Weekly Update 80

by mohingamatters

Internal Politics

  • Two years of the Myanmar people’s defensive war

The declaration of defensive war by the National Unity Government (NUG) marked two years on September 7. The interim president Duwa Lashi La gave a speech claiming that the resistance forces saw some successes in the past two year and are able to threaten the Myanmar military. He said that the resistance forces were able to make their moves in Naypyidaw where the military council is based. He also said the the military has been weakened in economic, diplomatic sectors in addition to the war front. In the second annual report of the NUG’s Ministry of Defense which was also released on the same day, it was reported that the MOD expanded its military activities in Naypyidaw, Tanintharyi Region, Mandalay Region, Bago Region, Mon State, southern part of Magway Region. In addition, the resistance forces also managed to strengthen their territorial control in Sagaing Region, Chin State, Karenni (Kayah) State, Karen State, and northern part of Magway Region. More than 9900 clashes have taken place with the regime’s forces in the past two years. The report also stated that 293 battalions have been formed and verified under People Defense Force (PDF), 68 battalions are in the verification process, and Civilian Administrative Teams have been formed in more than 250 townships. 

  • Myanmar INGO staff got laid off for demanding market exchange rate for salaries

A total of 80 Myanmar national staff from Geneva-based the Lutheran World Federation’s Sittwe Office were laid off on September 4. One of the staff members who got laid off told RFA Burmese that they were fired from their positions because they demanded to disburse their salaries at market exchange rate. He said that the salaries were provided in euro currency in job contracts, but the international non-government organization failed to match up to the market exchange rate after the coup. The staff members from Sittwe Office staged a strike by refusing to go to work on August 14. Without any negotiation, the staff received emails on September 4, stating that they have been removed from their positions according to the staff who wished to remain anonymous. He also said that the laid off staff members did not receive salaries for the previous month, let alone severance payments. The Lutheran World Federation (LWF Myanmar) has been implementing projects in Rakhine State to provide humanitarian assistance and education services to internally displaced communities including the Rohingyas. 

  • The regime enforced mandatory remittances from migrant workers, NUG condemned

The military regime has been pressuring migrant workers to send 25% of their salaries as remittances back to Myanmar according to local job agencies. The regime’s Ministry of Labour has been trying to enforce a system in which migrant workers are forced to send back at least 25% of their salaries as remittances to Myanmar through designated money transfer services as a mandatory practice. On September 8, the civilian elected NUG issued a statement condemning the regime’s plan since it violates the 1999 Foreign Employment Act. The NUG also said that it will take action against anyone who tried to exploit the migrant workers’ salaries or who pressure them to send remittances back to Myanmar.

  • China released spacecraft waste materials in Rakhine sea

China’s spacecraft dropped unwanted debris in Rakhine’s sea near Thandwe Township and Man Aung Island on September 7. A similar incident was also  reported on August 21 by the local news Narinjara. It has been recorded that this time’s waste disposal marked the seventh time since 2020. Ko Aung Myint Thu, Myanmar spokesperson of the International Peace Youth Group and Man Aung local, said that there had been no prior knowledge and preparation about these waste materials, and local communities rely on fishing in the same waterbodies where these wastes are dropped, which could lead to toxification of the water for both sea animals and communities on land. Despite the concerns raised by the local communities, the military council released a statement which said no damage was caused by the drop. 

International Affairs 

  • UN head urged the military to listen to the people

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged the Myanmar military to listen to the people’s voice. During the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia on September 7, the UN head showed his concern for the worsening situation in Myanmar, and encouraged the military council to respect the people’s desires. In addition, he also demanded the release of political prisoners and re-install democracy in the country. He also flagged the devastating situations of displaced people in Myanmar. At the same time, he also urged the international community to reach a consensus to find a strategy for Myanmar. The summit in Jakarta was joined by leaders from the United States, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and Bangladesh. President Mohammad Shahabuddin of Bangladesh also raised the urgency to resolve Myanmar’s political turmoil by pointing out the Rohingya refugees in his country. 

  • Notable key points from ASEAN’s statement on Myanmar

On September 5, the ASEAN began its summit where the member countries reevaluated the five-point consensus which was initially agreed in April 2021. After the summit, the 10-member bloc issued a separate statement on Myanmar’s issue in which eight points were reevaluated and 10 decisions were made. In addition to the usual condemnation of the military’s brutalities against Myanmar people, the ASEAN statement highlighted the instability caused in Myanmar’s borders areas, treating the regional security. Another notable difference is that, in the five-point consensus, it was stated that ‘all parties’ must end the violence, but in this statement, it emphasized ‘Myanmar Armed Forces’. The statement also mentioned that the ASEAN will also use a sustainable ASEAN approach to find solutions for Myanmar which can be translated into a consensus approach to be developed even though the ASEAN leadership has been alternated annually. 

  • More than 75,000 civilians houses have been destroyed by the military: UNOCHA reports

On September 8, the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that about 75,000 civilian houses have been burned by the military council. The newly released report also stated that people in Myanmar face devastating humanitarian conditions due to the ongoing armed conflict and natural disasters which led to displacement from their homes, civilians’ deaths, and damage of civilians’ properties. The UN office also highlighted that communities affected by Cyclone Mocha continued to struggle for aid and assistance because only limited aid was allowed to be distributed. The regime’s control on aid provision was also tightened in the southeastern part of Myanmar and Kachin State. More than 1.6 million people have fled from their homes after the coup according to the UN’s report. 

  • Some ASEAN countries refused to attend Air Chiefs Conference hosted by Myanmar military

Myanmar plans to host the ASEAN Air Chiefs Conference as the chair of the group but Air Force commanders from three ASEAN countries will not attend the meeting. The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia have expressed that they will not participate in these meetings while Cambodia, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam refused to make any comment on their participation yet. However, Thailand will send its representative to the meeting according to Singapore based Straits Times news. Myanmar’s political issue continues to divide the ASEAN member countries and threatened the ASEAN Centrality.

Business Matters

  • Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association appealed to Global Fashion Retailers to stay

In response to reports of H&M discontinuing its sourcing from Burmese suppliers, the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association (MGMA) has issued an appeal to prominent international fashion retailers, urging them to continue their operations in Myanmar. This move has faced criticism from labor unions who argue that MGMA only expresses concern when its interests are affected. A spokesperson from Solidarity of Trade Union Myanmar (STUM) stated, “MGMA has neglected the oppression in the factories under its control.” The MGMA, however, emphasizes the need for a “responsible” approach to sustain efforts in improving conditions for garment factory workers in Myanmar. 

  • President of palm oil business and major oil traders arrested for not complying with set sale price

U Sann Lin, Chairman of the Myanmar Oil Traders and Oil Industry Association, along with four oil traders, were reportedly arrested in a joint operation by the Special Investigation Department. This arrest took place on the evening of August 30 and involved prominent oil traders, including U Aye Sein, U Myint Kyu, U Wan Htike, and U Tun Tun Win. The Special Investigation Department is currently conducting interrogations. The arrests appear to be related to the pricing of palm oil in Myanmar. The military council had ordered palm oil to be sold at a significantly lower price than what it was being sold for in the market. Importers were expected to sell palm oil at 4,000 kyats per viss, while it had been selling for over 10,000 kyats per viss. This pricing dispute seems to have led to the arrests. According to sources, the detained individuals are being questioned, but no official charges have been made yet. There are concerns that their fate may depend on how the military views their responses during the interrogations. It is alleged that the military sees these traders as enemies and is using arrests as a means to enforce price controls. The Military Council has accused them of not adhering to the mandated pricing, with some traders reportedly selling palm oil at significantly higher rates, leading to substantial profits. Traders from the Myanmar Oil Traders and Oil Industry Association argue that the military is controlling the palm oil industry in an authoritarian style and that the arrests are a form of pressure on those involved in the trade.

  • Official money exchange counters closed down due to fear of arbitrary arrests

The military council has tightened its control over foreign currency holdings, imposing strict regulations and often revoking licenses for foreign exchange counters. Consequently, most official exchange counters have ceased trading due to fear of military arrest. People attempting to sell dollars have expressed their difficulties in finding open exchanges, with closures persisting for about a week. This scarcity also affects potential buyers. The instability of exchange rates, along with the threat of arrest for alleged illegal dollar trading, has nearly halted dollar transactions, as foreign currency traders note.Under the military council’s rule, the Central Bank has profited from speculating on foreign exchange rates. They’ve announced investigations into illegal money transfer activities, including unauthorized foreign currency exchanges, citing the Foreign Exchange Management Law for potential actions. Furthermore, the council has issued warnings against holding dollars without proper permission or licenses and has established a task force to regulate the prices of both the dollar and gold. Currently, the central bank’s reference rate for the dollar is 2,100 kyats, but the market reports rates as high as 3,700 kyats. The rising prices of not only the dollar but also the Thai baht and the Chinese yuan have led to increased costs for imports, impacting essential goods like fuel, medicine, edible oil, food, consumer products, and construction materials in Myanmar, which relies heavily on imports.

  • Price of gold and USD on the fall

According to the gold market, the price of gold in Burma reached a peak of over 3900,000 Kyats last August, and has started to decline slightly since the beginning of this month. A gold shop owner said, “Recently, the gold price has been on the downside. The main thing is that the price of gold is falling because the dollar is falling,” he said. Today, the gold market outside of Yangon is worth around 3,535,000 kyats. The reference gold price published by the Yangon Region Gold Industry Association (YGEA) is 2,259,600 kyats, and there is a difference of more than 1,300,000 kyats from the outside market. It was seen that the domestic gold price has decreased by around 250,000 kyats during the week, and the exchange rate between the Myanmar kyat and the dollar has also decreased. Today, the US dollar is trading between 3,490 and 3,510 Myanmar kyats, and it has been found that the market has dropped by around 200 Myanmar kyats to one dollar in a week. Due to the strict handling and control of the military council on domestic dollar and gold transactions, it is also known in the market that dollar and gold bullion transactions have almost stopped in the current market, and there are only close transactions.

  • Myanmar’s trade deficit accounted over 738 million dollars

In almost 5 months of the current fiscal year, Myanmar’s foreign trade has a trade deficit of 738 million US dollars, according to the latest trade statistics released by the Minister of Commerce under the Military Council. During the 2023-2024 fiscal year, exports worth more than 6,156 million dollars were exported, and imports worth more than 6,894 million dollars were exported. In the last fiscal year 2022-2023, the trade deficit was 774.418 million dollars due to a decrease in exports. Despite the fact that the Military Council is giving priority to promoting exports, from April 1st to August 25th of this year, exports decreased by around $770 million compared to the same period last year. Exports from the border trade route were more than $168 million more than the same period last year, but seaborne exports were around $940 million less than the same period last year. At the press conference held by the Military Council in the last week of August, U Min Min, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Economy and Trade, said that since Myanmar is a country that mainly produces agricultural products, it will be self-sufficient domestically and facilitate the export of surplus products. However, traders point out that the trade and monetary policies by the military council are a hindrance to foreign trade. An exporter said, “Foreign money will come in by encouraging exports. “Export is controlled with unnecessary policies, so it becomes a trade deficit,” he said. In addition, regional instability and transportation difficulties, Power outages are also said to affect the ability to produce and export foreign goods. In terms of imports, although the import of consumer goods and CMP goods decreased, investment goods and industrial raw materials were imported more than last year.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • The junta punished political prisoners by restricting food, medicine deliveries

Family members and volunteers said that the junta had imposed restrictions on the delivery of food and medicines to political detainees in some jails, including Insein Prison in Yangon and Obo Prison in Mandalay, The Irrawaddy reported on September 5. The volunteers helping the political prisoners said seven prisons have had restrictions imposed since late August, and this is the junta retaliating toward protests staged by the political prisoners.

  • The junta offered Villages, but Rohingya won’t return without guarantees

Junta’s Union Minister Ko Ko Hlaing said on state-owned media that 7,000 Rohingya will be repatriated from Bangladesh camps to Myanmar by the end of October on September 5. Junta pledged to build 20 villages and that plots for 1,000 houses had already been cleared for those who returned. Rohingya residents in the Bangladesh camps told RFA Burmese that the junta’s attempt is just for show due to international pressure and that they won’t accept the offer because they don’t trust the regime. Since August 2017, the Myanmar government has made at least two attempts to repatriate Rohingya back to Rakhine State, but with little success.

Protests & Fundraisings

  • International Conference in Buffalo Addresses Myanmar Spring Revolution

The International Conference on the Myanmar Spring Revolution took place in Buffalo, New York. Participants included Burmese diaspora communities from the United States, Canada, and Europe, as well as representatives from the National Unity Government (NUG), Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), National League for Democracy (NLD) party, and various other organizations.

  • Continuing Protests 

Protests across the country are still going strong, including in Yinmarbin, Tant Se’, Myaing, May Myo, Monywa, Wet Let, Laung Lone, and Bu Ta Lin regions. 

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Attacks took place in Mandalay, resulting injuries and one death

On the afternoon of August 31, an explosion took place in the department of Public Heath and Medical Services, located on the corner of 70th and 27th streets in Mandalay. Two blasts were heard before ambulances were seen entering into the compound. Three staff were said to be injured. It is unknown who was responsible for the attack. A separate incident took place on September 2 when a man was shot dead in Chanmyatharsi Township. On that morning, U Maw Gyi was shot multiple times to death by two gunmen on the corner of 59th and Manawhari streets. M.G urban guerilla group said it had carried out the mission claiming U Maw Gyi was a major military informer/Dalan. 

  • Drone attack on the regime’s police office resulted in high-ranking casualties in Myawaddy, Karen State

On the evening of September 3, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and allied forces carried out a drone attack twice on the police district office of the junta located in Myawaddy Town, Karen State. The incident resulted in many casualties, killing five regime men and injuring eleven. The casualties included high-ranking officers such as district administrator U Soe Tint, major Aung Kyaw Min, high clerk U Pyae Phyo Aung and GAD officer U Tun Tun Nyein. All of them were associated with the coup, one way or another. U Soe Tint was known for his cooperation with the regime leader Min Aung Hlaing on the rebuild of a Bagan Pagoda against the UNESCO guidelines during his reign as an administrator in Bagan. Since the attack, the regime’s forces have increased secruity in Myawaddy and start to block main roads past 6 pm.

  • Retired military colonel family targeted, woman killed in Kyaikto tsp, Mon State

An attack was carried out on the regime’s retired colonel family in Kyaikhto Township, Mon State. Unknown gunmen raied the house and opened fire on the family in the house located in Taungthusu Ward. The colonel is Aung Lwin, who is also a secretary of Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA), the military-sponsored extreme religious association. In the attack, the colonel’s wife Daw Khin Sandar Soe was shot dead and his son was injured in the eye, while the man himself was also wounded in the hand. The colonel is branded a Dalan in the region; he allegedly hunted and helped detain many pro-resistance people. 

  • PNO office building blasted in Thaton tsp, Mon State

An explosion took place in the office of Pa-oh National Office (PNO), the regime’s allied political party in Naungkalar Village, Thaton Township, Mon State. The early morning blast around 4.40 am injured five regime’s soldiers who were on security duty. Thaton PDF claimed responsibility for the attack as the regime’s regional ministers scheduled to be there soon for an organization trip. The PDF also said the mission was timed before the trip so that the explosion wouldn’t injure any civilians. 

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Political prisoners tortured in Mandalay’s Obo Prison

On September 5, Myanmar Political Prisoner Network (PPN) released news that 101 political prisoners who were transferred from Monywa Prison to Obo Prison were tortured on arrival. 90 male prisoners and 11 female prisoners were kicked in the face with military boots, beaten with sticks and tortured with vibrators and 50 of them were reportedly injured. It is unknown whether the injured detainees received medical treatment. The transfer of political prisoners took place on August 15 & 16.

  • Photojournalist received 20 years of jail time on the first court hearing

Myanmar Now’s photojournalist Sai Zaw Thaik received 20 years of imprisonment with hard labor on September 6. The photojournalist was arrested by the military council on May 23 as he was trying to document the post Cyclone Mocha situations in Sittwe. The verdict was announced in a court inside the Insein Prison, and initial reports stated that the military council pressed four charges against him: Article 27 of Natural Disaster Management Act, Penal Code 505-A for incitement, Article 66D of Telecommunication Law, and Penal Code 124. After his arrest, Ko Sai Zaw Thaik was interrogated for a week in both Sittwe and Yangon interrogation centers, and then he was remanded at South Dagon Township Court which is under martial law. Having been arrested for more than three months, his case was not heard, he was not allowed to have a lawyer, and received the sentence on the first court hearing. Currently, he is being detained in Insein Prison. 

  • SAC seized two grocery shops and arrested owners in Mandalay

On September 6, the regime’s forces raided two grocery shops and abducted owners in Mandalay. Honey Grocery, located on 30th street, between 81st and 82nd streets and Hua Htike Grocery, located on 33rd street, between 85 and 86 streets were seized. The military lobbyists said that the owners were detained for supporting the PDF but the families denied such accusations. Over two months, various businesses varying from private schools to stationery shops have been closed and owners have been arrested for associating with the PDF.

  • The regime’s airstrike on temporary school killed four and injured seven in Hpapon tsp, Karen State

On September 7, the regime’s forces conducted an aerial attack on the temporary learning center in Hteegawhta Village, Hpapon Township, Karen State. Three students such as Naw Htee Khoo Phaw, 16, Saw Elmoolar, 14 and Saw Bogyi, 13 and a teacher named Saw Phar Htar, 56 were killed in the incident while six more students and another teacher were wounded, according to Karen National Union (KNU). The learning space was provided by KNU for displace children from warfare. 

  • The regime bombed IDP camp in Pekhon tsp, Shan State

On the afternoon of September 8, the junta’s airforce bombed the Saung Phway Camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), located in Pekhon Township, the border of Shan and Karenni states. Around 1.10 pm, the regime’s fighter jet made three trips to drop five bombs on the camp. There was no casualty as the IDPs managed to run to the trench in time. It’s unknown why the military carried out such attack since no active battle was spotted nearby. Back on April 25, a similar assault had taken place on Saung Phway Hospital near the camp, killing a pregnant woman and injuring four including a nurse. 

  • The regime’s artillery killed father and child in Phyu tsp, Bago Region

On the afternoon of September 9, the junta’s toops’ indiscriminate shooting of artillery resulted in two deaths in Phyu Township, Bago Region. The fire fell in the house of a family, killing Ko Soe Lin, 37 and his son Mg Paing Chit Thaw, 5, on the spot in Layeainsu Village.

Armed Resistance

  • The regime’s army intensifed offensive to regain control of station in Kyaukkyi tsp, Bago Region

Between September 3 and September 5, a clash broke out between the regime’s military and the local resistance forces led by KNLA in Kyaukkyi Township, Bago Region. The junta’s troops has been reportedly attempting to take control of the Thitchaseik military station, which had once been theirs. On September 3, two-hour-long clash occurred in Ngahtwaysote Village, where 23 airstrikes were recorded. A villager was killed and six more were injured due to the aerial attacks and artillery firings. Another round of airstrikes took place on the morning of September 5, which killed a girl and injured three boys from the village. KNLA also suffered two injuries while the casualities from the regime were not verified yet. 

  • Four-day clash broke out in Shwebo tsp, Sagaing Region

Between September 4 and September 8, a battle took place between the regime’s army and local resistance forces near Shwebo Myoshaung Road in Shwebo Township, Sagaing Region. On the morning around 8 am on September 4, about 200 troops encountered a coalition of PDFs and a clash broke out. Another skirmish took place on September 5 that was followed by two-day-long clash. The regime’s army reportedly suffered one death and five injuries.

  • The regime’s raid on PDF station resulted in four PDF deaths in Monywa tsp, Sagaing Region

On the morning of September 6, the junta’s army conducted an offensive and seized a PDF station located in the south of Monywa Township, Sagaing Region. The troops entered the camp from four directions and carried out one-sided firing where six rangers were captured. The detainees were tied behind the backs before the soldiers opened fire on them. Four; namely Htet Gyi, 19, Ko Baw Bawbaw, 23, Cho Gyi, 24 and Sunny, 26 were killed in the process. Two others suffered critial injuries in the heads and backs. The junta’s men put the camp on fire on their way out. 

  • Battle broke out, caused casualties in Tamu tsp, Sagaing Region

The reigme’s army consisted of 100 troops have been reportedly clashing with the PDF since September 6 in Tamu Township. The fight broke out near Nanmontar Village, where the soldiers who came to conduct ground operation ran into the PDF rangers. Four regime soldiers were killed and three were injured while one PDF also died. Several clashes have taken place between two sides; however, few get reported due to the internet cut in the Tamu region, according to local sources.

  • PDF seized and burned down the regime’s station in Minhla tsp, Bago Region

On the late evening of September 9, a coalition of local PDFs mounted a counteroffensive on the regime’s Kharchintaung Station in Minhla Township, Bago Region. Although the regime’s troops attempted to respond, they ended up abandoning the camp after 30 mins of back and forth firing. The rangers went on to seize the weapons before burning the station down so that the junta’s soldiers can’t base there again. In that station, the regime’s police and soldiers used to camp and collect tax from the illegal loggers and rob phones and vehicles off of civilians who passed by the area.

  • The regime’s reinforcement ambushed by KIA in Laizar, Kachin State

On the afternoon of September 10, the regime’s convoy that were heading towards Laizar as reinforcement were intercepted with landmine detonation by KIA. The nine-vehicle convoy had opened fire throughout the journey to prevent such ambush however still one of the trucks caught fire due to the KIA’s attack. Following the incident, the regime’s army conducted indiscriminate shooting towards the nearby villages, hitting a school in Dawtphoneyan Village, injuring two teachers. Starting July, the regime has been carrying out an offensive near the KIA’s headquarter, located in Nangsamyan Village and since met with guerrilla attacks frequently. 

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, Mizzima News, Ayeyarwaddy Times, RFA Burmese, Narinjara

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