Weekly Update: 079

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, this past week marked six years since the military led by the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing committed crimes against humanity against the Rohingya from Rakhine State, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, Six years later, while no one has been held accountable for these crimes, the atrocities which were targeted against the minority group have now been widely spread all over the country, even in urban areas. This only reminds us of how turning a blind eye to this incident is only coming back to bite us. This time, we must ensure no more impunity for the military regime. As usual, the anti-regime sentiment continues to ignite with armed resistance taking place across the country, and so is the regime’s ongoing brutality against civilians. Read all about it in our latest update.

Internal Politics

  • Six years after the August 25 Rohingya Displacement

August 25 marked the sixth year of the mass displacement of Rohingya people in northern Rakhine State due to the clearance operation led by the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing’s military. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people were forced to flee from their homes and took refuge in Bangladesh as the Myanmar military committed crimes against humanity such as the mass killing of Rohingya and torching of their villages. On August 25, Rohingya people in the refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh held a commemoration event named “Our Home, Our Dignity”. During the event, the displaced people demanded to return safely to their homes in Rakhine State, to reacquire their properties, and to be recognized as an ethnic group in Myanmar. They also sang the Myanmar national anthem at the event. Millions of Rohingya refugees who live in camps in Cox’s Bazaar frequently face fire hazards and other natural disasters, for instance, as recently as Cyclone Mocha. Those who remain in Rakhine State continue to face hardship as they struggle for their livelihood. The capsized boat story which we reported earlier this month is one of the many examples of how Rohingya people who attempted to escape from Myanmar ended up in tragedy. Myanmar is now facing legal proceedings at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for its genocidal intent against the Rohingya. 

  • The Myanmar military clarified the Navy Chief position amid rumors 

On August 27, the military council announced that there is no replacement for the position of the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar Navy which is currently appointed to Admiral Moe Aung. The announcement was made in response to the rumors spreading around that Admiral Moe Aung was removed from the position and replaced with Lt General Zwe Win Myint, and that United Amara Bank (UAB), which is related to Admiral Moe Aung, is being investigated. The regime’s announcement also included that no investigation has been made against the UAB. On the same day, UAB Bank also issued a statement which clarified that Admiral Moe Aung is neither the owner nor a share owner, and is in no way related to the bank. However, the rights group Justice for Myanmar (JFM) wrote in its report in August 2022 that UAB is a part of the International Group of Entrepreneurs (IGE) which has been financially supporting the Myanmar military. On February 21, 2022, the European Union also imposed sanctions on the IGE Group owned by U Ne Aung, brother of Admiral Moe Aung.

  • International Summit for Myanmar’s Spring Revolution to strengthen pro-democracy forces in the diaspora

An international summit for Myanmar’s Spring Revolution was held on August 26 in Buffalo, New York in the United States. The event was attended by the chair of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) U Aung Kyi Nyunt, the National Unity Government (NUG)’s deputy foreign minister U Moe Zaw Oo, other members of the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), and more than 150 pro-democracy activists from the US and Canada. Ko Zaw Zaw, one of the organizers of the event told RFA Burmese that the purpose of this summit is to strengthen the pro-democracy forces in the diaspora and to create a network among them. The summit was planned for two days and discussions will be made on the efforts of Myanmar diaspora communities, and how to further support to end of the military dictatorship in the home country. 

International Affairs

  • The regime ordered Timor Leste diplomats to leave Myanmar for its support to the NUG

The military council gave a directive to diplomats and embassy staff members of Timor Leste to leave Myanmar by September 1 according to the National Unity Government (NUG)’s Minister of Human Rights Affairs U Aung Myo Min’s Facebook post on August 26. Lisbon-based LUSA News also confirmed the news. This is the first time the military council asked a diplomatic mission to leave the country after the coup, and no official statement has been made by the military regime as of August 26. This move is largely seen as a retaliation toward Timor Leste as the country’s president Jose Ramos-Horta officially recognized the NUG and invited Foreign Minister Daw Zin Mar Aung, instead of the military council, to his inauguration in July 2023. President Ramos-Horta has been very vocal about the lack of support from Myanmar on the international stage including the UN high-level meetings. In August, he also said that the island state would not join ASEAN if the 10-member bloc does not tackle the Myanmar issue.

  • US expands its sanction on any individual related to aviation fuel import to Myanmar military

On August 23, the US Office of Foreign Assets Control announced that it has expanded the sanctions on any individual who is involved in importing aviation fuel to the Myanmar military in order to put more pressure on the junta and to further support the Myanmar people. While the civil aviation importers are excluded from sanctions, the OFAC warned operators to ensure that the aviation fuel they sell is only for civilian use and not related to military use, including importing, exporting, re-exporting and selling, transporting, and supporting aspects. The OFAC will further monitor the sales of aviation fuel for military aircraft, state-owned aircraft used by military generals, and fighter jets. Two more individuals, namely Daw Khin Phyu Win and  U Zaw Min Tun, were also placed under sanction for their involvement in aviation fuel sales by Asia Sun Group. 

Business Matters

  • The regime grapples with currency challenges due to the US embargo

Amidst a US economic embargo on Myanmar’s MFTB and MICB banks, the military council faces challenges in acquiring foreign currency. The regime-appointed Deputy Minister U Maung Maung Win of the Ministry of Planning and Finance acknowledged the detrimental impact of the embargo at a press conference. The embargo’s unilateral nature and weak justifications have hindered the military council’s access to foreign funds, affecting all foreign currency operations, including imports and exports. The blocked banks, MFTB and MICB, play pivotal roles in foreign exchange operations for both government and private entities. Consequently, this embargo not only disrupts vital state and public services like education and healthcare but also disrupts foreign currency access for exporters, importers, and financial institutions. To counteract these effects, Myanmar’s Central Bank and ministries are exploring options such as establishing foreign currency accounts in India and Thailand for trade activities.

  • Surge in demand for Thai baht due to the regime’s authorization of using it for international transactions

Following the regime’s announcement on August 14 that authorized banks could facilitate international transactions and clearing accounts with Thai baht, there has been a surge in Myanmar’s domestic demand for baht. This has led to a substantial increase in baht purchases and hoarding among local businesses and individuals. Consequently, the value of the Myanmar kyat, which has experienced a significant decline since the military coup, is now further destabilizing its worth. The restricted access to the US dollar has prompted affluent individuals in Yangon to transfer their funds to Myawaddi, causing a demand-driven appreciation of the baht. This situation has disrupted the currency exchange market, with the exchange rate oscillating rapidly. As of August 24, the exchange rate was 108 Kyats per baht, while the rate for 100,000 Kyats was around 970 baht, indicating a fluctuation from over 90 to over 100 baht within two days. These currency fluctuations have led to disruptions in exchange services in Mae Sot, Thailand. The fluctuating nature of the exchange rate has created difficulties for businesses and individuals engaged in cross-border transactions. 

  • The regime blamed businesses for surging commodity prices

While the regime blamed businesses for the increasing prices of commodities, merchants, and scholars said that these price hikes were caused due to the coup. 

The regime’s Deputy Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade Communications said on August 22 that surging food prices were caused due to profiteering businessmen. However, merchants countered that the price hikes were due to the result of the military council’s inability to implement effective policies. A merchant highlighted that although greed played a role, the issue is broader, extending across pre-COVID, pandemic, and post-coup periods. Myanmar’s economic stability endured prior challenges, but policies enforced in the post-coup period led to monetary instability. The lack of confidence in holding Burmese currency and a regulated import monitoring system contributed to the crisis. The army’s displacement of farmers from vital agricultural regions compounded issues as rice scarcity caused its prices to rise. Experts criticized the military council’s hasty solutions, leading to exponential price hikes. Supply chain disruptions, governance gaps, and shortcut approaches amplify these concerns. While the military council offers rice and oil at reference prices, market prices are substantially higher. Palm oil, for instance, commands 9,000 Kyats per pound in wholesale markets, but consumers pay over 11,000 Kyats. 

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Three military lackeys shot dead in Kawthoung tsp, Tanintharyi Region

In Khamaukkyi Town, Kawthoung Township, Tanintharyi Region, three people allegedly working for the military were shot and killed in two incidents. Around 11.30 pm on August 20, Su Kan who was said to be working for the regime was shot dead in Ward 4, Khamaukkyi Town. On the following night, Khin Maung Htwe and Kyaw Thant were targeted and killed in the same ward.

  • Notorious village administrator shot dead in Natmauk tsp, Magway Region

On the evening of August 25, a village administrator from Natmauk Township, Magway Region was arrested and shot dead by local PDF. U Myint Nyein, the man in charge of Sal Lal Village, was known for oppressing villagers with help from soldiers. He reportedly blackmailed CDM staff and seized villagers’ properties among other crimes. Two local PDF arrested him and shot him dead outside the village.   

  • USDP organizer killed in Okpho tsp, Bago Region

On August 26, Myo Zaw Aung, a key organizer of the Union Solidarity & Development Party (USDP) was shot dead in his betel nut shop in Kwaychaung Village, Okpho Township, Bago Region. Myo Zaw Aung was said to be running for the village administrator and hence he committed various anti-resistance activities such as spying on PDF, training as Pyu Saw Htee and abducting CDM staff. In the same township, another USDP organizer named Min Zaw from Phalanpin Village was also shot and injured on July 27.

  • USDP office exploded, one police injured in North Oakkalpa tsp, Yangon Region

On the evening of August 26, a blast occurred at the office of USDP in North Oakkalapa Township, Yangon. A witness said the explosion was very loud and there were likely casualties. A policeman injury was verified so far.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Two men killed by the regime’s patrolling soldiers in Mandalay

Around 11.30 pm on August 20, the regime’s soldiers gunned down and killed two men on motorbike in Pyigyitagon Township, Mandalay. The victims were 25-year-old Ko Nyo Gyi and 31-year-old Ko Chit Toe Wai @ Ko Toe Gyi who were shot dead as their motorbike ran into the patrolling soldiers on the corner of 128th and 62nd streets. Local sources said that the two men were shot down because they did not stop the motorbike for inspection. However, the junta’s lobbyists said that the victims had attempted to attack the soldiers with a sword during inspection.

  • Husband shot dead by soldiers in front of wife in Pekhon tsp, Shan State

On August 22, a couple on their way to an agricultural field was arrested by the regime’s soldiers in Pekhon Township, Shan State. Their motorbike was stopped two miles west of Konesone Village before the husband Ko Hla Ngwe (aged 33) was gunned down without question. He suffered seven bullet wounds and died. The wife was not harmed severely but she was kicked away as she tried to help her husband. Ko Hla Ngwe’s body was carried back to the village with the help of a villager when the soldiers left.

  • Retired doctor family arrested; properties seized in Mandalay

On August 23, a family of three was arrested by the regime’s forces after accusations had been made that they were supporting the PDF rangers. The victims were U Mya Than, the retired eye specialist, his wife Daw Myint Myat Khine, the former associate professor of the distance university (both aged 70) and their son U Yan Naung Tun (aged 45). In addition to the arrests, their clinic and housing located on the corner of 80th and 24th streets were also sealed off by the soldiers. Locals say that the family is well loved in the area for their generous natures and the regime must have taken issue with the fact that Daw Myint Myat Khine was one of the earliest people who joined CDM after the coup.

  • 40 men taken as human shields by the regime’s army in Hpakant tsp, Kachin State

On the evening of August 23, 40 men from Nantyarr Village, Hpakant Township, Kachin State were arrested and taken as human shields by the regime’s soldiers. The hostages were arrested in a church in Nantyarr Village, located 20 miles east of town and were made up of local villagers, internally displaced persons and travelers. The regime’s military column responsible for the arrests was conducting offensive toward Hpakant on August 22 and it was ambushed by the KIA near Kyauthtu Village before the road ahead was also blocked. To prevent another attack, the regime’s army likely decided to take civilians as human shields. The troops were seen leaving toward Hpakant with those hostages on August 25.

  • Singer Byuhar sentenced to 20 years for criticizing Min Aung Hlaing

Hiphop artist Byuhar was imprisoned to 20 years by the military court in Insein Township, Yangon, almost three months after his arrest. Byuhar, the son of one of Myanmar’s most popular composers Naing Myanmar, was detained in late May for criticizing Min Aung Hlaing for his mismanagement, citing frequent power cuts. He shared a video on Facebook comparing Min Aung Hlaing and the State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and said explicitly how incompetent the former was. Many believed the sentence was extreme and unjustified.

  • Father of general strike committee sentenced to two years in Launglon tsp, Tanintharyi Region

A court in Launglon Township, Tanintharyi Region imprisoned U Aung Phay, the father of Ko Min Lwin Oo, a member of Dawei general strike committee, to two years this week. U Aung Phay was arrested in his home in Pyin Htein Village, Launglon Township on June 19. He was charged with the penal code 505(A), which criminalizes fake news and incitement against the military. All there was found in his house was a t-shirt and an armband of the student union. Ko Min Lwin Oo said the 65-year-old father was punished for simply having an activist son.

Armed Resistance

  • Four killed during raid on PDF station in Shwebo, Sagaing Region

On August 20, the regime’s forces reportedly raided a PDF station located in Chipar Village, one mile west of Shwebo Town, Sagaing Region. After they left, four dead bodies were near the station and the village on August 22 and August 23. Two bodies found in the village were identified as villagers Ko Han Zaw Myint (aged 25) and his cousin who had been taken to the station as hostages. The soldiers managed to avoid the landmines thanks to their forced cooperation but they were killed after the raid. Two others were also hostages but speculated to be from different areas. A 30-minute-long battle occurred as the soldiers ambushed the station. Although there was no casualty from PDF, a vehicle, motorbikes and military uniforms were seized.

  • Hundreds of Asho Chin ethnics displaced due to growing fights in Magway-Rakhine border

About 300 Asho Chin ethnics have been displaced by ongoing fights in Magway and Rakhine areas. On August 23, the regime’s troops conducting the offensive were ambushed with landmine detonation between Ywar Thit and Kyoh Wa villages in Min Tone Township, Magway Region. A two-hour long battle broke out following the attack and it led to reinforcement from the junta’s army. More troops have been deployed in the villages between Rakhine State and Mine Tone Township, where Asho Chin ethnics are based. At least 300 people from Ywar Thit and Nga Pyin villages managed to leave the village in time but some have been stuck in Yin Kaut Village.

  • Battle occurred in Kawthoung; armed resistance intensified in Tanintharyi Region

A clash broke out between the regime’s army and the local resistance forces near Kawthoung Town, Tanintharyi Region on August 24. The junta’s forces who were conducting an offensive with 50 troops were ambushed with three landmines 20 miles north of town. The battle went on for one hour and the regime’s troops retreated after suffering a few casualties. At least five men were killed and five more were injured in the regime’s side. About 100 locals had to flee to the Thai border temporarily due to the fight.

  • Clash broke out between TNLA and SAC forces in Kutkai tsp, Shan State

On the evening of August 25, a clash occurred between the regime’s army and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) near Lon Swe Village, Kutkai Township, Shan State (north). TNLA said the junta’s 16-vehicle convoy moving from Nantphatkar to Kutkai was intercepted on the way and the battle began from there. The regime’s army suffered a few casualties but the exact number is yet to be verified.

  • Five PDF members killed and decapitated in Sagaing tsp, Sagaing Region

On the early morning of August 22, the regime’s military column encountered local PDF members at the entrance of Htantawseik Village, Sagaing Township, Sagaing Region. Two PDF rangers were injured in the clash, both of them were brought into the village before their heads were chopped off. On the following day, three PDF members entered the village assuming the troops had left. They were ambushed, gunned down, and decapitated. The remaining bodies bore torture signs as well.

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

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