Weekly Update 113

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, it’s time for another weekly updates. The incidents in Buthidaung Township have drawn international attention, as the Arakan Army (AA) faces strong condemnation over alleged arson attacks targeting Rohingya houses. However, the AA has denied these allegations, attributing the torching to the regime’s airstrikes. With communication cut off in the area by the junta, independent verification is nearly impossible. Read the highlights below:

Internal Politics

  • Buthidaung situation

On the weekend of May 18 and 19, multiple reports erupted on social media that Buthidaung town had been burned and Rohingya residents were trapped. Independent verification was almost impossible as the regime had cut off communication in the area. However, Rohingya activists who were in contact with some Buthidaung residents alleged that Arakan Army (AA) torched the town, and accused that it was the second genocide committed against the fateful community. CNN’s news reports disclosed several satellite images of the town which showcased that torching indeed took place and several houses were burned. AA responded to Reuters news that the ethnic armed group had clashed with the military council to gain control of the town and eventually managed to control it on May 18. However, the torching, according to AA’s spokesperson Khaing Thu Kha, was done by the military’s troops as they attacked the town with fighter jets. Nay San Lwin of the Free Rohingya Coalition said that there were witnesses who saw AA troops entering the town, forcing civilians to leave and burning their homes. 

  • Ta’ang education council to expand more schools in the coming academic year

The Ta’ang Education Council (TLEC), in collaboration with the National Unity Government (NUG) Ministry of Education, is preparing to open nearly 500 schools in northern Shan State for the 2024 academic year, TLEC Director Nai Hein Nyu told RFA Burmese on May 24. Last year, TLEC successfully opened 381 schools, and this year, they plan to increase that number by over 100. Schools will be established in various areas, including Namkham, which was under the control of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) after Operation 1027, as well as Kut Khaing, Nammatu, Menton, Namsan, and Mine Long. In addition to these towns, schools will also be opened in villages bordering areas controlled by the military council. “Our main goal is to ensure children do not miss out on educational opportunities,” said Director Nai Hein Nyu. “We will accept students based on their previous class and age, regardless of where they come from.” Last academic year, nearly 30,000 students and approximately 1,600 teachers participated in TLEC-run schools. This year, with the increase in the number of schools, student enrollment could reach nearly 60,000. To support this expansion, at least 1,000 additional teachers have been recruited, including CDM teachers and those trained by TLEC.

  • The regime to resume Myitsone hydropower project negotiations

The military council is preparing to restart the long-suspended Irrawaddy confluence hydropower projects, including the Myitsone project. An 11-member steering group for the Irrawaddy Confluence-Myitnya River Basin Hydropower Project was formed on April 24, as announced in the regime’s news on May 17. The group, led by U Aye Kyaw, Deputy Minister of Electricity, will negotiate with the Chinese government and other stakeholders involved in the project. The newly formed team is collaborating with SPIC Yunnan International Power Investment Co., Ltd (SPICYN) based in Kunming, China. SPICYN, formerly the Chinese state-owned Power Investment Corporation (CPI), has been involved in the Myitsone project since the era of former dictator Than Shwe. The Myitsone Project, a joint venture between the Myanmar government and the business conglomerate Asia World, was initiated around 2005 and started implementation in 2009. The project aims to build seven dams and generate over 20,000 megawatts of electricity in the Myitsone area, 23 miles north of Myitkyina. The $3.6 billion project, located at the confluence of the May Kha and Malikha rivers, has faced significant opposition due to potential environmental impacts, including extensive flooding and disruption of local communities. In early 2011, former president Thein Sein suspended the project amid widespread protests from civil society organizations.

  • Uncertainty surrounds DASSK’s location

Recent media reports suggested that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has been moved again, but this news remains unconfirmed as the military council has not provided any updates. Sources close to her state that her legal team continues to send materials to Nay Pyi Taw prison weekly and has received messages indicating that she is in good health. However, despite repeated efforts, her lawyers have not been granted access to her cases. Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is reportedly unaware of the auction of her house, and her case is being judged in absentia without legal consultation. Advocate U Kyee Myint highlighted that under current law, a detained person has the right to be relocated but must be allowed to meet with family or legal counsel. Denying such meetings constitutes unlawful detention, he emphasized. The military council has not disclosed DASSK’s exact location. The Prison Department continues to control information, and there are unverified reports that she has been moved from Nay Pyi Taw prison to house arrest with members of the Nay Pyi Taw military council.

International Affairs

  • Thailand intensifies efforts to help resolve Myanmar conflict

The Bangkok Post reported on May 24 that Thailand is working diligently to resolve conflicts in Myanmar and restore peace, according to Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin. Speaking at the Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Thavisin emphasized his efforts to collaborate with ASEAN member countries interested in Myanmar’s situation, including Laos, the current ASEAN chair. He also highlighted the provision of humanitarian aid to refugees along the Thai-Myanmar border and expressed a desire for Myanmar to return to the path of democracy.

  • HRW criticized Japan for supporting the regime

Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the Japanese government for continuing to support the military council through aid projects. On May 21, HRW urged Tokyo to suspend payments and impose targeted sanctions against the military council. Despite Prime Minister Fumiyoshi Kishida’s pledge to address aid flows, HRW reported that Japan plans to continue payments to the military-owned Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). Yokogawa Bridge Corp., a major Japanese construction company, has been involved in the Japanese-funded Bagu River Bridge Project, which profits MEC. From July 2022 to January 2023, about $2 million was transferred to MEC with US government approval. During a House of Representatives meeting, Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa stated that the engagement with MEC ended in December and that further payments related to business development had been stopped.

  • Karen National Army involved in illegal business activities, JFM reports

Justice for Myanmar disclosed on May 22 that business groups linked to the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF), now renamed the Karen National Army (KNA), are operating in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, and through companies from China and Hong Kong. The statement said that these groups are deeply involved in illegal activities and have close ties to individuals and interests in these regions, including Thailand’s EXIM Bank. Thai banks such as Krung Thai Bank, Kasikorn Bank, and Bangkok Bank are also implicated. In an email response to VOA Burmese, Thai EXIM Bank clarified that while they have invited government and private organizations to explore business and investment opportunities, they have not yet invested in or provided financial support for the Shwe Kukko New Town project. Justice For Myanmar is calling on authorities in regional countries, including Malaysia and Thailand, to hold their citizens and residents accountable for involvement in transnational crimes and human rights violations. The group also urges Thailand to ban the operations of the Karen Border Guard Force (BGF/KNA) and its affiliates within its borders.

Business Matters

  • The regime’s Central Bank to crack down on digital currency transactions

On May 24, the regime controlled Central Bank of Myanmar announced it would take action against transactions involving digital currencies such as Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), Ethereum (ETH), Perfect Money (PM), and USDT, as well as hundi money transfers. The Central Bank emphasized that only currency issued and managed by the Central Bank is recognized as legal tender in Myanmar. Consequently, operating hundi money transfer services with USDT digital currency will be penalized. A digital currency operator informed RFA that the Central Bank aims to curb the devaluation of the Kyat and the increasing interest in gold and digital currencies. To stabilize the Kyat and address rising gold and dollar prices, external foreign exchange businesses and money transfer operations are frequently inspected. In March and April, the Central Bank temporarily suspended 31 foreign exchange licensed companies.

  • Factories suffered as the regime cut electricity supply to industrial zones

Industrial zone operators reported that starting May 19, the military council has reduced electricity supply to industrial zones nationwide from four hours a day to just two. This reduction is due to the current electricity production situation, particularly affecting Yangon, according to an entrepreneur from Shwe Lin Ban Industrial Zone in Hlaing Tharyar Township, who spoke anonymously for security reasons. At a recent industrial zone committee meeting attended by military council officials, no one dared to criticize the electricity distribution management due to fear of being targeted and arrested. Another businessman from Hlaing Tharyar Township noted that even when electricity was available for four hours a day, the schedule was irregular, and now the supply has been halved. Factories are struggling with long-term power outages, resorting to generators, which incurs high fuel costs and damages the equipment over time. The recent spike in oil prices has made operating costs unsustainable. While some factories have managed by installing generators and solar power systems, others have ceased operations. Although the exact number of closed factories is unknown, reports indicate that many, especially foreign-owned ones, are permanently shutting down and being re-leased.

  • TNLA plans to resume mining operations in Baw Dwin

The Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) announced that mining operations in the Baw Dwin area of Namtu Township, northern Shan State, which were halted due to Operation 1027, have not yet resumed as of May 22, but preparations are underway. TNLA spokesperson Loy Yae Oo told RFA that they are currently testing machinery for the industry. During Operation 1027 until December 2023, Win Myint Mo Company conducted mining activities in the Baw Dwin area. The company had been authorized to operate from January 2010 to January 2025. After the TNLA captured Namtu on December 28, 2023, all mining activities in the Baw Dwin area ceased. Despite this, Win Myint Mo Company continued to pay regular salaries to its employees, according to a worker in the metal industry. Recently, locals observed some Kokang businessmen visiting the Baw Dwin area factory alongside TNLA troops. If there is a change in the company managing the mine, the original employees are expected to continue their work. Miners expressed concerns about water availability. The Baw Dwin mining operations primarily produce silver, lead, and zinc, which were mainly exported to China when Win Myint Mo Company managed the operations. There are approximately 500 workers employed in the industry.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • The regime demolishes over 300 homes in Hlaing Tharyar

Residents of Yangon reported that on the morning of May 24, Military Council troops invaded Kyun Gyi Village in Hlaing Tharyar Township, destroying over 300 homes. This action followed a series of three warning letters issued by the military council to demolish houses built by encroachers on the west side of the city, in Anawrahta Industrial Zone Section (2) on Sabai Road. The destruction extended beyond Sabai Road to Kyun Gyi Village, where excavators were used to raze homes and a Buddha statue. A resident, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told RFA that nearly 2,000 people have been displaced and are now suffering. Similar demolitions occurred on May 23 in Shwe Santhan village, Mingaladon Township, where the regime removed more than 200 houses in Pearl (3) Ward for trespassing. According to RFA, in the three years since the coup, around 20,000 homes have been demolished in areas including Mayangone, Dagon Seikkan, Dagon Myothit east and south, Mingaladon, and Hlaing Tharyar townships.

  • About 45000 Rohingya fled in Buthidaung

In Geneva on May 23, spokesperson of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Elizabeth Throssell, informed reporters that approximately 45,000 Rohingya have fled their homes in response to the ongoing fighting in Rakhine State. Displaced Rohingya, compelled to leave due to military conflicts in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships, have sought refuge in areas near the Naf River along the Bangladesh border. Additionally, reports indicate killings and accusations of arson targeting homes and property. James Rodehaver, head of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Myanmar branch, disclosed that satellite imagery and online visuals reveal extensive destruction in Buthidaung town, nearly razed to the ground since fires erupted on May 17, following the withdrawal of Myanmar Army troops. Currently, the Rakhine Army (AA) maintains control over the area. The United Nations is actively investigating to ascertain responsibility for the situation and address ongoing human rights violations against the Rohingya in Rakhine state. On May 21, Rohingya organizations issued a plea for international pressure on the Rakhine Army (AA) to halt forced displacement and adhere to international humanitarian law.

  • Over 1000 civilians fled as clashes near Thandwe in Rakhine

Residents informed RFA on May 23 that over a thousand people are fleeing Thandwe Township in Rakhine State as the clashes between the military council army and the Arakan Army (AA) approached the city. The military council army has severed electricity to the town for approximately a week, exacerbating the situation. One resident stated that the fighting was only eight miles away from the city, prompting fear-driven evacuations. With rising prices of plane tickets and goods, many residents are lining up at ward administration offices to obtain travel recommendations to leave Yangon and the mainland. Most departing residents are financially capable, leaving grassroots populations vulnerable if the conflict escalates into the city. The AA had cautioned locals to beware of military council army members, particularly of aerial and artillery attacks, and advised digging bomb pits in areas near the battlefront. They urged residents to relocate to safer areas to avoid being trapped during the fighting.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets 

  • Vehicles belonging to oil & gas companies occupied by resistance

Around 9 am on May 19, local resistance forces seized four vehicles belonging to international oil and gas companies in Yebyu Township, Tanintharyi Region. The vehicles, owned by Thailand’s PTTEP and France’s Total, are partners of the regime’s Ministry of Oil & Gas Enterprise (MOGE). The oil and gas sector is a significant revenue stream for the regime.

  • Military-owned bank and police station attacked in Mandalay

On May 21, resistance forces carried out attacks on two regime-controlled locations in Mandalay. The first attack occurred around 11 am, targeting the security area of the Myawaddy Bank in Chanmyatharsyi Township, which is owned by the military, with grenades. Although the regime soldiers responded with heavy gunfire, the rangers managed to escape. The second attack took place around 7 pm at a police station in Mahaaungmyay Township, where two grenades were used. Unfortunately, one of the rangers was injured and apprehended by junta forces. Both missions were executed by No More Dictatorship PDF.

  • Railway road blasted in Pyu tsp, Bago Region 

On the morning of May 24, a blast occurred on the railway between Yangon and Mandalay. The incident took place in Pyu Township, between Kanyutkwin and Nyaungpinthar villages, causing transportation to come to a halt. Since the coup, hundreds of attacks have targeted the railroad. The junta announced that the route had to be suspended due to these attacks.

  • Regime’s inspection gate targeted, four died in Thayetchaung tsp, Tanintharyi Region

On the morning of May 25, a coalition of resistance forces led by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) conducted an offensive at the regime’s inspection gate in Myoma Ward, Thayetchaung Township, Tanintharyi Region. The attack occurred around 6 am, resulting in the deaths of four members of the junta’s forces, which included soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members. Four additional personnel were injured and hospitalized. Shortly after the incident, the regime’s forces arrived at the scene, opening fire randomly and blocking the area for two hours, causing a disruption for travelers. Fortunately, the resistance rangers managed to escape without any casualties.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Seven people including a teacher murdered in Yesagyo tsp, Magway Region

On May 17, the regime’s forces ransacked villages in the south of Yesagyo Township, Magway Region, resulting in the murders of at least seven villagers. Approximately 300 troops attacked resistance stations in Kyauthtet, Zeetaw, and Thaetaw villages on the border of Yesagyo and Pakokku townships. At the entrance of Kyauthtet Village, the soldiers opened fire, killing a 20-year-old volunteer teacher. Six men were arrested and forced to reveal the locations of PDF stations before being burned to death. Their bodies were discovered near a PDF station on May 21. The victims were volunteer teacher Ma Aye Aye Mar, aged 20, Ko Aung Myo Oo, aged 16, U Maung Oo, aged 50, U Phoe Lone, aged 55, Ko Min Naing Htay, aged 30, Ko Aung Thu, aged 30, and an unidentified guest from another village.

  • At least 11 youths detained in Dawei, Tanintharyi Region

Between May 13 and May 19, eleven people were abducted by regime forces in Dawei City, Tanintharyi Region. The incidents occurred on May 13, 16, 18, and 19. On the night of May 13, three men from Eainshaepyin Ward were arrested during a midnight inspection and were blackmailed, being forced to pay between 500,000 MMK and 1 million MMK before being released. On May 16, a husband and wife were detained for writing pro-resistance posts on social media, with only the husband later released. On May 18, two young men were arrested at the entrance gate of Dawei after their phones were checked; only one was subsequently released. On May 19, four more youths were detained during a guest list inspection in Byawtawwa Ward. It is speculated that many more arrests have occurred but were not reported due to fear.

  • About 200 people abducted in a week in Sittwe, Rakhine State

Between May 14 and May 20, regime soldiers and police reportedly arrested at least 200 people in Sittwe City, Rakhine State. The detainees, mostly men, are said to be from various parts of Rakhine State, having fled armed conflicts in their home regions. They were arrested while taking refuge in monasteries and pagodas. All detainees are currently being held at the Sittwe Myoma Police Station.

  • Regime’s arterial attacks killed six civilians in Thayetchaung tsp, Tanintharyi Region

Between May 8 and May 20, junta forces carried out numerous aerial and naval attacks on villages in Thayetchaung Township, Dawei District, Tanintharyi Region. Utilizing K8W, YAK 130, and MI-2 aircraft, they dropped up to 30 bombs on six villages, focusing particularly on Kanetthiri Village. Over the course of the 13-day assault, six civilians, including three children, were killed, and more than 20 others were injured. The attacks also destroyed schools and homes, increasing the number of displaced persons to approximately 8,000 in Thayetchaung Township.

  • Junta’s airstrike killed five and injured ten in Paletwa tsp, Rakhine State

On May 21, the regime conducted an airstrike targeting crowds in Paletwa Township, Chin State, resulting in five deaths and ten injuries among civilians. A fighter jet dropped bombs three times on Tarunaing (Ywarthit) Village, located north of Paletwa Town and controlled by the Arakan Army (AA). The attack killed five people: Ko Maung Thein Naing, aged 31; U Aung Htun, aged 67; Ma Sandar, aged 17; Daw Hla Khine Oo, aged 47; and Ko Aung Kyaw Nyunt, aged 33. Ten others, including children, were injured, with eight reported to be in critical condition. Tarunaing Village, inhabited by Chin and Rakhine ethnic groups, has been under AA control since December 2023.

  • Junta’s artillery killed three and injured children in Gantgaw tsp, Magway Region

On the morning of May 26, the regime’s forces fired artillery into Aung Myin Village, Gantgaw Township, Magway Region, resulting in civilian casualties. The incident occurred around 10 am when soldiers from Infantry Unit 50 fired two 122 mm howitzers, hitting two houses in the village. A 60-year-old man, a 30-year-old woman, and a 23-year-old woman were killed on the spot. Additionally, a 60-year-old woman, a 4-year-old girl, and an 8-month-old child were injured. The artillery attack took place without any active battle in the vicinity.

Armed Resistance

  • KIA captured 12 regime stations near Winemaw tsp, Kachin State

Starting May 18, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and local resistance forces launched an offensive against military stations near Winemaw Town. They have so far seized up to 12 stations located on the Myitkyina-Banmaw highway. The mission aims to gain control of Winemaw Town, with the ultimate goal of targeting the capital, Myitkyina. In the past two and a half months since the KIA initiated this offensive, they have captured over 100 regime stations.

  • KNU & co seized regime station in Kawkareik tsp, Karen State

On May 19, a coalition of local resistance forces led by the Karen National Union (KNU) launched an offensive against the regime’s military station in Kawkareik Township, Karen State. The Fuchimu Station, manned by about 100 troops in the KNU’s brigade 6, saw 48 soldiers, including the deputy battalion commander, surrender to the KNU after being surrounded for days. During the seizure, the rangers found 20 dead bodies, and approximately 30 soldiers fled to the Thai border.

  • Five died during encounter in Sagaing City, Sagaing Region

On May 21, five resistance rangers from the “Taw Twin Toot Pi” force arrested at least ten people from the regime’s immigration office around 5 pm. During the arrest, the rangers encountered regime soldiers, leading to a 30-minute exchange of fire. The confrontation resulted in five deaths: two members of the PDF and three regime staff. Three rangers managed to escape with six detainees. The regime’s staff are expected to be charged for their coordination with the regime and associated crimes.

  • Chin resistance forces fully controlled Tonzang Township

On May 23, the coalition of Chin resistance forces successfully seized Tonzang Township, capturing 40 regime troops alive. The offensive, led by the Chin National Army (CNA), began on May 15 and targeted Tonzang, located on the border of India and Myanmar. Within less than ten days, the town came under the full control of the people’s forces. Upon seizing the town, political prisoners held by the regime’s soldiers were released. The resistance forces captured approximately 80 firearms and seized about 600 million MMK. Tonzang is the first township that resistance forces have captured in Chin State.

  • Regime’s Y-12 aircraft rumored to have crashed in Winemaw tsp, Kachin State

On May 26, news surfaced on the social media that the junta’s Y-12 aircraft that was bombing the civilians and resistance forces had crashed in near Khetcho Village, Winemaw Township, Kachin State. However, the KIA spokesperson said the news cannot be verified yet.

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit, RFA Burmese, VOA Burmese, The Tanintharyi Times

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