Weekly Update: 108

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, it’s encouraging to hear positive developments as Myanmar enters the new year. The news of Myawaddy in Karen State slipping away from the regime’s control and the capture of Lwegel, a key trade hub, by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) are indeed significant achievements. However, it’s important to remain cautious as the regime may retaliate forcefully. Despite this, it’s evident that Min Aung Hlaing’s regime is facing challenges on multiple fronts and appears to be weakened. Read the highlights below:

Internal Politics

  • KIA takes control of trade hub in Kachin State

Reports indicate that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has gained full control of Lwegel township in Moe Mauk Township, a pivotal trade city on the Myanmar-China border. Following the departure of soldiers from the 142nd Infantry Battalion 142 stationed near the local high school on April 8, KIA forces are now overseeing the city’s administration and security operations. According to Colonel Nawbu, KIA’s spokesperson, the entire city of Lwegel is now under KIA’s control, with military council forces withdrawn. Recent operations by the KIA and joint forces resulted in the capture of around 10 strategic camps, including Yaw Lon and Sein Lon, between March 27 and April 1, culminating in the sole guard camp in Lwegell being vacated on April 8. Colonel Nawbu anticipates that trade activities, halted temporarily due to the conflict, will soon resume, with civil administration and departmental functions expected to recommence in the coming days.

  • KNLA seized Myawaddy

The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), along with its allied forces, successfully captured Infantry Battalion 275, the last stronghold of the military council at the western entrance to Myawaddy, on the Myanmar-Thailand border. The attack, which began on April 8 and concluded on April 11 at 4 am, resulted in the death of 50 military council members and injuries to two members of the joint resistance forces, as reported by KNLA Brigade 6 strategist Nel Dar Htoo to Myanmar Now. The remaining military council troops fled to Myawaddy town, guarded by the Border Guard Force (BGF) under the control of the regime. Despite this victory, uncertainties loom over the city’s governance, with various armed forces present in the area. KNU spokesperson Pado Saw Taw Nee stated that administrative activities would be gradually expanded due to the increasing control over territories and ongoing conflicts in Duplaya and Hpa-an districts. Saw Taw Nee emphasized plans to systematically manage areas beyond Myawaddyi city, focusing on strategic locations such as Hpapun and others.

  • NUCC’s Conference repealed the 1982 Citizenship Law

The National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) announced on April 9 that during the Second People’s Conference, a five-day event from April 4 to 9, it was decided to repeal the 1982 Citizenship Law. This decision aligns with Chapter 5 of the Interim Legislation of the Federal Democratic Charter. The council’s statement also outlined plans to combat the military council’s illegal military service law and address its impacts through collaboration with the public and revolutionary forces. Furthermore, it resolved to assess and establish mechanisms for local administration and law enforcement, ensuring a balanced approach involving relevant revolutionary forces, including the National Unity Government (NUG). This initiative aims to organize defense and security matters in line with the Federal Democratic Charter while ensuring transparency and accountability.

  • KNU to collaborate with Thai government for border stability

The Karen National Union (KNU) declared on April 12 concerted efforts with Thai authorities to restore peace and stability along the Thai-Myanmar border. This collaboration involves internal and external alliances, including border-based Karen organizations, aimed at ensuring the safety of residents on both sides of the border. The KNU emphasized its commitment to border stabilization and the provision of humanitarian aid. Plans are underway to facilitate safe border crossings and enforce the rule of law. Additionally, the KNU urged the public to remain vigilant for security purposes, acknowledging ongoing challenges in securing Myawaddy. Once the safety of Myawaddy town is established, local participation in administrative activities, law enforcement, and public services will commence, alongside efforts to enhance trade activities.

  • Former agriculture minister faces corruption charges

The military council has initiated legal proceedings against U Myint Hlaing, former Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation under U Thein Sein’s administration, invoking Section 55 of the Anti-Corruption Law, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. The 71-year-old former lieutenant general was apprehended at his residence in Nay Pyi Taw on April 10. According to a leaked police communication obtained by Khit Thit media, U Myint Hlaing faces allegations related to land rights applications exceeding 1,700 acres of farmland in the eastern area of Dagon New Town, filed during his tenure as minister. The case has been registered at Dekhina Thiri Township Police Station. Sources in Nay Pyi Taw informed Myanmar Now that U Myint Hlaing, a former key figure of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, was detained by the regime on suspicion of ties to online fraud syndicates in Kokang/Laukkai.

International Affairs

  • Thai PM calls for ceasefire and dialogue in Myanmar

In an exclusive interview with Reuters on April 8, Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin emphasized the urgency of halting the conflict in Myanmar and initiating dialogue. Prime Minister Thavisin highlighted the Burmese army’s intensified presence, urging all parties to consider the consequences of continued fighting. He emphasized the need to explore diplomatic solutions, stating, “If your side has lost, what will you do? Continue to oppress them or talk to them?” Acknowledging the military’s strength, he underscored the importance of recognizing relative power dynamics and pursuing negotiations. The statement from the Thai Prime Minister coincides with heightened hostilities between the PDF joint forces and the military council in Myawaddy, the economic hub of the Myanmar-Thai border. Prime Minister Thavisin emphasized the significance of Myanmar for Thailand, the US, and other partner countries, including discussions with China, underscoring the collective efforts towards resolving the crisis through diplomatic means.

  • Evacuation of regime’s staff from Myawaddy to Yangon via Mae Sot

A source within the military council’s staff in Myawaddy, Karen State, speaking anonymously for security reasons, disclosed to RFA Burmese that on April 7, 42 departments of the regime in Myawaddy initiated the relocation of district and township-level officials and their families to Yangon via Mae Sot, Thailand. The evacuation was facilitated by MNA flight number ATR 72-600, which arrived at Mae Sot Airport at 8:30 pm Thai time and departed at 10pm. The military council had issued orders on April 5 mandating the evacuation of Myawaddy, with families of departmental officers taking precautions ahead of the directive. The source indicated that families of general managers and officials would be summoned for a three-day period. Although department officials and their families were reportedly on the flight back to Yangon, RFA was not able to independently verify this information. A notification from the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated April 6 outlined the emergency flight permissions for MNA aircraft No. ATR 72-600 to operate flights between Yangon and Mae Sot from April 7 to 9.

  • Indian consulate in Sittwe relocated to Yangon due to security concerns

Spokesperson of India’s foreign ministry Randhir Jaiswal announced on April 12 that the Indian government has transferred its consulate staff from Sittwe to Yangon due to the ongoing security situation in Myanmar. While emphasizing that the Indian consulate in Mandalay remains operational, Jaiswal cautioned that the security situation across Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine state, remains uncertain and concerning. He advised Indian nationals visiting Myanmar to adhere strictly to safety protocols and regulations. Jaiswal reassured that the Indian government is actively taking measures to safeguard its citizens in light of the prevailing circumstances.

  • US diplomats engaged with the NUG leaders

Derek Chollet, an advisor to the US Department of State, convened a meeting with leaders of the National Unity Government (NUG), including Interim President Duwa Lashi La and Foreign Minister Daw Zin Mar Aung, on April 11. The session, presided over by NUG interim president, also saw the participation of Michael Schiffer, Assistant Administrator for Asian Affairs of the US aid agency USAID, as announced by the US State Department. During the meeting, the US State Department advisor commended the NUG’s endeavors towards establishing an inclusive and representative democratic governance system in Myanmar. Emphasis was placed on providing humanitarian assistance to millions in need, as well as delivering essential public services. The statement issued on April 11 highlighted US support for democracy initiatives, including the enhancement of local governance capacities and collaboration with ethnic and religious groups, with a specific mention of efforts to engage Rohingya representatives. 

  • New UN special envoy pledged to facilitate the implementation of the UNSC’s resolutions

Ms. Julie Bishop, the newly appointed Special Envoy for Myanmar by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, has pledged to facilitate the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions concerning Myanmar. Announced on April 5, Ms. Bishop, a former foreign minister of Australia, expressed her honor and commitment to the task via her social media platforms. She reiterated her dedication to fulfilling the mandates outlined by the United Nations General Assembly and the resolutions adopted by the UN Security Council in December 2022. The Security Council’s inaugural resolution on Myanmar, passed on December 21, 2022, aimed to address ongoing violence and ensure adherence to human rights and accountability standards. Ms. Bishop emphasized the importance of halting terrorist activities, expediting agreements with ASEAN, respecting the will of the Myanmar people, and facilitating humanitarian aid access while advocating for the release of arbitrarily detained individuals.

Business Matters

  • Chevron withdraws from Myanmar, transfers operations to PTTEP and MOGE

American oil giant Chevron has ceased its operations in Myanmar, transferring its shares to Thailand’s PTTEP – PTT National Petroleum Exploration and Production Company and Myanmar Oil and Natural Gas Industry (MOGE) under the regime’s administration. According to a report by Thailand’s Bangkok Post, Chevron’s 41 percent stake in the Yadana offshore gas project was directly transferred to PTTEP and MOGE, without involving any third-party sale. A Chevron spokesperson confirmed on April 9 that the company has fully exited the Yadana offshore natural gas project. The decision to withdraw from Myanmar was prompted by the military coup in February 2021 and the ensuing humanitarian crises. Chevron had previously voiced condemnation of the Myanmar military’s human rights abuses and announced its intention to depart from the country. The departure process has now been completed after more than two years since the coup, as reported by the Bangkok Post.

  • Japanese corporations in telecom sector faced challenges in post-coup

Japanese corporations KDDI and Sumitomo made a significant foray into the Myanmar market in 2014 by investing $2 billion in MPT, previously a government-owned entity, operating under the name KDDI Summit Global Myanmar (KSGM). Despite a decade-long joint venture with MPT, uncertainties surround the projected return of ¥150 billion ($690 million) for the current fiscal year, as reported by both companies on April 10. The slowdown in dollar-based rent collection, policy to control foreign currency exchange rate issued in April 2022 and ongoing operational deficits, has posed challenges for the Japanese investors. KDDI noted that Myanmar’s telecommunications sector faces temporary underperformance, emphasizing the need for sustained growth by the fiscal year ending in March 2025. Sumitomo acknowledged the complexities arising from conflicts in Myanmar. KDDI, a leading telecommunications operator in Japan with an annual revenue of $42 billion, and Sumitomo, boasting offices in 66 countries, have encountered criticism for their association with MPT, which has been utilized by the military for propaganda since the coup. Advocacy group JFM urged the Japanese firms to disengage from collaboration with the military, which is implicated in human rights abuses, by reconsidering their partnership with MPT.

  • Hmawbi District Court orders lawsuit against Lotte MSG Beverage

According to officials from the Solidarity of Trade Union Myanmar (STUM), the Hmawbi District Court issued a lawsuit against Lotte MGS Beverage (Myanmar) on April 4. The lawsuit pertains to the termination of a factory employee in Hmawbi  Township, Yangon Region. The CEO and HR manager of the Pepsi soft drink factory, currently under litigation, acknowledged the court order, citing the company’s involvement in the legal proceedings. The dismissal of U Thaung Han, the electricity manager terminated from the company in November 2022, led to unsuccessful negotiations for settlement, prompting him to file a lawsuit in June 2023 for breach of the labor contract. U Thaung Han sought assistance from STUM after being terminated following approximately 20 years of service.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Civilians from 10 villages fled as the regime’s troops advanced 

On April 9, reports emerged that civilians from 10 villages in the northern part of Kalay town, Sagaing Region, are fleeing for safety as regime troops conduct patrols in the area. According to locals, the military council’s forces intensified their offensive activities since early April, prompting residents to seek refuge in nearby forests or travel to relatives’ homes in the south of Chin. Communication lines, including phone and internet services, have been severed in the northern part of Kalay Township. The military council has been bombarding the area with heavy weaponry since April 5, resulting in the deaths of at least five locals and injuries to 15 others over five days. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported on April 5 that approximately 28,000 civilians have been displaced due to the conflict that erupted at the end of February in Sagaing Region.

  • Nearly 60 civilians died during the clashes in Shan State

The Pao Youth Organization (PYO) revealed that nearly 60 civilians lost their lives and over 70 sustained injuries in the ongoing clashes between the Pao National Liberation Army (PNLA) and the regime’s troops across four townships in southern Shan State. PYO’s statement on April 8 outlined extensive airstrikes and heavy weapon usage by regime forces, with approximately five hundred bombings and three thousand rounds fired over the past three months in Sisaing, Pin Long, Ho Pong, and Nyaungshwe. Additionally, on April 10 in Pin Laung Township, a tragic incident occurred when the regime’s troops fired over twenty rounds of heavy weaponry at Pin Son village, resulting in the death of four-year-old Maung Khun Thing and injuring four others, as reported by the PNLA on April 12.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • Defense Service Academy targeted in Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Region

In the early morning of April 8, a coalition of local resistance forces launched an assault on the regime’s Defense Service Academy (DSA) in Pyin Oo Lwin, Mandalay Region. At around 3 am, five heavy artillery rounds were fired towards the entrance gate of the Academy, located on the Mandalay-Lashio highway road. The roadside and fences were reportedly damaged in the attack. This incident occurred as the coup leader, Min Aung Hlaing, was scheduled to participate in the Thingyan festival in Pyin Oo Lwin.

  • Village administrator and son killed in Kyaukpadaung tsp, Mandalay Region

On April 8, in Kyaukpadaung Township, Mandalay Region, a 60-year-old village administrator named U Phoe Htaw and his 20-year-old son U Win Min Thant from Khapaungkonegyi Village were shot dead near their house. U Phoe Htaw and his son were targeted due to their involvement in pro-military activities, including recruiting youths for mandatory military service and organizing training. They had apparently challenged the People’s Defense Force (PDF) to intervene, believing in their own security.

  • Immigration officer captured alive in Tedim, Chin State

On the morning of April 14, PDF Zoland reportedly detained the regime’s immigration officer, 59-year-old U Moe Thu, in Tedim, Chin State. U Moe Thu was allegedly conducting conscription activities for the junta. PDF Zoland has issued warnings to regime staff not to participate in drafting activities, and as a result, they have detained up to six individuals, including U Moe Thu, who will face charges.

  • Blasts occurred near Mandalay major’s water festival pandal

On April 14, casualties were reported in a blast incident near the water festival pandal of the Mandalay Mayor. Two explosions occurred around 10:30 am at the corner of 71st Street, between 26th and 27th Streets, despite heavy security in the area. Over ten people were reportedly injured as a result of the blasts. The explosions led to the suspension of the celebrations, and regime troops were observed inspecting youths on the streets following the incident.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Mother of political prisoner passed away due to extreme heat in Tharyawaddy Prison, Bago Region

On April 8, Daw Kyi Nyunt, the mother of political prisoner Ma Pan Ei Khin, tragically passed away in front of Tharyawaddy Prison in the Bago Region. Her death was attributed to extreme heat while she was waiting to send a parcel to her daughter. Ma Pan Ei Khin had been arrested for protesting in 2021 and released, only to be arrested again in 2022 and sentenced to three years in Insein Prison. She was later transferred to Tharyawaddy Prison, making it extremely difficult for family members to visit and send parcels, ultimately resulting in this tragic incident.

  • Former Mon Parliament Chair detained in Mawlamyine

On the morning of April 10, regime soldiers arrested Dr. Aung Naing Oo, the former vice chair of the Mon Parliament in Mawlamyine, Mon State. Dr. Aung Naing Oo and his team were en route to assist displaced people in Kyaikmaraw Township, whose homes were destroyed by regime airstrikes. The junta’s forces accused him of using a car supposedly belonging to a support group of the resistance movement. Currently, his whereabouts are unknown. Dr. Aung Naing Oo represented the Mon Unity Party (MUP) and won three elections, eventually serving as vice chair of the Mon Regional Parliament in 2015. He parted ways with MUP when it aligned with the regime’s State Administration Council (SAC) in February 2021. Since then, he has been actively volunteering and promoting the literature and culture of Mon State.

  • Delivery of medicine restricted in Pathein Prison, Ayeyarwaddy Region

On April 12, the Political Prisoner Network Myanmar (PPNM) reported that authorities at Pathein Prison have been restricting the delivery of medicines to political prisoners and providing inadequate medical treatment. According to PPNM, there have been instances where family members sent medicines for political prisoners, but these medicines were accepted by the prison and never passed on to the intended recipients. Furthermore, the women’s section of the prison lacks a hospital, and those with critical illnesses are not permitted to seek medical treatment outside the facility.

  • Regime’s soldiers killed an abbot in Kyaikmaraw tsp, Mon State

On the afternoon of April 14, regime troops reportedly shot dead an abbot in Kyaikmaraw Township, Mon State. Sayadaw U Wayama, the abbot of Kyaunghaung Monastery located in Thankalaung Village, was traveling with a follower in a vehicle when their car was stopped for inspection between Kyunkone and Tayana villages. According to reports, soldiers fired at the abbot for unspecified reasons when they opened the window. Tragically, they were not allowed to seek immediate medical attention, and as a result, the monk succumbed to his wounds.

Armed Resistance

  • Four regime stations captured by resistance forces in Homalin tsp, Sagaing Region

On April 8, the NUG announced that allied resistance forces successfully occupied four regime stations located between Homalin and Faungpyin towns in Sagaing Region. The offensive began on March 30, targeting stations manned by approximately 300 regime soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members. After nine days of operations, the resistance forces captured these stations on April 7, confiscating several weapons in the process. In related news, about 120 Pyu Saw Htee members from four villages in Homalin Township surrendered to the resistance forces.

  • KIA captured strategic station near Hpakant, Kachin State

On April 9, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) launched an offensive against the regime’s station and militia station in Nantyah Village, located 20 miles east of Hpakant Town, Kachin State. On the same day, the militia station was captured by the KIA. Despite the regime’s defense efforts using aerial bombs for two days, the main station fell on the morning of April 11. Approximately 30 soldiers were captured alive, while the remaining forces fled. Nantyah Village serves as one of the three major routes between Myitkyina and Hpakant road, where the regime conducts intense inspections.

  • AA urged people in Rakhine State to move to its controlled-areas

On April 10, General Twan Mratt Naing, marking the 15th anniversary of the Arakan Army (AA), urged people residing in areas under the regime’s control in Sittwe and Kyaukphyu towns to relocate to AA-controlled areas. He emphasized that the AA had begun administering these areas and required additional human resources to effectively manage operations. General Twan Mratt Naing also stated that the AA was preparing for the ultimate battle against the regime to achieve Arakan liberation.

  • Regime troops including battalion commander detained in Hpasaung tsp, Karenni State

During the battle on April 11, according to a Karenni Army (KA) spokesperson, the regime suffered heavy losses in men killed and captured alive. The reinforcements that arrived in Hpasaung were intercepted by Karenni resistance forces midway, resulting in a day-long battle. Approximately 53 regime troops were killed, while 56 others, including the battalion commander, were captured alive. The Karenni resistance forces have been striving to capture Hpasaung Town for two months and have successfully seized nine regime stations during this period.

  • Regime’s convoy ambushed & new recruits detained in Ayadaw tsp, Sagaing Region

On April 12, local resistance forces intercepted a regime convoy and detained dozens of troops, including new recruits, in Ayadaw Township, Sagaing Region. The convoy, consisting of six vehicles transporting about 250 trainees recruited under the conscription law, was traveling from Monywa to Ayadaw. During the attack, three vehicles were destroyed, resulting in 20 fatalities and 15 injuries among the regime troops. A total of 49 individuals, including 45 new recruits, were captured alive. Additionally, multiple firearms, including 5,500 bullets, were confiscated during the interception.

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

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