Weekly Update: 098

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, Min Aung Hlaing’s attempt to stage a coup has now entered its third year. As evident on the battleground, the end of the regime’s dominance in Myanmar seems closer than ever. However, the regime persists in executing routine tasks to maintain its hold on power. It has extended the state of emergency by another six months and continues preparations for upcoming elections. Reports indicate an expansion of prisons nationwide, suggesting a potential increase in political imprisonments. These routine actions underscore the regime’s determination to retain control. We must also continue routine tasks like funding the resistance and boycotting military-sponsored entities to enable the revolutionary forces to counterbalance the junta’s heavy firepower and its allies. Read the highlights below:

Internal Affairs

  • Min Aung Hlaing handed online scam suspects, including his allies to China

On January 30, the regime’s police handed over six key leaders of Kokang telecom fraud gangs and four other major criminal suspects to China, according to China’s Ministry of Public Security. The suspects, including Bai Suocheng, a former chair of the military-backed Kokang Special Administrative Zone and an ally of Min Aung Hlaing, were escorted back to China via a charter flight landing in Kunming. Bai Suocheng, a former lawmaker in the military’s proxy political party, had a warrant issued against him by China in December for involvement in online scams. His son, Bai Yingcang, a local militia leader, was among those handed over. Another leader, Wei Huairen (Wei San), heads the Kokang Border Guard Force, a junta-backed local militia. The junta’s handover of alleged scam leaders to China represents its will to comply with pressure from China.

  • Regime extended emergency period amid stability and election preparations

In a recent National Defense and Security Council meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing proposed and received unanimous approval to extend Myanmar’s state of emergency for an additional six months. Concerns about normalcy were cited as the reason for the extension. Min Aung Hlaing addressed various issues, including recent terrorist attacks and online fraud, alongside preparations for the upcoming election. Article 417 of the 2008 Constitution states that the military has the right to declare a one-year state of emergency. If the “Chief of Defense” deems the country still unstable, an extension of two additional six-month periods can be requested under Article 425. However, this marks the fifth time the emergency period has been extended, citing the abnormal situation.

  • NUG and EROs issued joint statement

On January 31, the National Unity Government (NUG) and ethnic revolutionary organizations, including the Karen National Union (KNU), Chin National Front (CNF), and Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), issued a joint statement. Their shared vision aims to establish a federal democratic union with national equality and self-determination. The statement outlines six key political directions, focusing on ending regime military involvement, placing armed forces under a civilian government, abolishing the 2008 constitution, drafting a new, universally acceptable constitution, building a new union, and ensuring justice for conflict victims. This collective effort aims to pressure the regime, potentially leading to discussions on power transfer, ending the coup, forming a transitional government, and rebuilding the nation. The statement also emphasizes multi-sector coordination mechanisms for implementing agreements and collaboration with the revolutionary alliance.

  • NUG blacklisted UMFCCI president and executives for rights violations

On January 29, the National Unity Government (NUG) declared the blacklisting of 64 central executives, including U Aye Win, President of the Union of Myanmar Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), for direct involvement in labor and human rights violations alongside the military council. The statement specified that these businessmen must appeal to the NUG within 90 days, affirming the termination of any ties with the military council. Failure to submit an appeal while continuing involvement with UMFCCI will be interpreted as support for the military council. Such individuals will face consequences under existing anti-terrorism laws and regulations, according to the announcement.

  • Chinland Council announced formation of 15-ministry government

Following the second meeting in Chinlong from January 30th to 31st, the Chinland Council officially declared the formation of the Chinland government on February 1. The new government, including the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative, and House of Representatives, was established in accordance with the directives from the first Chin State Council meeting. Aimed at addressing current challenges during the revolution, Pu Pa Thang assumes the role of Prime Minister, leading a cabinet comprising 15 ministries such as Foreign Affairs, Defense, Interior, Education, and Health.

  • Kim Aris received mother Aung San Suu Kyi’s handwritten letter

U Htein Lin, also known as Kim Aris, recently shared updates on his mother Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s condition. He said he received a photo of her handwritten letter through the British Foreign Office, where she expressed love for the family and reassured them that she was holding it together. While her health has declined, her spirit remains strong, according to U Htein Lin. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi continues to be held in isolation in Nay Pyi Taw prison. Concerns about her health were raised late last year when she faced challenges in eating, and her request to consult an external doctor was denied. Currently serving a 27-year sentence, she has 14 years remaining.

International Affairs

  • Non-political official from regime attended ASEAN meeting

Japan’s Kyodo News reported on January 28 that a high-ranking, non-political official from the regime attended the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Laos. Since the coup, ASEAN has barred representatives of the junta, including the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, from attending its meetings. ASEAN’s stance has been to allow only non-political individuals to represent Myanmar, a condition the regime initially rejected. Now, three years after the military coup, the junta has decided to send a high-ranking official who is not related to politics. The meeting, hosted by Laos, the current ASEAN chairman, is taking place in Luang Prabang over two days.

  • Bangladesh protested about artillery fire from Myanmar

On January 29, the Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS) news agency reported that Bangladesh sent a letter of protest to Myanmar in response to heavy artillery fire from the Myanmar side. Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB) reportedly issued a protest letter to Myanmar after 13 artillery shells and one bullet landed in Cox’s Bazar on the Bangladesh side. Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Hasan Mahmud, expressed concern, stating that they are closely monitoring the situation. He emphasized that border guards are on high alert, and communication with the Myanmar government is ongoing. Dr. Hasan Mahmood said the landed ammunition was from the ongoing conflict between the regime’s military and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State.

  • US, EU & co called for inclusive dialogue in Myanmar

On February 1, the United States, European Union, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, and Switzerland jointly issued a statement, three years after the military coup in Myanmar. The collective plea urged a forum for dialogue that includes all stakeholders to address the following objectives: redirecting the military and the Commander-in-Chief of Defense’s objectives, halting violence against civilians, releasing political prisoners, and allowing full humanitarian assistance. The statement, aligned with the sentiments expressed by the UN Secretary General’s spokesperson, emphasizes the international community’s call to pave the way for a civilian-ruled democratic transition.

  • US Senator Ben Cardin met with NUG representatives

On the 3rd anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar, US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Ben Cardin met with representatives of the NUG, including Foreign Minister Daw Zin Ma Aung, on February 1. In the meeting, they discussed the resilience of the Myanmar people in their fight for democracy against oppressive military forces. Chairman Ben Cardin expressed admiration for the bravery of the people and engaged in conversations with Daw Zin Ma Aung regarding further support from the United States. Chairman Ben Cardin played a pivotal role in advocating for the BURMA Act, a draft of US aid to the Burmese people.

  • UK imposed sanctions on regime’s military units and businesses 

On February 1, the United Kingdom took decisive action against two infantry units and two military-affiliated businesses implicated in severe human rights violations and the oppression of civilians. The sanctioned entities include No. (101) Infantry Division, No. (77) Infantry Division, and two mining companies, No. (1) and No. (2) owned by the regime. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron emphasized the mounting pressure on the junta to cease its brutal oppression of the people of Myanmar in a released statement. Over the past three years since the military coup, the United Kingdom has imposed sanctions on a total of 25 individuals and 33 businesses affiliated with the regime.

  • Australia imposed sanctions on regime-related businesses

Australia has taken necessary measures by blocking five regime-related businesses, including the Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and Myanmar Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB). Economic sanctions have been imposed on Asia Sun Group, Asia Sun Trading Co Ltd, and Cargo Link Petroleum Logistics Co Ltd, all being responsible for importing jet fuel for the junta. Human rights activists have alleged that a dozen Australian-linked mining companies still operate in Myanmar.

Business Matters

  • Regime to introduce direct payment system in Kyats in Rupees in February 

On January 26, Daw Than Than Swe, Chairman of the Central Bank of the regime council, announced the implementation of a direct payment system in kyats and rupees starting in February for Myanmar-India bilateral trade. The Special Rupee Vostro Account (SRVA) will be utilized for this purpose, with UAB Bank and CB Bank handling payments in Kyat and Rupee on the Myanmar side, and Punjab National Bank chosen for the Indian side. The move is expected to reduce the dependency on US dollars for the payment of medicines and goods imported from India, resulting in mutual benefits for both countries.

  • Doubts raised over regime’s pledge to protect Russian investments 

During the fourth Russia-Myanmar Economic Forum in Moscow on January 27, the regime’s Union Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Communications Dr. Kan Zaw claimed that Russian investments in Myanmar would be fully protected by the regime council. However, members of the UMFCCI expressed skepticism, stating to RFA that such assurances seem impractical. A UMFCCI member pointed to the challenges faced in protecting international factories, including those with ties to the military council, in the three years since the coup. The member questioned the military council’s ability to safeguard even its own forces, let alone foreign investors.

  • CBM sold USD 18 million within first two days of February

In the first week of February, the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) under the regime council sold USD 18 million and 50 million Thai baht. On February 1, the CBM sold USD 13 million into the market, followed by the announcement of the sale of USD 5 million and 50 million Thai baht to exporters and importers through the Online Trading Platform on February 2. In January, the CBM provided USD 68.33 million, 313.5 million Thai baht, and 4.2 million Chinese yuan in the foreign exchange market. While the junta resumed issuing and selling foreign currency in the domestic market at the end of 2023, foreign currency prices, including the US dollar, and gold prices continue to rise.

  • Junta increased edible oil reference price, but huge gap with actual market still exists

The Committee for the Supervision of Edible Oil Import, Storage, and Distribution, under the regime council, has increased the basic wholesale reference price of edible oil to 5,380 kyats per viss. Initially set at 4,955 kyats in the first week of January, the reference price saw a significant rise to 5,380 kyats in the last week of the month, reflecting an increase of over 420 Myanmar kyats per viss in just one month. Consumer reports from Yangon indicate that the actual price has surged to around 6,000 kyats per viss in reality. In the Ayeyarwaddy Region, a gap of nearly 4,000 kyats exists between the committee’s palm oil price and the actual market rate.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Pauktaw residents sought mine clearance for safe return in Rakhine State

Residents who fled the conflict in Pauktaw Town, Rakhine State are eager to return home but are faced with the challenge of unexploded mines in the area. Since November 16, 2023, due to ongoing clashes between the Arakan Army (AA) and the regime’s army, the residents of Pauktaw were compelled to evacuate the town. Despite the junta’s air raids and heavy weapons attacks, the AA declared on January 24 that they had gained control of the entire town. However, concerns about the presence of numerous mines in the city raise fears among residents, emphasizing the need for mine clearance for a safe return.

  • Over 10,000 residents displaced due to military presence in Kyunhla tsp, Sagaing Region

On the night of January 29, over 10,000 residents from more than 10 nearby villages in Sagaing Region were forced to flee to safety as more than 300 regime troops arrived in Kyunhla town. The evacuation included nearly 600 houses, affecting the village of Nyaung Kine with a population of over 2,500 people. Additionally, villages such as Hlut Tite, Thaphan Seik, Inn Goung, Kyartakan, Innhla, and Mya Hnit witnessed a mass exodus as residents sought refuge in response to the military presence.

  • Over 1,000 people displaced in Yesagyo tsp, Magway Region

Between January 28 and January 31, residents reported that around 300 soldiers of the regime engaged in a patrolling operation in Yesagyo Township, Mayway Region involving shootings, arrests, and the burning of villages. Several villages witnessed a total of more than 1,000 residents fleeing the area to escape the military actions. Many were also captured by the soldiers in the process, and although women and elderly individuals were released, men were still being held hostage. 

  • Urgent assistance needed for over 300 fleeing Pyu Saw Htee in Gantgaw tsp, Magway Region

An official from the township administrative body formed by the PDF reported that more than 300 individuals who fled from Myauk Khin Yan, a Pyu Saw Htee Village, in Gantgaw Township, Magway Region, are in desperate need of assistance. These residents sought refuge between December and January 28, and they are currently being supported by the township’s administrative body. Urgent financial assistance is required to provide them with temporary shelter and essential sustenance.

  • Mass escape from Malaysian detention center resulted in tragedy.

On February 1, a group of 16 Myanmar nationals and 115 Rohingya individuals fled from a temporary detention center in Malaysia’s Perak state. Tragically, during their escape, one person was hit by a car on the highway and lost their life. The escapees, consisting of 16 Myanmar nationals and 115 Rohingyas, had been detained due to the lack of identification. Malaysian authorities, in collaboration with local police teams, are actively working to apprehend the individuals who fled.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • Bomb attacks hit regime troops in Yangon townships

Residents reported bomb blasts on January 31 and February 1 in three townships in Yangontargeting military regime troops. On February 1, a joint attack by the Western District Wing of PDF and the Yangon Army (YA) involved a high-intensity remote control bomb exploding near junta traffic police in Hlaing Thaya Township. In North Okkalapa Township on January 31, the township PDF detonated three high-intensity bombs near the roundabout, injuring two soldiers. Simultaneously, in Kyimyindaing Township on January 31, two bomb blasts occurred targeting the regime’s forces as part of Operation Flame (OF) by the KMD18 group, expressing solidarity with oppressed comrades in the three-year resistance against the military coup.

  • Sergeant and father fatally shot in amubsh near Kawthoung tsp, Tanintharyi Region

At 10:30 am on February 1, a car carrying a sergeant and his father was ambushed and shot on the road in Mar Yan Village, Kawthoung Township, Tanintharyi Region. The sergeant, identified as Nay Soe Oo, from the Kawthaung Special Branch (news force), was escorting his father to their home in Mar Yan Village when the attack occurred. Both were shot on the roadside and lost their lives instantly. Sources close to the police confirmed that Sergeant Nay Soe Oo of the Special Branch (SB) was working undercover in Mar Yan Village, situated on the Thai-Myanmar border. It remains unknown who was responsible for the attack.

  • Police station in Bago region hit by drop bomb attack

At 8:30 pm on February 1, the police station in Nyaung Chay Htauk area, Oaktwin Township, Bago Region, was targeted in a drop bomb attack. Two explosions injured the patrol commander and a soldier. The incident prompted increased security measures with regime soldiers securing the area, according to local sources. The injured officers are now receiving treatment.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Businesses banned and civilians arrested for joining silent strike in Yangon and Mandalay

Numerous businesses and civilians in Yangon and Mandalay faced reprisals from the regime’s forces for participating in a nationwide silent strike protesting the third anniversary of the military coup. In Mandalay, over 80 shops in the Kyaukwine (gems trading area) were suspended for six months and fined 300,000 to 700,000 MMK for closing on February 1. The regime also detained more than three civilians, including an English tutor, U Kyaw Soe U, aged 48. In Yangon, plain-clothed police detained three youths capturing images of empty streets during the strike in North Oakkapa township. Additionally, regime officials were observed photographing closed restaurants in Kyimyindaing and Hlaing townships.

  • Four including a 5-year-old killed by regime artillery in Mohnyin tsp, Kachin State

Four local residents, including a 5-year-old child, lost their lives in Nanma, Mohnyin Township, Kachin State, due to artillery fire from the junta. On January 28, the regime’s artillery unit 367 in Nanma town conducted continuous artillery shelling towards Nyaung Pintha Village, approximately 9 miles east of Nanma town. The shelling affected several villages, including Kathae Kone and Taung Inn, resulting in the death of a 45-year-old woman and a 5-year-old child. The mother died immediately while the child succumbed to injuries at the hospital.

  • Former political prisoner Ma Nobel Aye arrested in Bago Region

Ma Nobel Aye, a former political prisoner and 96-generation student, was arrested on the night of January 29 in Waw Township, Bago Region, by the regime’s forces. She was detained along with a man after the regime’s X-ray scanners reportedly detected weapons in their truck at the Nyaungkharshay Inspection Gate. As of January 31, her family has had no contact with her. Ma Nobel Aye, who has a history of political activism and was previously imprisoned in 1996 and 2007, is reportedly suffering from cancer, causing concerns for her well-being. She had been actively involved in resisting the military dictatorship following the 2021 coup, according to sources close to her.

  • Regime airstrike killed seven in Paletwa tsp, Chin State

In a recent regime airstrike on Paletwa Township, Chin State, local reports confirm the death of seven civilians on January 29 at approximately 1:00 p.m. The attack targeted the village of Hon, situated on the banks of the Laymyo River between the Arakan Army (AA)–controlled Paletwa and the town of Mintat, under the control of the Chin Revolutionary Forces. The casualties included six residents of Kyote Village in Min Tat Township and one person from Dai Chaung Village in Paletwa Township. All were reportedly engaged in oil trading along the riverbank. 

  • Regime’s soldiers abducted and killed five young men in Myingyan tsp, Mandalay Region

Five young men from Taungtha Township were reportedly arrested and subsequently killed by the regime’s soldiers on the night of January 27 in Myingyan Township, Mandalay Region. The victims, aged between 19 and 25, had reportedly gone to Myingyan Town to sing karaoke, more than 10 miles from Taungtha. The lifeless bodies of the victims, with their hands tied, were discovered near the entrance to Makyee Thamhyarr Village, approximately one-mile southeast of Myingyan. According to the residents of that village, a car carrying soldiers arrived near the village at midnight on January 27 and took them away. Reason behind the killings remain unknown.

  • Satellite images revealed prison expansions countrywide

An analysis by Myanmar Witness on the third anniversary of the military coup has uncovered satellite images revealing new buildings in various prisons across the country. These expansions, not officially announced by the regime, raise fears that thousands of pro-democracy activists will be targeted and imprisoned. The imagery, spanning from before the 2021 coup to 2024, indicates major expansions or new constructions at 27 out of Myanmar’s 59 prisons including Yangon’s Insein and Mandalay’s Obo prisons. The extensive prison-building program suggests a concerning development in suppressing the pro-democracy movement in the country.

Armed Resistance

  • NUG defense minister and KIA commander visited captured-camps in Mansi tsp, Kachin State

In the third week of January, U Yee Mon, the Defense Minister of the National Unity Government (NUG), and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)’s Commander-in-Chief Lt. Gen Khao Loong visited the KIA-occupied camp hills in the Manweingyi area of Mansi Township, Kachin State. The NUG reported on January 27 that captured military equipment from the battle would be provided to revolutionary comrades. During the visit, the NUG minister inspected villages, and military equipment, and met with captured prisoners of war and defected staff in Kachin State.

  • KNU and alliances shot down another fighter jet in Karen State

At least five regime officers, including a brigadier general, were killed in a helicopter crash in Myawaddy Township, Karen State on January 29. The Karen National Union (KNU), the political wing of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), claimed responsibility for shooting down the helicopter. Brig-Gen Aye Min Naung, serving as the newly assigned commander for the Myanmar army’s Light Infantry Division 44, was among the deceased. The KNU reported three majors and a captain killed in the crash, with another officer injured. The Cobra Column, an ally of the KNLA, also claimed responsibility for downing the aircraft and released video footage of the Eurocopter being fired on with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

  • Regime’s forces regained control of Sisaing Town, Shan State (south)

In southern Shan State, the regime’s forces, alongside the Pa-O National Organization (PNO), reclaimed control of Infantry Regiments 423 and 424 in Sisaing Town on January 30. On January 26, the Karenni Resistance Forces and the PDF alliance targeted and occupied various military council installations in Sisai City, including police stations, courts, and bases, belonging to the regime and the Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLA). Following these attacks, the regime’s air force carried out airstrikes, prompting the PDF, and Karenni forces to withdraw. For the time being, the junta’s forces, supported by the PNO, have regained control of the two battalions and reinforced their defense with additional forces from the Sisaing police station.

  • Min Aung Hlaing hinted at cooperation with neighbors to fight KNU

During a meeting held in Nay Pyi Taw on January 31 to extend the term of the military council, the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing accused the Karen National Union (KNU) of involvement in online scams and people smuggling. He also suggested the possibility of collaborating with neighboring countries to address such “threat”. Min Aung Hlaing claimed evidence of such activities near the Thai-Myanmar border town of Myawaddy in Karen State. While not explicitly naming the countries, it is speculated that the reference was directed towards China and Thailand, given recent meetings with their military officials. Min Aung Hlaing further labeled the KNU’s actions as terrorist acts aimed at justifying political differences.

  • More than a dozen regime casualties recorded in Myingyan tsp, Mandalay Region

At least 15 regime soldiers were injured/killed in an evening skirmish on February 2 in Myingyan Township, Mandalay Region. The casualty toll was confirmed by eyewitness accounts, according to a Nahtoegyi PDF official who participated in the battle. A coalition of resistance forces attacked the regime’s station, approximately 20-strong, in the Sanpya Village school, leading to a 45-minute battle. The statement mentioned the capture of three MA-1-type guns and one carbine-type gun. Unfortunately, a ranger named Kalar Lay @ Wine Chit Min from Myingyan Black Tiger force lost his life while he attempted to seize a gun. The Myingyan Black Tiger group expressed the challenges they face in acquiring weapons due to reduced donations and support, leading some groups to sacrifice lives to seize enemy resources.

  • Regime forces retreated after unsuccessful mission to regain Shwe Pyi Aye town, Sagaing Region

At least 50 regime troops attacking Shwe Pyi Aye town were either injured or killed, leading to their retreat at midnight on February 3 in Sagaing Region’s Homalin Township. The joint force of approximately 400 regime and Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA) troops initiated an offensive on January 23 to regain control of the town. The PDF joint forces successfully cut them off upon entry, countering attacks. Despite two additional attacks, the PDF forces, with unity, managed to hold their ground. The regime’s joint column withdrew from Shwe Pyi Aye around midnight on February 3. Reports indicate 15 bodies were buried at the regime’s temporary station and approximately 40 injured individuals after the 10-day battle. Shwe Pyi Aye has been under the control of allied PDF forces since November.

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, Mizzima News, RFA Burmese, DVB, VOA

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