Weekly Update: 102

by mohingamatters

Here’s our latest weekly update. The focus remains on developments in Rakhine State, where a tragic incident occurred in Sittwe City. Regime artillery fire on a local market resulted in the loss of over 20 lives. Additionally, reports from Rakhine indicate ongoing efforts by regime troops to recruit minorities for mandatory military service. Meanwhile, the trend of youth leaving the country due to concerns about the conscription law persists.

Internal Politics

  • NUG pledged to collaborate with the AA to hold the regime accountable for its crimes

The National Unity Government (NUG) has pledged to collaborate with the Arakan Army (AA) to address the regime’s targeting of civilians in northern Rakhine State, vowing to pursue justice for these heinous crimes. The statement indicated that the regime has been committing deliberate attacks on civilians, including at marketplaces, hospitals, schools, and religious sites which constitute serious international crimes. In a recent incident on February 29, the Navy opened fire on the Korean port market in Sittwe, resulting in the tragic deaths of 12 civilians and leaving over 80 injured. The NUG government extended condolences to the affected families, expressing solidarity with the people of Rakhine enduring the oppression and brutality inflicted by the military. Echoing these sentiments, the AA also vowed to take decisive action against such intentional attacks on civilians, even in areas where active combat is absent. A call for full accountability for these atrocities was issued on the evening of February 29, emphasizing the imperative of holding perpetrators responsible for their actions.

  • NUG said its forces occupied 60% of Kawkareik

Following a three-month offensive in Karen State, the National Unity Government’s (NUG) Ministry of Defense declared on February 26 that 60 percent of Kawkareik town has been seized. The NUG emphasized the strategic control of the Hpa-an-Myawaddy Asian Highway, crucial for Thai-Myanmar border trade. Since December 1, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) of the Karen National Union (KNU) has been engaged in a campaign to capture Kawkareik. Joint offensives led by NUG’s People’s Defense Army (PDF) columns have resulted in the occupation of the majority of the town. Over the past three months, 14 individuals have surrendered from the military council’s side, with 30 fatalities and numerous injuries reported. Additionally, 46 weapons were confiscated. Tragically, three local residents lost their lives in an airstrike, as stated by the NUG.

  • AA vows justice for war crimes

The Arakan Army (AA) told RFA Burmese that prisoners of war who have been detained by AA will be investigated whether they were involved in commission of war crimes, and will face prosecution. AA’s spokesperson U Khaing Thu Kha said that, with thousands of prisoners of war from conflicts in Rakhine and Paletwa, the AA assures adherence to their Prisoner of War Law, in accordance with international standards. They affirm the provision of care for the injured and their families, with convenient arrangements for sustenance, as stated in the AA’s February 20 announcement. In Kyauktaw township alone, where troops were captured, there are reportedly at least six hundred families affected. The AA pledges resolute action to ensure justice for their people who have suffered violations, citing numerous witnesses to corroborate their claims against members of the military council.

  • KNU Brigade 5 warned the public to avoid conscription law

On March 1, the KNU Brigade 5 issued a warning to the public, urging them to reject the conscription law enforced by the military council to prolong Min Aung Hlaing’s rule. In response to the regime’s announcement of compulsory recruitment, the KNU Brigade 5 has disseminated notices and warnings to inform the public and encourage defiance. Citizens residing in the Mutraw District area are urged to unite against the military council’s coercive measures and extend support to those targeted for recruitment. Residents are advised not to comply with the conscription orders and are instructed to seek refuge in nearby villages if faced with coercion. Furthermore, individuals are encouraged to provide a list of names to designated officials in sheltered villages to receive guidance and assistance. In case of emergencies or instances of coercion, citizens are urged to promptly inform officials in the nearest frontline areas.

International Affairs

  • The regime’s representative to attend ASEAN-Australia Summit

Myanmar Now obtained information indicating that a representative of the military regime will participate in the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit scheduled to take place in Melbourne, Australia from March 4 to 6. Ambassador U Thet Tun from the Myanmar Embassy in Canberra will participate in the Climate and Clean Energy Forum. While ASEAN has banned Myanmar’s political representatives from attending its summit meetings, Australia is reportedly adhering to this stance. However, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade did not explicitly confirm whether they would boycott the summit due to Myanmar’s participation. Expressing concern over the dire situation in Myanmar, an Australian spokesperson emphasized the need to halt violence, release captives, and provide humanitarian aid, indicating a desire to engage in discussions on these matters. The Climate and Clean Energy Forum will witness participation from experts, business leaders, civil society organizations, and the Federation of Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (UMFCCI), although UMFCCI’s attendance remains unconfirmed. Notably, the UMFCCI was recently declared an illegal organization by the NUG with 64 members blacklisted accordingly.

  • Myanmar’s BGF handed over hundreds of foreigners participating in online frauds to Thailand 

Since February 29, the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF) in Myawaddy Township, situated on the Myanmar-Thailand border, has commenced handing over nearly 1,000 foreigners engaged in online fraud activities. The majority of these individuals, predominantly Chinese nationals, are being transferred to Thai and Chinese authorities via the Myawaddy-Mae Sot Friendship Bridge No. 2. On February 29, 150 individuals were handed over to Thai authorities, and followed by an additional 368 on March 1. According to Major Nai Maw Zaw of the BGF, the remaining individuals will be handed over to their respective countries through Thai authorities. These foreigners were residing in Shwe Kokko New Town, located 10 miles north of the city, particularly in an area known as KK Park near Mae Tho Thalai Village, where they were allegedly coerced into participating in online fraud operations.

  • UNHCR head urged international community to restrict jet fuel to Myanmar military

During the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 1, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, emphasized the pressing need for global intervention in Myanmar’s affairs. Three years post-military coup, the people of Myanmar continue to endure profound suffering. He highlighted that armed conflicts have engulfed nearly all regions of Myanmar. Since the coup, military council forces have reportedly killed over 4600 civilians, including more than 600 women and nearly 500 children. To curb the egregious brutality inflicted upon the people of Myanmar, including the Rohingya, Turk urged the international community to restrict access to jet fuel and foreign currency for the military council.

  • Indian delegation engaged with the AA on regional security matters

This week, an Indian delegation led by K. Vanlalvena, a member of the Mizoram National Front Party (MNF Party), reportedly held discussions with representatives from the Arakan Army (AA) along the Myanmar border, as reported by The Hindu newspaper. The meeting comes in the wake of increased AA control over western Myanmar. Local news from Mizoram indicates that the AA provided security for the Indian delegation. The western region of Myanmar serves as a vital waterway for India’s connectivity with Southeast Asian nations, with significant strategic implications. In January, the AA gained control of Paletwa along the Kalatan River and seized key border communication points. Given these developments, the Indian side believes that the military council’s ability to manage the more than $480 million multi-development projects along the Kalatan River is now in question.

Business Matters

  • Myanmar-Thai border trade encounter transportation hurdles

Traders operating along the Myanmar-Thailand border are grappling with significant transportation hurdles, leading to a halt in the export of agricultural products. This setback stems from alterations in trade tax policies implemented by the regime after the coup. The border trade between Myanmar and Thailand has witnessed a decline due to these transportation difficulties exacerbated by frequent changes in trade tax policies, occurring four times in the span of seven months. Myanmar primarily exports agricultural and aquatic products to Thailand, while Thailand supplies construction materials, agricultural machinery, medicines, textiles, cosmetics, fertilizers, and various other goods. According to Mr. Montrey, vice president of the Thai Factories Federation, the continued escalation of political conflicts in Myanmar has contributed to a more than 11 percent drop in Thai-Myanmar border trade. This underscores the profound impact of political instability on regional economic activities.

  • Economic downturn in Mandalay’s gemstone business

Gem traders in Mandalay’s Maha Aung Myay are grappling with a decline in trade exacerbated by fewer Chinese demand and military repression. The recent escalation of conflicts across Myanmar, including along the Myanmar-China border, has further dampened trade prospects. Additionally, the tradition of Chinese New Year, falling in early February, has led to reduced visits by Chinese traders due to security concerns, resulting in decreased purchases. With approximately 80 percent of business reliant on Chinese buyers, the economic strain is palpable, leading to disruption among merchants and in related businesses such as cutting operations. Nonetheless, local buyers, sellers, and brokers continue to navigate the challenges within the gem industry.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • More than 13,000 youths approached People’s Embrace supports after the enforcement of conscription law

An official from the People’s Embrace organization told RFA that since the enforcement of the regime’s conscription law on February 10, approximately 13,000 young individuals have reached out to them for assistance. The majority of these individuals are young men, who now encounter the fate of coercing into military service due to this law. The organization’s primary focus lies in providing guidance on communication with resistance forces on the ground. CDM Captain Lin Htet Aung, a member of the People’s Embrace, emphasized their role in advising youths on navigating communication channels should they be compelled to join the military. The People’s Embrace organization is facilitating connections between young people and on-ground resistance forces, aiding in their recruitment process following initial verification. With the enactment of the conscription law, young individuals sought alternative pathways, including joining resistance forces or attempting to leave the country.

  • Spikes in arrests for illegal border crossings on Thai-Myanmar border

U Moe Kyoe, Chairman of the Joint Action Committee on Burmese People’s Affairs (JACBA) on the Thai-Myanmar border, revealed that approximately 400 individuals were apprehended in February for unlawfully crossing the border between Thailand and Myanmar. The detainees hail from various provinces including Tak, Kanchanaburi, and Chiang Mai, having entered Thailand from at least 11 different provinces including Chiang Rai and Ranong. Notably, the surge in illegal border crossings coincides with an escalation in the cost of such crossings, with brokers demanding exorbitant fees ranging from 10,000,000 to 30,000,000 Myanmar Kyats. Individuals caught engaging in illegal border crossings face stringent penalties, including imprisonment ranging from 45 days to 3 months, along with additional sentences under the Thai Human Trafficking Act, spanning from 4 to 6 months.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets 

  • Mytel headquarter targeted in Yangon

The Yangon Western District People’s Defense Force reported that on February 28, at 6 pm, the Mytel headquarters, belonging to the regime, was detonated near U Daungbo Roundabout in Dagon Township, Yangon Region. Revolutionary allies, including the Yangon West District PDF and the Yangon Army (YA), collaborated to target the headquarters of Aung Myint Mo Min Company (Mytel), which is owned by the son of Min Aung Hlaing, using a potent remote-controlled explosive device. According to the YA, two security guards lost their lives, and the building incurred significant damage as a result of this assault.

  • Regime’e fighter jet crashed, pilots evacuated in Salin tsp, Magway Region

On February 29, another fighter jet belonging to the junta experienced a malfunction and crashed into a field in Pwintphyu Town, Salin Township, Magway Region. Both pilots successfully ejected and landed safely using parachutes. They were subsequently rescued by an MI 17 helicopter. This incident occurred approximately 50 miles away from Magway, the location of the regime’s air force headquarters.

  • Ship carrying regime’s aviation fuel supply exploded in Yangon

At approximately 2 am on March 1, the Yangon Division PDF (Diving Special Forces) successfully executed a mission to detonate the Jet A1 aviation fuel MV ship, which was anchored in the Yangon River at the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) Hteetan port, awaiting fuel unloading, as confirmed by a Yangon Region PDF official. “This vessel had been stationed at Myitwa for the past two days. We received intelligence indicating its movement towards the port. Upon its arrival, we prepared for the mission, with our diving experts poised for action. On the 29th, at approximately 8:00 pm, we commenced preparations. A timer was set for approximately 5 hours to ensure discretion. The explosion was scheduled for around 1:45 am,” explained the Yangon Region PDF official. During the operation, two crew members aboard the oil tanker lost their lives.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Regime’s officers confessed to killings of seven detainees in Mrauk-U, Rakhine State

On February 29, the Arakan  Army (AA) released a video file featuring confessions from District Police Commander Khin Maung Soe, Light Infantry Battalion 378 Commander Major Thein Htike Soe, and Captain Arkar Myint that they had killed seven individuals, including Kyaw Zan Wai and Phoe Thiha. The victims were initially detained and later transferred to the Battalion (378) following an AA attack on December 24, 2023. The detainees, tied with towels, were handcuffed and subsequently shot dead by Lieutenant Than Aung and his team within the hospital compound. Major Thein Htike Soe, personally ordering the killings, reported to army commander Min Min Tun that they had died from bomb injuries after being buried. Reporter Phoe Thiha @ Myat Thu Tun, one of the victims, was formerly employed by various local news stations, including DVB, before he was arrested in September 2022 and detained in a prison in Mrauk-U Township.

  • Regime’s artillery fire claimed 22 lives, left dozens injured in Sittwe market, Rakhine State

On February 29, the death toll from an explosion caused by the regime’s artillery fire at a market in the capital of Rakhine state rose to 22. The attack occurred on the east side of the city in Mizan Ward, adjacent to the Korean port market. According to a source from Myanmar Now, the explosion resulted in immediate casualties, with additional fatalities occurring among the injured. Of the deceased, 17 were Rakhine people, 4 were Rohingya, and one additional individual succumbed to injuries. At least 40 people sustained injuries, with some being airlifted to Yangon by the military for urgent medical attention. Details regarding the recently deceased and the extent of injuries among the wounded are yet to be disclosed. Local reports indicate that doctors and nurses at Sittwe Hospital expressed concerns about potential conflict and fled the area. Additionally, some residents captured images of the scene, while others were reportedly detained by the army for reasons yet unknown. The exact number of arrests remains undisclosed.

  • Political detainees denied basic rights in Monywa Police Station, Sagaing Region

Around 350 individuals, including 200 detained on political grounds, at the No. 1 Police Station in Monywa City, Sagaing Region, are reportedly being deprived of basic rights such as receiving prison correspondence and meeting with family members. These detainees, suspected of affiliation with the PDF or engaging in anti-military activities on social media by liking and sharing news, have not faced any formal charges from the police. One family member of a political detainee expressed frustration, stating, they had not seen the detainee for almost a year.  Individuals in custody, including those from Monywa City and nearby areas, have been held for nearly a year without being transferred elsewhere, citing security concerns, according to the Myanmar Political Prisoners Support Network (PPNM). The argument is that since the police station is not a prison, the detainees are not allowed basic rights.

  • Over 100 Muslims forced to undergo military service in Kyautphyu tsp, Rakhine State

On the afternoon of February 29, a total of 107 Muslims aged between 18 and 35 were forcibly apprehended by the Kyauk Pyu-based Light Infantry Battalion (542) Battalion in Kyaukphyu Township, Rakhine State. These individuals were reportedly rounded up and transported to the (542) battalion for military training. At around 1 pm on the 29th, 107 individuals on their list had been seized and taken to the military compound. Subsequently, at approximately 4 pm, more than 40 additional people were also abducted. The initial group of 107 comprised individuals aged between 18 and 35. Following the arrests, some Muslims from the Kyaukphyu refugee camp fled the area. Furthermore, over forty of their remaining family members were apprehended by the military and subsequently taken to the Kyaukphyu Police Station.

  • Student leader Ma Su Yee Lin received additional 10-year-sentence, relative arrested at court

On February 29, the Yangon Eastern District Court sentenced student leader Ma Su Yee Lin to an additional 10 years in prison under the Anti-Terrorism Act’s Section 50 (j) for supporting the National Unity Government (NUG). Ma Su Yee Lin, also known as Lin Lin, is the president of the Yangon Eastern University Students’ Union and a member of the General Strike Coordinating Force (GSCB). A family member reported that Ma Su Yee Lin’s aunt, Daw Ni Mo Hlaing, was arrested by the regime at the court as she attended the niece’s trial on February 28. Daw Ni Mo Hlaing, a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), has a history of previous arrests during military regimes.

Armed Resistance

  • PDF station raided by regime troops in Monywa tsp, Sagaing Region

On February 25, regime soldiers raided the Monywa Special PDF Camp which is located in the southern part of Monywa Township, Sagaing Region. Over 180 soldiers divided into three groups, seizing various military equipment and cash exceeding 500,000 Myanmar kyat from the station. Despite resistance, the attack caught the resistance rangers off guard. The regime forces retreated after nearly two hours, burning some buildings. While no PDF members were arrested, a 19-year-old villager was fatally shot on his way back from the formation.

  • AA seized regime’s training school in Minpya tsp, Rakhine State

On February 26, the Arakan Army (AA) successfully seized the regime’s No. 9 Central Training School near Kanni Village in Minpya Township, Rakhine State. Despite intense air defense by the junta troops, the AA launched an attack on the training school (also known as Tatmadaw High School) on February 17, ultimately capturing it ten days later. During the takeover, the AA discovered deceased individuals and seized ammunition at the training school. The AA declared their intention to continue their offensive, targeting regime camps in Yathaydaing, Ponnakyun, Butheedaung, and Maungdaw townships. Additionally, the AA reported that civilians and hospital staff receiving medical treatment were injured when the regime council deliberately bombed Min Phu Hospital in Min Pya Township on the morning of February 27.

  • KIA & PDF captured regime’s police station in Hpakant tsp, Kachin State

On February 27, resistance forces successfully attacked and seized the Tamakhan district police station in Hpakant Township, Kachin State. The operation was led by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Kachin People’s Defense Forces (KPDF), who initiated the assault approximately 18 miles west of the city. While the exact number of forces inside the police station remains unknown, it is reported that some personnel fled to join the regime’s military camp in Tamakhan, while others engaged in clashes outside the camp. Following the capture of the police station, the resistance forces continued their offensive by attacking the regime’s military camp. According to a KPDF official, the assault commenced around 6 am, with gunfire exchanged primarily from the ground, while drones from the resistance forces provided aerial support. The situation at the camp is described as subdued, with minimal sounds of gunshots heard from within.

  • Regime declared martial law in Mabein and Mongmit, Shan State – north

On February 28, the regime council declared martial law in Mabein Township and Mongmit Township in northern Shan State. Mabein Township fell under the control of troops led by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on January 21 and remains under their control. Although an offensive was launched against Mongmit in the same month, it was withdrawn from the city on January 25. According to the regime’s announcement, the commander of the Northern Regional Military Command has been tasked with administering justice in the two townships, including the authority to conduct legal proceedings and impose life and death sentences. In an effort to regain control of Mabein, the regime council is stationed in nearby towns of Myohla and Shweku, as reported by the officer in charge of the Thunder Column, which is fighting alongside the KIA. Presently, Mabein town is under the control of joint KIA forces and operates normally, while the regime’s forces have reclaimed Mongmit town.

  • Kalay PDF sent 12 out of 130 evacuated student/staff home in Kalay, Sagaing Region

On February 29, the Kalay District PDF announced that 12 out of over 130 individuals evacuated from Kalay University campus have been safely returned to their homes in Tedim Township, Chin State. The remaining faculty, staff, and students have been adequately provided for and will be transported back once road safety conditions permit. The exact breakdown of the 12 released individuals between employees and students has not been disclosed. Additionally, a video released by Kalay PDF last night featured the rector of Kalay University confirming the safety of all staff and students. The evacuation occurred after joint revolutionary forces raided a regime military outpost on the university campus in Kale City on February 26.

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

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