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Nearly 30 garment factories closed in 2023; Central Bank cracks down on illegal forex businesses

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

Nearly 30 garment factories closed in 2023

The Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM) stated that around 30 garment factories closed down in 2023. These factories predominantly employed women and were located in Yangon’s industrial zones of Hlaingthayar, Shwepyithar, and Mingaladon townships. 

“Most of the factories often do not provide compensation to their employees upon closure,” Ma Ei, a spokesperson for the FGWM told DVB. The Industrial Workers’ Federation of Myanmar (IWFM) reported that workers filed over 180 labor rights complaints in 2022 and 209 in 2023. Only a few of the cases have been reportedly resolved so far. 

Central Bank cracks down on illegal forex businesses

The regime’s Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) announced that it has arrested and charged 20 individuals who operate unlicensed foreign currency exchanges and conduct informal money transfers, colloquially known as hundi networks on Jan. 12. 

The CBM stated that the 20 were charged on Jan. 8 and that police intend to file charges against an additional 20 people in their respective township courts. Its announcement also stated that it will report hundi brokers to the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

A hundi broker in Yangon said that businesses are continuing to use informal money transfer networks despite the crackdown. The military regime is forcing Burma nationals working abroad to pay a two percent income tax and transfer money via official banks. 

Thailand considers talks between regime and ethnic armed groups

The Thai government is considering providing humanitarian assistance to Burma as well as facilitating talks between the military regime and Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), the Bangkok Post reported

A Thai military source told the Post that Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin is mulling providing aid to the country through mechanisms established by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) Five-Point Consensus.

“The Thai government via the Foreign Ministry will coordinate with the Myanmar government in assisting vulnerable populations while the military will provide necessary support,” the source said. Bangkok and Naypyidaw agreed to establish a cross-border task force in December. 

Weekly Cartoon: As the country burns, the U.S., China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are incapable of extinguishing the flames.

News by Region

ARAKAN—Five Burma Army personnel injured in a drone strike on Sittwe Airport died on Jan. 16. A source close to the Arakan Army (AA) told DVB that it was responsible for the drone strike on Jan. 15. The Burma Army increased security at the airport following the attack and questioned people nearby.

CHINLAND—The Chinland Defense Force (CDF) told BBC Burmese that eight of its fighters and dozens of Burma Army personnel were killed in fighting over a military outpost in Theingin village, Tedim Township, which it seized on Jan. 16. Seven towns are under the control of the resistance.

Chin forces began an attack on the outpost, located on the Kalay-Tedim-Falam road near the India border, on Jan. 12. Residents have been forced to flee their homes to other villages and Kalay town due to retaliatory airstrikes and artillery. Theingin village connects the south and north of Chinland.  

MANDALAY—Madaya residents said two people were killed and four were injured, including children, by artillery in Ohmkon village, Madaya Township, on Jan. 15. A resistance fighter claimed that the Burma Army deployed at a monastery in Tangartaung village fired the artillery shells at Ohmkon.

“They fired shells despite no clashes taking place. A 66-year-old woman was killed when a shell dropped on a house. Young girls between the ages 12 to 15 were among those injured,” said an Ohmkon resident. The village has around 50 households and its residents are mostly farmers. 

MON—Political prisoner Pyae Phyo Aung, 31, died in Kyaikmaraw Prison from sudden abdominal pain on Jan. 15, according to sources close to the prison. He previously worked at a fire department before joining the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) after the 2021 military coup. 

Pyae Phyo Aung was arrested in Hpa-An in February 2022 and sentenced to seven years under the Counter-Terrorism Act. He reportedly died after he was hospitalized at the prison’s medical facility. “I have never heard that he was ill ever since he was detained,” an unnamed source close to the prison told DVB. 

SHAN—The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) claimed to DVB that it shot down a fighter jet near Nampaka village in Kutkai Township on Jan. 16. “We have confirmed that one of the military council’s fighter jets was downed by our forces,” said Naw Bu, the KIA spokesperson.  

No casualties were initially reported in the downing of the jet. The KIA reportedly seized a military base near Nampaka on Jan. 15. It had been fighting for its control since last month. The KIA previously claimed to have shot down a military helicopter near Laiza on Jan. 4, but the military has yet to comment on any losses of aircraft. 

YANGON—A resistance force calling itself the Yangon Army claimed that it had detonated three bombs at the Criminal Investigation Department in Insein Township on Jan. 15. “The sound of the bombs was really loud. I could hear the sound of ambulances as well,” an Insein resident told DVB. 

A spokesperson said the group will continue its attacks against the military regime until it collapses. The CID office was previously attacked by another resistance group called the Yangon Urban Guerrilla Army in April 2023.

DVB Short Docs 2023 screening in Oslo, Norway on Jan. 15 featured a panel discussion on how the five films portray life in Burma since the 2021 military coup.

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