Weekly Update: 078

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, here are the highlights of another week from our team. More trouble from all front piled up on the regime. The armed resistance is getting stronger, local resistance forces are grabbing territory left and right. For better or for worse, more blood spills all over the country. Regardless, it shows the regime is still losing control, more than ever since the coup. It certainly feels we are closer and closer to the end of this tragic episode. Read the weekly highlights below: 

Internal Politics

  • 140 Rohingyas faced immigration charges after having been arrested by the junta

On August 11, a total of 145 Rohingyas were arrested by the military council in Waekhami Village, Thanphyu Zayat Township of Mon State as they attempted to flee to Malaysia. On August 16, a family member of three of the detainees was informed by the police that their family members had been charged with the Immigration Act and sent to Kyaikmayaw Prison. Among the detainees, 140 adults were sent to the prison but underage Rohingyas remain in the police detention center. Due to the worsening situation in Rakhine State, Rohingya people have been attempting to flee to Malaysia. Earlier this month, a boat carrying Rohingya people capsized near Sittwe, resulting in several deaths. Next week, August 25th will mark six years of the Myanmar military’s clearance operation against the Rohingya community. With the unstable situation after the coup, the Rohingya community continues to find safe havens. 

  • Forced evictions near Latpadaung Copper Mine Project

Villagers who live near Latpadaung Copper Mine Project have been forced to remove from their homes. Located in Sarlingyi Township, Sagaing Region, the copper mine project is a joint project of the Myanmar military and Wang Bao company. Myanmar Now news reported that on the evening of August 3, the regime’s soldiers arrived in the old Wat Hme Village, built a fence around the village, and ordered the villagers to leave the village in three days. The project has long been controversial since the “democratic transition” period. The area has more than 100 households originally, and the majority of them took compensation and moved elsewhere in post-2010. However, about 35 households refused the compensation and continued living in the area. When the military fenced the village, about 40 villagers have been trapped inside. On August 8 and 11, six villagers were summoned to the company compound and forced to take compensation and leave. On August 18, Myanmar Now reported that the villagers set off to move as they have been given 10 days for the move. Sagaing Region is a resistance stronghold, and the PDFs and the regime soldiers occasionally clashed near the Latpadaung Copper Mine Project. Wang Bao Company’s compound houses regime soldiers, and these soldiers have torched more than 400 houses from 13 villages and killed 17 villagers according to Sarlingyi Township People’s Administration. 

  • Deadly landslide at Hpakant jade mine: 30 workers killed, 8 injured

On August 13, a landslide took place in one of the jade mines near Mana Village in Hpakant Township, Kachin State. A landbank unexpectedly collapsed while manual laborers were searching for jade stones near a sizable lake formed as a result of jade mining using heavy machinery, killing 30 workers and injuring no fewer than 8. As of August 15, community organizations said that 25 dead bodies were discovered. Among the discovered dead bodies, 7 bodies have been identified but the rest were identifiable. Frequent landslides occur as a result of careless excavation using heavy machinery, and even Hpakant’s renowned Uru River has suffered extensive damage due to the unregulated disposal of the land generated from mountain demolition. People from across Myanmar come to Hpakant in search of jade within an area marred by a range of social issues, including armed conflicts. This location has gained notoriety as a stone-hunting destination. In post-coup, the Myanmar military and resistance forces also frequently clashed near Hpakant. On August 18, Myanmar Now reported that up to six locals from Hpakant have been killed and the perpetrators are at large. 

  • Arrest of Rakhine Women Network chairwoman for the Rice Crisis Day Commemoration

On August 15, Daw Nyo Aye, chairwoman of Sittwe-based Rakhine Women Network, was arrested by the regime soldiers and sent straight to prison. On August 13, Daw Nyo Aye attended a commemoration of the Rice Crisis Day, held by the Arakan Students’ Union to remember the crisis during former dictator General Ne Win’s reign. Two days later, the regime soldiers arrived at Daw Nyo Aye’s office and arrested her as they had some questions to ask in regard to the Rice Crisis Day event. Since then, members of the Arakan Students’ Union went into hiding as they feared arrest. August 13 commemorated the 56th anniversary of the tragic event known as the “Rice Crisis Day” in Arakan State. That year, the Arakanese population endured a dire food shortage and famine following a cyclone in May that severely damaged rice crops. Despite the crisis, Ne Win’s government chose to allocate a significant portion of rice for export, leaving the locals without adequate supplies of this essential staple. This scarcity even affected those who had the means to purchase rice. On August 13, a protest erupted in Sittwe, which was met with a brutal crackdown by the army. Soldiers opened fire on the crowd, resulting in numerous casualties, potentially numbering in the hundreds, even though the official government report cited only 24 deaths. The general belief, however, is that more than 300 individuals lost their lives on that day in 1967.

International Affairs

  • UN official visited the junta chief to discuss humanitarian assistance 

Mr. Martin Griffiths, UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, paid a visit to Naypyidaw on August 15. During the visit, Mr. Griffiths met with the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, and discussed the aid restrictions by the junta on the UN and other aid organizations according to Mizzima News. Junta-controlled media reported that the visiting UN official and the coup leader discussed the lack of assistance from international organizations including the UN during the Covid-19 outbreak and Cyclone Mocha. In separate meetings, Mr. Griffiths also met with other junta leaders such as Foreign Affairs Minister Than Swe, the newly appointed Home Affairs Minister Lt General Yar Pyae, and Union Government Office No. 2 Minister Ko Ko Hlaing. Analysts speculated that the junta would probably relax some of the restrictions on humanitarian assistance after the under-secretary-general’s visit. In his official statement released on August 17, Mr. Griffiths said that he requested the junta chief Min Aung Hlaing to allow access to provide humanitarian assistance to Myanmar people. He said that one-third of Myanmar’s population is in need of aid as they have been affected by active conflicts and natural disasters.

  • Myanmar declines ASEAN chairmanship for 2026

On August 15, Thai PBS News reported that Myanmar declined its ASEAN chairmanship in 2026 due to the current political turmoil and transferred it to the Philippines. After the current chairmanship of Indonesia, Laos will take over the leadership in 2024, and Malaysia in 2025. Myanmar is supposed to take the lead in ASEAN in 2026 but PBS News said that the political and economic instability in Myanmar, and active armed conflicts between the military and People Defense Force (PDFs) and ethnic armed groups led to this deferral. This is not the first time that Myanmar skipped a turn. Back in 2006, Myanmar was due to take the chair position in ASEAN but due to the preparation for an election, Laos took a substitution. Currently, the military council’s representatives have been barred from attending ASEAN meetings since the military has failed to comply with the five-point consensus, including the all-inclusive dialogue. 

  • Myanmar’s funds blocked in Bangladesh due to the US sanctions

The regime-controlled Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB) and Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) have saved about USD 1 million in Bangladesh’s Sonali Bank. On August 17, Bangladeshi news The Daily Star reported that the Bangladesh government has blocked MICB and MFTB from withdrawing their funds. This blockage was conducted after the announcement from the Embassy of the United States in Dhaka. Sonali Bank’s Managing Director Afzal Karim said that Myanmar’s state-owned banks have saved USD 1,200,000, but since the US imposed sanctions on these two banks, Sonali Bank will not release these funds. Afzal Karim also said that the United States has urged the bank to stop liaising with Myanmar banks.  One of the officials from the Central Bank of Bangladesh, who did not want to be named, said that Sonali Bank has requested the opinion of the Central Bank of Bangladesh regarding the two Myanmar banks, and if the decision comes, the next steps will be taken. Bangladesh is the second country in the region to follow the US sanctions against the Myanmar military. Singapore’s UOB Bank also started restricting money transfer services related to Myanmar earlier this month.

Business Matters

  • H&M Phases Out Myanmar Operations Amid Labor Rights Concerns

H&M, the world’s second-largest fashion apparel retailer, announced its strategic decision to phase out its involvement with garment factories in Myanmar, according to a statement shared with Reuters on August 17. The move comes in response to widespread labor rights violations and exploitative practices within the country’s garment industry, particularly under the rule of the military council. The decision follows a surge in investigations into instances of labor rights infringement, with around 20 ongoing cases reported. H&M’s withdrawal from Myanmar aligns it with other major fashion brands that have also departed the country due to similar concerns. Notably, companies like Zara’s Inditex (ITX.MC), Primark (ABF.L), and Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) have already exited Myanmar. H&M’s spokesperson stated, “Following a thorough assessment, we have opted to gradually halt our operations in Myanmar. We are maintaining vigilant oversight of the evolving situation in the country. The mounting difficulties in conducting business in line with our established standards and prerequisites in Myanmar have led to this decision.”

  • The regime allowed Thai baht for international payments

The military council, which has very low US dollar reserves, has authorized the Thai baht to be designated as a domestic currency for international payments and clearing accounts, according to the Central Bank source at the military council. On August 14, the Central Bank of Myanmar issued a statement that, with the aim of making international payments and clearing accounts easier and more convenient, banks licensed to trade foreign currencies have been allowed to use Thai baht for international payments and clearing accounts. In the ongoing exchange rate between the Thai baht and the Myanmar currency, the Thai baht’s value is on an upward trajectory, whereas the kyat’s value is experiencing a decline. Presently, one Thai baht is valued at approximately 103 Myanmar kyats. As a result of Singaporean banks freezing accounts of Myanmar businesses, entrepreneurs have turned to Thai banks for account openings. A Yangon-based businessman noted, “With the closure of Myanmar bank accounts by Singapore banks, local businessmen have shifted their accounts to Thai banks, converting significant amounts of funds into Thai baht.”

  • Challenges arise for Myanmar’s international trade due to embargoes

US-imposed embargoes on Myanmar’s Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and Investment and Trade Bank (MICB) have disrupted international trade operations for the military council. Businesses used MFTB and MICB for foreign currency transactions, but the embargoes have rendered these channels inaccessible. Similar measures taken by Singapore and Bangladesh have further complicated the situation. Myanmar businessmen are now seeking alternative foreign currency sources and international banks. The use of the Thai baht as an intermediary currency has been proposed, and the Central Bank of the Military Council has allowed licensed banks to use the Thai baht for international payments to address the challenges.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • The regime’s village administrator shot dead in Pauk Kaung tsp, Bago Region

On the evening of August 16, the regime-appointed village administrator from Innngakwa Village, Pauk Kaung Township, Bago Region was targeted by Paungde PDF. Zaw Lin Aung, the man in question, was caught unguarded and shot dead while playing chinlone on the side of Pyay-Pauk Kaung highway road. Zaw Lin Aung was notorious for collaborating with police and soldiers in the region. He reportedly taxed trucks, beat up people for driving in curfew hours and helped arrest pro-resistance people etc. Paungde PDF (PPDF) under the command of the NUG’s ministry of defense conducted the mission.

  • Mytel tower blasted, soldiers attacked during inspection in Daik-U tsp, Bago Region

Mytel, the military-owned telecom, suffered another attack in Daik-U Township, Bago Region around 10 pm on August 12. Its telecommunication tower was blasted with a bomb by local PDF in Wagarmani Village and control boxes were reportedly destroyed. The regime’s soldiers arrived at the village the next morning for inspection. Three-vehicle-convoy was also attacked on its way back with a landmine detonation by the same group and two lieutenants were said to be injured. Consequently, the junta’s soldiers retaliated by terrorizing Wagamani and Pabesu villages.

  • Pyu Saw Htee couple gunned down in Minhla tsp, Bago Region

Aye Lwin Oo and Khin San Win, the famed Pyu Saw Htee couple from Minhla Township, Bago Region paid the ultimate price for conspiring with the regime’s forces on August 17. On that afternoon, they were shot dead by Tharyawaddy PDF while collecting tax at an inspection gate. Aye Lwin Oo and his wife reportedly located many PDF stations and tipped off the soldiers many times. They also declared that they would arrest PDF rangers with their own hands some day. Tharyawaddy PDF said it held an investigation and the mission was only conducted when it was certain they both were guilty.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Four hostages tortured and killed by the regime soldiers in Yinmabin tsp, Sagaing Region

On August 10, the regime’s soldiers took four villagers as hostages as they raided Lalngout Village, Yinmabin Township in Sagaing Region. Those taken were 44-year-old U Thein Ngwe, 48-year-old U Phoe Nyan, 34-year-old Ko Zaw Myint Htay and 22-year-old Ko Zaw Myo Khine. On August 16, all of them were found dead with torture wounds, cuts and bullet holes. Local PDF said that the victims were probably taken as human shields when the soldiers traveled to Sarlingyi Township and they were killed on the way back. The military column that killed the villagers is often witnessed entering into and associating with the Chinese Wanbao Copper Mining Company compound.

  • The regime’s artillery killed four including students in Nyaunglaypin, Bago Region

The Karen National Union (KNU) released news that six civilians were killed by the regime’s artillery fires within four days in Nyaunglaypin District, Bago Region. The shelling took place in Shwekyin, Mone and Kyaukkyi townships from August 13 to 16. The regime’s infantry unit 264 fired seven heavy weaponry into villages in Kyautkkyi Township on August 13 where 13-year-old Saw Elkaloohtoo and 16-year-old Saw Bolothee from Palthaung Village were killed, two more students were severely injured. On the next morning, the artillery were shelled toward Innkatpalate Village in Shwekyin Township, hitting a school and injuring a teacher and two students. On August 16, the regime’s soldiers fired into Thitkyaukkhin Village in Mone Township, killing 60-year-old Ko Maung Htwe @ Kyaw Zeya and 35-year-old Ko Thant Zaw.

  • Four including a pregnant woman killed by the regime’s troops in Pinlebu tsp, Sagaing Region

On August 14, about 100 regime troops raided a gold mining plot and committed several murders in Pinlebu Township, Sagaing Region. The plot is located on the road of Kawlin-Pinlebu, seven miles south of Pinlebu. The soldiers abducted all twelve people found on the field, accusing them of associating with PDF. And then they opened fire at the plot owner U Sett Hlaing and killed him on the spot. At that moment, his pregnant daughter Ma Wine Wine (aged 21) walked in and she was also shot and killed. She was eight-month heavy and her infant daughter popped out dead and found beside the mother’s body. Two more victims were Ko Shan Lay and Ko Nyi Nyi, both aged 21, who were shot dead while driving tractors. All the bodies were put in a hut and burned down. The rest of the detainees were also planned to be killed but they were let go after the intervention from a monk who passed by the scene.

  • Several civilians abducted, properties sealed off in Mandalay

On August 17, the regime’s forces seized a private school and arrested five people in downtown Mandalay. On that morning, the soldiers, police and ward administrators arrived at Golden Gate Private High School, located on the corner of 35th and 61st roads in Maharaungmyay Township, and they abducted the founder U Myat Kyaw (aged 45), the administrator Daw Phyu Phyu and three teachers from the school. U Myat Kyaw was accused of supporting PDF and before his arrest, many unverified accounts on Facebook shared a post how he was providing supply to PDF. The school building was also sealed off by the junta’s men. Similarly on August 13, the 70-year-old Daw Myint Myint Than, the owner of Aung Myanmar stationery, and her three daughters were arrested for writing a supportive comment under a PDF news on Facebook. The soldiers, once again, did not fail to seal off their housing, worth of millions of dollars.

Armed Resistance

  • The regime’s mission to retake Letkettaung hill-station remains a struggle in Karen State

It has been one month since the coalition of the local resistance forces led by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) took control of the strategic Letkettaung station five miles south of Myawaddy Town, Karen State. Since then, the regime’s forces have attempted all possible means to retake the hill yet to no avail. In a month time, at least ten offensives were conducted by the junta, via air and ground attacks. Fifteen casualties including a major’s death were reported from the SAC side and two rangers also died during that time. As of reporting, Letkettaung and nearby areas remain under the control of the resistance forces.

  • Clash intensified, thousands fled to safety in Kalay tsp, Chin-Sagaing border

On August 15, the regime’s troops conducted an offensive in Kalay Township, on the border of Chin State and Sagaing Region. The army utilized airstrike and artillery fires in the clash that was ignited by the ambush from the resistance forces on the regime’s troops near Tharsi Village, outside Kalay Town. The junta’s men sent a chopper that opened fire at the village for one hour. At least two villagers were injured. Due to the offensive, about five thousand people from nearby villages have left their homes to find safety. The resistance has been strong in Sagaing’s Kalay and Magway’s Gantgaw areas hence the regime’s forces are not able to move and supply routes are blocked which is the possible reason behind the regime’s offensive.

  • PDF mounted counteroffensive on the regime’s police station in Gantgaw tsp, Magway Region

On August 15, a coalition of resistance forces conducted a counteroffensive on the village police station in Gantgaw Township, Magway Region. The station is from Min Ywa Village, 10 miles south of Gantgaw and manned by 50 regime men. Seven allied forces attempted to take over the station but was met with response via aerial attack and artillery fire. The rangers eventually had to retreat after four hours of back and forth firing due to the inferior armed power. About 11 rangers were injured in the clash.

  • Regime’s offensive displaced thousands in Depayin tsp, Sagaing Region

On August 19, the regime’s troops conducted an offensive in the west of Depayin Township, scaring away eight thousands of people from ten villages in the township. The same military column was responsible for the killing of three students from All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) and two villagers in Budalin Township.

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit, RFA Burmese, Mizzima

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