Weekly Update: 070

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, last week, we were unable to provide our regular updates as we mourned the sudden death of a valuable member of our team. Since the beginning of the coup, tragic incidents have happened every day but it is still extremely difficult when such a loss strikes close to home. Death is an inevitable destination we all share, yet we wish we had the opportunity to bid farewell to our loved ones in a proper and meaningful manner. If not for the coup, thousands of individuals would still be alive and thriving today, or at least some of them would have had cherished families or friends around them in their final moments and ultimate send-off. We are heartbroken but we are determined to continue on the path, defying tyranny as our departed friend trusted us so. This journey is for our MM comrade and every individual that we have lost along the way. This week, we are covering highlights from the past two weeks- from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday to the US sanctions on two major Myanmar banks controlled by the regime. Read all about it in this week’s update.

Internal Politics

  • DASSK’s 78th birthday in solitary confinement

On June 19, the detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi turned 78, and for the first time, she spent the birthday alone in Naypyidaw Prison. Those who were released from the same prison shared that she has been kept in a 10×10 feet small concrete building with two small windows. Some say she remains spirited as usual even in prison and others say she looks calmer and more serene. For people who love her including her younger son Kim Aris in the UK, these bits and pieces of information are the only source as the military regime refused to release any detail about the Lady. In 2021, she used to send out messages to the public via her legal team. Even from detention, her short messages made news headlines and encouraged the resisting public which led to the regime banning these messages eventually. Prior to this year’s birthday, Kim Aris who is also known as Htein Lin released a video message appealing to the Myanmar junta to free his mother. He revealed that no information about his mom has been received since her arrest in February 2021. He tried to communicate through the Myanmar Embassy in London, as well as the British Foreign Office but no response has been received to this day. On her birthday, people across the country and across the globe gathered to celebrate their leader’s birthday with a special theme, the Flower Strike. People wore flowers in their hair and on their shirts to remember how the Lady used to wear flowers in her short ponytail. 

  • More than 100 sexual violence cases reported in post-coup Myanmar, NUG says

According to the NUG’s Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, a total of 112 sexual harassment cases have been reported after the coup. The statement, which was released on June 19, explained that 108 cases were committed by the regime’s soldiers and 9 cases were committed by civilians. Naw Suzanna Hla Hla Soe, the NUG’s Minister of Women and Children Affairs, said that the data and evidence have been reported to the NUG’s Ministry of Justice and the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) as records. These data were based on the reports made by family members of the victim, and she said that more cases could have happened on the ground without having been reported. In addition, she said that her ministry has also received 13 complaints about resistance fighters committing sexual harassment, and investigations have begun on these complaints. The NUG said it has issued all kinds of guidelines to prevent sexual violence against women. 

  • The NUG appointed Dr. Sean Turnell as Special Advisor for the Central Bank

On June 13, the National Unity Government (NUG) announced that it has appointed Australian economic advisor Prof Sean Turnell as an interim special advisor to the Central Bank. NUG’s Interim Governor of the Central Bank U Tin Tun Naing, who is also the Minister of the Ministry of Finance and Investment, signed the appointment of Dr. Sean Turnell as the special advisor. He said he was appointed as a special advisor. Dr. Sean Turnell worked as a business advisor during the NLD government led by State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and he was arrested and detained for almost two years. After spending more than 650 days in prison, he was released on parole on November 7, 2022, with the amnesty of the military council. He said in an exclusive interview with RFA in November last year that he would continue to help Burma after his release.

  • USDP exploits Buddhist monastic Buildings for its propaganda

The Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), the military proxy political party, has been using Buddhist monastic buildings as places to spread its propaganda. At ward and township levels, the USDP party members were seen gathering at monastic places to discuss politics. The discussions include criticizing rival political parties and news media, registration of political parties, supporting the military coup, and the new electoral system. According to Myanmar Now’s report, about 10 religious gathering center and one monastery was used by the USDP party members from December 2022 to May 2023 in Meikhtila, Myitthar, Pyaw Bwe, Ramethin, Sint Koine, Kyaukpadung and Kyauk Se townships in Mandalay Region. Such gatherings and discussions were also observed in Myeik in Tanintharyi Township, Htantabin Township in Yangon Region, and Bogale Township in Ayeyarwaddy Region. The issue of whether political discussions are allowed in religious buildings has been a frequent debate among politicians for years. The USDP’s usage of religious buildings increased after the leadership of former Police Chief Khin Yi.

  • The regime’s artillery killed and injured children

According to Myanmar Now’s report, the regime’s heavy artillery attacks killed six civilians in Kalay Township in June. Among them, three were children who were under 10 years old. An anonymous villager told Myanmar Now that the airstrikes began on June 9 and fell right into the civilians’ villages. Similarly, on June 23, the regime forces launched airstrikes on two villages outside Hpruso Township in Karenni State. The attack killed a man in his 50s and injured two children.

  • 10 dollar traders were detained by the regime

At least ten dollar traders including four from licensed money exchangers have been arrested according to RFA Burmese’s report on June 24. The hike in the dollar exchange rate took place after the US’s announcement of its sanctions on two junta-controlled banks. A dollar trader who remained anonymous told RFA that the majority of dollar traders from Shwebontha Street were detained, and some were released later although the number of released traders was not disclosed. The four staff members from licensed money exchangers were detained and inspected for not selling/buying dollars at the rate that the regime-controlled Central Bank set. 

International Affairs

  • Russia and Myanmar junta continue with ADMM-Plus meeting and military exercises despite the boycott by partnering countries

The defense ministries of the Myanmar military junta and the Russian Federation continued to co-host meetings and conduct counter-terrorism training alongside neighboring Asian countries. In early June, representatives from the defense ministries of ASEAN countries, India and China, traveled to the Russian city of Khabarovsk to attend the final planning conference of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus) Experts’ Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. Russia and the Myanmar military junta have been jointly chairing this working group since 2021. As per an announcement by Russia’s Defense Ministry, the participants of the conference discussed and strategized various scenarios for troop deployment in preparation for a counter-terrorism field training exercise scheduled to take place in Russia in September. Since 2022, the defense ministries of Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the US have chosen not to attend the counter-terrorism working group meetings, while the ASEAN member states, China and India have continued their full participation. According to Lt. Col. Martin Meiners, a spokesperson for the US Department of Defense, Russia, and Myanmar’s military regime have consistently utilized their joint leadership role in these engagements to endorse and rationalize their use of violence and their lack of respect for the rule of law. This implies that they are receiving support from the ADMM-Plus and its member countries for their actions.

  • US imposes sanctions on junta-controlled banks 

According to Thai PBS news, the United States has imposed economic sanctions on the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and the Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB), both of which are under the control of the junta. The aim of the US sanctions is to control and restrict the foreign income and financial activities of the military council, thereby impacting their revenue and the overall economy, including the garment industry and other sectors. During a meeting with Singapore’s Foreign Minister, the United States expressed its commitment to imposing strong sanctions as a means to encourage dialogue and seek a solution, in line with the ASEAN Common Agreement. As a result of this news, the local value of the US dollar in Myanmar has already exceeded 3,000 kyats, and there are predictions within the business community that the value of the dollar may further rise.

  • UN special rapporteur urges ASEAN and Indonesia to take stronger actions against the regime

During a speech in Jakarta, Indonesia, the UN’s Special Rapporteur to Myanmar Mr. Tom Andrews emphasized the need for the ASEAN to increase its efforts in putting pressure on the Myanmar regime to halt its violence and human rights abuses. In his address made on June 21, Mr. Tom Andrews called on Indonesia to show leadership by not attending meetings where the junta’s representatives are present. He emphasized that attending the same meeting with the junta’s representatives “not only undermines the credibility of the ASEAN but also serves to legitimize the junta and prolong the suffering of the Myanmar people.” 

  • Australia to support USD 10.5 million for Cyclone Mocha relief efforts

On June 25, the Australian government announced that it planned to provide USD 10.5 million to support the 1.6 million Myanmar people who were affected by Cyclone Mocha. In the announcement, the Australian government emphasized that the support does not imply legitimizing military rule. The support will go through the UN-led relief and resettlement projects and other partner organizations. Australia continued to urge the Myanmar military to support the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in need without any turbulence.

  • The NUCC called on China to engage with the NUG

The National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) urged China to cease its cooperation with the military in intelligence matters and to stop selling weapons. A representative from the NUCC said that the military is not the answer but federal democracy is. Currently, China’s cooperation with the military council completely ignores the Myanmar people’s will, and it further complicates the political turmoil which led to prolonging the suffering of civilians. The statement also emphasized that China’s cooperation with the military council is negatively affecting the bilateral relationship between the two countries for both the long term and the short term. The NUCC called on China to engage with the NUG, and pro-democracy forces if it truly looks for the best interest of Myanmar people. 

Business Matters 

  • Myanmar junta arrests garment factory labor organizers 

On June 14, the Myanmar military regime arrested two labor organizers from a garment factory, following their involvement in protests by employees demanding better wages. The protests were sparked by the expulsion of labor organizers in Yangon who had advocated for higher pay. On June 10, seven workers were fired from the Hosheng Myanmar clothing factory in Yangon’s Shwepyithar Township, which is owned by a Chinese national and supplies garments to the global Spanish retailer ZARA. Two days after the dismissals, nearly 600 workers staged a demonstration in support of the fired organizers. Since the military coup in February 2021, the working conditions for industrial workers in Myanmar have worsened. Despite the rising cost of living, the country’s minimum wage for an eight-hour workday has remained stagnant since 2018.

  • Hoteliers forced to sell properties 

In Yangon and other major cities in Myanmar, hotel owners are putting their properties up for sale as a result of low occupancy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the political coup. Luxury House, a real estate agency, recently advertised the sale of 27 hotels on its Facebook page. These hotels, with 50 or more rooms, are priced between 300 million and six billion kyats. Despite Myanmar’s reopening of its borders to international travelers last year after a two-year restriction due to the pandemic, most hotels have struggled to recover. The ongoing political turmoil following the coup has deterred international guests, while inflation has significantly increased operational costs. The two-year closure of hotels during the pandemic resulted in accumulating interest, and the lack of tourists after the coup has further strained hoteliers. As a result, they are being forced to sell their properties at a loss in order to repay their creditors, according to tour operators.

  • Declining export income and economic challenges plague

Export earnings in Myanmar have continued to decline since the coup, with a decrease of over $600 million in the current fiscal year. According to data from the Ministry of Commerce, export earnings for the current fiscal year (2023-24) have dropped by $602.428 million compared to the same period last year. Exporters are facing significant challenges, including the monetary policy enforced by the military council, which applies a 65% reduction to export revenue based on the Central Bank’s exchange rate of 2,100 kyats per $1, whereas the market rate stands at around 3,000 kyats per $1. This currency disparity is creating difficulties and impeding transactions. Additionally, power shortages, increasing costs of agricultural inputs, and disruptions to agricultural activities due to military conflicts are further impacting exports. The import sector is also encountering obstacles, such as limited licenses, FDA approvals, and restrictions on border trade payments and bank authorizations. These economic challenges are compounded by internal disagreements and external constraints imposed by foreign countries, resulting in further damage to the economy and banking operations.

  • Crackdown on foreign exchange and gold trading businesses creates a stagnant market 

According to market reports, the ongoing crackdown and scrutiny by the regime on foreign exchange and gold trading businesses have resulted in a stagnant foreign exchange market. The increased number of arrests has created a sense of caution among traders, leading to a slowdown in regular transactions. The junta-controlled Central Bank has maintained a reference exchange rate of 2,100 kyats per dollar and issued guidelines to ensure that foreign currency exchange rates remain within 100% of the reference rate. However, on June 20, the foreign exchange market experienced the value of the dollar exceeding 3,000 Myanmar kyats. Similarly, the price of gold has surged to around 3,140,000 kyats against the dollar, causing a significant decline in transactions due to the heightened arrests in the Yangon and Mandalay markets. Gold shop owners in Yangon have expressed concerns over the reduced volume of transactions and the fear of being arrested for conducting transactions above 30,000,000 kyats.

Protests & Fundraising

  • Continuing protests 

Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Monywa, Khin Oo, Mandalay, Yinmarbin, Myaing, Loi Kaw, Kyan Khin, and Laung Lone regions. 

  • The public staged the Flower Strike on DASSK’s 78th Birthday

Pro-democracy activists and revolutionary forces called for a statewide flower strike on Monday to commemorate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s 78th birthday. In commemoration of the detained state counselor and other political prisoners, the General Strike Coordination Body invited the public to join the strike. On the actual birthday, the Yangon Revolution Force displayed a banner on June 19 in Yangon with the message “We Miss You.” Anti-regime protestors marched in Tanintharyi Township, Tanintharyi Region, to commemorate the detained leader’s birthday. Myanmar people in the United States, Netherlands, and France gathered to celebrate her birthday as well.

  • Myanmar Spring Film Festival in Japan raises over USD 95,000

The Myanmar Spring Film Festival Japan held across seven cities including Tokyo, Yokohama, and Nagoya from May 6 to 28, generated a minimum of $95,521 USD in funds. The event’s spokeswoman, Stalla, expressed satisfaction with the amount received, as they had anticipated raising around K70 million ($33,432 USD). One of the event organizers mentioned that watching the films provided a glimpse into the lives of their fellow compatriots and emphasized the collective determination to move forward. Similar film screenings were also organized in New York City.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Yangon international airport chief of security shot dead in Mingalardon tsp

On the evening of June 19, unknown gunmen reportedly opened fire on U Ye Khine, the man in charge of security at the Yangon International Airport, in front of his house in Mingalardon Township, Yangon. The 46-year-old former major was shot nine times around the head and neck and passed away on the way to the hospital. U Ye Khine held the operations director and chief of security position at the Yangon Aerodrome Company Limited, which runs the airport. According to sources, U Ye Khine was also responsible for investigating and arresting pro-resistance people and CDM staff at the airport as they attempted to flee the country. For that very reason, a Yangon-based urban guerilla force named Urban Owls said its rangers carried out the mission.

  • Regime’s SAC member from Kyaikhto tsp shot dead in Mon State

On the evening of June 22 around 5.45 pm, the Kyaikhto Resistance Force (KRF) conducted an operation, taking out a man named Ye Naing, a member of the SAC in Kyaikhto Township, Mon State. Ye Naing was ambushed in Kyaikpi Village tract and killed on the spot. He was notorious for arresting people with ridiculous charges and blackmailing. KRF said that it would continue targeting the regime’s lackeys but avoid harming the general public.

  • Another SAC member targeted in Dagon Seikkan tsp, Yangon

On the evening of June 23 around 7.30 pm, the SAC member U Hla Kyi was shot and killed in Yuzana Garden Housing, Dagon Seikkan Township, Yangon. Dagon Seikkan PDF fired 12 times on the man, and six landed and killed him on the spot.  U Hla Kyi was a former administrator of ward 93 and was later promoted to a member of SAC in Dagon Seikkan Township.

  • Electricity supply office attacked with a grenade in Pakokku tsp, Magway Region

On the morning of June 24, the electricity supply office on Bogyoke Road, Pakokku Town in Magway Region was attacked with a grenade. Young Force UG under the wing of Pakokku PDF carried out the mission and said that the office had been aggressively collecting electricity bills from the public. It also vowed to continue targeting the revenue streams of the regime. There were some major damages in the office but the casualty was unknown.

  • NUG police confiscated the regime’s commercial products in Kalay tsp, Sagaing Region

On June 24, the police department under the control of the NUG conducted an inspection check on the liquor outlets in Kalay Township, Sagaing Region due to the tip that those shops had been selling the military-produced beverages. The NUG police found at least 60 cartons of Dagon beer bottles from four shops and confiscated them according to the rules and regulations. Dagon beer is manufactured by a joint venture company between the military-owned Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Golden Star (MGS). It’s also reported that business owners in the Kalay Township have been instructed to start paying taxes to the NUG.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Women arrested for wearing flowers in tribute to the lady’s birthday in Kalay tsp, Sagaing Region

On the birthday of the detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on June 19, women across the country wore flowers to remember the iconic memories of the lady with the flower in her short ponytail. To stop that, the regime’s soldiers were assigned to various checkpoints and conducted arrests of people selling or wearing flowers. At least 40 women were detained for merely holding or wearing flowers on their birthday in Kalay Town, Sagaing Region alone. Most of the detainees were reportedly wearing rose flowers. Videos appeared online where the soldiers were arresting women in similar fashion in other areas of Myanmar but there was no verified number of arrests.

  • Five of detained villagers died in interrogation in Waw tsp, Bago Region

On April 27, there was a counteroffensive at the Nyaungkharshay Police Station of the regime in Waw Township, Bago Region which saw the death of a policeman. Following the incident, at least 30 villagers were abducted by the junta’s soldiers for interrogation. This week, families were informed that five of those detainees died under detention. The victims were U Myint Thein (aged 60) and U Kyaw Myint Thein (aged 50) from Kyonepa Village, Daw Tin Myo Khine, U Win Zaw Htay, and U San Shay (aged 50 respectively) from Boesabei Village. Only the body of U Kyaw Myint Thein was seen by the family and the rest were not returned. The cause of death is unknown. Among the 30 detainees, ten were freed, eight were sent to jail, five died and the rest were still missing. Waw Township is located on the border of Mon State and Bago Region, where the regime’s forces based their defense against the counteroffensive from the KNU-led resistance forces.

  • The regime’s artillery killed one civilian and injured two in Kani tsp, Sagaing Region

On the morning of June 19, the regime’s soldiers were ambushed by Yinmabin PDF while patrolling in Kani Town, Sagaing Region. A few police were killed and weapons were seized during the counteroffensive. Following the incident, the regime’s forces fired artillery into the town, randomly hitting civilians’ compounds. Consequently, a 60-year-old woman was killed by the fire while a 12-year-old and another woman from Ward no.3 were wounded.

  • Four villagers killed during the regime’s raid in Sagaing tsp, Sagaing Region

On June 18, about 100 regime troops raided the villages located on the border of Sagaing, Wetlet and Ayadaw townships in the Sagaing Region. After three-day of terrorism, four villagers were found dead in two different locations. One was shot in the head and killed before his body was dumped in a well north of Shwesigone Village. The other three had their hands tied and got shot from the back so it was speculated that they were told to run before being shot to death. Their bodies were found near the pagoda at the top of Kyoutkone Village. All the dead victims were said to be internally displaced persons from Kyoutkone Village.

  • The regime’s airstrike killed man and injured two in Hpruso tsp, Karenni State

On the morning of June 23, the regime’s airforce conducted an airstrike on two villages in Hpruso Township, Karenni (Kayah) State. In Lukhupayar Village, located 14 miles west of Hpruso Town, a 50-year-old man named Lweezi was killed and two children were wounded by the aerial bomb. In Doyaw (Aout) Village, located 16 miles west of the town, at least seven houses were destroyed and a villager was wounded. The regime’s lobbyist pages said that resistance forces had been hiding in these villages hence the airstrike was conducted.

Armed Resistance

  • All regime stations occupied by resistance forces in Mese tsp, Karenni State

Between June 13 to 24, all six stations of the regime in Mese Township, Karenni State were occupied and controlled by the resistance forces. BP 13 station, the last standing outpost located on the Thai-Myanmar border, fell in the hands of the rangers on June 24 without having fired a bullet. Because there were 18 soldiers manning the station, 15 of them jumped ships and 3 went missing. It was also reported that two of the regime’s border guard forces coordinated with the resistance forces and joined the battle on the side of the people. About 20 units under the Karenni National People’s Liberation Front (KNPLA) served as a BGF in Karenni State and it seems two of its stations acted in the best interests of the Kareni people for the first time.

  • Two-day clash in Pulaw saw casualties from both sides in Tanintharyi Region

A two-day clash was reported in Pulaw Township, Tanintharyi Region after the regime’s troops reportedly entered the area with three columns, each consisting of about 80 men on June 20. The local resistance forces carried out the ambush on the columns eight miles south of the town and ignited the battle. PDF lost a man and five more were wounded while at least 10 men from the regime were also killed in the clash. Back-and-forth firing went on for two days until the regime’s forces retreated to Pulaw Town. It was said that the regime had significantly reduced the number of soldiers in each column due to the major casualties across the country, which used to consist of about 200 men, now it was only 80.

  • Resistance forces targeted three junta locations simultaneously in Myaung tsp, Sagaing Region

On the morning of June 21, a coalition of nine resistance forces mounted a counteroffensive on the regime, targeting a police station, a police staff housing, and a ward administration office. Drones and artillery were also used in the attack. Four men from the regime were killed in the clashes and 12 more were injured. Although the counteroffensive was a success, the rangers did not manage to enter and seize the locations due to the inferior weapons and number of men.

  • KNU says the regime switched to defensive strategy in Karen State

According to reports from KNU, the regime has significantly slowed down its offensive in the Karen State. There were about 1,600 skirmishes reported between the regime’s army and resistance forces from January 2023 to April 2023; however, only 31 clashes were observed in the month of May. The secretary of KNU Brigade 6 said that the regime’s soldiers remained in the stations and were no longer seen on the battlefield. Hence, the regime has switched to a defensive strategy and has been carrying out airstrike and artillery attacks to buy more time as it is surrounded by multiple war fronts across the country.

  • Five PDF members died during the regime’s ambush in Myingyan tsp, Mandalay Region

On the evening of June 20, an ambush from the regime’s soldiers saw the death of five PDF members in Myingyan Township, Mandalay Region. The incident took place as PDF members were on their way back from a scouting mission near Yonehtoe Village. Three motorbikes were attacked, four rangers were killed on the spot and two made it back to the station with severe wounds, one of them passed away shortly. On June 13, a video circulated on social media where PDF members were conducting a security check on the Myingyan-Mandalay Highway road and since then, the regime reinforced its camp with hundreds of soldiers in Myingyan Township.

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit, Irrawaddy, DVB, RFA Burmese.

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