Weekly Update: 107

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, This week, there was a notable teaser from the Resistance Force’s air force featuring a dozen drones conducting bombing operations in Nay Pyi Taw. Despite the regime dismissing these attacks as amateur, there are indications that they are concerned about the potential for more powerful attacks. In another development, the Karen National Union (KNU) received the largest number of surrenders in its territory, with nearly 500 regime personnel giving up their station. Additionally, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) successfully occupied a key border town in Kachin State.

Internal Politics

  • Coordinated drone attacks rattle military bases in Nay Pyi Taw

The Ministry of Defense of the National Unity Government (NUG) announced that the military headquarters in Nay Pyi Taw, and the Aela Air Force base came under simultaneous drone attacks on April 4. These strikes reportedly involved the Kloud Drone division of the Special Technical Force and the PDF joint force at the military headquarters, while the Lethal Props division of the Special Technical Force and the PDF joint forces targeted the Aela Air Force base. Around 9am, 16 kamikaze drones struck the military headquarters, while 13 drones targeted the Aela Air Force base. In response, the Air Defense Force, as per the Military Council’s announcement, successfully intercepted four drones approaching from the east of Nay Pyi Taw Airport and three drones from the southeast of Zeyathiri Township, preventing any casualties or structural damage. General Zaw Min Tun, military spokesman, downplayed the severity of the attack, dismissing the technology used by the revolutionary forces as merely for entertainment. However, this is the most significant aerial threat since the coup. Consequently, some military leader meetings slated for the week have been canceled, and this year’s planned Thingyan party in Nay Pyi Taw, attended by military leaders, has been canceled in light of the recent events.

  • Violence erupts in Pyapon prison: 17 inmates injured 

A riot erupted at Pyapon Prison in Ayeyarwady Region on March 31, resulting in injuries to at least 17 inmates, including political detainees, according to the All Burma Political Prisoners’ Network. The prison authorities reportedly resorted to gunfire to quell the unrest, allegedly in response to harm inflicted upon staff members by the inmates. However, the precise cause of the riot remains unconfirmed, with speculation suggesting a possible altercation between prison staff and detainees. Presently, one prison staff member is hospitalized, while the injured inmates are receiving treatment within the prison’s medical facilities, as reported by Ko Thaik Tun Oo, a member of the All Burma Political Prisoners’ Network Steering Committee. According to the regime, investigations into the incident are underway, leading to the closure of the prison as of April 1, with no acceptance of correspondence. Additionally, two individuals attempting to escape from the prison on the evening of March 31were promptly recaptured, as confirmed by a local resident to RFA.

  • Junta extorting money for newly recruited individuals

In Nay Pyi Taw, individuals summoned on March 29 for military duty were taken from their residences by car and were instructed to bring white shirts and short pants. A family member, who received the call for military service, revealed that they were told that clothes will not be provided and purchased on their own. These individuals have not been allowed to contact with their families and their families fear deployment to the frontline battlefield post-training. The regime’s propaganda outlets reported that those undergoing military training were provided with grants and equipment upon enrollment. Despite the enforcement of conscription laws, the military council has yet to issue regulations concerning the training of recruited youth. In certain townships within Ayeyarwady Region, it’s rumored that households are coerced into providing financial support for individuals opting for military service. Varied sums, such as MMK 80,000 and MMK 50,000, are allegedly collected by administrators based on an estimation of their financial capabilities. However, the destination and allocation of these funds remain unclear. Additionally, in some areas, payments are made to substitute individuals willing to undertake military service duties.

  • The regime tightened border crossing protocol

On April 4, the military council announced via state-owned newspapers outlining new regulations governing border crossings. According to the directive, individuals will only be permitted to cross the border if they possess a UID certificate issued by the regime, obtained after the collection and registration of each person’s biological information. The UID certificate serves as a ten-digit unique identity number, issued by the Ministry of Immigration and Population, following the collection of biological and personal data of individuals aged 10 and above. Effective from May 1, individuals intending to travel to China, Thailand, or India must present the UID card when applying for a border crossing permit. The previously issued national security card will no longer suffice. Individuals were able to utilize various documents such as national identity cards, entry permits, nationality registrations, or temporary border passes (TBP) for border crossings. However, the introduction of the UID card aims to curb the use of counterfeit or outdated identity documents at border checkpoints. The regime said that this measure is essential for obtaining accurate demographic statistics.

International Affairs

  • UN Secretary-General Appoints Julie Bishop as Special Representative for Myanmar

On April 5, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the appointment of Ms. Julie Bishop, former foreign minister of Australia, as his special representative for Myanmar. Ms. Bishop will assume the role previously held by Singaporean diplomat Ms. Noeleen Heyzer. With a distinguished career spanning 20 years in the Australian Parliament and currently serving as the Chancellor of the Australian National University, Ms. Bishop brings a wealth of experience to her new position according to the UN statement. Recognized for her collaborative efforts with regional partners, she has played a pivotal role in negotiating and resolving international issues, notably contributing to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as highlighted in the statement by the UN Secretary-General.

  • Chinese ambassador engages with former military dictator 

On April 5, reports emerged from the WeChat page of the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar indicating that Chinese Ambassador Mr. Chen Hei visited several key figures in Myanmar, including former dictator U Than Shwe. During his visit, Ambassador Chen Hai met with a spectrum of influential figures, notably former dictator General Than Shwe, former Deputy General Maung Aye, and former President U Thein Sein, all of whom played significant roles in Myanmar’s previous military regime. Additionally, he engaged with Daw Than Than Nu, daughter of Myanmar’s inaugural Prime Minister U Nu, and former chairman of the China-Myanmar Friendship Association, U Sein Win Aung. In a statement, the Chinese Embassy emphasized their commitment to assisting Myanmar in achieving peace, reconciliation, and socio-economic development. 

  • UN Security Council’s first open door discussion on Myanmar

The United Nations Security Council, which has been deliberating on Myanmar’s situation behind closed doors since the military coup in 2021, convened its first open-door meeting on April 4. During this session, Lisa Dockton, Director of the UNOCHA, delivered a stark assessment of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Myanmar. She underscored the widespread impact of the deteriorating situation, emphasizing that it not only poses a grave threat to Myanmar but also spills over into neighboring nations. The humanitarian plight in Myanmar has reached alarming levels, exacerbated by the recent enactment of the military service law, plunging the populace into constant fear and uncertainty. With an estimated 18.6 million people in dire need of humanitarian assistance, marking a staggering 19-fold increase since the coup, and 2.8 million displaced individuals, of which 90 percent have been displaced post-coup, urgent action is imperative. 

  • Human Rights Council sanctioned aviation fuel sales to Myanmar military

On April 4, the UN Human Rights Council took decisive action aimed at exerting pressure on Myanmar amid allegations of widespread atrocities against its population. The 47-member Human Rights Council unanimously endorsed measures designed to hold the Myanmar military accountable for its alleged campaign of terror. Among the approved measures is a prohibition on the sale of aviation fuel to Myanmar, contingent upon the military council’s suspected use of such fuel to perpetrate human rights violations within the conflict-ridden nation. Additionally, the Human Rights Council calls for an immediate halt to the illicit transfer of arms and other military equipment to Myanmar. Expert assessments commissioned by the Human Rights Council in the preceding month underscored a disturbing trend of escalating violence perpetrated by the military council against civilians, even as it continues to engage in armed conflict against pro-democracy ethnic armed groups on the battlefield.

Business Matters

  • JEM alleged Schlumberger of breaching sanctions with oil equipment sales

On April 2, the Justice for Myanmar advocacy group alleged that Schlumberger, a prominent American corporation, has been supplying oil drilling equipment to the Myanmar Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (MOGE), a state entity controlled by the regime. According to trade data scrutinized by JEM, Schlumberger Vietnam Services Company dispatched goods to the Managing Director of MOGE twice in June and November 2023. These shipments reportedly included laser alignment devices utilized for measuring cables in oil and gas wells. Furthermore, the group highlighted that MOGE conducted multiple transactions with Schlumberger in 2022. Notably, Schlumberger Logelco, a Panama-based subsidiary, also registered its business in Myanmar, as per available records. This revelation underscores concerns about Schlumberger’s compliance with international sanctions and its involvement in business dealings with entities linked to the Myanmar regime. The EU had previously sanctioned MOGE due to its significant earnings under the military council, with the United States, Great Britain, and Canada following suit in late October 2023.

  • Soaring US dollar sparks medication shortages

The escalating value of the US dollar in Myanmar has triggered a dire situation in the pharmaceutical sector. Obtaining import permissions for essential medications, spanning from home remedies to treatments for chronic ailments like diabetes and hypertension, has become increasingly challenging. Consequently, the market faces acute shortages, driving medication prices to exorbitant levels. Patients suffering from chronic conditions are experiencing disruptions in their treatment regimens due to the unavailability and unaffordability of essential medications. As a result, many individuals are resorting to substitute drugs with similar chemical compositions, known colloquially as “similar drugs.” Moreover, when products are out of stock, prices surge overnight, exacerbating the affordability crisis. Critical medicines, including antibiotics and insulin injections vital for diabetic patients, are particularly scarce. Drug prices have surged two to threefold compared to the previous year, as reported by pharmacies. 

  • Malaysia’s Axiata Group to leave Myanmar 

Malaysia-based telecommunications and tower services firm, Axiata Group, announced on April 4 its decision to divest its entire joint venture, Edotco Myanmar Ltd, in Myanmar, fetching $150 million. This move signals an imminent withdrawal of tower services from the Myanmar market, as cited by Axiata. Attributing its departure to the prevailing macroeconomic downturn and challenging operational landscape, Axiata sheds light on the unfavorable business conditions prompting its exit. Axiata Tower Service Company commenced operations in Myanmar in 2015, boasting an initial business valuation of $221 million. However, reports from Business Times reveal that Axiata incurred a loss of 30 percent of its investment value, with the divestment. The impending sale is set to transfer ownership to Pun Tower Business Investment Ltd, affiliated with the Yoma Group, a conglomerate of prominent Myanmar businessmen, who intend to sustain the venture’s operations. 

  • Foreign trade declined as the economic challenges worsened 

The regime controlled Ministry of Economy and Commerce reports a stark decline of over 11 percent in the value of foreign trade in the current fiscal year compared to that of last year. As of March 15 in the 2023-24 financial year, the combined value of export and import trade through sea and border routes stands at over $28.8 billion, down from over $32.6 billion in the same period last year, marking a decrease of over $3.6 billion, according to the ministry’s statistics. Border trade routes remain disrupted due to ongoing conflict, while maritime trade faces obstacles due to licensing restrictions. Traders attribute the trade downturn to various factors, including mandatory conversion of export earnings into kyats, logistical challenges with shipping lines and containers, and restricted imports following the coup. Despite the regie’s reported 11 percent decline, traders speculate the actual decrease could be even greater. With foreign income dwindling post-coup, imports have been curtailed, resulting in shortages of essential commodities like fuel and medicines, exacerbating the economic strain on the population.

  • Crackdown on gold traders due to the rising prices

As the price of one kyatta (tica) of gold surged to over 45 lakh kyats, the regime has taken swift action against illegal trading practices. Seven gold shops faced prosecution, with five businessmen arrested for various infractions, including trading without proper certification. The regime controlled Central Bank has intensified monitoring of the gold and currency markets in the name of ensuring stability. In a statement issued on April 2, the monitoring committee disclosed that field inspections were conducted in Yangon and Mandalay, resulting in enforcement actions against non-compliant gold establishments. While specific identities remain unconfirmed, reports suggest that prominent figures, including the owner of the New Tyson gold shop, were among those arrested. The Central Bank’s statement warned of further repercussions, including temporary business suspensions, against those engaged in speculative activities within the gold industry.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Nearly 160,000 displaced in Rakhine State: UNOCHA reports

UNOCHA reported on April 4 that nearly 160,000 civilians, equivalent to 157,000 individuals, have been displaced by the recent escalation of hostilities between the regime’s forces and the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State since November 2023. Current conflict areas include Buthidaung, Maungdaw, and An townships, posing grave risks to civilian safety due to the presence of explosive remnants and landmines. As the summer season intensifies, displaced individuals are additionally grappling with acute shortages of potable water. UNOCHA’s announcement follows a previous report on March 14, which indicated that over 300,000 individuals had fled clashes between the military and the AA since December 2018, only to be displaced again by the renewed conflict. Furthermore, a report by the Humanitarian and Development Cooperation Office (HDCO) of the AA on February 25 highlighted a significant surge in the number of war refugees, with nearly 270,000 fleeing their homes amidst fighting in Rakhine State and Paletwa Township in Chin State over the past three months.

  • About 30,000 displaced civilians in need of aid

Reports on April 2 reveal that approximately 30,000 civilians, displaced by ongoing conflict in three townships of Sagaing Region, are in dire need of food aid. These civilians fled from over 30 villages in Yinmarbin, Sarlingyi, and Kani townships, prompted by escalating security measures imposed by regime troops along the Pathein-Monywa highway, a strategic route providing access to the Chinese copper mine project. The intensification of patrols in villages along the eastern side of Yinmarbin and the western side of Sarlingyi has exacerbated the mass displacement. Meanwhile, in Kani Township, residents have been fleeing since the onset of the city siege, with many still unable to return to their homes. A member of the Yinmarbin Defense Force lamented the challenges faced by locals, particularly in sustaining their livelihoods, as they have been forced to abandon agricultural fields in the wake of the conflict. Immediate provision of food assistance is imperative to alleviate the plight of these displaced individuals.

  • About 120 illegal Myanmar migrants arrested by Thai authorities

Local villagers in Dug Pha Phu Province, Kanchanaburi District, Thailand, alerted security forces after observing a large group of individuals inhabiting a single house. Upon investigation on April 4, Thai authorities uncovered more than 120 illegal Myanmar migrants within the premises, as reported by labor activist U Moe Kyo. Within a few days, over 200 illegal Myanmar migrants were apprehended across three southern Thai provinces signaling a surge in illicit border crossings. Many individuals attempt to evade Myanmar’s conscription law by seeking employment in Thailand, often resorting to illegal routes to reach their destination. Despite the risks, including involvement in car accidents along illegal routes, Myanmar youth continue to flock to official border gates, albeit facing obstacles imposed by both Myanmar and Thai authorities. Consequently, illegal border crossings remain common, with the majority of migrants being young adults aged over 20.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • Village administrator and son shot dead in Paukkaung tsp, Bago Region

On the evening of April 2, Nyaung Pin Inn village administrator U Tin Htwe and his son Ko Kyaw Thu Soe, a former military sergeant, were targeted in Paukkaung Township, Bago Region. They were reportedly involved in recruiting individuals for conscription within the community, which had sparked complaints from local residents. Subsequently, both individuals were arrested for questioning by the Pyay District People’s Defense Force (P-PDF). While attempting to flee, they were shot dead.

  • Regime station targeted in Tontay tsp, Yangon Region

On the evening of April 4, a Yangon-based urban guerrilla force known as Dark Shadow detonated an explosion at the regime’s military station located in Gyaung Wine Lay Ward, Tontay Township, Yangon. Two bombs were set up, but only one detonated. The incident occurred during a military training session for Pyu Saw Htee members, though the extent of casualties remains unverified at this time. Dark Shadow members managed to retreat without encountering any issues. Local residents reported increased security measures following a series of attacks since the implementation of the conscription law.

  • Explosion resulted in civilian casualties in immigration office in Mandalay

On April 5, a blast occurred during office hours at the immigration department office in Mandalay, resulting in the deaths of two civilians and injuries to nearly ten others. The incident took place at the regime’s immigration office located on Kywal Sal Kan Street no.1, Chanmyatharyar Ward, Pyigyitagon Township. The victims killed by the explosion were identified as Ma Ni Ni Win Maung and Ko Swal Yit, both civilians. In addition to the fatalities, three immigration officers and six civilians sustained injuries, some of whom are in critical condition. The responsible party behind the attack remains unknown. The regime’s recent efforts to gather public information, coupled with the requirement for a Unique Identification Number (UID) smart card containing biometric data for passport applications, has led to overcrowding at immigration offices tasked with issuing these cards.

  • Four police including township sheriff killed during landmine attack in Wundwin tsp, Mandalay

At around 7 pm on April 5, the Wundwin Township Revolution Force (WTRF) detonated a landmine targeting a vehicle carrying four police officers in Wundwin Township, Mandalay Region. The explosion occurred while the car was travelling between Nat Nan and Hta Naung villages. The force of the blast caused the vehicle to disintegrate, resulting in the death of all four individuals on board, including the township sheriff, Win Kyaw Thu.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • 50 Muslim IDPs forced to guard Chinese projects in Kyaukphyu SEZ, Rakhine State

On March 29, regime soldiers raided the Kyauttalone Muslim Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp, located three miles south of Kyaukphyu Town in Rakhine State. They reportedly abducted 50 men over the age of 30 from the camp. These men are being coerced into serving as guards at Chinese projects near the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The families of those abducted were provided with 50,000 MMK and some groceries. Prior to this, men from the camp were subjected to mandatory military training. The camp has been informed that another 50 individuals will be recruited in two weeks.

  • Man from Yangon died four days after conscripted  

A 27-year-old Muslim man named Ko Ko Latt reportedly died at Mingalardon Military Hospital in Yangon on March 31, just four days after being drafted for mandatory military training. Speculation suggests he may have died due to torture inflicted by senior officers, although this has not been verified. Ko Ko Latt, originally from Taikkyi Township, Yangon, joined other recruits on the morning of March 28. Despite having a drinking habit, he did not suffer from any other major health issues. He is survived by his wife and two young children aged 4 years and 3 months.

  • Regime’s aerial bombing killed 3 IDPs including a child in Homalin tsp, Sagaing Region

On the evening of April 1, around 4:30 pm, the junta’s forces conducted an airstrike targeting a village in Homalin Township, resulting in civilian casualties. The attack specifically targeted a school and a monastery in Manawtha Village, located between Homalin and Faungpyin townships, where many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) had sought refuge. Tragically, 3-year-old Ma May Thet Zon, her mother Ma Win Mar Oo, and Daw Nang Kham Mon were killed in the airstrike. Several others were injured, including a 5-month-old baby, seven children aged between 5 to 16, and a 65-year-old man. Clashes between the regime’s army and resistance forces have been ongoing near the village since March 30.

  • Six killed during regime’s aeral attack in Mabein tsp, Shan-north

On the evening of April 2, Min Aung Hlaing’s air force conducted an airstrike on Moelone Village, located 20 miles northwest of Mabein Town in Shan State (north). Tragically, six people, including a monk, were killed in the attack, while seven others sustained injuries. Reports indicated that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) had held a meeting in a village near Moelone just hours before the airstrike. Many speculated that the regime’s forces received incorrect information and mistakenly bombed Moelone Village, believing it to be the location of the KIA meeting.

  • Regime’s airstrikes killed six and injured dozen in Rakhine State

In recent weeks, the junta’s forces have been conducting retaliatory aerial bombardments and artillery strikes on towns occupied by the Arakan Army (AA). On April 2, the regime conducted an airstrike on Kanhtaungkyi Town in Myebon Township, resulting in three deaths and one injury. The deceased victims were identified as 64-year-old U Tun Kyi, 21-year-old Ko Sithu Myo Aung, and 41-year-old U Myint Shwe, while 50-year-old U A Phyu U was injured in the attack. The following day, a similar attack occurred in Myitnarr Village, Minbya Township, resulting in further casualties. Among the deceased were 26-year-old health worker Daw Swe Swe Tun, 48-year-old Daw Oo Kyi May, and her 23-year-old daughter Ma Thein Oo Soe, who were tragically killed in the explosion. Additionally, eight others, including 50-year-old U Maung Aung Myint, his 2-year-old grandson Mg Aung Myo Khine, and 24-year-old Ma Than Than Swe, sustained injuries.

  • Another political prisoner killed in Dawei Prison, Tanintharyi Region

Last week, it was reported that a political prisoner named Ko Win Thiha from Dawei Prison had been taken outside the prison and killed by the regime’s soldiers on March 23. Another inmate’s fate remained undisclosed at the time. On April 2, it was confirmed that Ko Min Thu, a 25-year-old Islamic religious teacher, was also killed in the same incident.

Armed Resistance

  • KIA occupied Sein Lone strategic base and Lwalgal in Kachin State

On April 1, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) successfully occupied the regime’s last remaining strategic military base, Sein Lone, located between Momauk and Lwalgal towns in Kachin State. Subsequently, on April 6, a junta military strategist colonel was captured alive after fleeing from the Sein Lone station along with 10 other men. Following the capture of Sein Lone, the KIA continued to occupy Lwalgal, a strategically important town for border trade between China and Myanmar. The KIA swiftly removed the regime’s flags and sealed off its administrative offices.

  • AA seized another military headquarter in Buthidaung tsp, Rakhine State

On the morning of April 5 around 8 am, the Arakan Army (AA) reportedly captured the regime’s Light Infantry Battalion Unit 564, located in Buuthidaung Township, Rakhine State. The AA successfully seized the station after five days of intense clashes with responses from the regime’s ground troops and air support. During the clash, approximately 80 regime troops were reported to have been killed.

  • KIA captured Han Htet strategic base in Mansi tsp, Kachin State

After a 3-day offensive, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and allied resistance forces reportedly took control of the regime’s Light Infantry Battalion Unit 602 located in Han Htet village, en route to Mandalay, in Mansi Township, Kachin State. The KIA and their allies utilized approximately 100 personnel to capture the station. The Han Htet station serves as a strategic gateway from the Mandalay Region to Kachin State.

  • Drone attack took place during regime’s general visit in Mudon tsp, Mon State

On April 6 around 10:30 am, a bombing occurred via a drone during the visit of regime General Mya Tun Oo to Kawpayan Village, Mudon Township, Mon State. The General and his entourage were inspecting a landplot for a new international airport project in the area when the blast targeted the building where the meeting was being held. Nearby, a vehicle was reportedly destroyed in the incident.

  • Nearly 500 regime troops surrendered to KNU in Myawaddy tsp, Karen State

On April 7, the Karen National Union (KNU) announced that approximately 617 regime personnel, including family members, surrendered to them at the Thingannyinaung strategic station in Myawaddy Township, Karen State. This surrender represents the largest in KNU territory to date. Among those who surrendered were 67 officers, 410 troops, and 140 family members. The surrender followed the KNU’s offensive at the station on April 5. Additionally, from the same station, KNU and resistance forces managed to seize hundreds of various military arsenals.

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

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