Weekly Update: 104

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, the dangers posed by the enforcement of the conscription law are imminent and real. Across the country, youths have received notifications informing them of their mandatory enlistment in the army within a few weeks.  In response, many have taken hasty decisions to abruptly leave the country. The situation is deeply concerning, it may be the most dire our youths have faced since the coup. Read the highlights below:

Internal Affairs

  • Conscription law enforced across the country

In Yangon and other major cities like Nay Pyi Taw, civilians have been receiving summonses to join the army. Over the past few days, groups affiliated with the regime have been gathering names of eligible individuals for military service in some Yangon townships. The drafting process varies across the country, with administrators in charge of households conducting the recruitment based on their own plans. New recruits will be sent to the battlefield on a rotation basis, according to the news. It has caused great distress among youths and families as many plan to leave the country immediately. Starting April, after the Thingyan holidays, the regime is set to to begin summoning individuals at a rate of 5,000 people per month. The law mandates that all adults serve in the military for up to five years, with refusal potentially leading to a five-year prison sentence. There’s currently no plan to call up women for military service.

  • Dozens of Rohingyas killed in battle after being used as humanshields by regime in Rakhine State  

On March 13, the regime instructed officials at the Rohingya refugee camp in Sittwe to pick up the bodies of 97 Rohingya who died in the battle near Angoo Maw, Yathaytaung Township, Rakhine State. According to U Tun Khin, chairman of the Myanmar-Rohingya Association, the junta is exploiting the Rohingya as human shields in the fighting in Rakhine State. Most of the deceased were young Rohingya from the refugee camps in Sittwe, who were forcibly recruited by the regime. Sittwe hosts about 14 Rohingya refugee camps with a population exceeding 100,000.

  • TNLA began public healthcare with CDM doctors in Namtu tsp, Shan-north

In Northern Shan State, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) began a public hospital in Namtu Township, employing doctors of the Civic Disobedience Movement (CDM). TNLA has officially announced its collaboration with CDM health workers and plans to recruit more. The hospital has commenced operations with 18 health workers, including local CDM participants and an expert CDM doctor from lower Myanmar. TNLA states that while the Namtu Public Hospital currently faces staffing and resource shortages, it is striving to address the healthcare needs of the local community round-the-clock.

  • Regime told staff to leave AA administration

The junta has issued instructions for its staff working in ministry and departmental offices in townships under the control of the Arakan Army (AA) to report to the military. Currently, the AA holds control over eight townships, such as Paletwa, Kyauktaung, Mrauk-U, Minpyar, Pauktaw, Ponnakyun, Myaybon, and Yanbye. The regime’s staff in those townships have been mandated to report to the military offices in the junta’s governed areas, with those failing to comply facing threats of unauthorized registration. The AA has recently claimed that administrative offices in areas under their control are operated by regime’s employees.

  • Record-low number of students registered for matriculation exam

Since the coup, the number of students sitting for the matriculation exam, also known as the 10th-grade exam, has decreased, reaching a record low of just over 140,000 this year. The Ministry of Education, under the junta, announced that 146,523 students are registered to take the 2024 matriculation exam. This figure represents only about 15 percent of the total number of students who registered for the 2020 matriculation exam. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, over 970,000 students were enrolled at that time.

International Affairs

  • WFP director met Junta representative, discussed worsened humanitarian crisis

Myanmar’s humanitarian situation is rapidly worsening, according to Carl Skau, Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP). Despite the challenges, Skau noted the remarkable resilience shown by citizens during his visit to the country. He emphasized the urgent need for international collaboration to provide assistance upon his return from Myanmar. During his visit from March 11 to 13, Skau met with U Than Swe, Foreign Minister of the regime, on March 12 in Nay Pyi Taw. At the meeting, Skau stressed the critical importance of delivering humanitarian aid swiftly to all those in need, regardless of their location.

  • EU reasserted its dedication to help Myanmar via non-governmental orgs

Jutta Urpilainen, EU Commissioner for International Partnerships, reaffirmed the European Union’s commitment to supporting the people of Myanmar, emphasizing that aid is channeled through non-governmental organizations and UN-affiliated bodies rather than the regime. Speaking during a meeting in Phnom Penh on March 13 with Cambodian Foreign Minister Phun Chanda Sophia, Urpilainen underscored the EU’s backing for ASEAN’s five-point consensus on the Myanmar issue. Expressing concern over the situation in Myanmar, she emphasized the EU’s belief in the significance of providing assistance to its people, with a focus on healthcare, education, and food security.

  • U Kyaw Moe Tun request international action to stop enforcement of conscription law

In a meeting at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City on March 13, Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun, the National Unity Government’s permanent representative to the UN, urged international action to halt the junta’s unlawful recruitment of soldiers in Myanmar. He emphasized that there is no foreign invasion threatening the country, yet the military’s oppressive tactics pose a grave danger to Myanmar’s youth. According to U Kyaw Moe Tun, the military’s actions, including forced recruitment, aim not to defend the nation but to exploit youths as human shields and laborers for their own agenda amidst nationwide armed resistance against the regime.

  • Repatriation plan delayed for over 70 detainees who entered Indian illegally

India’s plan to repatriate over 70 individuals detained for illegal entry into Manipur state back to Myanmar is facing delays, as reported by a family member and aid workers. Originally, the repatriation of 77 Myanmar nationals from the Imphal foreigner detention center was scheduled to occur between March 8 and 11. However, only 38 women and children were airlifted to an Indian military camp in the border town of Moreh, where they remained until recently. The remaining 39 men were supposed to be transported to Moreh on March 10, but they were instead returned to Imphal prison on the same day, according to India for Myanmar, an organization dedicated to addressing issues concerning the Myanmar people.

Business Matters

  • MNDAA reopened Myanmar-China border crossings

On March 11, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army reopened two border crossings at Chinshwehaw and Kyu Kot (Pansai) to facilitate the movement of people and resume trade. Following the operation 1027, numerous regime stations and towns in northern Shan State were captured. This operation also led to the control of vital border trading posts along the Myanmar-China border. Two months after the regime agreed to a temporary ceasefire on January 11 this year, prompted by Chinese intervention, the sudden reopening of the two gates was confirmed by MNDAA.

  • Regime took action against 11 foreign exchange companies

Between March 6 and 8, investigations into foreign currency transactions were conducted jointly by the regime’s Central Bank and the Yangon City Municipal Committee. Following these investigations, four companies, including Thura Nay Tun (Fame Money Changer), Lead Star Money Changer, Steber Group Money Changer, and Asia Shwe Thee, had their foreign exchange licenses suspended for three months due to regulatory violations. Additionally, Sweet Yadanar Company and Ngwe Myinn Phyu Company had their licenses to buy and sell foreign currency suspended for six months. Furthermore, the licenses of three companies, including Archipelago Seamen Club Company, SJ Vita Myanmar, and M Plus Myanmar, were revoked.

  • Thailand to renew the natural gas projects with regime

Despite mounting pressure from activists, including the National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar, Thailand’s state-owned oil exploration and production company, PTTEP-PTT, is considering renewing the contract for the Jotika and Yadana offshore natural gas projects. As reported by Upstream on March 14, the CEO of PTTEP emphasized the necessity of these projects, as they supply gas from Myanmar’s offshore to 11 power plants in western Thailand, fulfilling 17% of the country’s domestic electricity demand. Reuters previously reported that the two blocks under consideration for extension could provide 50% of Myanmar’s electricity needs and 20% of Thailand’s electricity needs.

  • Gold Association Yangon warned against those selling above set price

Since the start of March, the gold price of one Kyattha (equivalent to 16 grams) has surged to an all-time high, exceeding 40,000,000 Myanmar kyats. In response, the Yangon Gold Entrepreneurs Association (YGEA) issued a warning on March 12, stating that it would investigate and penalize individuals responsible for this spike. Furthermore, they emphasized the necessity of trading below the price set by the Association.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • UNICEF says six million Myanmar children in need of help

On March 14, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) declared that 18.6 million individuals in Myanmar, including six million children, require humanitarian assistance. Statistics revealed that 18.6 million individuals urgently need aid, a eighteen-fold increase from 2021 before the coup. Due to escalated conflicts in Rakhine State, Kayah State, Chin State, Northern Shan State, and Sagaing Region, the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) is rising, necessitating immediate emergency aid, UNICEF noted. Between January and February 2024, the fighting resulted in 207 fatalities, including 16 children, and 292 injuries, including 36 children, according to UNICEF.

  • Malaysia’s new immigration law worries Myanmar immigrants

The Malaysian government recently introduced a program allowing those detained for illegal residency to pay a fine and voluntarily return home without facing imprisonment. Under the new program, individuals opting to return will not face prosecution or imprisonment. They will be required to pay a fine ranging from three to five hundred Malaysian ringgit and provide proof of a return flight ticket. Approximately 300,000 Myanmar nationals reside in Malaysia, with many fearing potential risks upon return, especially those fleeing the regime’s oppression in Myanmar. The Malaysian government does not formally recognize these individuals as refugees, hence falling under the category of illegal immigrants.

  • Internet and phone cut off in nearly 80 townships

On March 13, Voice of Freedom, an advocacy group for freedom of expression, released a statement highlighting the widespread disruption of phone and internet services across nearly 80 townships in Myanmar following the coup. This blackout extended until the end of February 2024. The affected areas include almost all townships in Rakhine State, where clashes with the Arakan Army (AA) are intense, and 27 townships in Sagaing Division, where the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) are active, experienced the most severe disruptions. In Sittwe, Rakhine State, MyTel phone services were operational until February 16, but were subsequently cut off from the 17 onwards, affecting both phone and internet connectivity.

  • Number of IDPs grew significantly in Tanintharyi Region

Nearly 50,000 individuals were reportedly displaced in February due to the conflict between the regime’s army and the PDF in Tanintharyi Region. The FE5 Tanintharyi research group, dedicated to studying the conflict and assisting war refugees in Tanintharyi, released a statement on March 12. Townships like Dawei, Launglon, Pulaw, and Taninthari have recorded the highest number of displaced individuals. It is estimated that there are nearly 22,000 war refugees in Dawei district alone.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • Regime informer shot dead in Nattalin tsp, Bago Region

On March 12, at 12 pm, Khin Zaw Win, who was employed by the regime’s military was shot and killed on the spot in Nattalin Township, Bago Region. The incident occurred in Bantbwegon Village, where he was residing and conducting investigations of the PDF members. Despite repeated warnings from the resistance forces, Khin Zaw Win did not comply, leading to his shooting and demise. Nattalin PDF claimed responsibility.

  • Regime’s staff residence and administration office targeted in Insein tsp, Yangon

The entrance gate of the Air Force officer’s residence and the Sawbwargyikone district administration office were bombed in Insein Township, Yangon. At approximately 8:40 pm on March 12, the Dark Shadow group detonated the Air Force officer’s housing gate and the administrator’s office using a remote-controlled mine. Casualties were estimated at the officer’s housing and damages were reported at the administrator’s office.

  • Regime’s Air Base attacked in Taungoo, Bago Region

In Bago Taungoo District, the junta’s Taungoo Air Base was reportedly attacked by five missiles on March 14 around 8:45 pm. The Mountain Knights Civilian Defense Force (MKCDF) launched five 107 mm missiles under the supervision of the Brave Warriors for Myanmar (BWM) team inside Taungoo Air Force Base. It was reported that three of the missiles successfully struck and exploded within the base camp, while the other two were damaged.

  • New Mon Party warned ward administrators against recruiting for conscription law

On March 15, the New Mon Party (Monpyithit) declared its intention to take decisive action against ward and village administrators who enforce the conscription law imposed by the regime. The announcement from the New Mon Party AD was prompted by directives issued to ward and village administrators in Kyaikmaraw Township, Mon State, to recruit 100 individuals. In response, the New Mon Party AD stated that ward and village administrators will face consequences if they complied with the directives.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Nine individuals sentenced to death in 2024

The Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP) said that nine individuals had been sentenced to death by the regime’s tribunal during the initial two months of 2024. Among those sentenced to death, Ko Zaw Ye Htet, aged 23 and detained in Insein Prison, has received the death penalty four times. The 28-year-old Ko Eant Maw Oo has been sentenced to death twice. Both individuals are civilians. In Pathein Prison, Ko Ko Aung, Ko Thura Phyo, Ko Kyaw San Oo, and Ko Tun Tun Oo, along with Ko Aung Moe Myint, have each received the death penalty three times, along with 60 years in prison. Similarly, Ko Kaung Sithu and Ko Win Myat Thein Zaw from Pathein Prison have been sentenced to death, along with 25 years in prison each. AAPP indicates that all seven individuals sentenced to death in Pathein Prison are members of local defense forces.

  • 24 political prisoners kept in chains for more than 3 months in Insein Prison

The All Myanmar Political Prisoners Network (PPNM) reported that 24 political detainees have been confined in Insein Central Prison for the past three months with their ankles chained. From November 5, 2023, until present, these 24 political prisoners, including prominent figures such as U Htin Kyaw of the 88th generation political prisoners, along with Ko Zaw Naing Tun, Ko Myo Min Oo, Ko Balagyi, Ko Ye Min Htwe, Ko Chan Myae Ko Ko, Ko Hla Oo Maung, Ko Wai Min Aung, and Ko Kyaw Het, have been accused of possessing illegal materials. For that reason, prison authorities subjected them to mistreatment, including covering their faces with hoods, beating them, and kicking them with their ankles shackled. The individuals currently restrained range in age from 20 to 60 years old and are held under illegal charges including Article 54(a), 52(a), and 19(f). These detainees have been confined since November 5, 2023, and as of March 16, more than 130 days have passed, during which they have been forced to undertake hard labor while wearing iron ankle chains.

  • 80 houses burned down in Kawkareik tsp, Karen State

Over 80 houses were reportedly destroyed by a shell explosion fired by the reigme’s army during a battle on the evening of March 11 in Ward No. 6 of Kawkareik Town, Karen State on March 12. The conflict involved the regime’s army and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) allied forces, resulting in heavy ammunition falling and houses burning. Earlier, on February 21, two neighborhoods in Kawkareik were burned by the regime’s forces. Approximately 100 houses were destroyed in a drone attack. It has been nearly two months since the conflict in Kawkareik began, during which almost 400 homes of local residents were destroyed by fire, along with the loss of lives, including elderly individuals and children. Around twenty people, including women, were killed, and more than twenty were injured, as reported by individuals aiding war refugees.

  • Regime’s artillery killed five including three children in Bhamo tsp, Kachin State

On the morning of March 12, the regime’s artillery struck the village of Kanni, located on the west side of the Irrawaddy River in Bhamo Town, Kachin State, claiming the lives of three children under the age of ten and two women. The incident occurred around 11 am when the regime’s No. (21) Operation Command Headquarters in the town fired on the village. Among the victims was a 30-year-old mother of three children but the rest were not identified yet. According to sources on the ground, such attacks have become frequent in Bhamo, with villages experiencing bombardments on numerous occasions, often occurring during the night.

  • AA’s Ponnakyun attacked by regime, civilian casualties reported

On March 14, the regime’s forces fired artillery shells toward Ponnakyun Town, Rakhine State which was occupied by the Arakan Army (AA). The fire hit Selthonetan Village, Pauktaw Township, and resulted in casualties. Three civilians who came to aid refugees were killed, and 11 were severely injured One person died on the spot, and the other two died on the way to the hospital. The remaining individuals suffered severe injuries. The deceased were identified as U Sein Tun Kyaw, approximately 60 years old; Ko U Hla Maung, and Ko Maung Hla Chay. The shell was fired from a regime vessel in the Sittwe River.

  • Regime’s airstrike killed and injured civilians in Mindat, Chin State

On March 15, the regime reportedly conducted airstrikes on Mindat town, Chin State, resulting in civilian casualties. The aerial attack took place around noon, without any active battle nearby. A 6-year-old girl and a 40-year-old woman were killed while two children under the age of 10, a 28-year-old CDM teacher, and a 70-year-old man were injured. Additionally, a church, a school, and houses were destroyed.

Armed Resistance

  • Resistance forces took control of regime station in Farsaung tsp, Karenni State

The Karenni resistance forces successfully captured the base of the junta’s No. 135 Light Infantry in Farsaung town during the first week of March. Following the offensive by the joint forces, the regime’s soldiers from the base, near the Salwin River bridge, evacuated the camp and relocated to the Battalion 134 camp on the mountain west of the town to regroup. The resistance forces now control most of Farsaung and have also seized the police station. Since February 28, the Karenni resistance forces have launched offensive operations. Throughout the 15-day battle, the regime’s army retaliated by firing heavy weapons and conducting airstrikes on the town. Reports indicate that two-thirds of the houses in Farsaung were destroyed, and at least five civilians were killed as a result of the attack.

  • AA occupied Yanbye Town, Rakhine State

The Arakan Army (AA) has successfully captured Yanbye town on March 11. The town is located in Kyauk Phyu District in southern Rakhine State and is the starting point of the China-Myanmar natural gas pipeline. Yanbye became the first achievement of AA in southern Rakhine since the inception of its offensive in November last year. The regime’s air force conducted numerous bombings on the town, and heavy weapons were fired. Following the complete takeover, the AA released most of the hostages held by the regime’s forces. It is reported that one of the hostages was shot dead during the regime’s army’s retreat. I

  • Regime’s colonel and 60 soldiers surrendered to KNU in Kyaikdon, Karen State

On March 14, the junta’s Colonel Aung Kyaw Soe and about 60 soldiers reportedly surrendered to Brigade 6 of the KNU/KNLA in Kyaikdon, Kyarinseikkyi township, Karen State. The KNLA and its allies initiated a heavy offensive on the previous day to seize the regime’s strategic hill on the Thai-Myanmar border, located 12 miles east of Kyi Dom. The junta’s army led by the colonel surrendered on the evening of March 14. Reportedly, the chief strategist himself raised the white flag and surrendered. The resistance forces also confiscated numerous weapons.

  • KIA seized 10 key regime stations in Kachin State

During the 4-day offensive, at least 10 of the regime’s main military bases were captured, according to the spokesperson of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA, in alliance with the Arakan Army (AA), alongside the PDF and the Kachin People’s Defense Forces (KPDF), has been targeting army bases in Kachin state since March 7. Throughout the operation, the KIA successfully seized the strategic Kharabom camp of the junta, which is closest to the KIA headquarters in Laiza town. Following the operation, the fighting continues to escalate in areas such as Bhamo, Myitkyina, Putao, Momauk, Winemaw, Suamprabom, and Hpakant.

  • Regime destroyed roads in Bago, cutting the resistance forces’ access to Naypyitaw

The regime’s village administrators reportedly destroyed roads in Bago Region, that lead to Naypyitaw via Yangon-Mandalay expressway. The incident took place on the morning of March 15. The targeted roads were often used as shortcuts, particularly to reach Mile 181 on the expressway, close to Naypyitaw. Many speculated that the destruction was intended to cut the resistance forces’ access to Naypyitaw, as per the widely known “All road lead to Naypyitaw” chant. However, the regime’s mouthpieces argued that the action was taken to prevent illegal logging, although it has been rare according to local sources.

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

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