Weekly Update: 065

Folks, Cyclone Mocha is hitting our tiny country as if the war and conflicts aren’t enough. Coastal areas especially Rakhine State receive red alerts as the cyclone approaches. The AA evacuated the locals from those areas, and the NUG allocated USD 1 mil for the emergency response while no concrete effort from the military regime was observed. Cyclone Mocha reminds us of the Nargis Cyclone which took place in May 2008 when the military regime at that time let millions suffer from the natural disaster. As of reporting this, people have lost contact with their families from Rakhine State. We pray for their safety. Meanwhile, the regime finds ways to make our lives more miserable than they already are. It enacted a new weapon law to justify the death penalty which it has been imposing on anti-regime protesters. Read all about what happened in this week’s update.

Internal Politics

  • AA evacuates 100,000 people to safe space ahead of Cyclone Mocha

On May 13, Arakan Army (AA) said it has evacuated more than 100,000 people in Rakhine State to a safe space to protect from the impact of Cyclone Mocha in five days according to AA’s Spokesperson Khaing Thukha. Starting from May 9, residents from northern Rakhine townships such as Pauktaw, Myebon, Minbya, and Rathedaung have been evacuated with the combined efforts of the AA and the locals. United League of Arakan (ULA), the political wing of AA, has been cooperating with disaster relief teams to provide food and shelter for the locals. Cyclone Mokha, which is developing in the Bay of Bengal, is a very strong storm between Cox’s Bazar region of Bangladesh and Kyaukphyu city in southern Rakhine state. The Indian Meteorological Department and international disaster monitoring groups have announced that it may cross inland from near Sittwe. The military regime announced on May 12 that Sittwe, Kyaukphyu, Maungdaw, Rathedaung, Myebon, Pauktaw, and Man Aung have been set at a red level of high risk due to Cyclone Mocha. However, no evacuation plan was released. 

  • The NUG allocates USD 1 million for Cyclone Mocha emergency response

The NUG officially announced that the National Unity Government has set aside $1 million in funds for the emergency response to Cyclone Mocha. On May 13th, a meeting of the National Unity Government’s Humanitarian and Disaster Response Commission was held for the emergency response to the extremely powerful cyclone Mocha. The NUG approved the formation of the Emergency Management Coordinating Committee (EOCC) to begin working on the task force and to establish a fund of US$1 million for cyclone emergency response. In addition, the National Unity Government is cooperating with the AA, the ethnic armed group in the region, to help and rescue the people from the danger of the storm.

  • The regime enacts the Weapons Law with the death penalty

The Weapons Law, which consists of nine chapters and includes eight prohibitions and ten punishments, was signed and enacted by the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing on May 11. The law carries a maximum death penalty if convicted in a military council court, and imprisonment ranging from three months to life imprisonment depending on the crime. The regime has been using the law to justify the death penalty imposed on anti-regime protesters. A lawyer stated that the law is being used to intimidate the people and justify the regime’s actions, as some individuals including Pyu Saw Htee members are carrying guns without obtaining a license from the military council. The aim of the law, according to the military council, is to prevent crimes committed by those who carry illegal weapons and to stop the illegal carrying of arms.

  • The coup leader claims the PDFs will be completely eliminated

On May 12, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said that his regime will be annihilated in a speech he gave to the army officials and military family in Kengton Township in Shan State. He said the regime has the duty to create a stable country and to build peace with the ethnic armed groups. He previously said that the NUG, the PDF, and ethnic armed groups that have been supporting these pro-democracy groups will be abolished on March 27, Armed Forces Day. On the other hand, the NUG has also publicly declared that the year 2023 will make be a crucial year for the revolution. 

  • Junta imposes partial travel restrictions on foreigners to tackle illegal activities

According to tour companies, the military junta has imposed a ban on foreign travelers flying to certain areas of the country. The ban is reportedly part of a joint effort by Myanmar, Thailand, and China to combat online scams and illegal gambling operations run by undocumented immigrants. Foreigners are now prohibited from flying on domestic routes between Yangon, Naypyitaw, Myitkyina, and other airports to Lashio and Tachilek in Shan State unless they receive prior approval from the military regime. The travel restrictions come just days after the Chinese Foreign Minister urged the junta to promote peace and development in border areas where China has significant investments.

International Affairs

  • ASEAN convoy attacked in Shan State, no casualties reported

The convoy carrying Representatives of the ASEAN’s AHA Center and employees from the Singapore and Indonesia embassies was attacked by unknown gunmen in eastern Shan State on May 7. The convoy traveled to Hsihseng Township to provide humanitarian assistance to displaced people in Yayphyu Village in southern Shan State. The regime’s news report said that individuals armed with small guns started shooting at the convoy, and the security team traveling with the convoy fired back. The attack resulted in damage to one of the security vehicles, but no one in the convoy was harmed. On May 8, ASEAN leaders condemned the attack and called for the immediate cessation of violence. They also called on the regime to comply with the five-point consensus. 

  • ASEAN Summit in Indonesia fails to make progress on Myanmar

The ASEAN summit took place from 9 to 11 May in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia. Current chair of the 10-member bloc Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo admitted that there was no progress in implementation of five-point consensus in regards to Myanmar’s political turmoil. He said that the ASEAN countries need to unify in making decisions for the next step beyond the 5PC. Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim also expressed disappointment towards ASEAN being unable to make important decisions as a group. Nonetheless, the regional group continued to call on Myanmar to cease the violence and encouraged all inclusive dialogues. 

Business Matters

  • The regime appointed army officials to manage the banking sector 

The military council appointed 19 army officials to administrative positions at one of the regime-controlled banks. This took place two months ago and was published in a military-controlled newspaper on April 21 and 28. Out of the 19 officers, five were majors appointed as managers at the Myanmar Economic Bank (MEB) while 14 captains were designated as assistant managers. However, no information was provided about their previous assignments. In the past, the military followed a standard of nominating retired or in-service military officials to high administrative positions, allowing military officers to dominate ministries.

  • The junta proposes agricultural reform as a means of economic growth

The coup leader Min Aung Hlaing has suggested that revitalizing the agricultural sector could greatly enhance the country’s economy. He has proposed that by replanting 4 million acres of agricultural land and increasing the yield per acre to 72.64 tons, Myanmar could potentially export 290 million baskets of rice and earn 2,900 billion. However, farmers have voiced their disagreement with the general’s calculations, highlighting issues such as low crop yields and the high cost of fertilizers. Despite the junta’s optimism, Myanmar’s economy has suffered a decline of 18% since the military coup, with slow economic recovery expected due to ongoing conflicts and power outages, according to the World Bank. Furthermore, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) estimates that Myanmar may experience the lowest economic growth rate among ASEAN countries.

  • Opening ceremony of India-Myanmar Sittwe Port raises concerns over lack of transparency

On May 9, the opening ceremony of the Sittwe Port, a joint venture between India and Myanmar that enables direct trade between the two countries, was held. However, reporters were not allowed to cover the event, according to an Indian port official. The newly opened port is part of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which allows for the operation of ships weighing 5,000-6,000 tons between Sittwe and Kolkata ports. The port will provide job opportunities for the Rakhine people, but some analysts have expressed concerns about the lack of transparency surrounding the opening of the project. The Indian government constructed the port at a cost of $120 million and leased it from the Myanmar government for a 30-year period. Union ministers from India and Myanmar, along with ambassadors, military council members, traders, and departmental officials, attended the ceremony.

Protests & Fundraising 

  • Continuing protests

Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Yangon, Laung Lone, Yinmarbin, Kyan Khin, Tant Sae, Myaing, Monywa, and Wetlet regions. 

  • Anti-China protests took place in Monywa

On May 11, a protest against China took place in Monywa, despite tight security measures. A protester set fire to a Chinese flag while holding a placard in English that read “China, stop killing Myanmar people by supporting fascist criminals.” The protester expressed their opposition to China’s alleged complicity in the ongoing violence and the “fascist army” in Myanmar.

  • Anti-military short film ‘The Way’ wins multiple honors at Festigious and Cannes world film festival

Over the weekend, the musical short film “The Way” directed by singer Lynn Lynn won three awards from the monthly Festigious Film and Screenplay competition that supports independent filmmakers. Shot on a mobile phone, the film was honored with Best Musical, Best First Time Director, and Best Song in April. Additionally, it was named Best Mobile Phone Feature Film at the Cannes World Film Festival and has won a total of seven awards at three international film festivals. Lynn Lynn’s other revolutionary short film, “The Beginning,” has also won four awards at international film festivals.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Yangon Regional Office targeted with projectile

On the morning of May 12, Yangon regional government office, located inside the parliament compound in Dagon Township was attacked with a 40-mm projectile. The incident took place around 4.30 am, hitting the interior of the office, resulting in damage to the premises.  The regime’s forces have been stationed in the regional government compound since the coup took place. The attack was reportedly carried out through a collaboration between the Sanchaung PDF and Western district PDF Battalion (1).

  • Soldiers on security duty attacked in front of University in Monywa, Sagaing Region

Two regime soldiers were killed in an ambush in front of the University of Economics in Monywa. The incident occurred on May 12 at 1:30 PM when four soldiers, who were “guarding” the campus, were attacked at close range from a car. Major Lin Yong, the leader of the Golden Eagle Force which was responsible for the mission, confirmed the death of a soldier. Both counterparts reportedly engaged in a 10-minute exchange of gunfire, while more soldiers, arriving in three cars from the city, conducted pedestrian checks afterward. The Red Star Front (PLA) collaborated with the Golden Eagle Force – Monywa in carrying out the attack, and the Monywa People Defense Force (MPDF- Local), as well as the Brother Revolution Force – Monywa, also participated.

  • Drone attack occurred in Mae Pali Camp, Bilin tsp, Mon State

On May 13, the resistance forces targeted with a drone strike the Mae Pali military camp, belonging to the regime’s Battalion Unit (8) in Bilin Township, Mon State. Around 12.10 pm, four bombs were dropped, causing an explosion within the camp. The attack was carried out by the Thathon Township People’s Defense Revolutionary Force – TPDF, with the support of KNU/KNLA, TPDF, PDF KRF, and PPDF-KD Ygn Eagle Force. All the rangers successfully retreated following the attack. According to an official from the TPDF, all the bombs hit their target inside the camp but the casualties are unknown at this point.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • 12 civilians killed and dump roadside within two months in Hpakant, Kachin State

In Hpakant, the jade hub of Kachin State known for frequent clashes, at least 12 civilians have been killed and disposed of discreetly between April and May. In April, one woman and five men lost their lives, while at the beginning of May, there were reports of at least six more fatalities, as local news outlets revealed. The last case happened when the two Kachin youths were abandoned near Sharokha Village, on May 5, both were believed to be around 20 years old. Local residents speculate that these individuals may have been apprehended during a military operation targeting Malangyang village on May 4. The bodies bore wounds of brutal torture, with firearms and knives. The local community strongly suspected the army’s involvement, as the regime’s men are known to pursue and cause the disappearance of captured individuals.

  • 18 villagers including military supporters killed by regime soldiers in Htantapin tsp, Bago Region

On May 10 at around 8:00 pm, the regime soldiers reportedly killed and burned the bodies of 18 residents of Nyaungpintha village in Htantapin Township, Bago Region. The group, consisting of eight men and 10 women, including four underage boys from the village, was targeted during the raid by 100-strong troops. Some individuals from the group were allegedly military supporters and did not attempt to flee, assuming they would not be harmed. The age range of the victims varied, with the youngest being a five-year-old child and the oldest a 70-year-old man. Most of the victims were women. Frequent clashes are reported to be occurring between the regime forces and local resistance groups in the Htan Tapin and Mone areas.

  • Eight UG members given lengthy prison terms in Monywa, Sagaing Region

The tribunal of the regime has issued prison sentences to eight young members of Monywa UG, ranging from 44 years to 4 years. On May 11, Ko Htoo Thant Lwin received a 44-year sentence, while Ko Wai Phyo Kyaw was sentenced to 33 years. Ko Ei Tone was imprisoned for 22 years, and Htike Zaw Aung received an 11-year sentence. Ko Aung Zeya, Ko Thi Ha Aung, and Ko Aung Kyaw Myint were all sentenced to 11 years in prison. Lastly, Ko Aung Kyaw Myint was given a 4-year sentence. Furthermore, Ko Thant Lwin, Ko Wai Phyo Kyaw, Ko Ei Tone, and Ko Aung Zeya still await trial on different charges. During their arrest and interrogation which took place in November 2021, the members faced physical abuse and torture. Moreover, the owner lady of the guesthouse where the UG members were arrested was also imprisoned. She passed away in detention after being refused medical treatment.

  • Three killed and 4-month-old injured as regime soldiers terrorized a funeral in Yinmabin tsp, Sagaing Region

On the morning of May 12, another regime horror show in Sagaing Region resulted in the death of three women, including a 7-year-old child, and injury to a four-month-old baby. The incident occurred around 7 am in Than Zin village, Yinmabin Township when approximately 100 regime soldiers opened fire upon seeing a crowd gathered for a funeral alms offering. The 7-year-old boy, Ma Ju Ju San, and a 16-year-old woman named Ma Wai Wai Htay, who were assisting at the house, were fatally struck in the chest and head by the gunfire and died on the spot. Additionally, a 28-year-old woman named Ma Phyu San, who was carrying her child, suffered a wound in her chest and passed away hours later while receiving medical treatment. Her four-month-old son was also injured in the attack. The regime troops, while conducting surveillance, made the decision to open fire as they saw a crowd gathering without careful inspection.

  • Thousands of villagers on the run due to regime’s offensive amid cyclone fears in Kani tsp, Sagaing Region

Despite the cyclone warnings, over 13,000 individuals from approximately 11 villages have been forced to flee their homes in Kani Township, Sagaing Region since the evening of May 12 as the regime troops entered the area. About 100 soldiers entered the villages on the west bank of the Chindin River via Yinmabin Township. The fleeing residents, facing difficulties caused by the rain, had to travel by land on foot, carrying their belongings or using carts. The challenging weather conditions caused by Cyclone Mokha have made their escape more difficult. Heavy rainfall has reportedly resulted in numerous streams, making it hard to avoid water. Consequently, people are unsure of where to seek refuge. At the same time, encounters were reported between the military council troops and local defense groups in Minma Village in Kani Township.

Armed Resistance

  • KNLA-led attack resulted in eight casualties of the regime in Kyarinseikkyi tsp, Karen State

On May 9, three allied resistance forces conducted a guerilla attack on the regime’s convoy, killing at least eight soldiers. Around 5:50 pm, the 16th battalion of the KNLA in coordination with Saw Dragon Drone Force (SDDF) and another on-ground force launched an attack on approximately 80 troops, made up of the regime army and the joint forces of the BGF. The targeted troops had departed from Kyarinseikkyi Township to deliver food to Anang Kwin. As a result, all three vehicles sustained damage, with two of them being completely destroyed by fire after being hit by a drone bomb. Eight soldiers were killed at the scene, three more were captured during the battle, and an additional two were found alive the following day. It is possible that one regime officer may have been among the casualties as one pistol was found. All rangers from the allied forces retreated unharmed.

  • 20 regime soldiers died during encounter between Htantapin and Kyaukkyi tsp, Bago Region

In Nyaung Pintha Village located between Htantapin and Kyaukkyi townships in Bago Region, on May 10, a clash occurred between the regime’s forces and the Karen Nationality Liberation Army (KNLA) around 11:00 am, resulting in the death of approximately 20 soldiers. The confrontation took place in the village on the east bank of the Sittaung River, lasting from 1100 am to 2:00 pm. According to a member of the KNLA, the soldiers from the regime appeared either drugged or very young, as they only fired shots into the sky during the close encounter, causing no harm to the KNLA forces. Following the battle, the regime’s troops entered Nyaung Pintha village, forcibly entering several houses and confiscating public property. Additionally, after the conflict, the troops massacred 18 local residents, including a 5-year-old child who had been captured in Nyaung Pintha village.

  • Regime conducted airstrikes in Chin State

Despite the heavy rainfall caused by Cyclone Mokha, the regime conducted airstrikes in two areas of Chin State on May 12. At approximately 8 pm, a fighter jet flew over the villages in the Mindat Township three times before dropping bombs in a forested area. Local sources reportedly heard the aircraft hovering and the subsequent bombing. Later in the same night around midnight, the regime again bombed the headquarters camp of CDF-Senthang in Hakha Township. The whole compound was destroyed by fire but there was no casualty. Following the incident, CDF-Senthang released a notification that the Hakha-Matupi road in Senthang District will be temporarily closed starting from May 11 due to security concerns.

  • Dozen of regime men died during mine attack in Khin-U tsp, Sagaing Region

On May 14, a coalition of the local resistance forces conducted a landmine detonation attack on the regime’s troops and killed at least 12 men in Khin-U Township, Sagaing Region. Around 6.30 am, the soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members raided Aung Chan Tha Village on the west of Khin-U Township, terrorizing and robbing people’s properties. The resistance rangers detonated a landmine on their way back to the station around 8.10 am. 12 people, both soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members were killed on the spot. Khin-U Special Force Organization (KSO) and township PDF coordinated the mission.

  • Fighting intensified in Yephyu tsp, Tanintharyi Region

In the early morning of May 14, an intense conflict broke out between the regime forces and the local PDFs near the Dawei Special Economic Zone in the Nabuye area of Yephyu Township, Tanintharyi Region. In the morning around 4 am, the troops entered the Nabule region, where the Dawei Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is situated, from the Watchaung village side. And the PDF ambushed them midway, leading to ongoing fighting between the two sides. Around 8:30 am, a fighter jet appeared and dropped approximately three bombs in the vicinity of a lake near the Dawei Special Economic Zone project. The casualty is unknown but people nearby are reportedly being evacuated in response to the situation.

Sources: Khit Thit Meda, Myanmar Now, The Irrawaddy, The DVB, Mizzima News, Ayeyarwaddy Times, AP, RFA Burmese

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