Weekly Update: 100

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, it has been chaotic since the regime’s announcement of the conscription law. Despite its official implementation set for April, reports of arrests and extortion have surfaced. The status of those detainees being forced into service remains unverified. Nevertheless, it’s widely understood that Min Aung Hlaing has granted his troops the authority to extort without facing repercussions under this law. Thousands of youths are considering to leave the country within days and weeks, causing chaos in every household. While it appears to be a final move from Min Aung Hlaing, it’s a challenge the people of Myanmar must face together, as they have during every stage of struggle since the coup. We must help others and support each other. Read the highlights of the week below:

Internal Politics

  • The regime plans annual recruitment of 50,000 personnel under conscription law 

Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson for the military council, announced on February 15 that the military intends to recruit 50,000 individuals annually following the implementation of the conscription law. He emphasized that this number reflects a cap to ensure proper compensation and benefits for all recruits based on their qualifications and responsibilities in national defense. In an interview with BBC Burmese service, General Zaw Min Tun disclosed plans to recruit 5,000 individuals weekly starting from April, with a reduced emphasis on female recruitment. According to him, there are approximately 13 million individuals eligible for military service based on the 2019 transit census, and recruitment will be drawn from this pool. Furthermore, he stated that students studying abroad will be required to serve in the military upon completing their education, as part of the long-term conscription system. However, since the announcement of the law, numerous reports of young men being forcibly recruited have surfaced on social media.

  • Surge in Thai visa applicants after the enactment of conscription law

Following the enactment of conscription law mandating military service for adult men and women in Myanmar, there has been a notable increase in the number of young individuals seeking to leave the country. Observers noted a surge in visa applications at the Thai embassy, with reports of thousands of people forming queues outside the embassy on February 16. In response to the unprecedented demand, the Thai embassy announced plans to issue up to 400 queue tickets per day, compared to less than 100 prior to the implementation of the conscription law on February 10. Many individuals are attempting to cross the Thai-Myanmar border via the Myawady Friendship Bridge, with Myanmar Immigration rigorously screening those awaiting entry into Mae Sot. Several individuals have been apprehended for attempting to enter Thailand through unauthorized means.

  • Death sentences for military commanders who surrendered in Laukkai

Two brigadier generals and a colonel, who had surrendered to the Kokang armed group MNDAA in Laukkai town on the China-Myanmar border, were transferred to Insein prison in Yangon earlier this month after receiving death sentences. Among those sent to Insein Prison were key commanders of the military, including Brigadier General Moe Kyaw Thu and Brigadier General Aung Zaw Lin from the No. (12) Regional Command Headquarters, as well as Colonel Thein Aung Soe, the strategic commander from the Base military strategy group (Kutkai). In a confidential report dated February 7, which was obtained by Myanmar Now, the two brigadier generals and the colonel were sentenced, “death penalty for shameful abandonment of their respective duties in order to defend themselves”. The Supreme Court sentenced them to death under Section 32(a) of the Military Act. The aforementioned brigadier generals and the colonel were interrogated separately in battalions and training schools in northern Shan State before being transferred to Insein prison.

  • The NUG and NUCC allied for dissolution of political parties registered at the regime’s election commission

The National Unity Government (NUG) and the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) have jointly urged political parties registered with the military council’s election commission to either revoke their party registration or have their members resign from the party. On February 10, the Joint Anti-Election Committee, established by the NUG and NUCC, released a statement denouncing the military leader’s exploitation of political parties and their members through the use of illegal election laws. The junta has announced intentions to hold elections following the nationwide census scheduled for October this year, although the election date remains unconfirmed. In early February, the NUG’s Union Hluttaw declared that until free and fair elections are conducted, individuals elected in the 2020 election by the people will continue to fulfill their parliamentary duties. Currently, there are nearly 50 political parties approved by the regime-assembled election commission.

  • The New Mon State Party (Anti-Military) splintered from the parent organization

The New Mon State Party (Anti-Military), having recently splintered from its parent organization, has announced its intention to collaborate with ethnic armed groups striving for equality and self-determination, as well as newly emerged armed forces following the military coup. According to Deputy Leader (1) Nai Banya Lae, the decision to form the New Mon State Party (Anti-Military) was reached during the 11th party conference, where disagreements arose regarding the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). While some party executives advocated for upholding the NCA, others rejected it, leading to the establishment of the Anti-Military faction. The leadership of this faction comprises General Secretary Nai Zeya, responsible for both political and military leadership, alongside Deputy Leader (1) Nai Banya Lae, Deputy Leader (2) Nai Yi Yi Kaung, and Deputy Commander-in-Chief General Salon Htaw.

  • Coup leader signals constitution amendments

During a meeting with political parties in Nay Pyi Taw on February 13, coup leader Min Aung Hlaing expressed willingness to consider constitutional amendments. He emphasized that any necessary amendments should be pursued through the Hluttaw. Additionally, he noted that executive orders and directives, akin to laws, could be issued and implemented at the provincial level prior to Hluttaw approval. Despite acknowledging potential differences in a multi-party democratic system, Min Aung Hlaing affirmed a commitment to resolving disputes through political, rather than armed, means. Furthermore, he reiterated the regime’s commitment to upholding the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) as a pathway to peace.

International Affairs

  • Bangladesh evacuated its diplomats from Rakhine and closed its border with Rakhine State

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud informed reporters on February 13 that diplomats stationed in Rakhine State are being evacuated due to the escalating violence. Reports from Bangladesh indicate that the consulate office in Sittwe has been relocated to Yangon due to security concerns. Additionally, Bangladesh has closed its border gates as both Rohingya refugees and families of regime soldiers seek refuge there. The conflict in Rakhine State between the Arakan Army (AA) and the military council has intensified, with the AA claiming to have captured certain areas. Despite the influx of Rohingya refugees fleeing the violence, Foreign Minister Mahmud stated that Bangladesh, already hosting over one million Rohingya refugees, cannot accommodate more.

  • KNU criticizes Thai aid plan for Myanmar displaced people

The spokesperson for the Karen National Union (KNU), Pado Saw Kalae Say, expressed skepticism regarding the effectiveness of the Thai government’s humanitarian aid plan through Mae Sot town in Thailand. Following approval from the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting for cooperation between the Red Cross Societies of Thailand and Myanmar to provide assistance, Thailand initiated its aid efforts. However, the KNU spokesperson criticized the involvement of the Red Cross, which operates under the control of the military council, suggesting that aid distribution could be influenced by the council’s agenda. Thai Foreign Minister Pan Phree Parti Hanukon visited the Thai-Myanmar border town of Mae Sot on February 8 and 9 to facilitate aid efforts. The Thai government aims to dispatch medical supplies for 20,000 war refugees from the Mae Sot No. 2 customs gate. According to KNU statistics, by the end of 2023, over 750,000 refugees, primarily ethnic Karen, have sought refuge along the Mae Sot-Myawady border.

  • Myanmar situation to be discussed at 2024 Munich Security Conference

The German Embassy in Yangon announced on its Facebook page that the current situation in Myanmar will be a topic of discussion at the 2024 Munich Security Conference, scheduled to take place in Munich, Germany from February 16 to 18. This conference serves as a platform for high-level officials to address the most pressing global security challenges, with participation from political leaders, top economists, academics, and representatives from civil society. Additionally, 2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the Munich Security Conference. The conference will focus on strengthening the international rules-based order and fostering collaborative efforts to address security challenges worldwide.

Business Matters

  • Chinese embassy promotes investment talk with the regime

Quyang Daobing, the Economic Attaché of the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar, recently engaged in discussions with officials from the military council’s Investment and Commerce departments to encourage Chinese investment in Myanmar. During a two-day visit to Nay Pyi Taw on January 30 and 31, the attaché and his team held separate meetings with representatives from the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade as well as the Ministry of Commerce. The discussions encompassed various aspects of China-Myanmar projects, including the security of Chinese citizens, the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), and quality enhancement within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China’s infrastructure endeavors in Myanmar, such as oil and gas pipelines linking Yunnan Province and projects facilitating access to the Indian Ocean, hold significant geostrategic and economic importance. These projects span from the northeastern border to the Bay of Bengal in the west. Mr. Daobing’s meeting with military council officials followed the signing of a subsequent contract in December aimed at advancing the stalled Kyauk Phyu Special Economic Zone and deep-sea port project in Rakhine State.

  • Myanmar’s avocados faced export challenges

Myanmar’s avocado exports are limited to Thailand this year due to transportation challenges, with 90% of exports directed there. Prices have dropped significantly, from 6,000-7,000 kyat per kilogram to 3,000-4,000 kyat. India’s interest in purchasing 1,000 tons couldn’t be fulfilled due to road conditions. Previously, Myanmar exported avocados to several countries, but now, Thailand remains the primary destination.

  • Challenges for traditional bamboo basket weavers in Demoso tsp, Karenni State

Since the coup, traditional bamboo basket weavers are facing livelihood difficulties due to a decline in buyers in Demoso township, Karenni State. Local residents in the township rely on the traditional bamboo weaving business as a family livelihood and the regional instability and transportation challenges have made their lives difficult. Before the military takeover, traditional small plates were sold for 3,000 kyats every 5 days, while larger ones fetched 8,000 kyats every 10 days in the township market. However, the current shortage of buyers, coupled with a rise in bamboo prices due to scarcity, has made the situation worse. As a result, many traditional bamboo weavers are transitioning to other businesses to support their families amidst the financial uncertainty.

  • Cooking oil shortage a concern for Rakhine State amid conflict

Residents in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, are enduring long queues lasting for hours due to a severe shortage of cooking oil. The conflict between the regime’s forces  and the Arakan Army (AA) has led to the disruption of travel and goods flow across Rakhine State, causing an increase in prices of food products and industrial oils, exacerbating the market’s shortages. Reports indicate that residents are struggling to purchase essential food items, including cooking oil, and must endure lengthy queues for limited supplies. Since November 13, the junta has imposed restrictions in Rakhine State, resulting in widespread food shortages and various hardships for locals as access to humanitarian aid and goods, including internet services, has been severely restricted.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Myanmar detainees from Thailand repatriated

Residents reported that 206 Myanmar nationals held at the Tomao Immigration Detention Center in Ranong, southern Thailand, were deported to Myanmar on February 14. Thai authorities, along with officials from the regime’s Immigration Ministry, oversaw the repatriation process, which involved transferring the detainees to civil officials on the Myanmar side. Ko Thar Kyaw, a representative of the Ranong-based Mittathara (SAFWA) social assistance association, told RFA that following the enactment of the military service law by the military council, the regime recalled for the return of detained individuals in Thailand. The repatriated group, consisting of 160 men and 46 women, was transported by boat from Ranong to Kawthaung. Sources said that among the returned Myanmar nationals, all individuals involved in theft cases, illegal cross-border cases, and homicides. 

  • 19 civilians detained by Pyi Saw Hti in Gantgaw

In Magway Region’s Gantgaw Township, local residents informed Yangon Khit Thit media that they have lost contact with 19 individuals from Thin Taw village after they were apprehended by the military. On February 14, in Gantgaw Township, it was reported that a 200-member contingent from the Pyu Saw Hti militia group, along with regime soldiers from Myauk Khin Ran village under Pyu Saw Hti militia control, arrested these individuals, and lost communication. Among those detained were children and women, including two boys, as confirmed by locals speaking to Khit Thit. While the exact location of their detention remains uncertain, it is believed to be within a village under Pyi Saw Hti’s control. Following the incineration of two PDFs, the military equipped them with weaponry, enabling them to perpetrate violence against civilians.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • Ward administrator’s house and office raided in Ye tsp, Tanintharyi Region

On February 13, Ye Guerrilla Force (YGF) raided the house and the office of U Htein Win, the regime’s pillar in the region as well as the administrator and the leader of Pyu Saw Htee group in Mawtkanin Village, Ye Township, Tanintharyi Region. The man escaped capture but the YGF confiscated two motorbikes, two mobile phones and jewelry that belonged to the villagers in front of U Htein Win’s daughter. YGF said the raid was requested by the villagers and the confiscated items would be used for the future resistance efforts. 

  • Five forest workers killed for consipring with regime’s forces in Gyobingauk tsp, Bago Region

On February 16, around 10:00 am in Gyobingauk Township, Bago Region, five forest workers associated with the regime’s army from KoneYwa village—Kyaw San Win, Kyaw Swar Win, Khin Yin, Zaw Win, and Then Naing Htun—were fatally shot by the revolutionary forces of the People’s Defense Forces Tharayawati District Battalion (3801) -1 YOMA (GBK PDF) while drinking in Nyaung Pineine Village. Additionally, three motorcycles and five phones were confiscated. These five deceased forest workers were reportedly involved in several activities against the resistance movement, including attempting to arrest CDM elephants, investigating residences of PDF organizations, burning and destroying the elephant camp of Sinwine Village, providing information on the camp locations of resistance comrades, and aiding a the regime’s military column.

  • Militia leader shot dead in Wundwin tsp, Mandalay Region

On the morning of February 17, Nandar Kyaw, a leader of militia and Pyu Saw Htee group from Wundwin Township was shot dead in a teashop in Mandalay Region. Nandar Kyaw reportedly buillied and extorted people saying he had a gun. His latest actions were recruiting for the regime’s military. Wundwin Resistance Force (WTRF) carried out the mission and revealed the discovery of his fake gun at the scene. 

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Political activist Ma Nobel Aye reported to be killed by regime’s soldiers

In our weekly report 098, we highlighted the detention of former political prisoner Ma Nobel Aye on January 29 at an X-ray gate in Bago Region, where she was found with various weapons. This week, multiple reports, quoting her brother, revealed that she had been shot and killed on February 8. According to the news, Ma Nobel Aye and an associate named Aung Ko Hein attempted to flee during a guarded trip to their trial, and soldiers gunned them down, resulting in both of their deaths. The regime has remained silent on the incident.

  • Regime’s soldiers killed nine detained civilians before leaving posts in Rakhine State

On February 11, the Arakan Army (AA) revealed that several bodies were discovered in Mrauk-U and Min Pyarr townships after it had seized control from the regime’s forces. Seven were shot and killed in the cell of the regime’s Light Infantry Battalion 378 in Mrauk-U Township on January 31. The bodies were buried in the bunkers near the military hospital. The victims were identified as Ko Kyaw Zan Wai, Ko Myat Thu Tun (journalist), Ko Kyaw Thein Hlaing, Ko Kyaw Win Hlaing, Ko Ko Nyunt, Ko Win Naing and Ko Pyae Sone Win. Similarly on January 19, Ko Nyi Nyi Aung from Yathaydaung Township and U Kyaw Nyunt from Min Pyar Township were shot and killed in Min Pyar’s military cell. The news were not released by the regime. The families had not learnt of the deaths until the bodies were discovered by AA. 

  • Abbot arrested for dissent in Lewe tsp, Naypyidaw

In Lewe Township, Naypyidaw, on February 12, regime soldiers detained an abbot from a monastery near the Aye Lar airport on charges of spreading dissent via social media. The monk, U Nyanithara, stands accused of authoring posts on social media platforms that allegedly mocked coup leader Min Aung Hlaing under a pseudonym. However, it remains unclear whether U Nyanithara was indeed the individual behind these accounts.

  • Dozens of youths detained countrywide following conscription law

Despite the regime’s announcement of the conscription law’s implementation in April, reports of arrests and harassment have already surfaced across the nation. On February 11, around 40 individuals, both male and female, aged 20, were detained on the Mandalay-Monywa highway. Subsequently, on February 12 and 13, approximately 25 young men were coerced into military training in Thanlyin Township, Yangon. Similarly, on February 14 and 15, numerous youths were taken from buses and homes, citing documentation issues, and forced into military training. The whereabouts and duration of their service remain unverified, fueling anxiety among the people of Myanmar.

Armed Resistance

  • Regime’s forces retake control of Kawlin, Sagaing Region

On February 13, the regime’s forces regained control of key areas in Kawlin Town, Sagaing Region, previously held by the National Unity Government (NUG) and the People’s Defense Forces (PDF). A member of the PDF involved in the clashes in Kawlin reported, “The junta’s troops have reoccupied the general manager’s office, police station, and schools. They have deployed troops throughout the neighborhoods, and most civilians are not present in the city.” The regime launched a large-scale assault on both the southern and northern parts of Kawlin since the evening of February 3 in an effort to reclaim the city. NUG battalions faced airstrikes while local defense forces from surrounding townships joined the resistance. Despite the loss of Kawlin, a PDF member emphasized, “While some areas may have been surrendered, our fight continues. Our territory and influence continue to expand with each passing day. Losing Kawlin does not mean losing our overall victory in the revolution.”

  • KNDF took full control of Shar Taw Town, Karenni State

On February 15, the Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF) declared its complete takeover of Shar Taw Town in Kayah State since February 12. According to KNDF, the offensive began on January 15 with attacks on security posts surrounding a strategic hill in Shar Taw. By January 21, they successfully encircled and besieged the camp. Despite calls for surrender, the regime’s troops fortified their positions and resisted, leading to a battle. KNDF finally captured the strategic hill on February 12, overcoming the defenses prepared by the regime’s forces. The KNDF reported that over 70 military council troops, deployed via three helicopters during the battle, were defeated. The casualties included more than 160 soldiers of the military council, including a lieutenant colonel. Three KNDF soldiers lost their lives in the battle, alongside comrades from other battalions like the Karenni Army (KA) and Loikaw People’s Defense Force (PDF), as per KNDF’s statement.

  • AA seized Myebon, expanding control in Rakhine State

On February 15, the Arakan Army (AA) announced its successful capture of all military council units and police stations in Myebon City, Rakhine State, further extending its control to seven cities. During the three-month period from November 13 to February 16 last year, the AA secured seven cities, including Taung Pyo and Paletwa in Chin State, amidst ongoing fighting in Rakhine State. Presently, the AA continues its offensive in towns like Yanbye, Yathaydaung, Maungdaw, and Buthitaung, while the regime defends via ground, water, and air forces. In the process, civilians are reported to be targeted with heavy weapons. Moreover, there are claims that the AA has issued a surrender ultimatum to the entire Regional Operations Command (ROC) in Sittwe, where the regime’s administrative council is based.

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

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