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Yangon and Mandalay residents prepare for conscription; Human rights expert calls for free internet

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

Yangon and Mandalay residents prepare for conscription

Residents in the cities of Yangon and Mandalay claimed that families with males aged 18 to 35 have been called to township administration offices and ordered to prepare for military conscription. The regime activated its conscription law on Feb. 10. But its spokesperson Zaw Min Tun said that conscription would begin in April following the Thingyan festival.

“I was told by [officials] that my son will have to do six months of military training then another one year and six months of military service after that,” said a mother in Yangon’s Dawbon Township. 

Residents of other Yangon townships Mayangon, Mingalar Taung Nyunt, Dala, Dagon and Thingangyun, and Mandalay’s Aungmye Thazan Township, have reported being summoned by local authorities. 

Human rights expert calls for free internet in Burma

Yanghee Lee, the former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma and a founding member of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), has called on Elon Musk and his company SpaceX to provide free satellite internet access, via Starlink, to Burma. 

“People inside Burma can’t warn others of imminent [military] airstrikes nor know the whereabouts of their family members. Free access to internet service, free from military-imposed shutdowns can really help the people,” Yanghee Lee shared online

She added the military’s mandatory conscription law is an example of “another atrocious tactic” perpetrated against the people. An online petition called People’s Movement Against Forced Conscription has over 12,000 signatures as of Sunday. It will be presented to various governments, as well as regional and international organizations.

Athan Myanmar documents 80 townships with no telecoms

Athan Myanmar, a freedom of expression activist group, stated that the number of townships without telecommunications services has reached 80. The military cut services to 60 townships when it staged its coup on Feb. 1, 2021. 

“This is mostly in Kachin and Arakan states,” said Zee Pe, the director at Athan Myanmar. The regime banned all telecommunication services in areas of Kachin, where fighting is ongoing, and northern Arakan and the state capital Sittwe since last month.

Telecommunication services are unavailable in 27 townships of Sagaing Region, seventeen in Arakan State, nine in Shan State, eight in Chin State, five in Karenni State, four in Magway Region, two in Bago Region with one in both Mon State and Ayeyarwady Region. 

News by Region

Butho Township residents in Karen State protest against proposed dam construction on the Salween river. (Credit: CJ)

KAREN—A protest against the construction of a dam on the Salween river was held in Butho Township on Thursday to coincide with the International Day of Action for Rivers on March 14. 

“The number of participants increases every year as many don’t want dams to be built on the Salween river,” said Saw Lal Htoo, the information officer for Butho Township of Mutraw District. This is a Karen National Union (KNU)-controlled area. Karen Rivers Watch (KRW) called for the construction of green projects instead.

ARAKAN—The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) stated that more than 300,000 people have become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the state. There are over 2.7 million IDPs nationwide.

The U.N. added the needs of IDPs is increasing and humanitarians are unable to reach them due to movement restrictions. Fighting between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Burma Army resumed Nov. 13. Artillery landed in an area of the capital Sittwe killing eight Rohingya and injuring 12, including five children, on March 9. 

MON—The regime Chief Minister Aung Kyi Thein told his administration to prepare for the upcoming Thingyan festival with heightened security. “This year’s festival will definitely be more crowded,” said an unnamed source in the administration. 

A resident in the state capital Mawlamyine said that people will not join a regime-organized Thingyan. In 2023, the Mon State government ordered all government employees to attend the festivities.  

SAGAING—Six people were killed and more than 400 homes were destroyed after a Burma Army arson attack on Thatkalkyin village of Monywa Township March 14. “They suddenly arrived in vehicles and burned down the houses,” said a People’s Defense Force (PDF) member.  

At least 35 civilians have been arrested and their whereabouts are unknown. The PDF claimed that the six people killed were unable to flee the arson attack. Thatkalkyin village has more than 1,400 homes.

SHAN—Hsihseng Township residents said the Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLA) is forcefully recruiting people to join its ranks from more than 15 villages. The PNLA stated that property will be confiscated from those who evade conscription. 

“They didn’t accept our offer of money and told us to send new recruits,” said a Hsihseng resident. Fighting between the PNLA and the Burma Army in Hsihseng and Hopong townships began in January. 

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