Weekly Update: 101

by mohingamatters

Folks, this week began with the death of two women in the queue of the passport office in Mandalay as citizens tried to flee the country after the enactment of conscription law. Similarly, at the Thai-Myanmar border, more people attempted to cross the borders, resulting in tighter restrictions on movement. This week, the UN released a new report that stated that about 2.7 million people in Myanmar have been displaced from their homes due to post-coup conflict. At the same time, the number of robberies, money extortion, and other crimes was reportedly increasing in cities with no proper policing mechanism to take action. Things are rather gloomy this week. Read all about it in this week’s update.

Internal Politics

  • The NUG urges Rohingya to report forced military service in Rakhine State

U Kyaw Zaw, spokesperson for the National Unity Government (NUG)’s President Office, told RFA Burmese that Rohingya individuals facing coercion into military service by the military council in Rakhine State should report to the resistance forces. He emphasized that the military did not recognize them as citizens, but now are being coerced, threatened, and deceived into joining the army, leading to ethnic tensions. Furthermore, U Kyaw Zaw said that the NUG would collaborate with allied groups to protect Rohingyas from forced recruitment by the military council. He expressed concerns that the military might exploit Rohingyas as human shields during its warfare with the Arakan Army (AA). Rohingya individuals from Buthidaung township echoed these sentiments, expressing their reluctance to be coerced into military service and their desire for international assistance, as they have nowhere to seek refuge. Since February 15, five days after the implementation of the conscription law, the military has been pressuring the Rohingya community in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships into military services.

  • Armed individuals target citizens in Yangon, robbery and extortion reported

In Yangon, local residents have reported sightings of armed individuals in plain clothes forcibly taking pedestrians and citizens into their vehicles, or entering people’s homes to steal valuables. On February 20, a jewelry store in Hlaing Tharyar Township was robbed. According to a relative of the victim, the robbers posed as police officers and stole money and jewelry. Similarly, on February 18 in South Dagon Township, a group of armed men claiming to be police and soldiers conducted household registration checks to gather data for conscription purposes. Some households were extorted MMK 600,000 to exempt one individual from the data collection process. One victim told Khit Thit media that they could not confirm whether the armed individuals were genuine police officers and soldiers. Victims also reported these crimes to the respective police stations, but no cases were opened or investigations conducted by the police.

  • The regime announced no plan to recruit women for now

The regime’s spokesperson General Zaw Min Tun stated on February 20 that although women are legally required to be recruited into the military under the conscription law, there are currently no plans to recruit women. According to the 2019 census, around 13 million people are eligible to be recruited, comprising over six million men and nearly seven million women. General Zaw Min Tun conveyed through regime-controlled media outlets that out of the six million men, only approximately 60,000  would be recruited. He further explained that a rotation system would be implemented for military service, with appointments prioritized accordingly. Regarding professional personnel, men aged between 18 and 45 and women aged between 18 and 35 are eligible for military service under this law. Refusal to serve without valid reason would result in a five-year prison sentence, as per the law. To enforce this legislation, the regime formed the “Central Committee for Military Service Recruitment” on February 13. In contrast, the National Unity Government (NUG) announced on the same day that individuals are not obliged to comply with the conscription law.

  • KNU shifts strategy towards Nay Pyi Taw

Pado Saw Taw Nee, spokesperson of the Karen National Union (KNU), expressed the ethnic armed group’s intent to target Nay Pyi Taw, the epicenter of power, instead of seizing major cities from the military council’s control. “Cities need not suffer and be occupied. However, if necessary, we will engage. Our primary focus is on infiltrating Nay Pyi Taw, their stronghold,” he said during an interview with Myanmar Now on February 20. During his visit to KNU controlled areas, he witnessed KNU’s strongholds over frontline military bases, especially in Brigade-1 Thaton District, Brigade-3 Nyaung Lay Pin District and Brigade-6 Dupalaya District. The KNU emphasized the regime’s struggle to maintain control over the area, citing evidence of cities being left in ruins after surrendering. A former army captain, acknowledging KNU’s territorial dominance, suggested targeting and capturing military bases in KNU-controlled regions first as targeting Nay Pyi Taw would lengthen the supply route for them. Presently, areas closest to Nay Pyi Taw, such as Taung Ngu, witness ongoing clashes between military council and revolutionary forces.

International Affairs

  • Stricter controls in Thai-Myanmar border after the conscription law

Following the enactment of Myanmar’s military conscription law, individuals attempting to cross the Thailand-Myanmar border via the Mae Sot-Myawaddy No. 1 Friendship Bridge faced new restrictions. As of February 20, those without a guarantor from Thailand were denied entry on the Mae Sot side unless they could provide necessary documentation and guarantees from a credible source. However, insuring individuals who fail to return poses a challenge for potential guarantors, complicating the process. Before the conscription law, many Myanmar citizens residing on the Thai side had been neglecting to renew their cross-border permits for work in Thailand. Labor activist U Moe Kyo noted that increased instances of individuals failing to return prompted stricter measures from the Thai authorities. Presently, Thai authorities are cracking down on sellers from the Myawady side operating in Mae Sot without proper permits, leading to arrests for those caught without authorization despite possessing valid border crossing tickets.

  • Protests erupt in Mizoram over border movement restriction

In Mizoram, a northeastern Indian state bordering Myanmar, hundreds protested on February 21 against the Indian government’s decision to revoke freedom of movement along the border. Under the Free Movement Regime (FMR) agreement between India and Myanmar, individuals of the same ethnic group living near the border could cross up to 10 miles without visas or passports. However, following the 2021 Myanmar military coup, tens of thousands of refugees sought asylum on the Indian side, prompting the right-wing Indian government to annul the border movement rights amid heightened border security measures. Demonstrators in Aizawl, Mizoram’s capital, also opposed plans to erect a fence along the 1,025-mile India-Myanmar border. Chuantea, leader of the Central Young Mizo Association, a key organizer of the protests, urged for the preservation of freedom of movement, emphasizing the familial ties across the India-Myanmar border.

  • Coup leader met with Russian deputy FM

Myanmar coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing held talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko to enhance bilateral relations and cooperation, including nuclear technology, as reported by state media controlled by the military council on February 21. Discussions focused on the peaceful utilization of nuclear technology, as well as collaboration in areas such as hydropower and solar energy generation, tourism promotion, and social and educational sectors. Additionally, talks encompassed fertilizer supply to Myanmar and further collaboration between the two nations. Analysts note a shift towards closer ties with China and Russia as Western countries impose sanctions on the Myanmar military post-coup. Recent reports suggest Russia’s purchase of military equipment from Myanmar amid tensions with Ukraine, strengthening the military partnership between Russia and Myanmar. This partnership includes the procurement of Russian military weapons like Mi-35 and Mi-17 fighter jets, highlighting Myanmar’s increasing reliance on Russia for arms acquisitions due to its preference over Chinese weaponry.

  • Thai authorities detained 300 Myanmar youths for crossing border illegally

The Myanmar Migrant Worker Monitoring Group (K.T.G Helping Hands) reported to RFA that Thai police have apprehended over 300 Burmese youths who crossed the border in the past week, with recent arrests occurring in the Turk district. On February 22, 24 Burmese youths aged between 18 and 30 were detained after crossing a stream near Mae Sot, Thailand, comprising seven women and 17 men. According to Ko Thar Gyi, managing director of K.T.G Helping Hands, illegal border crossings into Thailand have become increasingly risky, resulting in widespread arrests. Aid groups can only offer limited assistance, providing clean water and rice cans to those caught, but unable to offer further aid. Some detainees, including two children aged 3 and 11, have been held for up to ten days. Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin previously warned of consequences for Myanmar nationals entering Thailand illegally, prompting heightened border security measures.

Business Matters

  • Border trade barely resumed after the ceasefire in Shan-north

Nearly six weeks have passed since a temporary ceasefire halted clashes between the Three Brotherhood Alliance and the military council following the coup, yet cross-border trade with China remains at a standstill. The closure of key border trade routes with China dates back to November 2023 when an ethnic armed group in North Shan initiated Operation 1027. At the onset of the operation, Theinni, a vital juncture along the border trade route, witnessed the seizure of border gates at Chin Shwe Haw and Kyu Kok (Pang Sai) by ethnic groups. Additionally, by mid-December, control over the 105-mile trade zone near Muse city was wrested away. Following clashes and territorial gains, a temporary ceasefire was brokered between the military council and the Kokang armed group MNDAA, as well as the Ta’ang group TNLA, on January 11, facilitated by China’s intervention. Despite this, a resident from Muse revealed that the 105-mile trade zone, responsible for over 90 percent of Myanmar-China trade, remains devoid of companies and agents. The area continues to be under the control of the Three Brotherhood Alliance while Muse city remains under military council control, rendering border trade operations nonviable.

  • IMF’s informal meeting discussed Myanmar’s economic challenges

On February 22, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Board convened an informal session to discuss the economic outlook of countries grappling with conflicts and hardships, including Iran, Myanmar, and Syria, among others. Although the IMF did not divulge specific details from the gathering, it clarified that the informal nature of the meeting was prompted by an over 18-month delay in reviewing the financial situations of these countries. Under Article IV of the IMF, each nation’s economic resilience, financial status, investment climate, and pertinent data are subject to annual assessment. Reports from Hong Kong-based BNN online news underscored Myanmar’s plight, likening its economic decline and political turmoil to that of Syria, stressing the urgent need for bolstering support. Since 2022, the IMF has sounded alarms over Myanmar’s dwindling foreign investment, reaching an eight-year low following the military coup. Reflecting the uncertainty surrounding Myanmar’s situation, IMF officials highlighted the reluctance of higher-tier companies to engage with the country, with only lower-level enterprises actively seeking information. As part of the IMF’s concerted efforts, significant financial support is being channeled towards poverty alleviation and job creation initiatives in Myanmar.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Two death in the queue of passport office in Mandalay

Rescue workers in Mandalay Region reported on February 19, around 2am, where two women tragically died from suffocation amidst a large crowd waiting at the passport issuing office on No. 12 Road in Aung Myay Tharzan Township. The victims, 52-year-old Daw Khin Myo-Aye and 39-year-old Ma Khaing Wai from Aung Myay Tharzan Township, lost their lives, while 53-year-old Daw Htay Htay Win sustained leg injuries and is currently receiving treatment at Mandalay General Hospital. According to an official from a social relief organization near the scene, the fatalities occurred during a chaotic rush for a spot in the passport queue. The overcrowding led to jostling and, tragically, three women were injured, two fatally. As queues grew longer, tensions escalated, resulting in thousands of people converging around the passport office by half-past two in the morning. While in Yangon, online registration for passport issuance is available, residents in other states and regions, including Mandalay, must physically visit the passport office to register. Despite the office opening at 8 a.m., only two hundred passports are issued daily, prompting thousands to queue overnight, starting from midnight, as highlighted by a local seeking passport services. The incident has underscored safety concerns and the need for improved procedures to avoid similar tragedies in the future.

  • More than 2.7 million people fled from their homes, new UNOCHA report says

The latest report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) underscores the urgent need for humanitarian aid in Rakhine State, exacerbated by escalating clashes between the Arakan (Army) AA group and the military council. Despite efforts to broker ceasefires, uncertainty still looms large. In late 2023, the plight of refugees from Northern Shan became increasingly evident, with thousands left homeless across numerous refugee camps in various townships. Reports indicate ongoing hostilities in the northwest and southeast regions, marked by indiscriminate airstrikes, heavy artillery barrages, and mortar fire, heightening fears for the safety and well-being of civilians. The UNOCHA report stated that approximately 2.7 million people uprooted from their homes, a staggering 2.4 million of whom have been displaced following the military coup. The findings highlight the pressing need for concerted international action to address the escalating humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.

  • Mass displacement of civilians from 20 villages in Taze Township, Sagaing Region 

Htoo Khant Zaw, the information officer of the People’s Defense Comrade based in Ye U, Sagaing Region’s Taze Township, disclosed to Khit Thit Media that a significant number of villagers, exceeding tens of thousands from over 20 villages, are fleeing their homes. This was resulted by the incursion of the terrorist army, which deployed two columns subsequent to seizing the Kan Htoo Ma Maywa police station. On February 21, in Taze Township, resistance forces attacked and seized control of the Kan Htoo Ma police station. Consequently, the regime’s patrols from both Ye U’s border with Tan Dam and the Kanbulu side advanced into Kankhooma village. This incursion prompted residents from over 20 nearby villages to flee, with the number of displaced individuals exceeding 10,000. The information officer emphasized that the villages isolated by the advancing patrols continue to evacuate. The conflict to capture the Kan Htoo Ma police station resulted in the deaths of two revolutionary soldiers and over 10 injuries due to sustained army bombardment. Moreover, numerous homes in Kan Htoo Ma village sustained damage during the hostilities.

  • More than 5000 civilians are on the run due to the regime’s attack in Magway

Reports from Seik Phyu Township in Magway Region indicate that as of February 24, nearly 5000 civilians hailing from nine villages are fleeing their homes due to intensified patrols by the regime’s troops in the northern area. According to locals, around 200 military personnel have been continuously deployed since February 16, leading to the displacement of residents from over seven villages. Concerns are mounting that more villages may need to evacuate if troop numbers increase, with reports of ongoing arrests adding to the distress. The situation escalated further with the burning of two public houses in Daw Tha village, and as of now, approximately three individuals have been detained without release. Locals are facing prolonged displacement, rendering daily life increasingly difficult. Tensions soared following an incident on February 15 when local civil defense forces launched a shock missile at the Wazi factory occupied by the regime, prompting retaliatory actions aimed at clearing the area.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • Regime minister’s convoy targeted with landmine in Sagaing tsp, Sagaing Region

Around 9.30 am on February 21, the regime’s motorcade transporting Ye Tint, the deputy minister for information was targeted by a landmine explosion in Sagaing Township, Sagaing Region. The blast occurred between Ondaw and Sagaing as the minister was returning from the Nationality Youth Resource Development Degree College. Two officers were said to have been killed in the incident while the minister escaped and continued his journey to Pyin Oo Lwin. Phoenix-Sagaing has claimed responsibility for the attack.

  • CID staff housing bombed in Pyay, Bago Region

In the early morning of February 23, a series of explosions took place in the housing compound of the Criminal Intelligence Department (CID) within the regime’s police force in Pyay City, Bago Region. The incident resulted in one policeman’s death and a minimum of ten injuries to police and soldiers. Rangoon Urban Force and Pyay Urban Force coordinated the mission, setting off eight cluster explosions. The rangers managed to escape safely.

  • Major ambushed and killed in Natmauk tsp, Magway Region

Around 6.30 am on February 24, Major Ba Sai from the regime’s army was targeted in Natmauk Township, Magway Region. The major was undercover, driving his motorbike to the train station to take a train to Bagan. However, the Natmauk resistance forces intercepted and shot him dead on the spot near Gwaykone Village.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Regime’s aerial and artillery fire resulted in civilian casualties in Nyaunglaypin tsp, Bago Region

The regime’s forces reportedly launched a series of aerial and artillery attacks on villages in Nyaunglaypin District, Bago Region, causing civilian casualties and widespread destruction. On February 17, the troops dropped three bombs via a done in Myatnikwin Village, destroying two houses and a school. On the following day, an artillery fire hit Yaytwinkone Village, killing a cow and burning down a monastery. On February 19, the soldiers fired three artillery shells at Lattetkyi Village, killing U Sein Hla, aged 48, and injuring U Thein Lwin, aged 60, Ma Than Shwe, aged 45, Mg Arkar, aged 5. Then, on February 21, the junta conducted an airstrike with two jets on Hteewarhta Village, destroying four houses and a church.

  • People returning to Rakhine State amid conscription law faced detention at airport

Hundreds of Rakhine ethnic individuals are reportedly stranded in the airports across Rakhine State after being detained by the regime’s authorities. Most of the detainees are young people who returned to Rakhine State following the introduction of the conscription law by the junta. Initially, the elderly and children were also detained but only the youths remained held at the Sittwe and Kyautphyu airports. Analysts speculate that the regime is concerned about such returns for a) its conscription law resulting in being unsuccessful and b) the youths end up joining the Arakan Army (AA).

  • Hundred households burned down by regime’s offensive in Kawkareik, Karen State

On February 21, the junta’s troops reportedly set fire to civilian houses and dropped bombs with drones in Kawkareik Town, Karen State. The incident took place following a brief encounter against the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) – led resistance forces. About 100 households in Kyarinkone, Kwatthit, Tada-U and A Htet villages were destroyed. In addition, the regime’s soldiers reportedly opened fire on the displaced people who came back to their houses to pick up beds and food. Two were said to be injured. It’s been two months since battle broke out in Kawkareik and 20 civilians including children have been killed in the clash. Nearly 200 houses were also destroyed.

  • Regime’s troops on course to burn down entire village in Taze tsp, Sagaing Region

After the resistance forces captured the regime’s police station on February 21, the junta’s troops retaliated by targeting the Kanhtooma Sanpya Village in Taze Township, Sagaing Region where the police station is located. Since then, the regime’s air force has conducted 20 airstrikes on the Village. The troops were then observed torching houses in the village and showed no intention of stopping.

  • Regime’s airstrike killed and injured civilians in Yanbye and Paletwa

The regime reportedly conducted airstrikes on Paletwa in Chin State and Yanbye in Rakhine State, both areas under the control of the Arakan Army (AA). On February 11 and 12, airstrikes on Paletwa killed five civilians, including three men and two women aged between 5 to 25. Additionally, at least three houses and a religious building were destroyed. On February 23, the regime’s helicopter fired at Kyatthayay Village in Yanbye Township, killing 23-year-old Taungok university student Mg Phyo San Aung and severely injuring his father and another man. Two houses were also destroyed in the attack.

Armed Resistance

  • Dozens of regime troops died during KNLA ambush in Dawei tsp, Tanintharyi Region

On February 17, a regime convoy consisting of 17 vehicles and 300 troops encountered a surprise attack led by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in Dawei Township, Tanintharyi Region. The resistance forces intercepted the traveling group on its way to reach and reinforce the military station in Kyautmaetaung Village, carrying out a guerilla attack on Dawei-Hteekhee Road. At least 30 soldiers were killed on the regime’s side while five also died in the resistance forces. The junta sent air support and conducted airstrikes. Over 30 firearms were confiscated.

  • Sihkamgyi strategic station seized by KIA & co in Mansi tsp, Kachin State

Around 5 am on February 17, the resistance forces, comprising the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), PDF, and the Arakan Army (AA), launched an offensive against the regime’s Sihkhamgyi strategic station in Mansi Township, Banmauk District, Kachin State. Despite the regime’s response, including airstrikes, the alliances managed to capture the station on the morning of February 19. The regime continued bombing the station, targeting the weapon inventory, of which 50% was completely destroyed. In the clash, about 50 regime personnel were killed, while six civilians died from regime airstrikes, and 30 more were injured.

  • 15 regime men died during PDF offensive in Kalay tsp, Sagaing Region

A coalition of resistance forces launched an offensive in Kalay Township, Sagaing Region, resulting in casualties among the junta’s troops. The offensive occurred from February 21 to 23, with the resistance engaging a 30-men regime force stationed in Santkant, Kangyi, and Kanthar villages. One regime captain was among the casualties, while two resistance fighters also lost their lives in the battle. Additionally, several firearms were confiscated during the operation.

  • Regime abandoned station in Shweku tsp, Kachin State

On February 22, the regime’s forces vacated the strategic station in Myohla Town, Shweku Township, Kachin State, ceding control to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myohla PDF. The station had been under regime control for 22 years since 2002, commanded by the Light Infantry Battalion Unit 387. The reason for the troops’ withdrawal is unclear, but many speculate it was due to a shortage of manpower.

  • CNDF’s deputy commander in chief abducted and killed in Kalay tsp, Sagaing Region

On February 23, Josua, the deputy commander in chief of the Chin National Defense Force (CNDF), along with two comrades named Ange and Amos, were reportedly ambushed and killed by the regime’s forces in Kalay Township, Sagaing Region. This incident occurred amid ongoing clashes between the regime’s army and resistance forces, including the CNDF, in Kalay Township since February 21. The three victims were abducted and slain by Pyu Saw Htee members and regime soldiers near Aungtha Village after their location was compromised.

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

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