Weekly Update 115

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, the regime is stepping up its game to ban VPNs in Myanmar, all to eventually boot Facebook out. This crackdown has given their lackeys the power to stop anyone in public for inspections and blackmail if they find a VPN app on their phone. But, we’ve seen this play before—they’ve checked our phones, raided our homes, and tracked our every move. They’re just proving once again to the world that they’re not cut out to run a civilized society. Read the highlights below:

Internal Politics 

  • Massacre in Byaing Pyu village, Rakhine State

At the end of May, reports surfaced of a military-led massacre in Byaing Pyu village, on the outskirts of Sittwe City in Rakhine State on May 29. Initially, verification was challenging, but on June 6, Myanmar Now published an investigative report based on interviews with local villagers who escaped the mass killing. According to the report, the military detained nearly 1,000 men, blindfolded and beat them. Women were also detained, albeit without blindfolds, allowing them to witness the tortures and killings. The detainees were starved for over 48 hours. Some girls taken by soldiers were presumed raped and killed. Witnesses recounted that soldiers mutilated men with Rakhine tattoos, some of whom were killed. On June 4, the Arakan Army (AA) reported that 76 individuals were killed in the first three days of the regime’s siege of Byaing Pyu village. A 60-year-old escapee told Myanmar Now that before he was blindfolded, there were nearly 1,000 men, but when the blindfolds were removed, only 113 men remained, with blood everywhere. Reports also indicated that members of the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), masked to conceal their identities, participated in the torture and killings. However, the ALP, based in Sittwe and led by Daw Saw Mra Yarzar Lin, issued a statement on June 3 denying any involvement.

  • The regime’s mass killing surge in early 2024: research group reports

From January to April 2024, the military regime committed at least 46 mass killings, each involving five or more victims, resulting in the deaths of 369 civilians, according to an announcement by the Nyan Lin Thit research group on June 12. The group reported that airstrikes by the military council were responsible for the highest number of civilian mass killings and casualties during this period. Nyan Lin Thit research group highlighted that the military’s mass killings were carried out using various methods, including heavy artillery shelling and coordinated airstrikes. There were at least 23 incidents involving airstrikes, leading to 168 deaths, and at least 11 incidents where military troops killed civilians during ground operations, resulting in 91 deaths. Sagaing Region alone witnessed 10 massacres, with 105 fatalities. This information is based on reports from grassroots revolutionary organizations and independent news media. RFA Burmese attempted to contact General Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson for the regime, for comments, but received no response. In the three years since the coup, the regime has reportedly committed 260 mass killings, with a death toll of 2,490 civilians.

  • The regime banned the VPN use and extorted money from civilians

In parts of Myanmar, including major cities like Yangon and Mandalay, regime’s soldiers stopped passers-by to check their mobile phones, and extorted money if they found VPN (Virtual Private Network) software. Residents report that the ban on using VPNs has become increasingly strict. This practice is also happening in areas such as Sagaing, Bago, Irrawaddy, and Chin State. Since the military council shut down popular VPN software at the end of May, accessing Facebook and news websites has become difficult. In January 2022, the military council began checking passers-by’s phones for VPNs. The military views Facebook, the most popular social network in Myanmar, as a threat and is attempting to replace it. At an August 17 press conference, General Zaw Min Tun announced new social networks, such as Ok Par and M Tube, as alternatives. In early June 2024, a new social network called My Space, reportedly created by the military council, appeared. Revolutionary forces have lobbied for its removal. Ye May Gaga, a fundraiser for the People’s Defense Forces (PDF), noted that the military council’s control of social media aims to obscure news and distract public attention from revolutionary forces.

  • NUG acting president calls for stronger alliances with ethnic armed forces

At a cabinet meeting on June 11, National Unity Government (NUG) Acting President Duwal Shi La emphasized the need to build and strengthen alliances with ethnic armed forces. He stressed the importance of moving beyond partnerships to form a robust and cohesive alliance based on trust and proven collaboration. “Trust is the most important element in an alliance. Therefore, it is crucial for us to build a stronger and more compact alliance by demonstrating our commitment and building trust,” said the Acting President. He underscored the necessity of expanding alliances to ensure victory. NUG Prime Minister U Mann Win Khaing Than highlighted that 2024 is a critical year, requiring significant actions. Currently, the NUG has alliances with several groups, including the New Mon State Party, the Kachin Liberation Organization (KIO), the Karen National Union (KNU), the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), and the Chin National Front (CNF).

  • SAC to hold General Election in 2025

On June 15, the coup leader Min Aung Hlaing announced that a general election would be held in 2025 across the country. During his visit to Meikhtila Town in the Mandalay Region, he mentioned that a general census will be conducted in the coming October, which will precede the countrywide election the following year.

International Affairs

  • China delivered six ships as agreed with the NLD government in 2020

On June 11, the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar announced the provision of six ships to aid in water resource protection and utilization activities. This assistance was requested by the Myanmar government in 2018 and solidified during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Myanmar in January 2020. President Xi’s visit, which commemorated the 70th anniversary of China-Myanmar relations, included separate meetings with Myanmar President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Over the course of his two-day visit, 33 memorandums of understanding were signed, including significant projects such as the Kyauk Phyu Deep Sea Port and the Muse-Mandalay Railway, as well as agreements related to the Yangon New Project. According to a press release from Myanmar’s military council, China has provided the Myanmar police with two 28-meter patrol vessels and four 48-meter ships. This support is expected to enhance the law enforcement capabilities of the Myanmar Maritime Police.

  • Thailand introduced pink card work permits for undocumented migrant workers including Myanmar workers

On June 6, Thailand’s Ministry of Labor confirmed that undocumented migrants, including those from Myanmar, will be eligible for a new official work permit known as the pink card. This initiative covers migrant workers from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam. To apply for a pink card, migrants must be in Thailand and employed by an employer. The program also includes those who previously held work permits but could not renew them due to various reasons, as well as individuals who became undocumented because they lacked sufficient time to apply for a new permit when changing employers. This move aims to address the challenges of both illegal and legal immigration to Thailand amid economic hardships in neighboring countries. U Moe Kyaw from Yaung Chi Oo migrant workers support group welcomed the Thai government’s plan, noting that workers in remote areas far from Myanmar consulates would appreciate an easier application process. According to official regulations, obtaining a pink card will cost less than 1,000 baht (over 11 lakh kyat). However, many migrant workers, unclear about the process, often spend around 20,000 to 25,000 baht (22 to 27 lakh kyats) by relying on brokers. The Thai government has approved the pink card plan, but details regarding costs, the application process, and issuance locations will be announced later, according to labor affairs officials.

  • Russia to build small nuclear power plant for the regime

On June 3, the British-based Nuclear Engineering International magazine reported that the Russian government has approved a draft agreement to construct a small nuclear power plant requested by the military council. The two sides are expected to sign the agreement soon. This follows a memorandum of understanding signed in November 2022 between the regime and the Russian state-owned Rosatom Atomic Energy Corporation. While the construction site details have not been disclosed, the report indicates that the plant will have a capacity of 110 megawatts. Russia will support various aspects of the project, including engineering research, environmental impact assessment, nuclear architecture and design, equipment supply and installation, used fuel handling, and service guarantees. A former government official knowledgeable about electricity projects told Myanmar Now that, given the regime’s inability to produce sufficient electricity, they will pursue this energy project with Russian assistance. Since Russia will handle the investment with no investment from the regime’s side, it is likely Myanmar will need to purchase the generated electricity, similar to other energy projects.

  • Indian state enterprises providing assistance to the Myanmar military

Justice for Myanmar (JMF) announced on June 14 that Indian state-owned enterprises are providing the Myanmar military with military equipment, training courses, and support, aiding the ongoing war crimes in the country. JMF revealed that these enterprises are not only exporting and selling military equipment but are also willing to continue doing business with the Myanmar military. According to JMF, 16 enterprises managed by India’s Ministry of Defense are involved. Among these are BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited, Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Limited, BEML Limited, Hindustan Shipyards Limited, Yantra India Limited, and Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited. These companies export and sell warships, submarines, missiles, defense equipment, and cannons, with agreements in place to continue exports. India is the third-largest arms exporter to Myanmar. A September 2023 report by the Indian Policy Research Group (Vivekananda International Foundation) indicates that over 50 percent of India’s arms exports go to Myanmar. JMF has called on India to immediately halt all transfers of technology and fuel, including military weapons and related equipment, and to suspend all military training for the Myanmar military.

Business Matters

  • Business owners arrested for raising employees’ salaries due to rising living cost

At least 10 businessmen from Yangon, who increased employee salaries and expenses during a time when the Myanmar kyat’s value dropped to a record low and commodity prices skyrocketed, are reportedly under investigation by the regime this week. The businesses involved include a coffee shop, mobile phone shop, restaurant, electronics stores, and construction companies. By the end of May, the exchange rate was 4,600 kyats per US dollar, and the price of a kyat of gold had reached 57,000,000 kyats. In response to soaring commodity prices, some private companies announced wage increases of 10% to 30%. An employee of one of the arrested entrepreneurs in Yangon told Myanmar Now that the regime came to investigate the issue of salary increases and then detained the boss. “In the process, they came to investigate the salary increase issue and then took the boss away. As we know, there are around 10 companies in Yangon under investigation,” the employee said. An employee of a construction company in Yangon also confirmed their employer’s arrest. Zaw Zaw Mobile phone shop, which was praised on social media for increasing employee salaries based on seniority, also saw its owner detained. Reports indicate that the design business and coffee shop were closed, and their owners were arrested.

  • The World Bank warned of rising poverty in Myanmar

At the start of 2024, approximately one-third of Myanmar’s population, or 32 percent, is living in poverty, with another third at risk of falling into poverty, according to a World Bank report released on June 12. The report estimates that domestic production will grow by only 1 percent until March 2025, a 9 percent decrease from the pre-coup economic growth rate of 2019. The World Bank predicted that inflation and unemployment rates will continue to rise, exacerbating poverty across many regions of Myanmar. The number of people living in poverty has increased by seven million since the coup. The report highlights several economic challenges, including declining incomes, reduced consumption, and retail trade due to cost-saving measures, import shortages, labor market instability, and power outages affecting the cargo industry. When contacted by RFA, U Win Than, Director General of the Ministry of Planning and Finance, and Deputy Permanent Secretary U Han Myo Aung referred inquiries to the regime’s press release team. General Zaw Min Tun, the Military Council’s spokesperson, did not respond to requests for comments.

  • UK expands sanctions on the regime’s leadership and affiliated companies

On June 7, the British government announced the continuation of sanctions on 39 individuals and 31 companies, targeting key figures in Myanmar’s military leadership. Among those sanctioned are coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, along with top leaders General Mya Tun Oo, Lieutenant General Aung Lin Dwe, Lieutenant General Ye Win Oo, General Tin Aung San, and former Chief of Defense Staff General Maung Maung Kyaw. The sanctions list also includes Htoo Company Group, U Tay Za and his two sons, and Union Attorney General Daw Thida Oo. Additionally, Daw Khin Phyu Win, director of Shoon Energy Company, which supplies jet fuel to the regime’s Air Force, and U Tun Min Lat, an arms broker from Star Sapphire Trading Company, are named. Furthermore, Britain has added 22 companies to the block list, including Htoo Group and Dr. Naing Htut Aung’s International Gateways Group. The sanctions extend to nine military organizations, including the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar Military Affairs, the Security and Defense 33rd Infantry Division, and the 77th and 99th Infantry Divisions.

  • KIA seized the regime’s bases, and halted trade on China-Myanmar border

On June 11, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) captured military council army bases, including Sadom, along the Waingmaw-Kanpaiti road in Kachin State. This action has led to a halt in trade operations in the China-Myanmar border town of Kanpaiti. The operation began around 5:00 a.m. with attacks on military council checkpoints, border guard stations, and militia posts. After a full day of fighting, the KIA successfully seized the strategic hill station of Sadom, along with border guard and militia camps. Colonel Naw Bu, a KIA information officer, reported that the KIA also took control of the police station, the General Administration Office, and cleared the city entrance checkpoints in Sadom by the following morning. The KIA joint forces are currently pursuing and attacking retreating military council troops to secure the area. Colonel Naw Bu further stated that with the capture of these bases, the KIA now controls the 70-mile Waingmaw-Kanpaiti road, temporarily blocking it and stopping trade. This action follows the KIA’s earlier capture of the Chinese border trade city of Lweje in April.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Myanmar ranks world’s most violent zone: ACLED reports

Myanmar is currently the most violent place on earth, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED). Since the military coup in February 2021, civil conflicts have claimed the lives of 50,000 people, including at least 8,000 civilians, and displaced 2.3 million individuals. Even seven months after Operation 1027 by the Three Brotherhood Alliance, the violent conflict continues unabated. ACLED reports that the ongoing strife is devastating Myanmar’s economy, doubling the poverty rate since March 2020 due to military mismanagement. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights indicates that nearly half of Myanmar’s population is now living in poverty. The military’s restrictions on access to conflict areas have put rural communities at risk of starvation. The situation is exacerbated by the blockade of key supply routes and waterways, preventing aid workers from reaching over 17 million people in need. ACLED, an independent international organization, collects conflict data from around the world.

  • AA appealed for aid for more than 500,000 displaced people 

At a press conference on June 8, Arakan Army (AA) spokesperson U Khaing Thukha appealed for donations to support approximately 500,000 war refugees in Rakhine State who urgently need assistance. The onset of the rainy season has exacerbated the need for shelter, food, medicine, and clothing for those displaced by ongoing conflicts. Since November 2023, intensified fighting in Rakhine State has forced many residents to flee their homes. The situation has been worsened by the military council’s blockade of main roads, leading to severe food shortages. U Khaing Thukha emphasized that individuals facing difficulties in donating humanitarian aid can contact and donate through the AA. Efforts to obtain a statement from Rakhine State Attorney General U Hla Thein, the military council’s spokesperson for the region, regarding aid provision to war victims were unsuccessful.

  • Mon State transfers 160 prisoners to other facilities

On June 15, the All-Myanmar Network of Political Prisoners (PPNM) announced that approximately 160 prisoners from Kyaik Ma Yaw Prison in Mon State were transferred to other prisons. This group included 60 political prisoners and 100 additional prisoners, all shackled in pairs and relocated to Daik Oo and Tharayawati prisons. Ko Thaik Tun Oo, an official from PPNM, told RFA that the transfer targeted prisoners leading resistance against prison authorities. The operation was led by U Zaw Myo Aung, Director of the Mon State Prison Department. In a related incident, political prisoner Ko Aung Chit Htwe from Kyaik Ma Yaw Prison suffered an electric shock on June 12 while working at a height of 20 feet. He fell and was subsequently taken to Mawlamyine Public Hospital.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • 82 regime’s lackeys killed since announced of conscription law

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that within four months since the conscription law had been enforced, 82 people associated with its implementation were killed across the country. Ward administrators, village chiefs, and administrative clerks were targeted for their involvement with the law in regions including Sagaing, Magway, Mandalay, Yangon, Ayeyarwaddy, Bago, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan. Mandalay led the list with 24 regime lackeys killed, followed by Magway with 18. Resistance forces have declared that action will continue against those who recruit for the regime.

  • Nine UGs arrested for planning attack on new Thanlyin Bridge opening ceremony in Yangon

The junta’s newspapers reported that the regime had arrested nine members of the Urban Guerrilla Force who had planned to attack the Thanlyin New Bridge opening ceremony in Yangon on June 8. Sein Gyi @ Aung Htwe, aged 26, Cho Gyi @ Hein Htet Aung, aged 18, Min Thu, aged 30, Mg Hein, aged 24, Aung Thura Tun, aged 25, Pyae Phyo Zaw, aged 18, and Htet Arkarlin, aged 26, were arrested in Dagon Seikkan Township as they planned to fire a 107 mm rocket toward the ceremony. Chit Kay Khine and Zarni Aung @ Ko Zar were arrested on June 9.

  • PDF ambushed Pyu Saw Htee base in Launglon tsp, Tanintharyi Region

Around 1 pm on June 10, the local PDF carried out an ambush at a house of Pyu Saw Htee members in Kyauknimaw Village, Launglon Township, Tanintharyi Region. The house is usually used as a base for Pyu Saw Htee activities led by their leader U Soe Than. Upon the ambush, U Soe Than and his associates fled the house. PDF rangers seized U Soe Than’s car, a gun, and two phones before leaving. On the same day, the Launglon PDF followed and attacked a fishing boat belonging to Pyu Saw Htee members, leading to back-and-forth firings. Two Pyu Saw Htee members were injured. Kyauknimaw is a Pyu Saw Htee-strong village with more than 20 members residing in the area.

  • 15 civilians arrested after former regime captain shot dead in Singu tsp, Mandalay Region

On June 14, a former military captain named Aung Ko Ko was shot dead around 2 pm in his house in Shoutpinyoe Village, Singu Township, Mandalay Region. The following day, about 100 troops stormed into the village and arrested two people aged 35 and 50. The soldiers continued their hunt in the gold mining area northeast of the village, where they abducted 13 youths aged between 19 and 27. The former captain was notorious for being arrogant and bullying villagers, exploiting his connection with the military.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Business owners arrested for increasing staff’s salaries

In June, over ten business owners were arrested for increasing and announcing staff salaries due to high commodity rates. The regime accused them of market fluctuation and charged them under the sedition act 505A after their announcements went viral on Facebook. Among the detainees were Zaw Zaw Mobile Phone, PAM Construction Group, and Coffee Sine Company Limited.

  • Over 20 youths arrested in a swimming pool in Kalay, Sagaing Region

On June 9, more than 20 youths, aged between 18 and 20, were arrested while swimming at Mingyi Hotel in Kalay City, Sagaing Region. About 30 troops blocked the hotel before entering and abducting the youths. Rumors suggested that the youths had trouble with two individuals at the hotel entrance, who may have informed the regime’s forces about the presence of PDF members. The youths are detained at the Regional Operation Commands, and their families and friends are worried they might be forced to serve in the army due to the conscription law.

  • Regime bombed Baptist church with drone in Winemaw tsp, Kachin State

On the afternoon of June 10, around 3:30 pm, the junta’s forces reportedly attacked the Baptist Church twice in Lamyan Village, Winemaw Township, Kachin State. The church was completely ruined by the blast. Clashes between the regime’s army and resistance forces led by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the Winemaw area have intensified since May. This attack on a religious building is considered a provocation by the army.

  • 59 villagers detained by regime in Hsihseng tsp, Shan State

On June 10, the regime’s forces and Pa-O National Organization (PNO) members arrested about 59 villagers in Ye Phyu Village, Hsihseng Township, Shan State – south. Since January, clashes have broken out between the allied forces of the regime and PNO against the Pa-O National Liberation Army in Hsehseng, Pinlaung, Hopong, and Nyaungshwe townships. The local populace, including those from Ye Phyu Village, fled to safety. They were threatened by the regime and PNO troops that their houses would be burned down if they didn’t return home. Upon their return, 59 people were arrested and kept in the village hall, with more than half of the detainees being women aged 40 and above.

  • IDPs injured during regime’s airstrike on school in Kanpetlet tsp, Chin State

On June 11, the junta’s forces carried out an aerial attack on a school located in Chinlatmon Village, 20 miles north of Kanpetlet Town, Chin State. Three airstrikes took place around 10 am on the compound where internally displaced persons were residing. A 76-year-old woman from Kyindwe Town was killed in the attack, while three others (two IDPs and one local villager) were injured. Many IDPs have taken refuge in Chinlatmon Village since the Chin resistance forces’ attack on Kyindwe Town.

  • Regime’s aerial strike killed husband and wife in Budalin tsp, Sagaing Region

On the evening of June 13, the regime’s air force conducted an attack near Nyaungkone Village, Budalin Township, Sagaing Region, without an active battle nearby. The fighter jet dropped two 200-lb bombs, causing two deaths and three injuries. The victims were 50-year-old U Min Nyein and his 52-year-old wife Daw San San Htay. They are survived by three sons and a daughter.

Armed Resistance

  • Clash intensified in Thayetchaung tsp, Tanintharyi Region

Since May 14, the regime’s forces have launched an offensive in Thayetchaung Township in Tanintharyi Region, causing a full-blown clash against the resistance forces in the area. In the battle, the regime has reinforced multiple times and also used navy ships to fire artillery and conduct aerial strikes. So far, about 30 regime soldiers have died in the clash and four resistance rangers have also lost their lives.

  • KIA seized four regime military stations in Sadon, Kachin State

On June 11, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) reportedly captured four military stations, including the headquarters in Sadon, Kachin State. The strategic hill/headquarters located on the Winemaw-Kanpiteti road, the 13-mile inspection gate on Sadon-Chiphwe, and the Bwandaung and Laphai stations fell into the KIA’s control in one day. The KIA has now seized more than 100 regime stations since the launch of its offensive campaign. Battles are occurring daily near Winemaw Township, Kachin State.

  • Chin forces increased efforts to capture Matupi Town

Chin resistance forces have reportedly captured the regime’s police station and General Administration Department (GAD) located in Matupi Town, Chin State. They are now continuing efforts to capture the remaining stations. The current offensive is launched at the junta’s Infantry Unit 304, where the regime is defending with artillery and airstrikes. The offensive is coordinated by CDF-Matupi, Chin Brotherhood, AA, and Yaw Army.

  • Dozens of regime soldiers killed during PDF ambush in Monywa, Sagaing Region

On June 11, local resistance forces conducted an offensive at the regime’s inspection gate located near the northwest regional headquarters in Monywa, Sagaing Region. About 40 regime soldiers manned the gate in Hteedawtin Village, one mile from the regional headquarters. The ambush took place around 5 pm, lasting 30 minutes, during which more than 20 soldiers were killed and five were captured alive. Various firearms, including nine guns, were confiscated. As the regime sent reinforcements, the PDF left the stations with prisoners and seized weapons.

  • Resumed battles speculated in Shan-north

Due to the provocations from the regime, the clashes are speculated again in Shan-north despite the ceasefire agreement. Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) said the junta’s forces fired artillery and dropped aerial bombs on its station in Mongmit Township on June 9, violating the Haigan ceasefire agreement brokered by China. Following the attack, the Three Brotherhood Alliance forces are speculated to be moving towards Lashio, as the regime’s army was seen destroying routes to Lashio and Hsipaw towns.

  • AA captured regime’s border guard base in Maungdaw tsp, Rakhine State

On June 12, the Arakan Army (AA) reportedly captured the regime’s station on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in Maungdaw Township, Rakhine State. The station was manned by 300 regime soldiers and regarded as a strategic base for the gateway to the sea and reinforcement routes. Those who abandoned the station are still fighting against AA forces on the road. The regime conducted aerial strikes during the battles, with bombs falling into villages and injuring civilians.

Sources: Myanmar Now, Khit Thit Media, RFA Burmese, DVB, Mizzima News, The Irrawaddy, Kachin Waves, Chin World

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