Weekly Update 112

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, the KIA and AA’s achievements on the battlefield have continued this week. A recent report by BNI-Myanmar Peace Monitor highlighted that the KIA’s offensives in 2024 have reached a peak, with the number of skirmishes in the first four months surpassing the total for each year since the coup. Simultaneously, the AA has gained control over the entire Buthidaung Township. Should Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, fall, it’s likely that the AA will assert its dominance over the entire state. However, amidst these gains, the regime has continued its atrocities against civilians, with three separate incidents resulting in at least seven deaths across the country. Read more below:

Internal Politics

  • Three Brotherhood Alliance and the regime held a meeting in Kunming

A source close to the Three Brotherhood Alliance informed RFA on May 17 that the fifth round of talks between the military council and the Three Brotherhood Alliance took place in Kunming, China. The primary subjects were the ongoing battles in Rakhine State and border trade issues with China. There was little discussion regarding the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) this time, focusing instead on these follow-up issues from previous meetings. The talks, held on May 14 and 15, concluded without any public statements from either the military council or the Northern Alliance. A senior leader from the Three Brotherhood Alliance remarked that there was nothing particularly notable about these discussions. Attending the talks were Colonel Tar Moe Hein, head of the Foreign Affairs Department of the TNLA; Major General Phone Win Naing, head of External Relations and Foreign Affairs of the Kokang Army (MNDAA); and Deputy Commander-in-Chief Dr. Nyo Tun Aung from the Arakan Army (AA). A political analyst noted that the absence of key decision-makers from both the TNLA and MNDAA, along with the military council sending different representatives, was significant. During Operation 1027, the Three Brotherhood Alliance seized 16 towns in northern Shan State. The fighting stopped on January 11 due to China’s intervention. However, intense clashes between the Arakan Army (AA) and the military council continue in Rakhine State.

  • KIA commander-in-chief Lt Gen Khong Loon passed away

KIA Commander-in-Chief Lt. Gen. Khong Loon passed away on the evening of May 13 after a prolonged battle with liver disease. Colonel Naw Bu, head of KIA information, confirmed the news, stating, “He died at our headquarters around 6:23 p.m. after a long struggle with liver disease, having been hospitalized three to four times for treatment.” Lt. Gen. Khong Loon was recognized as an outstanding military leader. Colonel Naw Bu mentioned that details of his personal information would not be released until after the funeral ceremony. Lt. Gen. Khong Loon began his service with the KIA in 1988. In 2016, he was appointed as the second commander of the KIA alongside Brigadier General Aung Sai La. In early 2023, he was appointed to replace Chief of Staff General Gam Xiao. At the time of his death, he also served as the commander of the Northern Region, designated as the No. 1 Military Region of the Ministry of Defense under the National Unity Government (NUG).

  • DASSK transferred to military command headquarter

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained in Nay Pyi Taw prison, was recently transferred to the No. 6 Operation Command Headquarters (Sa Ka Kha-6) under the Nay Pyi Taw Regional Military Command. This location was previously used during the trial of President U Win Myint following the military coup. According to Irrawaddy news sources, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is now being guarded by 10 security personnel, including two officers, with a military affairs security officer supervising her within the Sa Ka Kha-6 compound. A person close to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi mentioned that while she was in Nay Pyi Taw prison, she would order food not only for herself but also for others detained with her. An observer noted, “It seems they will not send her back to the prison after moving her personal belongings this time.”

  • New UID card requirement hinders passport applications 

Myanmar citizens now face a new rule requiring them to present a Unique ID (UID) smart card when applying for a new passport. This restriction comes at a time when many young people are finding it increasingly difficult to go abroad. Previously, individuals could apply for a passport with their citizenship registration, but now they must show the UID card, which contains biometric information. A young man planning to travel to Japan noted, “They are now controlling entry and exit at the border gate and restricting those involved with the resistance.” This new requirement arises amidst an economic crisis and increased military recruitment efforts, leading more young people to seek opportunities abroad. The UID smart card is currently issued only as a temporary paper document, available at immigration offices in Nay Pyi Taw and areas under military control. An official from a ministry in Nay Pyi Taw explained, “For the past year, employees have only received a black and white sheet of A4 paper. Even ministers have not yet received the official Holo smart card. It will take a long time to get that.” The UID card contains personal information, facial features, fingerprints, and iris scans. The UID system could greatly benefit the military council by enabling the instant collection and verification of individuals’ information. Revolutionary forces can also use it to restrict and control domestic and international travel at border gates. Additionally, the smart card allows for easy identification of individuals evading detection within the country.

  • Military leader urges constant preparedness amid rising challenges

Soldiers and their families have been alerted by the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing for readiness for any eventuality. This took place during a meeting with military families in Kyaing Tong Ward, Shan State, on May 11. In his speech, he repeatedly stressed the importance of being prepared for war. This warning comes as the military council faces increasing losses in recent battles, with some battalions, including their families, surrendering or being captured. Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing also advised soldiers to stay updated on the latest military equipment developments. Last month in Nay Pyi Taw, the regime’s headquarters, was attacked by PDF forces under the National Unity Government (NUG) using modern drones. The junta chief also stressed the importance of military unity and strict adherence to orders.

International Affairs

  • ASEAN special representative met the junta chief

Alounkeo Kittikhoun, the Special Representative of the current ASEAN Chairman for Myanmar, visited Myanmar and held discussions with junta chief Min Aung Hlaing on May 15, as reported by the regime. The meeting aimed to explore ASEAN-Myanmar cooperation, particularly in peacefully resolving the current situation in Myanmar. Humanitarian aid issues were also on the agenda, with the Military Council outlining preparations for upcoming elections to uphold the path of democracy. ASEAN Secretary General Dr. Kao Kim Hourn and ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Coordination Center (AHA Centre) Executive Director Mr. Lee Yam Ming were also present at the meeting. Political analysts are eager to see how effective ASEAN’s negotiation efforts will be in addressing the Myanmar crisis.

  • Bangladesh seeks UN’s cooperation to repatriate Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dr. Hasan Mahumud, suggested that the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) collaborate with India and China to facilitate the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh. He made this statement on May 16 following a meeting with Sumbul Rizvi, the UNHCR representative for Bangladesh. Highlighting Myanmar’s long-standing armed conflict, Minister Hasan Mahumud emphasized the necessity of effective international pressure for Rohingya repatriation. Discussions during the meeting also addressed issues such as Myanmar military council troops fleeing to Bangladesh, the ongoing armed conflict in Myanmar, and vocational training initiatives in refugee camps. Minister Hasan Mahumud proposed educational programs to aid Rohingya refugees upon their return home, emphasizing the importance of vocational education. Furthermore, talks involved the regular maintenance of buildings on Bhasan Char Island in Bangladesh to accommodate more Rohingyas.

  • Japanese government hosted representatives from EAOs and NUG

Recent news highlights the Japanese government’s foreign ministry hosting leaders of ethnic armed groups, including representatives from the National Unity Government (NUG). On May 14, Deputy Minister of Parliament Mr. Komura Masahiro announced that the ministry met with a Myanmar delegation consisting of various ethnic groups, including the Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), and Chin National Front (CNF). The discussion involved NUG Health and Education Minister Dr. Zaw Wai Soe, KNU President Pado Saw Kwe Htoo Win, and Karenni Administrative Council (IEC) Chairman Khu Oo-Yal, along with representatives from KNPP and CNF, including General Secretary Salai Tala Hay. This marks the first time in over three years since the military coup that leaders from the NUG and three allied groups have convened in Japan for discussions, signifying a unique opportunity. Although the Japanese foreign ministry’s statement did not explicitly mention the NUG, the meeting aimed to exchange views on the current situation in Myanmar. The NUG is not mentioned in the statement, and the photo from the meeting also only features the KNU President and KNPP chairman. The Japanese government affirmed its commitment to continue engaging with various stakeholders to seek a resolution to Myanmar’s ongoing crisis.

Business Matters

  • Robeco withdrew investment from PTT over Myanmar human rights concerns

Netherlands-based Robeco management company announced its decision to divest from the Thai oil company PTT at the end of March this year due to its collaboration with the military regime in Myanmar. PTT’s subsidiary PTTEP is involved in offshore oil and gas projects in Myanmar, partnering with the military-controlled Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE). In a report released on April 29, Robeco stated that there has been no improvement in Myanmar’s human rights situation under military rule, and PTTEP shows no signs of ending its partnership with MOGE. Despite engaging in discussions with PTTEP regarding human rights due diligence in conflict-affected areas, the results were unsatisfactory, with PTTEP unable to provide information related to MOGE. Robeco previously attempted to arrange meetings with company decision-makers but made no progress. Consequently, they opted to terminate further discussions and withdraw their investment from PTT.

  • NUG blacklists 17 foreign employment agencies for labor rights violations

The Ministry of Labor of the National Unity Government (NUG) revealed on May 14 that it has blacklisted 17 foreign employment service companies for their collaboration with the regime and commission of labor rights violations. These companies are accused of charging excessive service fees from migrant workers, failing to send workers to their workplaces, and neglecting to address labor rights violations promptly. Furthermore, the NUG stated that these companies are financially supporting the military council by collecting income tax from expatriate Burmese migrant workers and transferring 25 percent of their wages to family members in Myanmar. The names of the blacklisted foreign employment agencies have been disclosed, and the NUG announced that they will face prosecution under the Anti-Terrorism Act for their collaboration with the military regime. As a result, individuals seeking employment abroad have been cautioned against engaging with these companies. However, a local labor activist urged the NUG to provide more accurate information before taking action, emphasizing the need for specific policies to address labor rights violations by foreign employment agencies.

  • The regime engages in initial talks with Russia on Dawei Deep Sea Port project

Reports indicate that discussions between the regime and Russia regarding the implementation of the Dawei Deep Sea Port and Special Economic Zone in southern Myanmar have commenced. U Aung Soe, chairman of the regime’s Dawei Special Economic Zone Management Committee, revealed that bilateral discussions have started following expressions of interest from Russian diplomats and private companies. While the talks are still in the initial stage, details, including the proposed project from the Russian side, remain undisclosed. Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing previously mentioned discussions with Russia to construct a port in southern Myanmar capable of accommodating ships of 200,000 tons or more. The Dawei Special Economic Zone, covering nearly 195 square kilometers, is strategically located near the Kapali Sea and the Gulf of Thailand, poised to house various industrial and infrastructure projects.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Lack of clean water in prisons leading to skin diseases among inmates

The Political Prisoners Network has reported a widespread occurrence of skin diseases in prisons across the country due to inadequate access to clean drinking water. Prisons including Insein, Meikhtila, Pathein, Pyay, Myitkyina, Tharyarwaddy, Pakokku, Pyapon, Myinchan, Gant Gaw, Katha, and Kalay are reportedly affected. Particularly in the notorious Insein prison, inmates suffer from heat-related discomfort and itching as a result of bathing in unsanitary water. Political prisoners in Meikhtila Prison are compelled to purchase and use their own water. Despite these dire conditions, the regime has not announced anything regarding the water scarcity issue in prisons. The situation is exacerbated by rising summer temperatures, contributing to fatalities across Myanmar.

  • More than 2000 civilians in Thandwe fled due to intensified attacks

Residents of Lin Thi village, situated in the north of Thandwe Township, have reported fleeing their homes after bombings by the regime, targeting both Lin Thi and Pyin Yaung villages. Nearly 2,000 individuals have sought refuge in Thandwe Town as a result. According to a Lin Thi resident, the regime’s forces have been conducting airstrikes and heavy weapons fire since May 15, prompting a mass exodus of residents to Thandwe. On May 16, approximately 1,500 residents from Lin Thi and 500 from Pyin Yaung fled to Thandwe Town amidst ongoing clashes between the Arakan Army (AA) and the military council. Those fleeing stated that they were subjected to interrogation before being permitted entry into the city. The regime’s troops reportedly opened fire on Lin Thi village on May 14, resulting in the deaths of nine villagers. Locals have attributed the attacks to battalions stationed near the Lin Thi village bridge, including the IB 55 and LIB 566, which have been engaging in heavy weapons fire and causing extensive destruction. Over 10,000 residents have fled the area since April due to escalating conflict between the regime and the Arakan Army (AA) in Thandwe Township.

  • Road blockade causes food and fuel shortages in Kachin State

Residents in Kachin State’s Putao District are facing severe shortages of essential food items and fuel after the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the regime cut off the only road connecting the region. The road closure, initiated during KIA’s attack on military council troops in Suamprabom town, has disrupted the flow of goods to Putao District for over two months. Despite KIA’s control over Suamprabom, ongoing street fighting continues between the conflicting sides. The blockade has left residents resorting to manual labor for plowing fields due to fuel scarcity, with motorcycles and cars rendered unusable. Urgent transportation for patients has become increasingly challenging, exacerbating the plight of the local population.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • Explosion injured ward administrator’s office staff in Laputta, Ayeyarwady Region

On the evening of May 15, a blast occurred at the ward administrator’s office in Laputta Town, Ayeyarwady Region. The incident, which took place around 8 p.m., resulted in the injury of an office clerk. Following the blast, three youths from the ward were arrested. It is unknown who was responsible for the attack.

  • Military convoy transporting copper targeted in Sarlingyi tsp, Sagaing Region

On May 16, the regime’s military convoy transporting copper from the Latpadaung Copper Project was ambushed on the Monywa-Mandalay highway. A two-vehicle convoy was hit with landmines and targeted with small firearms by a local resistance force in Sarlingyi Township. About a dozen soldiers were reported killed and ten more injured. The copper project, owned by the Chinese, is a key revenue stream for the regime. This month, efforts to expand the project have intensified despite local objections due to environmental concerns.

  • Regime’s operations commands attacked in Dawei tsp, Tanintharyi Region

On the morning of May 16, around 10:40 am, Dawei-based resistance forces conducted an offensive on the junta’s military operations command compound in Thayetchaung Village, Dawei Township, Tanintharyi Region. The drone attack targeted an area where top military officials were meeting and where two helicopters were parked. A total of eight bombs were dropped. The regime’s forces responded by shelling artillery towards the origin of the drone attack.

  • Two regime facilities ambushed in Minhla, Bago Region

Around midnight on May 17, local resistance forces led by the Yoma Phoenix Drone Force launched an attack on the regime’s police station and general administrative department office in Minhla Town, Bago Region. The attack began with the department office, followed by the police station. The entire roof of the police station was reportedly destroyed. There were casualties, but the details have not been verified.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Youths in Mandalay listed for conscription service banned from leave city

Since the beginning of May, the regime has reportedly banned youths in Mandalay who are listed for mandatory military service from leaving the city. Regime officials have apparently warned family members that if the designated person attempts to flee, one family member will be arrested and jailed. Concurrently, inspections at the city’s exit gates have intensified as many youths leave to join resistance forces instead of the junta’s army. Additionally, extortion has increased in Mandalay, with people being forced to pay bribes to escape conscription.

  • NLD EC member killed in interrogation in Ngapudaw tsp, Ayeyarwady Region

U Than Tun, an Executive Committee Member of the National League for Democracy (NLD), was reportedly beaten to death by regime soldiers at an interrogation center. The 55-year-old was arrested from his home on May 5 due to alleged association with the People’s Defense Force (PDF) in Mayankwin Village, Ngapudaw Township, Ayeyarwady Region. Four days later, on the morning of May 9, his family was informed to pick up his body. He had been taken to an interrogation center in Haigyikyun. U Than Tun was a retired military sergeant who joined the NLD party in 2015.

  • Political prisoners subjected to oppression and torture in Tharyawaddy Prison, Bago Region

New reports from the Bago Region indicate that political prisoners serving sentences have been subjected to numerous forms of oppression from both the warden and a fellow convict, a former military general. Brigadier General Moe Kyaw Thu, who is serving a life sentence for surrendering Laukkai to the Northern Alliances in early January, has been placed in the same compound as the political prisoners. He is reportedly coordinating with the warden to target political prisoners. Many inmates have been extorted for money, beaten, and locked in solitary confinement due to his actions.

  • Regime’s airstrike killed seven including infant in Saw tsp, Magway Region

Around 3 pm on May 14, the regime’s airforce conducted an aerial attack on Tawma Village, Saw Township, Magway Region, resulting in the deaths of seven people and injuring four others. The attack occurred while people were gathered at a monastery to receive humanitarian aid. Among the victims was a 10-month-old infant. The deceased individuals included Ko Nu, aged 11, U Aung Shwe, aged 45, Daw Khin San Aye, Daw Kyin Than, both aged 60, Ko Phoe Thar, aged 35, and Daw Ma San, aged 67. Notably, there was no resistance movement in the village, which is located just 20 miles away from Akyipanmalun Village, also subjected to a regime aerial strike on May 9, resulting in the deaths of 16 individuals.

  • Dozens of youths arrested in Sittwe, Rakhine State

On the evening of May 15, regime forces raided monasteries in Taungchay Village, Sittwe City, Rakhine State, under the pretext of a guest list inspection. The soldiers reportedly arrested about 80 youths who did not have identity cards registered in Sittwe. Many of these youths are said to be fleeing from conflicts in other parts of the state, and it is unknown where they are currently being held.

  • Rakhine-based journalist slapped with extra charge by regime

On May 16, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that detained Rakhine-based reporter Ko Htet Aung has been charged with an additional counterterrorism act by the regime. Ko Htet Aung, who worked for Development Media Group (DMG), was arrested while covering a donation event in Sittwe City on October 29, 2023. Initially, he was charged under Penal Code 65 of the Telecommunications Act for operating without a license, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. In January 2024, an additional charge under the counterterrorism act was added, which could sentence him to a maximum of seven years. The family was not informed about the extra charge until CPJ’s statement. On the day of his arrest, regime soldiers raided DMG’s office in Sittwe, arresting 35-year-old security staff member Ko Soe Win Aung. He has also been charged under the counterterrorism act, and no further information has been released about him.

  • Ten including a teenager tortured to death by regime soldiers in Paungbyin tsp, Sagaing Region

On the morning of May 17, regime soldiers reportedly ransacked Innwaing Village in Paungbyin Township, Sagaing Region. About 150 troops entered the village, arresting villagers and torturing at least ten people to death. Among the victims were U Than Hla, U Than Lone, U Thein Tun, Daw Hla Thein, Daw Khin San Aye, Daw Zar Zar Myint, Daw Cho Zin Lin, Daw El San, all aged 40, and Mg Soe Htet Lin, aged 13, as well as one unidentified person. All the victims’ bodies bore multiple torture wounds. The soldiers left the village in the evening. It remains unknown why the village was targeted, as there was no active battle nearby.

  • Regime’s airstrike and artillery killed 11 people in Rakhine State

Between May 14 and 15, the regime conducted attacks on civilians via airstrikes and heavy artillery in three townships of Rakhine State, killing at least 11 people and injuring dozens. The first attack occurred in Kinchaung Village, Maungdaw Township, near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. Two afternoon airstrikes resulted in four deaths: Ko Bo Kyaw, aged 34; Ma Nwe Nwe, aged 21; Daw Sein Nu, aged 75; and Daw Thein Nyunt, aged 33. Four others were injured, and several houses were destroyed. Later that evening, around 8 pm, an artillery shell exploded in Linn Thi Village, Thandwe Township, killing seven civilians on the spot. The victims were U Nyi Lay, aged 47; Ma Nge Lay, aged 25; A Pu Lay, aged 21; Ma Lay, aged 26; Ma May Pu, aged 27; U Maung Tin Nyunt, aged 45; and Ma May Lian, aged 75. Three more suffered severe injuries. In the early hours of May 15, around 1 am, the regime’s airforce conducted an airstrike on Wel Gyi Hospital in Kyauktaw Township. The attack completely destroyed the hospital, injuring at least 20 people, five of whom suffered critical wounds. All the areas targeted are territories controlled by the Arakan Army (AA).

Armed Resistance

  • Regime’s forces used civilians as humansheilds in Bago Region

Local resistance forces reported that the regime’s army had forcibly taken civilians and used them as human shields during their marches in the townships on the eastern bank of the Sittaung River in Bago Region. On May 7, approximately 50 local villagers were abducted and forced to march along with the military during their offensive towards Ayethayar and Pyithayar villages. The regime soldiers positioned two soldiers on either side of each villager while moving through the area. Typically, about 50-60 people are used in each trip, making it difficult for the resistance forces to counterattack effectively.

  • Regime intensified efforts to regain station in Thayetchaung tsp, Tanintharyi Region

After the strategic Pedat station was seized by local resistance forces, the regime’s troops have intensified efforts to recapture it through multiple channels in Thayetchaung Township, Tanintharyi Region. The capture occurred on May 8. Since then, the regime’s army has launched a counteroffensive, employing ground troops, navy ships, and airstrikes. Two navy ships are firing towards the station daily. The station, located on the Myeik-Dawei highway road, is a key position for military reinforcement and a gateway to the sea. Thousands of villagers along the Myeik-Dawei highway road have been displaced due to the intensified fighting.

  • KIA recaptured its key station after six years in Tanai tsp, Kachin State

On the morning of May 16, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) reportedly seized its former station in Nambyu Village, Tanai Township, Kachin State. This station, previously the headquarters for the KIA’s Brigade 2’s Battalion Unit 14, had been under the regime’s control since 2018. The mission to retake the station, which was manned by at least 80 regime troops, began on May 11. By around 7 am on May 16, the regime’s troops had retreated, leaving the station behind. In related news, a research report by BNI-Myanmar Peace Monitorindicated that the KIA’s offensives have reached a peak in 2024, with the number of skirmishes in the first four months of the year surpassing the total number of fights in each year since the coup.

  • Fights reported as regime conducted airstrikes in Tonzang, Chin State

Between May 16 and 17, skirmishes erupted between the regime’s army and resistance forces led by the Chin National Army (CNA) in Tonzang Town, Tedim Township, Chin State. The junta’s forces employed airstrikes during the battle, with at least three aerial strikes reported, resulting in the destruction of three houses in the town.

  • PDF & KIA launched attacks on 10 regime stations in Waingmaw tsp, Kachin State

Starting at 5 am on May 18, the combined forces of the People’s Defense Force (PDF) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) launched an offensive on ten regime stations located in Waingmaw Township, Kachin State. Five of these stations have now been brought under the control of the resistance forces, with ongoing fighting in the remaining stations. Since March 7, the KIA and its allies have captured nearly 100 regime stations.

  • AA gained control of Buthidaung Township, Rakhine State

Around noon on May 18, the Arakan Army (AA) reportedly seized control of all remaining regime stations in Buthidaung Township, Rakhine State. This development signifies that the AA now effectively governs the entire Buthidaung Township, situated near the Bangladesh border. The AA has been actively engaging and confronting regime troops who abandoned their posts. Additionally, they have cautioned residents to remain vigilant of fleeing regime troops.

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit News, RFA Burmese, Irrawaddy, VOA Burmese, Chin World

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