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UN response facing setbacks in Burma; Over half of the country without access to the internet

UN response facing setbacks in Burma

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) stated that there are now over three million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) nationwide. Its recent report highlights Arakan, Kachin, and northern Shan states as areas of significant concern due to fighting. 

In Sittwe, residents are reportedly facing mass arrests and forced evictions from their homes, as well as newly-planted landmines. In Myitkyina there has been a significant rise in the number of IDPs, especially since flooding occurred on June 29. A temporary ceasefire in northern Shan State, signed in January between the Brotherhood Alliance and the military, collapsed on June 25.

The U.N. added that the 2024 Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan (HNRP) is critically underfunded after having received only 12 percent of the necessary required amount. It urged the international community to give more resources to support its humanitarian response efforts in Burma.

Over half of country without access to the internet 

The freedom of expression activist group Athan Myanmar documented that 169 out of 330 townships have faced an internet shutdown from February 2021 to April 2024. The regime has cut telecommunications to 33 townships in Sagaing and 28 in Yangon regions, as well as 18 in Kachin and 17 in Arakan states.

“Internet freedom and access to [verified] information is included in the right to freedom of expression. Blocking internet access is a crime and we assume that it is a silent weapon being used against the people,” said ZP, the director of Athan Myanmar. 

“We can’t use internet services with telecom SIM cards as mobile and internet services have been cut off. Some of the villages in the region lost contact with the outside world. We mostly rely on Starlink,” said an Ayadaw Township resident, whose town has had no access to telecom services since September 2021.  

Central Bank fines seven prominent banks

The Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) announced on July 1 that it will take action against Roma Bank, Myanmar People’s Bank, Ayeyarwady Bank, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Bank, UAB Bank, Myanmar Metro Bank, and the Construction, Housing & Infrastructure Development Bank. 

It has accused the seven of issuing home loans that exceed the set limit set by the CBM. It said that the seven banks will receive fines under Article 154 of its Financial Institutions Law. The CBM officials who failed to properly supervise the banks will be investigated and face repercussions. 

Guidelines set by the CBM on June 12 state that withdrawals over 20 million kyat ($9,500 USD) require prior notice with a reason and intended use of the funds included. Money transfers are limited to one million kyat ($470 USD) per transaction with a daily limit of five million kyat ($2,350 USD). 

“We usually do transactions for hundreds of millions and now we have to split large transactions and use intermediary accounts to withdraw money, which is time-consuming and complicated,” a business owner told DVB. Payments from individuals to businesses are limited to 10 million kyat ($4,700 USD) per day, according to the CBM.  

A customer of Aeon Orange supermarket leaves one of its branches in Yangon on July 1. (Credit: AP)

Japan calls for release of Aeon Orange Supermarket director

Tokyo has demanded the release of Hiroshi Kasamatsu, a Japanese national and the director of Aeon Orange supermarkets in Yangon. Kasamatsu was among 11 businessmen arrested by police and accused of allegedly selling rice 20 to 70 percent higher than the rate set by the Myanmar Rice Federation (MRF).

“We call on local authorities to release him immediately,” stated Yoshimasa Hayashi, a spokesperson from the Japanese government, during a press conference in Tokyo on Monday. 

Kasamatsu is being held by regime authorities at a police station in Yangon. A lawyer who met with Kasamatsu on Sunday confirmed to Japanese embassy officials that he was in good health.

News by Region 

ARAKAN—The regime’s Union Election Commission (UEC) cited “inconsistencies with the requirements of Section 7 of the Political Parties Registration Law” on July 1 after it denied registration to the Arakan National Party (ANP), which won the most local seats in parliament in the 2015 and 2020 elections.

“The rejection of a party with significant support from the Rakhine people and preventing it from participating in political activities is a deliberate attempt to suppress Rakhine politicians,” a political analyst in Arakan State told DVB on the condition of anonymity.

The ANP has sought UEC registration since March 2023. The Political Parties Registration Law stipulates that a party must not have any association with an organization engaged in “armed rebellion,” “acts of terrorism against the state,” or has been declared an unlawful association, which refers to its alleged links to the Arakan Army (AA). 

KACHIN—Tens of thousands of Myitkyina residents are in need of urgent assistance as 75 percent of the town is reportedly flooded since June 29. “The people who were affected by the flood have had to evacuate to the highlands. They are temporarily staying in monasteries and religious buildings,” said a rescue worker. 

The water level of the Irrawaddy River reached a critical level on Sunday and more than 20 wards in the town were flooded by Monday. The Department of Meteorology and Hydrology announced that the water level reached over 1.2 meters (3 feet) above the critical threshold in Myitkyina and Waingmaw township due to rains.

It is estimated that the water level will reach between 1.8-3 meters (6-8 feet) in Myitkyina, Bhamo, Shwegu, Katha, Thabeikkyin, Mandalay, Sagaing and Myinmu towns over the next seven days. 

MANDALAY—The Mandalay People’s Defense Force (MPDF) claimed on Tuesday that it had seized control of eight military outposts, including an Air Defense Force base in Madaya Township during “Operation Shan-Man” which began June 25. 

“They are using its aircraft and infantry to retake those outposts. We will establish a foothold and dominate the area in order to kick out the military dictatorship in Mandalay,” said a Madaya PDF spokesperson. The Madaya PDF has joined forces with the MPDF to fight the military.

Sixty-two military personnel surrendered and a total of 117 military families have been detained by resistance forces. More than 120 weapons and ammunition were seized in Mandalay and northern Shan State from June 25 to July 2. 

MPDF members in front of Saedawgyi Police Station, which was seized during “Operation Shan-Man” on June 26 (Credit: MPDF)

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