FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM
Laos assumes ASEAN chairmanship
Laos took over chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) from Indonesia on Jan. 1. It will oversee a troika with Indonesia and Malaysia, the previous and future chairs of ASEAN in order to find a political solution to Burma’s crisis.
“Hopefully the Troika will somehow mitigate or prevent the potential damage that Laos may be considering to do to aid the illegal junta in Burma,” said Debbie Stothard, the founder of ALTSEAN Burma.
The diplomatic efforts of ASEAN have failed to contain violence in Burma since the 2021 military coup. Min Aung Hlaing has failed to implement the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus he agreed to in April 2021. The Thai government has vowed to support Laos’ efforts as chair.
NUG attempts to reassure China
The National Unity Government (NUG) Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated on Jan. 1 that it would maintain strong ties with Beijing and support an independent, non-aligned, foreign policy as Burma’s government.
“Myanmar regards the People’s Republic of China as a specifically important country, not only for close, profound ties between the two countries but also for China’s status as a global superpower,” the statement said.
The NUG vows to support the One China principle, and safeguard Chinese investments and agreements made between the two countries prior to the 2021 coup. It claims it would help more to combat transnational crime along the China-Burma border.
Publishing license of Shan news outlet revoked
The regime’s Ministry of Information revoked the publishing license of the Shan-based Mekong News for violating the Printing and Publishing Law, Shwe Phee Myay News Agency reported.
“The [military] have arrested individuals who did not support them and killed them after the coup. They are the ones destroying the rule of law,” said Nyan Lin Htet, founder and editor-in-chief of Mekong News.
Nyan Lin Htet added that Mekong News will continue operations in exile. At least 15 media outlets, including DVB, have had their publication licenses revoked since 2021. Mekong News was founded in 2019.
Attacks reported in major cities on New Year’s Eve
Bombs were detonated in Yangon’s Hlaingthaya Township on Dec. 31. “There were intense explosions. Some houses even shook like there was an earthquake,” said a Hlaingthaya resident. The regime organized New Year’s celebrations in Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyidaw.
Resistance groups urged citizens to boycott the events. A People’s Defense Force (PDF) claimed responsibility for firing a long-range rocket at a military base in Mandalay on Dec. 31. No casualties were reported.
News by Region
ARAKAN—At least 19 people, including children, have been killed and 35 others have been injured by artillery in Mrauk-U since Dec. 24. Locals said that a Mrauk-U resident was killed and five others were injured by shelling on Jan. 1.
Fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and Burma Army has taken place in Mrauk U since Dec. 24. Ancient ruins in the city, including a museum, were damaged by airstrikes. Most residents have fled their homes.
AYEYARWADY—The Ngapudaw Township Court sentenced Thet Paing Soe, a National League for Democracy (NLD) party member of parliament (MP) to 20 years in prison on Dec. 29 for violating the Counter-Terrorism Law.
Sources close to the MP said he worked as a spokesperson for a local PDF before switching allegiances to the military in July 2022. He was arrested in December 2023 after being summoned to a police station.
KACHIN—N’Ban La, the chairperson of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO/KIA), said in his New Year’s speech that there may be significant changes in 2024 due to the gains made by anti-coup resistance forces last year.
“When we review 2023, we can see that there will be remarkable changes in 2024,” he added. N’Ban La concluded that the military is unable to fight, and win, against resistance forces nationwide.
SHAN—The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) stated on Dec. 31 that two children were killed and eight others were injured by a suspected chemical bomb deployed in Tar Shwe Tan village, Laukkai Township.
“We shut the doors as the smoke came in. Everyone collapsed from dizziness after five minutes and woke up in the morning, but two kids – a 14-year-old and three-year-old – died,” said a Tar Shwe Tan resident.
The resident also said he suffered dizziness, vomiting and bleeding from his ears after inhaling the fumes. A woman from the village claimed she experienced chest pain, vomiting, and her body went numb. Resistance forces in Shan, Karen, Chin and Karenni states have previously accused the military of using chemical weapons.
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