The Weekend Briefing: Sunday, June 19, 2022

The Weekend Briefing: Sunday, June 19, 2022

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

Horrific phone evidence shows troops gloating over Ayardaw monastery massacre. Radio Free Asia on Saturday morning published a report graphically exhibiting a massacre carried out by troops from the Burma Army’s LIB 708 4th Company after files taken from a mobile phone belonging to one of the soldiers responsible were handed to the outlet. Photos show villagers from Sagaing’s Ayardaw township bound and later executed within the compound of a monastery. In video clips obtained by RFA, soldiers — dressed in civilian attire, a tactic increasingly used by the military — discuss how one man alone had “killed 26 people” (the timeframe is uncertain, yet Mizzima on Saturday evening claimed it had verified that 28 people were slaughtered in the incident), to which the phone’s owner is heard gloating: “We killed a lot by slitting their throats. I, myself, killed five.” In another video captured by the men during the massacre, the soldier asserts: “I am an expert in killing. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve loved to kill,” and, “I had to chop off the head… it took five or six hacks.” Many commentators observed how the images, taken during an episode of the military’s scorched earth campaign against those living in the northwest of the country, are reminscent of those published during its campaign of genocide against Burma’s Rohingya people. The UN, ASEAN, and Burma’s regional neighbors continue to engage the military, claiming its inclusion and perpetuation are essential to resolving the country’s crisis. 

Cambodia invites junta’s DefMin to ASEAN meet. Before the footage emerged, ASEAN had invited the military’s defense minister — Gen. Mya Tun Oo, who is sanctioned by the USA, UK, EU, Canada and New Zealand — to attend its upcoming Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) scheduled to take place in Cambodia on June 22. The invitation — ASEAN has continued to welcome high-ranking members of the SAC to its ministerial-level meets since the coup — has drawn criticism from Burma’s citizens, while a group of 677 regional and international CSOs published an open letter via activists Progressive Voice to call for the bloc to ban the general from attending. The Cambodian Peace Palalce’s official Twitter page on Saturday posted to specifically promote the “Participation of Myanmar’s Defense Minister”.

NUG training commando squadrons. The Western Region Military Command (WRMC) of the NUG’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Friday announced that it is to form a team of special forces with the purpose of seizing control of cities from the military. WRMC is responsible for coordinating the parallel government’s armed operations in Chin, Magway, and Sagaing. “These commandos will conduct special missions that include the seizure of cities and military bases,” Maj. Thant Zin Aung, second commander of the NUG WRMC’s 703rd Battalion, told DVB. More information about the special forces will be released in due course by the MoD’s information department. The MoD announced that 15,000 Burma Army soldiers were killed and over 4,800 were injured between June 1, 2021 and May 17, 2022. The spokesperson for the office of the NUG’s President on Friday claimed that the military had razed 7,400 homes in the northwest of Burma “last month alone”. | BURMESE

DVB’s Weekend Cartoon: “To give someone enough rope…”

Junta reintroduces car import ban… The military regime has banned car imports in an attempt to maintain foreign currency reserves amidst rising inflation, Bloomberg reports. Junta spokesperson Zaw Min Tun made the announcement at a press conference on June 16. “We’ve been systematically managing the use of foreign currencies in the country to prevent the outflow from unnecessary imports,” he said. The Burmese kyat has lost a third of its value against the dollar since the coup as sanctions, a drastic decline in economic activity, and a raft of whimsical monetary policy amendments imposed by the Central Bank of Myanmar have limited the military’s access to foreign currency reserves. The junta had previously restricted the import of luxury items and banned citizens and businesses from holding foreign currency reserves. Under previous eras of military rule, car import licenses were handed to a small number of military officials and cronies, with imported vehicles lavished as rewards for those who curried favor with the junta. In an attempt to stop a further collapse of the kyat, the CBM’s kyat/dollar rate has been fixed artificially low at K1,850/US$1, with real (or black market) rates consistently hovering above the K,2000/US$1 mark.

…Already using ban as incentive mechanism. Almost simultaneously, the military announced that Burmese athletes who won gold medals at the recent 31st SEA Games in Vietnam will be allowed to buy vehicles as a special privilege. Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing made the claim in a meeting in Naypyidaw on Thursday. After his speech, the junta’s Ministry of Transport and Communications announced that it will grant permits to gold medal winners to buy imported cars under the value of K30 million (US$16,400, including initial cost, insurance, and freight). The junta is alleged to have provided similar cash prizes to medal winners. 293 athletes and 97 coaches and team administrators represented Burma in Vietnam across 20 disciplines at the SEA Games, held between May 12 and 23, with the Burmese team receiving nine gold medals, 18 silver medals, and 35 bronze medals, yet placing seventh out of 11 participating countries.  Min Aung Hlaing has announced that he will press for Chinlone, a traditional sport unique to Burma, to be included in the upcoming 32nd SEA Games in Cambodia. | BURMESE

UNICEF shakes hands with the junta. State media on Friday reported that Marcoluigi Corsi, a representative of UNICEF, presented his credentials to the junta’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin in Naypyidaw on June 16. Other representatives of the military’s foreign ministry attended the meeting. Corsi previously served as UNICEF’s representative in Mozambique. The UNICEF representative is the latest member of a group of small but growing number of international officials that have presented credentials to the military regime. The ambassadors for India, Sri Lanka, and Saudi Arabia also previously met with Min Aung Hlaing to present their credentials. However, most nations have, since the coup, downgraded relations with the junta, sending charges d’affaires to avoid explicitly legitimizing the junta. Critics pointed out that the UN General Assembley does not even recognize the military regime, and raised comments made this week by the UN’s own Special Rapporteur which specifically highlighted the military’s mass murder, torture, and incarceration of children since the coup. Defenders of UNICEF said the step was necessary to allow the UN’s child rights agency to continue to perform aid operations within the country (similar to the International Red Cross), something also queried by critics who questioned the necessity of providing such a photo opportunity to the military.

Junta introduces trafficking laws as thousands exit country each week. The junta approved a new human trafficking law on June 16 which exposes convicted traffickers to the death penalty as a maximum sentence. According to Chapter 10 of the law, those found guilty of trafficking women and children could receive 10 years to life imprisonment plus a fine. If the trafficker is convicted of killing or causing permanent disability to the victim they may be sentenced to death. Legal experts argued that legislation alone will not stop human trafficking. “Human trafficking is difficult to expose, and the law is not always able to act against it. This is because victims often lack the ability to report their situation to authorities as they are often migrant workers. Human trafficking cases keep recurring over years as the criminals involved frequently relocate making them hard to track down. Successful cases depend on the government’s ability to hunt and prosecute traffickers. It is difficult to build a case because the victim typically only realizes they are being trafficked after a period of time, making evidence difficult to obtain,” a legal expert told DVB. In the most recent annual report of the US Department of Foreign Affairs on trafficking, Burma is specifically highlighted as being a nation which is failing to take effective action against those responsible. | BURMESE

NLD Mandalay chief hit with further 21 year sentence. Deposed Mandalay Chief Minister, Dr Zaw Myint Maung, received an additional 21 years in prison after being found guilty on five corruption charges by a military tribunal in Mandalay’s Obo Prison on Friday, a source close to the court told DVB. The NLD chief has so far been hit with a total of nine charges since the coup, including two under the Natural Disaster Law for which he was sentenced to four years in prison on December 8, 2021, giving him a cumulative 25 years of jail time after today’s court decision. The decision on the final verdict of the five corruption charges was made on June 14. The military regime also filed charges against him for electoral fraud under Sec. 171(f) and 130(a) of the Penal Code and he faces a minimum of an additional four years in prison for the charges. Dr Zaw Myint Maung pleaded his innocence at previous court hearings and the 70-year-old minister suffers from leukemia. His condition is reported to have deteriorated in prison after his wife and daughter — his primary carers — were also arrested by the military. | BURMESE

LOTTE Hong Kong chambers event postponed. A joint chambers of commerce networking event organized by the Hong Kong government at Yangon’s LOTTE Hotel (which has direct ties to the Burmese military’s Quartermaster General’s office) — previously mentioned in DVB’s Daily Briefing — is rumored to have been postponed after drawing outrage from groups including the NUG, Nikkei Asia writes.

Poet handed five years for protesting. The Pathein poet Lu Phan Kha (aka Htet Lin Soe) was sentenced to five years in prison on June 15, according to a source close to the prison. The writer, who had participated in peaceful protests, was accused of leading anti-military rallies and obstructing the work of civil servants and charged under Sec. 332 and Sec. 505(a) of the Penal Code. “Six individuals were sentenced that day. He received five years in prison while the other political activists were each sentenced to two,” the source told DVB. | BURMESE

Junta continues to roll out red carpet for friendly EAOs. The Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA), a formerly staunchly pro-military splinter of the KNLA, sent its commander-in-chief, Saw Steel, to meet with Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw yesterday, in the process becoming the seventh EAO or political party to meet with the junta. The DKBA C-i-C — the highest ranking representative of any group to meet the junta since the military’s phony in person “peace talks” began last month — previously made a damning assertion regarding revolutionary groups to the Karen News media outlet, saying he believed opponents of the junta were fighting “to earn their living”. “They would not have anything to eat if they didn’t fight a war,” he said, overlooking the fact that many of those fighting alongside EAOs are political dissidents and former civil servants who are under resourced and being exposed to woeful economic conditions. “When they fight in wars, people in other countries send money. Then they survive on that. They are not fighting for the country. They are earning a living by fighting.” 

Shortly beforehand, on June 16, a delegation of the Pa-O National Liberation Organization (PNLO) led by Khun Tun Tin, the first vice-chairman of the PNLO, met with the junta leader. A statement released by the junta claimed the PNLO — considered sympathetic towards the junta and shown to have actively aided the military with attacks in Shan and Kayah since the coup — agreed to work towards a peaceful solution to Burma’s conflict. As with previous participants, the two parties discussed the establishment of what the military is terming a “federal democratic union” based on “regional development issues”. The PNLO arrived in Naypyidaw on June 15 and will continue talks with the regime over coming days. PNLO members that intended included Joint-Secretary General Khun Min Thein, the first vice PNLO chairman Khun Tun Tin, and central committee member Khun Zwe Hto. Despite state media praising Min Aung Hlaing’s “peace” incentive, participants, including Rakhine’s ANP, recently disclosed to Frontier Myanmar that they were unsure if the talks would actually lead anywhere. | BURMESE

News by Region

AYEYARWADY —A deputy police chief in Kyan Khin town committed suicide with a firearm on Wednesday after being ordered to transfer to Rakhine State. The order is reported to have triggered an argument with his wife which preceded the suicide. The deceased officer submitted a resignation letter after the coup which was turned down, and he had recently served six months at a police outpost in front of the military-backed Kyan Khin Cement Factory. “The couple had an argument that evening. We heard three gunshots that night and he was found dead the next morning,” a local source told DVB. His body was examined by the chiefs of both the township and the district, according to a police officer. Residents claimed he ended his life because he suffered from depression. More than 200 police officers, including sergeants, were transferred to Rakhine State from Ayeyarwady Region after the military (which is building up its presence in the state) integrated Burma’s police force under the military’s command structure. | BURMESE

CHIN —Seven soldiers were killed and another 15 were reported injured after clashes between local PDFs and the military broke out in Tedim township on Friday afternoon, PDF Zoland claims. A column of 17 military trucks carried troops which conducted an offensive running from the town of Kale in Sagaing to Chin State on June 16. Yesterday, a clash broke out against a coalition of PDFs near Hawp, followed by skirmishes in Tedim at around 2:30 p.m. which are alleged to have led to the deaths. DVB was unable to confirm the exact number killed and injured. “Eventually, they continually fired with heavy artillery and we weren’t able to get near them, so we retreated without harm. They fired with artillery until the night,” a PDF Zoland information officer told DVB. The military had conducted large offensives against Mindat and Matupi townships in Chin State in May. | BURMESE

KACHIN —A military airbase in Myitkyina’s upper Maw Phaung ward near the Burma Army’s Western Regional Military Command HQ was attacked at around 7 p.m. on Friday night, according to local sources. Locals reported hearing gunfire at the base for an hour, saying heavy artillery was involved. “We heard sounds from around 7.30 to 8.30 p.m. We don’t know why or what happened as the road to the area closes between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.,” a resident of Myo Thit Kyi ward told DVB. A local from Pammati ward said they assumed local resistance forces had led an attack on recently trained army troops as they transferred via the air base. “When [the military] really hit hard during recent clashes, they dropped bombs with their aircraft and opened fire from the air. This is the first time that the air base has been attacked since the start of the revolution,” a local told DVB. DVB is continuing to check the circumstances surrounding the attack. | BURMESE

MANDALAY —A bank heist occurred at a Kanzawza (KBZ) bank branch situated between 26th, 62nd and 63rd streets in Chan Aye Tharsan township, Mandalay, at around 10 a.m. on Friday, according to locals. The amount of money that was stolen in the robbery remains unknown. However, images of the robbery captured by the bank’s CCTV cameras went viral on Facebook this morning. Security forces conducted an investigation in the city after the robbery. | BURMESE

MANDALAY —Junta forces arrested six members of the Mandalay Independence Association (MIA) resistance on the afternoon of June 16. Those detained have been identified as Htet Yu Mon, Jenny, Sunanda Myint, Zin Min Htay, Zeyar Myint, and Min Thu Maung Maung and they were arrested at a home they rented. Min Thu Maung Maung was shot while trying to evade troops — DVB was unable to confirm rumors of his death. Another man managed to escape with six gunshot wounds and contacted former MIA members, but is said to have been bleeding profusely and found difficulty in receiving medical treatment, according to a member of the group. It is currently unknown what those arrested have been charged with. | BURMESE

MON —The KNLA, Kyaikyo Revolutionary Forces, and PDF twice attacked a Border Guard Force (BGF) checkpoint in Mae Lan village, Bilin township, on June 16, locals and PDF members told DVB. The BGF fired heavy artillery during the second attack on the checkpoint, but the KNLA-led alliance was able to withdraw without suffering casualties, according to an official from Kyaikyo Revolutionary Forces. At least four BGF troops were seriously injured during the attack on the checkpoint and were taken to a hospital in Mawlamyine, according to a source close to a volunteer team. 30 Burma Army soldiers are stationed at the BGF checkpoint and local travelers report being frequently inspected when passing through it. | BURMESE

RAKHINE —Another Burma Army soldier was arrested by the Arakan Army (AA)  on Friday afternoon, this time in Tain Nyo village, Mrauk U township, according to local sources. The 40-year-old was said to have been detained by the EAO while making his way to the village. “We didn’t know if he was a soldier or police officer as everyone is based in the nearby police station and all wear civilian clothes. Two military personnel were coming to the village; one was captured and another escaped. The chief of police and some soldiers checked the place after the arrest,” a villager told DVB. A chief of police on duty in Tain Nyo village was shot and killed in 2019. On June 11, two military personnel were arrested by the AA in the western Rakhine town of Kyauktaw. Another was captured by the EAO in Ponnagyun on Thursday, with security forces arresting 11 civilians from the township in retaliation. AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha said at a press conference on June 14 that his group would begin detaining Burma Army troops due to the military’s “bullying” of Rakhine citizens and its invasion of homes belonging to members of its political wing, the United League of Arakan. | BURMESE 

RAKHINE —Two education staff, including a headmaster and a teacher, from Thinbaw Hla village in Maungdaw township were abducted by unidentified kidnappers and their families were asked to pay a ransom of 5 million Bangladeshi taka to release them, according to Maungdaw township education officer Aung San Kyaw. “The kidnappers demanded 50 lakh in Bangladeshi currency. The kidnappers spoke in Bengali when they contacted me. The decision to pay the ransom will be made by the victim’s families. The kidnappers will then respond,” he said. The victims were Bo Win, a headmaster for Thinbaw Hla Village Primary School and Ohnmar Kyaw, an assistant teacher, and they were kidnapped when they went to the education office in Maungdaw on the afternoon of June 16. Seven groups of villagers and education staff searched for the two missing people and the kidnappers contacted the village when the search parties reached Kyaukchaung village tract, according to education staff. BURMESE

SAGAING —Thousands of locals have been forced to flee their homes in Yinmarbin township after heavy fighting broke out between junta troops and PDFs on June 16. Clashes continued in the southern part of Yinmarbin township, and the military fired heavy artillery at villages in the area. A military convoy carrying artillery entered the town of Yinmarbin and three bodies of PDF were found in the town, locals said. The PDF members were reportedly involved in a landmine attack on junta troops and took part in clashes on June 15 in Pale and Yinmarbin townships, according to another PDF member. One of the three was killed on the spot from the military’s shelling, while the other two were captured by soldiers. The captured PDF members were said to have been killed by the military and their bodies were found with stab wounds to their faces, a PDF member said. | BURMESE

SAGAING —The cost of electricity has increased dramatically across villages in Homalin and Hkamti townships due to rising fuel prices, local sources have reported. Some villages in upper Sagaing Region do not receive state electricity and instead are supported by a private company through the Village Lighting Committee. Previously, one unit of electricity cost around K500 (US$0.27) in Homalin but currently costs around K1,150 (US$0.67) in the township. “The committee had a meeting and told us that electricity will now cost around K1,400 (US$0.76) per unit,” a businessman told DVB. Although residents rely on private electricity services, they only started to receive electricity from private companies in 2015 just before the NLD administration took office. Around 70 tanks of diesel fuel (50 gallons per tank) are sold per month and the company is selling at a loss due to the rising fuel prices, difficulty buying fuel, and other operating costs according to a source close to the Nan Taw Village Lighting Committee. | BURMESE

N. SHAN —Three refugees were killed, and one was severely wounded after a refugee camp in Kutkai township was shelled, forcing its inhabitants to flee. Two shells exploded at the Zut Aung refugee camp in Kutkai township at around 11 a.m. on June 17, a refugee said. A mother and daughter (aged 56 and 28) and a 52-year-old woman were killed, while an 82-year-old man was severely injured. The refugee camp houses over 1,000 IDPs. Children and the elderly were evacuated to the town of Kutkai. The refugees that fled need food, medicine, and shelter, according to a those who evacuated the camp. “We are short on food, and there are no shops even if we have money. We also need shelter and medicine as it is currently monsoon season,” he said. A refugee from the nearby Mansa camp said: “We also had to flee because our camp was shelled. Luckily, no one was injured but two cows were hit. No one is at the camp now as we were all forced to flee to nearby areas.” A clash between the KIA and the military had broken out near the camps in Kutkai on June 16. A refugee said the military fired heavy artillery after the clashes. “We believe the military did it on purpose. There are no armed groups amongst the refugees. I beg them not to fire heavy artillery at the camps. I also request all armed groups to not come to the camps in uniform,” he added. | BURMESE

TANINTHARYI —Two civilians were said to have been killed and another two were seriously injured as junta troops set fire to a civilian’s house and opened fire in Langlon township on Thursday night, according to witnesses. The military entered Waidi village, Launglon township around 10 p.m. yesterday and indiscriminately fired inside the village. They arrested 30-year-old Ma Nwei Nei from her house, shot, and dumped her outside, the Dawei District Democracy Strike Committee announced. However, she survived and is now being hospitalized at Dawei Hospital. Soldiers also raided a house in Daukinn village around 1 a.m. today and fired several rounds, killing 41-year-old Ame Phyo Wai on the spot. The military personnel then opened fire on two women passing by the area, killing one and severely injuring the other. Around 150 soldiers in Launglone township arrested seven civilians, including those involved in the Civil Disobedience Movement, and are continuing to search for anti-coup protesters, according to local sources. | BURMESE