village, which has over 500 houses and nearly 2,000 households, is predominantly Catholic and has been attacked by the army three times in the past year. During those times, the entire village, including a century-old Church, was burnt down. The only remaining buildings in the village were a school and a Christian cemetery. The remaining school that was destroyed was a two-story building that served as a place of refuge for people who had fled nearby villages due to the junta’s violence.
- The regime’s airstrike in Pekon, Shan-Karenni border caused multiple injuries
On May 6, the regime bombed Langkor village in Pekon Town on the Shan-Karenni border, causing serious injuries to a 10-year-old child and two civilians, and destroying a Christian church and several homes. Battles frequently occur between the local resistance forces and the regime forces in Pekon, but no fighting near the village of Langkor. Also on May 5, the regime dropped three 500-pound bombs on a village in the western part of Pekon and bombed and fired machine guns into Taungang village, causing injuries and damaging homes. At least 30 airstrikes were reported along the border between Pekon and Pinlaung townships on May 5 and 6.
- Mother and daughter shot and killed by Pyu Saw Htee members in Mingalardone Tsp, Yangon
On May 7, in Mingaladon Township, Yangon, the sister and the niece of U Win Naing, a township NLD executive, were reportedly shot and killed by Pyu Saw Htee members. The incident occurred near Nweni Market Road, and the victims Daw Kyu Kyu Naing (aged 40) and Ma Chit Thamee (aged 11) were shot with silenced guns. The perpetrator, Pyu Saw Htee, is a regime-sponsored armed group to target NLD members and pro-resistance people. According to local residents, the regime soldiers came to the scene afterward to conduct a make-believe check. It is believed that the military may have been targeting U Win Naing through his family members since its soldiers were unable to locate him.
- Senior monks were more targeted in interrogation in Mandalay
A monk who was recently released from Mandalay Obo Prison described to Myanmar Now Media the inhumane torture he and other monks faced during their court interrogations by the regime’s forces. The monk, who was beaten and arrested for protesting in Mandalay after the 2021 coup, spent half a month in a small room during his interrogation. He and other monks were served rice in crispy bags and had to use bottled water to urinate. The monk witnessed that the older monks were more tortured and kicked in the chest with military boots. Every time the monk drank water during his interrogation, he had internal injuries and would vomit again.
- NUG said over 4000 regime soldiers died in four months in 2023
The National Unity Government (NUG) has stated that over 4,000 members of the Military Council were killed in the first four months of 2023 due to attacks by resistance forces. It also reported 193 drone attacks, 44 camp battles, 26 key target strikes, and numerous ground engagements against the regime’s forces during this time period. These operations were carried out in various regions across Myanmar, including Nay Pyi Taw, Sagaing, Mandalay, Yangon, Karen, Mon, Kachin, Chin, Shan (Southern), and Shan State. The attacks targeted the front stations of the regime army as well as the columns, rear camps of battalions, military headquarters, infantry division headquarters, oil storage tanks, and more. The attacks were carried out by joint operations between allied ethnic armed groups, resistance forces, and the PDF, as well as by the PDF alone. The NUG also reported the establishment of over 300 PDF battalions and columns nationwide, along with the organization of community-based People’s defense organizations in over 250 townships.
- Counteroffensive from CDF saw a major death in Matupi tsp, Chin State
On May 5, the Chinland Defense Force-Matupi raided the military strategy headquarters of the regime in Matupi Township, Chin State resulting in the deaths of three people, a military strategist, a major and a driver. The raid was a special operation conducted by the CDF-Matupi Unit (1) Eagle Battalion. The rangers were able to capture one MA3 in the raid and retreat without any harm. According to an official from the CDF-Matupi, the regime’s force stationed at the strategic hill was estimated to be at least three hundred troops.
- Police stations under attack in Bilin tsp, Mon State
On May 6, the regime’s two police stations located in Winka Village and Taungdun Village in Bilin Township, Mon State were simultaneously attacked by joint defense forces. The Win Ka Police Station was attacked with heavy weapons and small arms, resulting in a 30-minute exchange of fire between the two sides, and two policemen were killed on the spot. The Taungdon police station was attacked with four bombs dropped by a drone. The extent of the damage caused by the drone attack is still being investigated. The attack was reportedly carried out by a coalition of five local resistance forces. On the same day, KNLA joint forces and resistance forces also fired heavy weapons at the headquarters of the regime’s 44th Military Division in Kyaikhto Township.
- Police station attacked with drone in Sarrtaung, Sagaing Region
On May 7 in Sarrtaung Town, Sagaing Region, local defense forces conducted a counteroffensive on a police station under the regime’s control. Three soldiers were killed and four were seriously injured in the attack, which was carried out using a drone with three 60mm bombs attached, according to Ko Thet Kyi of the Zero Guerrilla Force, who reportedly carried out the attack with two local forces. The injured policemen were taken to Sarrtaung Hospital, while the local defense rangers were able to retreat unharmed. The Zero Guerrilla Force also carried out other attacks, including a May 3 bombing of a military base in Naunggyi Lake, Ayadaw Township, which killed several soldiers as well.
- ILO warns of worsening worker abuses in the post-coup Myanmar
The International Labour Organization (ILO) said on May 1 that worker exploitation in Myanmar has worsened since the 2021 military coup. The ILO made the statement on Labour Day, saying that “the instability and injustice faced by workers and citizens in Myanmar have worsened to an unprecedented degree.” Despite this, numerous employees and their families are still struggling, and many businesses’ survival is in jeopardy. The ILO has called on Myanmar to “implement the 2021 International Labour Conference Resolution for a return to democracy and fundamental rights.” The Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM) echoed the ILO’s concerns about the increasing deterioration of labor rights.
- Over 700 COVID victims reported within a week, a few deaths
Between April 23 and May 1, there have been about 705 cases of COVID reported in Myanmar with two deaths according to the junta-controlled Ministry of Health and Sports on May 2. The figure was a jump from the reported 130 COVID cases from the previous week as reported by the ministry on April 29.
Sources: Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now, Mizzima News, The Irrawaddy, Ayeyarwaddy Times, RFA Burmese, Aljazeera, Reuters, DVB.