Weekly Update 116

by mohingamatters

Hi folks, the talk of the town this week was centered around the killing of the prominent monk, Bhaddanta Munindabhivamsa, by regime soldiers. Initially, the junta falsely claimed that the PDF was responsible for the admired abbot’s death. However, they later had to admit their involvement, albeit not without trying to shift some blame onto the PDF.

Despite Myanmar being a predominantly Buddhist country, the faith has often been exploited by those in power for their own benefit. Religious leaders frequently side with dictators to maintain their positions, with many prominent Buddhist monks consistently aligning themselves with successive generals. Bhaddanta Munindabhivamsa was one of the few who vocally opposed the coup from the early days. Meanwhile, his cowardly counterparts continue to suck up to the generals, living extravagantly while turning a blind eye to the suffering around them. 

Read the highlights below:

Internal Politics

  • The regime’s attempt to recruit women for the conscription

The military council, facing a critical shortage of armed forces, has begun compiling lists of women to serve in the military in certain regions. Residents in Tanintharyi and Bago regions report that local administrators are gathering names. In Kawthaung and Myeik towns of the Tanintharyi Region, the enlistment of women for military service is being conducted in a census-like manner. “There will only be a list. Young people are no longer in towns and villages; they are all moving away,” said a resident of Myeik. Fearing conscription into an army tarnished by the coup and subsequent violence, many have fled Myeik for neighboring Thailand. Similarly, in Yay Tar Shae Township, Taungoo District, a local source revealed that township officials have ordered women to register for military service due to the absence of young men in the village. A source close to the administration in Nay Pyi Taw mentioned that the administrator, pressured by the absence of eligible young men, may have preemptively compiled a list of women eligible for military service. When contacted, the Central Conscription Recruitment Committee’s office in Ayeyarwady Region stated that they have not yet received instructions to recruit women conscripts or to compile such lists.

  • The regime arrested Flower Strike participants commemorating DASSK’s birthday

The military has arrested numerous individuals who participated in the “Flower Strike” movement commemorating the 79th birthday of detained leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is serving a 33-year prison sentence following the military coup. Military propaganda Telegram pages released the names of those involved in the Flower Strike on June 19, leading to the arrest of at least a dozen people in one day. Photographs have emerged showing 11 women being arrested while holding flowers on their knees. Among them were three women from the Shwe Yamin Tea Shop and three from a guitar shop, both in Mandalay. According to the military’s Telegram pages, over 20 individuals have been detained, including five arrested in a state of shock. Ko Thaik Tun Oo of the All Myanmar Political Prisoners Network (PPNM) stated that these arbitrary arrests demonstrate the military’s defeat and are intended to instill fear in the public. The military side has not officially disclosed information about those arrested in connection with the Flower Strike movement. However, a report by Yangon-based Eleven Media quoted an unnamed official claiming that 22 participants had been detained. In solidarity, several Western embassies in Yangon posted photos of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on their Facebook pages, alongside images of roses—the symbol of the Flower Strike movement—to express their support.

  • The regime admits to killing senior monk, promises investigation

On June 21, General Zaw Min Tun, the regime’s spokesperson, admitted that regime forces shot and killed Bhaddanta Munindabhivamsa, the abbot of Win Neinmitayon Monastery in the Bago region, and announced that an inquiry commission would be formed to investigate the incident. The shooting occurred on June 19, when regime troops fired at the car carrying the senior monk between Myothar village and Panchi Kamma village in Ngazun Township. The abbot died, while the Kan Thone Sint abbot and the driver were injured. General Zaw Min Tun claimed that the car ignored a warning to stop, leading the troops to open fire. He also stated that it was difficult to distinguish between armed revolutionaries and civilians in the area. An investigation team including high-ranking military officials will be established to uncover the truth. Leaked intelligence reports indicate that the vehicle was shot by troops from the military base in Kyauk Se and the Pyu Saw Htee militia group based in Ngazun. The two senior monks in the car were former members of the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee, the highest order of Buddhist monks in the country. Initially, the regime blamed “PDF terrorists” for the abbot’s death. On June 20, a video surfaced showing the Kan Thone Sint abbot, who survived the shooting, explaining his experience and identifying the shooters. Following this, the military council released conflicting news statements. By the afternoon of June 21, the regime acknowledged inconsistencies between the initial reports and the witness testimony, stating that an investigation was underway and necessary measures would be taken.

  • The regime seeks Chinese assistance for internet censorship and surveillance, JFM reports

On June 19, human rights activist group Justice For Myanmar (JFM) reported that the Myanmar military council is seeking Chinese technical assistance to censor and intercept internet communications. The military has upgraded its internet control system, which has been in use since late May. JFM warned that this system could be used to arrest more people. Chinese technology is being employed to monitor Internet service providers, including mobile operators and Internet Gateways. This technology uses security-enhanced networks capable of censorship, allowing the capture, monitoring, and analysis of users’ internet activities and data packets. It can detect phone messages and email contents. The new system uses Tiangou Secure Gateway (TSG) and Cyber Narrator systems from China-based information technology company Jizhi (Hainan), also known as Geedge Networks. TSG is an internet monitoring and censorship technology product that can act as a firewall, blocking applications, including VPNs, based on their behavior and characteristics. Myanmar arms brokerage firm Mascots Group is also involved in the military council’s internet censorship and surveillance efforts, providing technical assistance to Chinese companies for location tracking systems. Mascots Group, led by businessman Dr. Win Kyaw, consists of five companies and is co-founded by Burbrit Beer, according to JFM.

International Affairs

  • The regime signed Mekong-Lancang special fund agreement with China

On June 14, the regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the signing of the 2024 Mekong-Lancang Special Fund Project Agreement with China in Nay Pyi Taw. According to the agreement, China will provide $3.6 million to Myanmar for 12 projects to be implemented by six ministries. These projects will focus on agriculture and livestock, forest resource protection and conservation, environmental practices and innovations for small and medium businesses, village-level poverty reduction, information technology innovation, and cultural sector upgrades. From 2017 to 2024, Myanmar has received 118 projects worth $35 million from the Mekong-Lancang Special Fund provided by China. Chinese Ambassador Mr. Chang Hai highlighted that this agreement is a significant step in implementing the fourth Lancang-Mekong cooperation agreements. He also noted that since 2018, Myanmar has received the most aid from the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Special Fund among the Mekong countries.

  • DSSK honored with citizenship award in Italy

In honor of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s birthday on June 19, the city of Abbiategrasso, Italy, awarded her honorary citizenship. Her son, Kim Aris (also known as Ko Htein Lin), attended the award ceremony on June 15. During the ceremony, Kim Aris expressed hope that violence in Myanmar would end and the military would fail, emphasizing that no one will be free until everyone in Burma is free. He shared that he last spoke to his mother three and a half years ago, just days before the coup, and has since received only one letter from her. Kim Aris confirmed that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is imprisoned in Nay Pyi Taw and that the military council is attempting to sell her house. He called for her immediate release and expressed concern for her health. The ceremony was attended by the mayor of Abbiategrasso, former Italian MP and friend of Aung San Suu Kyi, Albertino Soliani, and former Italian Ambassador to Myanmar, Alessandra Schiavo.

  • China’s special representative visits Myanmar to discuss bilateral relations

China’s Special Representative for Myanmar, Mr. Deng Xijun, arrived in Myanmar on June 18 and met with the Military Council. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Military Council met with Foreign Minister U Than Swe and Mr. Deng Xijun on June 18 in Nay Pyi Taw. The meeting covered bilateral relations, cooperation in border region stability, and increasing collaboration between the two countries. They also discussed closer cooperation on international platforms, particularly ASEAN and the United Nations. Dr. Hla Kyaw Zaw, a Myanmar political analyst based in China, told RFA that Deng Xijun’s visit likely focused on border security issues between the two countries. He noted that discussions might include border security and the potential resumption of border trade. 

  • Bangladeshi politician accuses Myanmar of smuggling contraband weapons

The Dhaka Tribune reported on June 16 that Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, joint general secretary of Bangladesh’s main opposition party, BNP, accused Myanmar of smuggling a large amount of contraband weapons into Bangladesh through the border. Rizvi highlighted the severe economic struggles of the Bangladeshi people, noting that even the middle class is facing hardships. He emphasized that the borders are unprotected, and St. Martin Island’s sovereignty is threatened by the ongoing conflict between the Myanmar Army and the Arakan Army. He criticized the government’s inability to repatriate the Rohingya refugees who have been in Bangladesh for the past seven or eight years. Rizvi questioned which country’s interests are being protected and criticized the ruling Awami League party and Sheikh Hasina’s government for their lack of transparency regarding their Myanmar policy. He made these remarks at a press conference held at the BNP headquarters on June 15.Rizvi also pointed out that Bangladesh has been importing food and various goods from Rakhine state for many years, but the ongoing conflict in the region has disrupted this trade route.

Business Matters

  • The regime arrested rice traders for price gouging

Businessmen close to commodity markets told Myanmar Now that on June 21, the military arrested and interrogated several owners of the Bayinnaung Commodity market for allegedly selling rice at prices higher than the official rates. Among those detained is U Ye Min Aung, chairman of the Myanmar Rice and Paddy Traders Association. Reports indicate that about a dozen rice fair business owners, including U Lu Maw Myint Maung, chairman of the Bayinnaung Rice Commodity Board, are under investigation. A trader familiar with the situation said, “It’s not just two owners; there are many people from both the Bayinnaung Commodity market and the Wah Tan Commodity market.” The arrested traders are being interrogated in two batches in Nay Pyi Taw and Yangon. Another businessman mentioned that rice sellers at City Mart were summoned for not adhering to the set price for fine rice, leading to the closure of rice warehouses. Attempts to contact U Ye Min Aung were unsuccessful as his phone was turned off. Additionally, the Myanmar Rice Federation’s press release website has been inaccessible since June 22.

  • Border closure halted trade at Thailand-Myanmar crossing

Residents reported that around 100 trucks have been stuck at the Phaya Thone Su border gate in Kyar Inn Seik Gyi Township, Karen State, since June 17 due to a closure of the Thailand-Myanmar border. Both sides closed the border on the morning of June 17. A local resident mentioned that the border gate has been closed for five days, halting trade, and there is no information on when it will reopen. “We don’t know why it’s closed, but it seems to be due to issues between the two sides. Now, hundreds of trucks are lined up along the road, unable to load or unload goods,” he said. The closure has stopped the flow of goods, causing some items being exported from Thailand to Myanmar to become more expensive. Residents noted that traders have primarily relied on the Phaya Thone Su border gate, with more than 40 trucks passing through daily, due to poor road connections on the Myawady side. Attempts by RFA to reach Social Minister U Saw Khin Maung Myint, the Karen State spokesperson for the regime, for more information were unsuccessful.

  • Myanmar tourism suffers amid political instability

Due to ongoing political instability, Myanmar has seen a significant decrease in foreign tourist arrivals. Despite efforts by the military council to attract Chinese and Russian tourists, only over 100,000 tourists visited in the first five months of 2024. A veteran travel entrepreneur noted, “Tourists are concerned about the current instability, and travel companies are hesitant to promote Myanmar as a destination. Confidence and assurance from these companies are crucial to rebuilding tourist numbers.” The military council has collaborated with Chinese and Russian travel agencies, organizing promotional events like fam trips in late 2023 and early 2024. Despite efforts such as visa relaxations and establishing direct flights with Russia, there has been no notable increase in Asian tourist arrivals. Comparatively, in the first five months of 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, Myanmar welcomed 1.8 million foreign tourists. The Ministry of Hotel and Tourism under the military council reported that the majority of tourists currently visiting Myanmar are from Thailand and China.

Humanitarian Affairs

  • Thousands of displaced people in Taungoo in need of urgent food and shelter 

Relief workers informed RFA today that approximately 5,000 refugees displaced by conflict in eastern Bago Region have arrived in Taungoo and urgently require assistance. These refugees, primarily from Mone and Zayat Gyi cities, are residing in around twenty makeshift camps within Taungoo. Some have been displaced since 2023, while others fled recent fighting in May, complicating efforts to provide sustained aid. A relief worker in Taungoo expressed the challenges they face, stating, “We are struggling significantly to provide food support. Donations have decreased, and with the arrival of the rainy season, prices for fruits and vegetables have soared, making it difficult to even afford basic meals like vegetable curry.” Long-term job opportunities for the refugees are scarce, and those unable to stay in camps struggle with high rent burdens. In Nagayone refugee camp, housing around 350 people, only a fraction are able to support themselves with food, underscoring the dire need for immediate assistance among conflicted-affected communities.

  • About 100 political prisoners transferred to other facilities

The Political Prisoners Network of Myanmar (PPNM) announced on June 15 that approximately 100 inmates from Obo Prison in Mandalay were transferred to Magway Prison and Tharrawaddy Prison that morning. Ko Thaik Tun Oo, an official from PPNM, stated that the exact number of transfers from Obo Prison is still being investigated. “We know the transfer occurred early in the morning to Magwe, with rumors that half may be sent to Tharrawaddy. The exact number initially reported around 70 has now increased to approximately 100, though specifics remain uncertain,” Ko Thaik Tun Oo told RFA. Earlier on June 7, PPNM had highlighted overcrowding issues and health concerns at Obo Prison, including skin diseases due to inadequate prison uniforms. This announcement might have prompted the transfers, which also involved activists critical of prison authorities. The exact reasons behind the transfers have yet to be clarified. Additionally, PPNM reported that around 160 inmates, including 60 political prisoners, were transferred from Mon State’s Kyaik Ma Yaw Prison to other facilities. The transferred prisoners were reportedly shackled in pairs during their relocation to Daik Oo and Tharrawaddy prisons.

  • More than 1,000,000 displaced people in KNU territories

The Karen National Union (KNU) announced on June 20 that since the military coup in 2021 until May 2024, over 1,000,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes in KNU-administered areas. Out of the total 1,078,505 displaced people, they can only assist approximately 600,000 people currently, and efforts are underway to secure humanitarian aid for the remaining victims. Nyaung Lay Pin District has the highest number of refugees, nearly 500,000, followed by Duplaya District with over 150,000. Thaton District has nearly 100,000 displaced persons, while Myeik-Dawei District and Taungoo District each have over 100,000 and 80,000 respectively. Additionally, approximately 80,000 people fled Hpapon District and more than 20,000 from Hpa’an District. The displacement crisis escalated sharply after the coup due to military airstrikes and heavy artillery barrages by the regime. By December 2023, the number of displaced people in KNU-controlled areas surged from 75,669 to nearly 300,000. The KNU further reported that the regime arbitrarily arrested and killed nearly 200 civilians in 2023 alone, alongside conducting nearly 800 aerial attacks and over 2,000 heavy weapon firings. More than 3,000 human rights violations were documented, including unjust shootings and repeated arbitrary arrests and killings.

Attacks on the Junta’s Lackeys & Assets

  • PDF raided guarded gambling center in Thanatpin tsp, Bago Region

On the morning of June 16, PDF rangers raided a gambling center in Thanattan Village, Thanatpin Township, Bago Region. The center, run by the regime’s cronies and guarded by about 70 men consisting of soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members, had been reported to the PDF by the public at least three times. Apparently, the cronies had bribed the regional government about 20 Million MMK for the permit. In response, the PDF first attacked the guards and then seized the gambling area. Thanatpin PDF and Waw PDF coordinated the raid and managed to retreat without any casualties.

  • Regime inspection gate attacked with sniper in Dawei tsp, Tanintharyi Region

On the morning of June 17 around 9:30 am, local resistance forces attacked the regime inspection gate on the Ye-Dawei highway near Maungmaeshaung Village, Dawei Township, Tanintharyi Region. The gate, manned by over 30 soldiers, saw two of them killed during the sniper attack. Following the incident, the soldiers conducted a shooting spree, but there were no casualties among the rangers or civilians. YPPDF and Dawei Guerrilla Revolutionary Force (DGRF) coordinated the attack and warned the public to be more vigilant due to intensified clashes in the region.

  • PDF ambushed regime’s ration convoy in Chaung-U tsp, Sagaing Region

On the morning of June 20 around 10 am, the regime’s five-truck convoy carrying military rations was attacked by the PDF near a military farm on the Mandalay-Monywa highway in Chaung-U Township, Sagaing Region. Three of the five trucks were destroyed and burned as the rangers fired at them and threw grenades. At least four dead soldiers were found, but due to random firing from the remaining trucks, the rangers could not confiscate their weapons. A coalition of seven local resistance forces coordinated the ambush. Despite no casualties among the rangers, they lost a small firearm.

Arbitrary Arrests, Killings & Violence

  • Over 100 youths detained for refusing conscription in Naypyitaw & Bago regions

Since the last week of April, the junta’s forces have been detaining youths attempting to escape conscription in Bago and Naypyitaw regions. About 118 youths have been jailed in Naypyitaw, with charges opened against them in May. These youths were arrested while traveling, both in groups and individually. They are being denied access to a lawyer and have limited communication with their families.

  • Regime’s men blackmail public for using VPN

Since the beginning of the month, news surfaced that the regime is drafting a law to ban the use of VPNs in the country. Although not yet passed or implemented, regime lackeys have been harassing and blackmailing the public by exploiting this pending law. In Yangon, Mandalay, Bago, Ayeyawaddy, and Naypyitaw, soldiers have been stopping people on the streets, checking their phones, and demanding money or confiscating phones if a VPN app is found.

  • Former township election chair passed away in Insein Prison

On June 16, U Maung Ni @ U Myint Maung, the former election commission chair from South Dagon Township, Yangon Region, passed away in Insein Prison. He was suffering from lung cancer and died due to insufficient medical care while detained. Arrested by the regime in May 2023, he was charged and sentenced under the sedition act 505A for his involvement with the election. The 57-year-old man had been a member of the National League for Democracy (NLD) until 2012 and served as the chair of the election commission in his township during the 2015 and 2020 general elections.

  • Political prisoners beaten and oppressed in Thayawaddy Prison, Bago Region

On June 17, several inmates were beaten, and some were placed in solitary confinement following a dispute with authorities in Thayawaddy Prison, Bago Region. The incident occurred after some inmates refused COVID vaccinations due to their health conditions, with some collapsing immediately after the shot. Authorities beat those who refused the vaccine. Three political prisoners, Ko Htoo Aung, Saw Chit Win Tun, and Ko Thet Paing, were chained in ankle shackles and placed in solitary confinement.

  • Regime’s airstrike killed three women, injured seven in Taungup tsp, Rakhine State

On the morning of June 18, around 10 am, the regime’s forces conducted an airstrike on Kanseiktaung Village, Taungup Township, Rakhine State. Two explosions killed three women and injured seven, with one in critical condition. Among the dead was a young girl who had passed the matriculation exam with three distinctions this year. The last active battle in the area was on June 15, after which the regime began firing heavy artillery, flying drones, and military choppers. Taungup has been cut off from the mainland, causing basic grocery prices to skyrocket.

  • Another monk shot dead by regime’s soldiers in Myingyan tsp, Mandalay Region

Around 9:30 pm on June 22, regime forces opened fire on an ambulance, killing a monk on board on Myopat Road, Myingyan Township, Mandalay Region. The victim was Abbot Sayadaw U Ottama from Sakhama Monastery, who was transporting a patient to a hospital when the ambulance was attacked near an inspection gate. The junta’s lobbyists claimed the PDF shot the ambulance, but locals insist it was the soldiers. This incident occurred three days after a prominent monk was shot dead by regime soldiers in Mandalay on June 19.

Armed Resistance

  • Chin forces seized strategic regime battalion hq in Matupi tsp, Chin State

On June 17, the Chin Brotherhood Forces announced they had seized the regime’s battalion station Unit 304 in Matupi Township, Chin State. This marks the first station taken by resistance forces from the control of the junta’s northwestern military headquarters in Monywa City, Sagaing Region. CDM military officials highlighted the station’s strategic significance due to its modern warfare equipment and its location on the highest ground in Matupi.

  • KNLA & co seized military station in Myawaddy tsp, Karen State

On the morning of June 18, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and allied resistance forces captured the Sukali military station south of Myawaddy City, Karen State. The KNLA, deploying hundreds of troops, launched the offensive seven days prior. Following a close encounter on June 16 and 17, regime soldiers abandoned the station due to food shortages and a weak defense strategy. The regime’s reinforcement operation, named Aungzeya, aimed at retaking lost territories in Karen State, remains stuck on the Kawkareik-Myawaddy Asia Highway Road.

  • Clash intensified in Winemaw tsp, Kachin State

Clashes have escalated between regime forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in villages east of Winemaw Township, Kachin State. Fighting near Wuyan Village, four miles east of Winemaw, has been ongoing since early June. The junta has been shelling artillery into the villages, and on June 21, around 10:30 pm, a shell hit a banana farm, killing Ko Ka Yin Gyi @ Kyaw San Lwin, who is survived by his wife and one-year-old child. At least ten people from nearby Winemaw villages have been killed by regime artillery since May.

  • Regime’s air defense killed dozens of civilians in Indaw tsp, Sagaing Region

On June 22, local resistance forces attacked the regime’s Battalion Unit 77’s station in Nanttha Village, Indaw Township, Sagaing Region. In response, regime forces launched aerial strikes, dropping bombs on a monastery and killing several civilians. A total of 13 people, including a monk, were killed in the incident. An additional ten people, including children, were injured.

  • Regime reinforced troops as AA continued to block Thandwe and Ngapali in Rakhine

Daily battles between junta forces and the Arakan Army (AA) have erupted in Thandwe and Ngapali towns, Rakhine State. The AA has encircled both towns, attempting to occupy regime battalion units. In response, the regime has been sending reinforcements by air and sea, including Pyu Saw Htee members and conscripted soldiers. A major battle is expected near Thandwe Airport in the coming days.

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

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