DVB Weekend Briefing: 11-12 December, 2021

DVB Weekend Briefing: 11-12 December, 2021

ULA/AA makes tentative war overtures —The political wing of the Arakan Army (AA), The United League of Arakan (ULA), has stated that the Tatmadaw has recently engaged in numerous military operations to gain control over territory in Rakhine, whilst building up troop numbers and blocking the transportation of staple foods into the state. As such, the party believes tensions may erupt at any time. In a Dec. 10 statement, the ULA said that residents of Pauktaw township had expressed anger at soldiers’ attempts to curtail their traditional pagoda festival, and warned that it would support local people who chose to attend. The announcement followed a statement from the Arakan Army which also noted the potential for an imminent resumption of conflict in the region, which has, until recently, observed a November 2020 ceasefire. Most analysts believe that the AA’s entry into the current revolutionary climate would change the entire nature of the conflict.

Man admits role in plot to kill dissident UN envoy, Kyaw Moe Tun —Ye Hein Zaw, 20, told a court in New York City on Friday that he had “participated in a plot to injure or kill Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations in a planned attack that was to take place on American soil.” The man, who grew up in Yangon but was resident in the US when committing the crime, had been offered US$5,000 by Bangkok-based Burmese arms dealer, Aye Ko, to murder or seriously harm pro-democratic diplomat, Kyaw Moe Tun. He will be sentenced in May and faces jail time of up to five years.

Three dead in Mandalay after troops take to attacking motorcyclists —One man was shot dead at 10 p.m. on Sunday night after troops attacked four men travelling on two motorcycles in Chan Aye Thar San township. Three others were reported to be seriously injured. The shooting came a few hours after a vicious attack that sums up the arbitrary, remorseless, and unthinkingly brutal way in which the junta now attempts to rule Burma’s towns. Witnesses said that troops killed a pregnant nurse and her husband in the town’s Chanmyatharzi township, reportedly for failing to stop their motorbike. As DVB previously reported, the junta recently made it illegal for a man to ride on a motorcycle with another man, and had threatened both riders and passengers with death.  The incident occurred outside the hospital that the nurse was working at, and she was not on strike. Upon realizing their mistake, the military’s Ministry of Information announced that the killing was perpetrated by two assailants who had arrived on another motorbike and shot the pair as the nurse had not joined the CDM movement.

NUG to endorse use of controversial cryptocurrency —Burma’s parallel National Unity Government on Saturday said that it has approved a digital currency—USD Tether-USDT, a type of Stablecoin—to be used as a de facto currency within Burma starting from December 11. By transacting digitally, the government will hope citizens can hedge against deflationary pressure on the kyat, transfer money anonymously, and avoid arbitrary confiscations of cash and bank accounts that the military and partner banks, such as KBZ Bank, have begun engaging in. Critics say that USDT transactions tend to be expensive relative to other cryptocurrencies, and the currency is subject to the whims of the third-party trader—i.e. Binance—which users purchase it from, meaning accounts may still be frozen. Furthermore, in July it was reported by Fortune Magazine that Tethers executives were being investigated by the US Department of Justice for potential bank fraud.

Burma’s CSOs have lost faith in UN —More than 250 Burma-based CSOs on Friday sent a memorandum that called for an end to what they call UN agencies’ “efforts to legitimize the Burmese military”. The group said that UN agencies continue to support the military’s propaganda mechanisms and legitimize the junta through the signing of MoUs and various other forms of cooperation. The group says the relationship UN bodies have developed with the junta undermines its ability to protect and promote human rights and encourages the regime to continue committing grave human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Rupert Colville, has told a press conference in Geneva that Burma’s military was committing grave violations, making reference to both the military’s recent killing immolation of 11 people in Dontaw village and the ramming of army vehicles into peaceful protestors in Yangon.

Days after Dontaw, soldiers lead another massacre in Sagaing —The bodies of seven civilians have been found in Nagadwin, Depayin township after troops raided the village. Local sources said that the victims had been brutally murdered by soldiers who also caused damage to houses. Gruesome photos show that the dead had hands tied behind their backs before being executed.

Bangladeshi authorities demolish 800 Rohingya stores —On Thursday, Bangladeshi authorities bulldozed 800 shops belonging to Rohingya people living in the Kutupalong refugee camp. The businesses had been most people’s primary way of accessing necessary goods. DVB reported on the incident.

Junta retaliates pathetically after being embarrassed by nationwide silent strike —Following Friday’s silent strike, authorities backed by the security forces led an arbitrary campaign of revenge against civilians and businesses across the country.

On Friday night, the state-run Myawaddy Television channel told its viewers that the strike had been organized by the NUG and CRPH, and that the groups had forced Burma’s citizens to close businesses and stay at home by force of violent threats against the population. The MWD TV channel also tried to develop a sympathy enducing narrative, suggesting that the general public, terrified of being labelled a “dalan” (military informer) by the evil resistance movement that was holding them captive in their homes, had obliged out of sheer terror. The group failed to acknowledge the lack of threats from PDF groups, or the uproarious rounds of applause that greeted the end of the silent strike in towns across the country out of respect for those partaking.

Shops and market stalls nationwide were threatened with closure by security forces. In Sagaing’s Pale and Monywa townships, there were reports that a number of shops were destroyed by soldiers, whilst some owners who opened for business on Friday evening reported being beaten and temporarily taken into custody. In Yangon, residents of Kamayut township said that some shop owners have been forced to close businesses on Saturday morning, after soldiers said that they would be punished with closure for participating in the strike. Twantay market was also threatened with closure, but stallholders ignored the military’s threats. In many cases, local authorities went back on threats to close businesses after PDF groups posted announcements saying that they would assassinate municipal administrators responsible for passing the dictats. 

In Bago, a young man in Nattalin township was reportedly captured by soldiers whilst filming during the silent strike and sent to an interrogation center. The drone pilot was reportedly shot in both legs during interrogation and sent to a military hospital in Pyay.

There have also been reports from a number of towns including Yangon, that authorities have begun cutting electricity supplies to homes and businesses that they accuse of taking part in the strike. 

NEWS BY REGION

AYEYARWADY —The military has ordered the destruction of hundreds of homes and businesses of long-term settlers in the area surrounding the railway track in Hinthada district. Residents of areas close to the stations at Hinthada, Inbin, and Myo Kwin have been ordered to evacuate land that they have lived in for many years, one settler said. Under the previous administration, the railway department had collected rents and allowed families to settle. On Dec. 6, the junta issued an order to bulldoze the areas within 15 days, save for homes that had been registered before 2015. Similar evictions have forced tens of thousands to become homeless in the past few months, notably in Yangon and Mandalay.

KAYAH —Three army soldiers are said to have been killed yesterday during clashes with an allied force of the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force and the Karenni Army in Hpruso, the KNDF said. On Friday, DVB reported on Kayah State’s increasingly dire need for aid for its 100,000 IDPs.

MAGWAY —A restaurant owned by a man involved in the lawsuit against ousted regional chief  minister, Dr Aung Moe Nyo, was reportedly attacked with IEDs yesterday in Magway city. There were no immediate reports of castauties. A resident said the affected family is known to have close links to the military. No group claimed responsibility.

MAGWAY —People displaced by conflict from villages of Yesagyo township are in urgent need of aid, an IDP told DVB. Tens of thousands of Yesagyo’s villagers have been forced to flee their homes in recent weeks. According to Myaung PDF, heavy fighting which broke out on Saturday led to a number of homes being razed and the looting of local peoples’ valuables.

SAGAING —The Monywa National League for Democracy (NLD) office was critically damaged in a military bombing on Friday night. Local sources said that troops arrived in two army vehicles at 8 p.m., opening fire on the building with small arms and then detonating two bombs.

SAGAING  —At least ten soldiers are said to have been killed and another 10 were injured after a military convoy hit landmines planted by a Kani-based resistance group called B21 on Saturday morning. DVB cannot independently confirm the casualty numbers. ​​Clashes have recently intensified  in Kani township, both on the ground and along the Chindwin river. On Saturday, clashes in Kani resulted in a number of casualties.  

SAGAING —A junior engineer was killed and a soldier was injured after unknown assailants fired artillery shells at at least three government offices in Pinlebu town, Kawlin district, on Friday morning, Voice of Myanmar reported. Around 17 40 mm shells are said to have been fired at the Ministry of Transport, the Department of Communication, the Forestry Department, the Myanma Economic Bank building and a sport stadium camped by troops. 

SAGAING  —Two soldiers were alleged to have been killed after a 12-wheeler military truck was attacked with three improvised explosives planted by the Monywa Ranger Group on the road from Ayartaw to Monywa on Sunday morning. (See a video of the incident here.)

SHAN —An admin of the Kengtung Hittine (literally: “Screaming Place”)   Facebook news discussion group was charged under Section 505-A of the Criminal Code by Military Security Force of the Triangle Regional Military Command in Kengtung on December 11 for accepting anti-military posts, Tachileik News Agency reported. Ko Thiha (aka) Kyaw Thiha who is page admin for the group of 82.5K members, had been arrested at his shop in Kengtung on Dec.9 and had previously been detained without charge from February 1 to February 27.

N. SHAN —State media announced on Friday that a soldier who raped a woman in Hpakhat village, Kutkai township, has received the highest punishment—20 years imprisonment—after being sentenced by an open court (inside a prison) that had invited local Shan religious leaders and womens groups to attend. Other soldiers, including the perpetrator’s senior, were also reported to have been charged by the court in relation to the case.

TANINTHARYI  —Ma Nyo Mar Oo (aka) Nyo Mar, a member of the Dawei District Strike Committee, has been sentenced to two years and six months in prison by a military court in Dawei Prison, according to the Dawei Political Prisoners Network (DNPP). Ma Nyo Mar Oo, and three other youths from the strike committee, were arrested by the military on May 29 in Dawei town and charged under sections 505(a) and 505(c) of the Penal Code. Five members of the strike committee have been so far arrested in connection with protests against the military dictatorship in Dawei: two members, including Nyo Mar Oo, are said to have been jailed, one is still on trial, and two have been released, according to an official of the strike committee.

TANINTHARYI —Three soldiers are alleged to have been killed during battles between the Burma Army and an alliance of the KNU and local PDFs in Myeik’s Pulaw township, on Saturday morning. Locals said that around 100 soldiers had entered Duyinpin Shaung and Myo Haung villages in a KNU-controlled area, arresting and violently interrogating 30 villagers.

YANGON —There were reports of gunfire and a series of bomb blasts occuring in Hlaingtharyar township at around 7:30 p.m. on Sunday night. According to the Hlaingtharyar Information Facebook page, two groups of soldiers, including one stationed within a police station, were targeted in the attacks. There are no reports on casualty numbers, and no group has yet taken responsibility.

YANGON —Political prisoners detained in Insein Prison were said to have been badly beaten by prison authorities after detainees staged a protest within the jail on Friday afternoon. Residents of Insein told Burma Associated Press that the famous revolutionary song, Thway Thit Sar, could be heard from outside the prison walls. The protest was said to have been held in recognition of International Human Rights Day. Locals said that shots were heard following the protest at around 3 p.m. In late July, at least 20 political prisoners were reported to have been brutally murdered by security forces after leading a similar protest inside Insein Prison.