Weekly Update: 097

by mohingamatters

Folks, read this week’s update below.

Internal Politics

  • Self-administration needs prior approval from parliament, MAH says

Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing said that self-administration must be approved by the parliament in a security meeting held in Naypyitaw on January 26. He said this after the military regime had lost control of several regions in ethnic areas to ethnic armed groups and resistance forces. He emphasized that some demanded self-administration and self-determination outside of the legal system, but self-administration cannot be obtained with armed resistance. He added that this had also been discussed with representatives from political parties that registered to partake in his upcoming election. Currently, more than 30 townships in Northern Shan state, Kayah (Karenni) state, Kachin state, Sagaing region, Chin and Rakhine states are being controlled by ethnic armed groups and resistance forces where they developed self-administrative systems. A political analyst criticized that staging the coup three years ago was already unconstitutional and he illegally took power of the country. 

  • People Security Task Force to be formed

In the same meeting held in Naypyitaw, Min Aung Hlaing announced that the People Security Task Force will be formed so that civilians can inform the intelligence of resistance forces to the regime. Townships’ general administration departments and police forces will participate in these task forces and training will be provided. A source close to the regime’s Ministry of Home Affairs said that this is the regime’s attempt to form a militia group since the military is unable to recruit new soldiers. He said that the plan will start with recruitment of civilians in these task forces to gather intelligence, then they will provide basic military training to these recruits and then transfer them to militia groups. Currently, the regime has been forcefully recruiting civilians to participate in militia training in villages in Ayeyarwady, Bago regions and Naypyitaw. 

  • Wa and Kokang leaders held a meeting

It was reported that representatives from Kokang’s Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and United Wa state Army (UWSA) held a meeting in Pangsang, Wa self-administrative region on January 24. While MNDAA’s general secretary led the delegation, the group was received by UWSA’s deputy chairperson. One of the Wa top leaders told RFA Burmese that it was a visit before Chinese new year. However, political analyst U Than Naing Soe said that this meeting was to recognize the mutual aid and effort shared during Operation 1027 and to further discuss territorial control since the respective armed groups have gained control of their lands after the operation. 

  • The regime violates Haigan Agreement, Three Brotherhood Alliance says

On January 24, the Three Brotherhood Alliance issued a statement and said that the military regime has been violating the Haigan Agreement which was reached to ceasefire in Northern Shan state. The statement highlighted that the regime launched an attack in Mupan district with two of its columns resulting in one death from the MNDAA side. The regime’s forces in Nam Ton village, Lashio township also launched artillery shelling to the territory of Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). This marked the second violation of the Haigan Agreement as the regime’s forces already violated the first time on January 16. The statement also emphasized that the military’s violation of the agreement is also an insult to China which facilitated the ceasefire agreement. 

  • Power 54 to be auctioned on March 20

Kamarut District Court of Yangon Region has ordered the sale of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s house at No. 54 University Avenue in Bahan Township at an auction with a floor price of around 90 million US dollars. A person close to the court, who requested anonymity, told RFA that the order was previously made but this order made a decision on the date to implement the auction which will be on March 20. The house at No. (54) has long been disputed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her brother U Aung San Oo over the division of their inheritance. The house was awarded to Daw Khin Kyi by the government after the assassination of Bogyoke Aung San in 1947. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi lived in that house for almost 15 years when she was under house arrest during the previous military regime, and it is also a place where famous international leaders have visited.

  • The regime faces severe defeat, NUG says

On January 22, the National Unity Government announced that the military council had suffered a severe defeat, losing control of hundreds of military outposts in the conflicts confronted by ethnic armed groups and resistance forces. Due to its defeat, the military council used chemical weapons in its offensives in Shan-North. The statement also said that the people’s revolution has taken a different turn in late 2023 and that anti-regime forces have gained control of border trade in border areas with China, India and Thailand. The NUG pointed out that the military regime has been using conventional warfare tactics in northern Shan state, upper Rakhine state, and Karenni state while launching unconventional warfare tactics in other regions. 

Although the regime has not responded to the NUG’s statement, both local and international political analysts have pointed out that the resistance forces are taking upperhand in the warfront. 

International Affairs

  • Bangladesh and India alert as fighting intensified along the western border

As the clashes intensified in Rakhine state where Arakan Army (AA) besieged the regime’s outposts, Major General AKM Nazmul Hasan, Director-General of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), paid a visit to its borders with Rakhine state on January 18. During his visit, he instructed border guard units to check the defense systems and to remain vigilant for any illegal activity. A special meeting was held on January 17 at the administrative offices of Cox’s Bazar to discuss the increasing cases of smuggling of edible oil and food from coastal areas into Myanmar. On the other hand, India is also attempting to revoke the Free Movement Regime (FMR) agreement on the India-Myanmar Border. The FMR is a mutually agreed arrangement between India and Myanmar which allows citizens living along the border to travel up to 10 miles inside the other country without a visa. India’s Minister of Interior Amit Shah announced that the plan to build a 1000-mile long fence at its border with Myanmar, and that the central government is reassessing the FMR, which was agreed in 2018, with the possibility of terminating it eventually.

  • 569 Rohingyas lost or died at seas, UNHCR reports

UNHCR issued a statement on January 23 which stated that at least 569 Rohingya people were either lost or died in Southeast Asian waters while they fled Myanmar or Bangladesh by boats. The UN refugee agency also flagged the need for urgent action by the international community to address this situation. The statement highlighted that this number of deaths/losses marked the highest death at sea since 2014 when 730 individuals were lost/dead at sea. UNHCR also stated that survivors from these boat trips said that terrible human rights violations and exploitations including discrimination and sexual harassment took place during boat trips. About 66% of the passengers were women and children, and the majority of them embarked from Bangladesh.

  • Chinese ambassador met with the regime’s representatives in Naypyitaw

Chinese embassy in Myanmar announced that its ambassador Mr. Chen Hai held a meeting with the regime-appointed Deputy Foreign Minister U Than Swe in Naypyitaw on January 25. The meeting was also joined by Lt General Tun Tun Naung from the Ministry of Border Affairs and U Aung Naing Oo from the Union Government Office (1). The meeting took place after the Three Brotherhood Alliance had announced that the regime violated the Haigan Agreement. In the Chinese Embassy’s statement, they discussed combating online frauds, ensuring the stability at border areas, and enhancing the China-Myanmar projects. 

  • More than 100 Myanmar workers arrested in Malaysia

On the night of January 23, Malaysian immigration and police conducted a raid in Serinbang, resulting in the arrest of numerous foreign nationals, including over a hundred Myanmar citizens. According to reports from Myanmar residents in Malaysia, a total of 628 foreigners were apprehended during the operation, prompted by complaints about the presence of undocumented immigrants in the area. Among those detained were 79 individuals from Myanmar, along with 26 women and four children from Bangladesh, totaling 109 individuals. Additionally, citizens from Indonesia, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka were also reportedly involved. Myanmar workers in Malaysia further relayed that a 35-year-old Burmese woman sustained injuries while attempting to evade arrest by jumping from a two-story building during the raid. While the Malaysian government had previously permitted them to apply for legal residency and work permits until December 2023, the number of arrests has continued to rise thereafter.

Business Matters

  • Report reveals widespread labor abuses in Myanmar’s garment industry

A report released by the UK-based Human Rights Watch (BHRRC) in November 2023 highlighted 314 instances of labor and human rights abuses across 175 garment factories from the period of the coup to July 2023. Women, in particular, are disproportionately affected, as reported by labor advocates. The Federation of Garment Workers Myanmar (FGWM) identified the most severe violations as instances where pregnant women are coerced into forced labor, resulting in miscarriages. Despite the garment industry being a primary source of foreign revenue in the domestic economy, workers receive meager wages, with some earning as little as 4,800 to 5,800 kyats. Common violations of labor rights include wage exploitation, wrongful termination, excessive overtime, harassment, and coercion in hazardous conditions. In addition, there are many other undocumented rights violations that remain undocumented, the BHRRC report said.

  • International clothing brands exit Myanmar amidst labor rights concerns

In the three years following the military coup, 12 international clothing brands have exited Myanmar, halting their garment orders. Previously, there were at least 80 clothing brands operating in Myanmar factories. According to research by Myanmar Now, the departing brands hailed from eight different countries and were well-known names in the industry. Some brands departed immediately after the coup, while others phased out gradually as they monitored the situation. Among the departing brands are C&A and Lidl from Germany, Tesco and Marks & Spencer from Britain, Aldi South from Austria, Zara and Mango from Spain, Benetton Group from Italy, Primark from Ireland, H&M from Sweden, and Uniqlo from Japan. A member of the Myanmar Garment Manufacturers Association, speaking anonymously for security reasons, told Myanmar Now that the exit of international brands has significantly impacted factory operations. “Many CMP (Cut-Make-Pack) factories are facing a shortage of orders, making it difficult to sustain operations. Consequently, numerous factories are forced to downsize, and some may even be forced to shut down,” he stated. Although specific details about sewing orders across all garment factories in Myanmar are not available, he noted that long-term contracts are no longer prevalent as they were before the coup, leading to heightened pressure on factory operations.

  • Gold prices surge in Myanmar amid dollar fluctuations

On January 23, in the international gold market, the price of one kyat of pure gold surpassed 3,800,000 kyats, while the exchange rate for the US dollar hovered around 3,500 kyats for 1 dollar. Although the domestic gold market opened below 3,800,000 kyats in the morning, it continued to climb, reaching 3,825,000 kyats by evening. A gold shop owner in Yangon attributed the increase to rising global gold and dollar prices, noting that trading activity remained steady. Despite the Central Bank of the military council’s frequent announcements of selling US dollars in the domestic foreign currency market, the exchange rate had remained stable at around 3,450 kyats to 1 dollar until last week, but has started to fluctuate in recent days.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Civilians in Ye-U fled as the regime’s troops entered villages 

Residents of Sagaing region reported that nearly five thousand civilians from eight villages have fled their homes due to the military council’s troops entering the northern part of Ye-U Township since January 26. A local resident mentioned that a military column consisting of over 100 troops was stationed in Pan Gone and Sat Thay villages. “Pan Gone and Sat Thay villages are located adjacent to the Ye U-Taze road. The troops were split into two groups and stationed in these two villages.” This column belongs to the regime’s Light Infantry Battalion 708 and has been operating in Ye Oo Township since January 15.

  • More than 10,000 civilians in Khin Oo fled due to the arrival of the regime’s troops

Residents of Khin Oo township in Sagaing region reported that nearly 10,000 civilians have fled from their villages in Khin Oo Township since January 24. Two military columns, comprising nearly two hundred personnel each, simultaneously conducted raids on the villages of Yay Aye Gone in the southern part of Khin Oo Township and Kyaukse Kan village in the northern part. A refugee aid worker in Khin Oo Township informed RFA that residents from villages like Leppangyi and Kyaukse Kan are among those fleeing. “Two columns of over 200 personnel are advancing towards Khin Oo from the south and the north. This column arrived yesterday from Mandalay with twenty armored vehicles and personnel from the No. 8 Shwebo training school to reinforce the troops. They are currently entering the villages, so the situation is still under observation.” He mentioned that the locals are currently seeking refuge in villages near the paddy fields and farms.

  • More than 100,000 civilians fled Sisai township as the regime retaliated PNLA

Residents in Southern Shan State report that over 100,000 people from Sisai township have fled their homes. Due to an attack by the Pao National Liberation Army (PNLA), which seized control of the local police station, the military council retaliated by launching airstrikes on the area. The PNLA captured the police station on the evening of January 24, and the military council carried out six airstrikes between then and the afternoon of January 25. Two civilians were injured during the two-day conflict, prompting the evacuation of more than 100,000 residents, according to a rescue worker.

  • More than 10 Rohingyas dead in Buthidaung due to the regime’s artillery shelling

According to Ko Aung Myaing from the Bangladesh Rohingya Refugee Camp, who was in contact with Buthidaung Township residents, 12 Rohingya individuals lost their lives due to an artillery shelling conducted by the military council in Phon Nyo Laik village, Rakhine State. Ko Aung Myain retold the accounts from locals, indicating intense clashes between the military council and the AA in Rakhine State. When the AA entered Phon Nyo Laik village, the military deployed heavy weaponry, resulting in civilian casualties and property destruction. Additionally, on January 26, a 23-year-old Muslim woman was killed, and seven villagers injured as Light Infantry Battalion 203 opened fire near Kyar Nyo Pyin village, Buthidaung Township. The Three Brotherhood Alliance denounced the military council’s aggressive actions, alleging unprovoked attacks.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Properties

  • Ward administer/Pyu Saw Htee recruiter attacked in Wundwin tsp, Mandalay Region

In Wundwin Township, Mandalay Region, Wundwin Township Revolution Force reported the shooting of Nabekan village’s administrator, U Kyaw Shin, around 3:30 am on January 24. According to the force, he was shot twice while riding his motorcycle into the village. U Kyaw Shin, known for extorting money from villagers and forcing them into unwanted military courses under Pyu Saw Htee group, is currently receiving medical treatment at Meiktila Hospital. The revolutionary force accused him of collecting unauthorized fees and causing arrests in the community.

  • PDF arrested ward administrator in Salin tsp, Magway Region

In Salin Township, Magway Region, the leader of Pyu Saw Htee and the regime-appointed ward administrator from Khinpalu Village, U Hla Myo Win, aged 50, was arrested on January 24 by No. 6 PDF Battalion and Daung Nyi Naung Urban Guerrilla Force. The arrest was made in response to complaints of oppression, abuse, and collaboration with the regime’s troops from the community. U Hla Myo Win is also accused of being involved in militia recruitment. A shootout occurred during the arrest between Pyu Saw Htee members and resistance rangers, but there were no reported casualties. U Hla Myo Win is currently under interrogation in Minbu District, No. 6 PDF Battalion custody.

  • Military-appointed ward administrator shot dead in Yenangyaung tsp, Magway Region

In Yenangyaung Township, a junta-appointed ward administrator, 53-year-old U Maung Cho, was shot and killed near his home around 9 am on January 26 in Magway Region. A local defense group targeted U Maung Cho, who was associated with the regime. The incident occurred as some residents were arrested for allegedly contacting PDF forces, under the guise of providing support after U Maung Cho had informed the regime’s men. The specific group responsible for the shooting has not been officially identified.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Five hostages tortured and killed, one subject to gang-rape in Depayin tsp, Sagaing Region

A horrifying incident occurred in Depayin Township, Sagaing Region, as approximately 85 regime forces abducted around 60 people from MaeOo Village, taking 15 as hostages during their march. In the aftermath, five victims, including legal staff of the NUG Ma Khin Hnin Htay, were found dead, bearing signs of torture and brutality in nearby Latyatkone Village. Ko Zaw Win, Ko Tun, and Ko Aung Myint Kyaw suffered a gruesome fate with their body parts scattered in the village. Ma Khin Hnin Htay, believed to be gang-raped, was burned alive along with her house, while Ko Zin Min Nyunt @ Tar Pu was found dead with his throat cut open. The well-being of the remaining hostages is unknown.

  • Another political prisoner died due to poor medical treatment in Magway Prison

The Magway University Student Union reported that 22-year-old political prisoner Ma Su May Aung, detained in Magway Prison, died on January 22 due to inadequate medication. Ma Su May Aung, a former chemistry honors student at Magway University, had been sentenced to 15 years under Section 50 (j) of the Counter-Terrorism Act for supporting PDFs. Suffering from skin, liver, and heart diseases, she passed away during emergency treatment at Magwe Hospital. Ma Su May Aung became the third detainee who died from the lack of proper treatment inside the regime’s prisons in 2024. The families of the victims were forced to keep silent about the incidents.

  • Sangha Union Secretary Monk died of interrogation wounds in Mandalay

Locals report that Bishop U Wayama, the secretary of the Sangha Union in Mataya Township, Mandalay Region, passed away on January 20 while undergoing treatment for injuries sustained after being arrested and interrogated by the regime’s forces. The 70-year-old abbot, known for his kindness, was arrested in his monastery in Htanpinkone Village on November 12, 2023. A week later, he was reportedly found injured near Oaksepok village, seven miles from Htanpinkone Village. Villagers sent him to Mandalay for treatment, but he succumbed to his injuries two months later. The regime alleged the prominent monk had supported the PDF, but the locals disputes this claim, describing him as an impartial and positive figure to the community.

  • Regime ordered night watch in Yangon, residents forced to pay for absence

Residents in Shwe Pytha and Hlaing Tharyar townships in Yangon are being ordered by the regime’s ward administrators to keep night watch from the end of January to February. Notices issued on January 24 indicate that each household must appoint one person for the night watch, with residents reporting a fee of 3,000 kyats per day for those unable to fulfill this duty. Previously, only sidecar drivers were assigned night watch duties in Shwe Pyi Thar Township, but the administrators have expanded the mandate to include all residents, including women, elderly individuals, and minor children.

  • At least 20 airstrikes reported on Sisaing Town, Shan State

The Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLA) reported that on January 25, the regime had conducted approximately 20 airstrikes on the town of Hsi Hseng in southern Shan State. According to the PNLA Information Department’s statement on social media, the attacks involved Y12 planes and resulted in extensive damage to the homes of the Pa-O people. While specific details of the damage were not disclosed, the statement mentioned that Hsi Hseng town and four villages were targeted, with more than 100 bombs dropped, including a 500-pound bomb. Hsi Hseng Town is located between, the Karenni region, where the fighting is fierce and Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State. Reports said that PNLA and Karenni Resistance Forces had attacked the regime’s stations in the town on January 25.

  • Regime conducted airstrikes consecutively on Yanbye Town, Rakhine State

Residents in Yanbye Town, southern Rakhine State, reported that the regime’s air force has been conducting airstrikes on the town for the third consecutive day on January 26. The naval forces were also involved in the battle against the Arakan Army (AA), and fires have been observed from afar as residents are not allowed inside. Yanbye Town located on Yanbye Island, along with Kyaukphyu and Taunggok townships, is facing an intensified conflict between the junta’s forces and AA.

Armed Resistance  

  • Mabeim Town fell under KIA and PDF in Mongmit tsp, Shan State (north)

On January 20, the Kachin Liberation Army (KIA) and the PDF launched an attack and successfully took control of Mabeim Town in Mongmit district. The battle to capture the town began at 5 am, and after the surrender of the police station and an attack on the security outpost (military hill), the town was reportedly brought under control. The conflict was intense, with aerial bombings by the regime causing casualties among residents. Despite the challenges, some residents managed to evacuate before the fighting, leaving only a few trapped individuals behind. As of around 9 am, gunshots were no longer heard in the area.

  • KIA took over outpost, captured regime battalion commander in Mansi tsp, Kachin State

The Kachin Liberation Army (KIA) reported that they successfully attacked and seized a regime outpost near Manwengyi village on January 21 in Mansi Township, Kachin State. The joint forces of the KIA conducted a three-day assault from January 19 to 21, resulting in the capture of 30 junta soldiers, including a deputy battalion commander. The spokesperson for KIA stated that the fate of the prisoners of war remains uncertain, and they are currently held under the International Prisoner of War Act. In the battle, over ten dead bodies of regime soldiers were found, and more than 50 reportedly fled to the Chinese side.

  • KIA occupied Namphatka station in Kutkai tsp, Shan State (north)

The spokesperson for the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), reported that the KIA successfully captured the regime’s camp in Namphatka village, Kutkai Township, Shan State (north). The station, manned by 200 regime troops, is a strategically significant location for controlling the Lashio-Muse highway in northern Shan State. The takeover, occurring on January 24, followed nearly a month of intense fighting initiated by the KIA’s Brigades 6 and 10 along with KPDF, against the regime’s Light Infantry Unit 123 stationed in Namphatka. Namphatka sits between the 105-mile trade zone controlled by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Muse Township.

  • Resistance forces captured first regime station in Tanintharyi Region

The National Unity Government (NUG)’s Ministry of Defense reported that on January 24, the allied forces successfully captured the regime’s Kyaukhtu outpost in the Ban Chaung area of Dawei Township, Tanintharyi Region. In the operation led by the Karen National Union (KNU) forces and the PDF, eight junta soldiers were captured, and fifteen more were killed with two wounded during the battle. The alliances also confiscated weapons and ammunition in the operation. The Kyauktu Outpost, that had been held by the regime since 1998, becomes the first station under the resistance forces’ control in the Tanintharyi Region.

  • Regime’s men abandoned long-serving stations in Taungoo tsp, Bago Region

On January 27, the Karen National Union (KNU) announced that the regime troops had abandoned three military camps, including Htinshuutaung Camp, Busakhi Camp, and Theemupawsoe Camp, which were located in territories controlled by the KNU for 28 years in Taungoo District, Bago. The KNU said that the junta troops left the camps individually between January 13 and 15, and on January 20, KNU set fire to all three abandoned camps. The camps were deserted as the KNU forces successfully cut off and blocked the food supply routes to these locations.

  • KNDF captured Mawchi Town, Karenni State

On the morning of January 28, the Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF) announced that joint forces had successfully taken control of Mawchi town in Farsaung  Township in Karenni (Kayah) State. According to a KNDF official, the regime troops from various camps and checkpoints in the Mawchi region withdrew without any fighting. The KNDF forces attacked and captured the junta’s mountain camp and No. 2 camp at the entrance to the city of Mawchi on January 27. The KNDF now claims full control over the entire Mawchi area.

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, RFA Burmese, DVB Burmese, Irrawaddy, Myaelatt Athan

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