Weekly Updates on Current Situation in Myanmar (22 Jan 2023)
Weekly Updates on Current Situation in Myanmar
Almost two years ago on 1st February 2021, the Myanmar military attempted an illegal coup, toppled the civilian government, and unlawfully detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other senior members of the civilian government, parliamentarians and activists. Since then, the Myanmar military has ignored the will of the people of Myanmar, placed the country in turmoil, and made people suffer with inhumane and disproportionate actions.
As of 20 January 2023, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), the military ruthlessly killed 2,796 people, arrested 17,404 people, and 13,619 people remain in detention, whereas 143 people have been sentenced to death, including 101 post-coup death row prisoners and 121 in absentia since 1 February 2021, when the military unleashed systematic and targeted attacks and violence against innocent civilians. Four democracy activists who were given to death sentence were executed by the military junta in July 2022.
Killings Civilians for No Reason
The AAPP reported that on 9 January 2023 in Li Laung Village, Mindat Township of Chin State, 17-year-old Ma Har Thi was shot at home by the 274th Infantry Battalion based in Mindat Township. Two days before this incident, on 7 January 2023, the junta detained Ma Har Thi’s father to make him perform forced labour. Ma Har Thi was killed when the junta raided their house to follow the father who had fled.
According to the AAPP’s report, on 14 January 2023, a university student named Win Zaw Tun from Tha Yet Kone Village, Nattalin Township of Bago Region, was shot by a soldier when he was passing by motorbike through the junta’s checkpoint at the entrance of Kyot Lay Pin Village.
On 21 January 2023, the Myanmar military forces reportedly conducted airstrikes on a rural hospital in Ba Hin Village, Myaing Township, Magway Region. Due to the attack, a patient’s guardian lost her leg and died from excessive blood loss.
Continued Airstrike attacks and brutal assaults over Villages
According to the Irrawaddy news, the military forces bombed the 1,800-household Moetar Village in Katha Township of Sagaing Region on 18 January 2023 after clashes between the military forces and the Katha-People’s Defense Force. The military jets dropped four bombs on the village and a bomb hit a crowd attending a donation ceremony. The bombings killed seven civilians and injured dozens more people. The villagers said that the bombs purposely targeted the civilians. The military junta also attacked that village one year ago, killing 12 people, severely injuring five people and damaging houses. In the new year, the military regime has reportedly intensified its airstrikes on both civilians and resistance forces in Sagaing Region as well as Chin, Kachin and Kayin States.
Myanmar Now reported that on 12 January 2023, the junta’s airstrikes killed five people, including a two-year-old child, injured several people and destroyed at least 10 houses, two school buildings and a church in Mutraw, Hpapun Township in Kayin State. A spokesperson for the Karen National Union (KNU), Padoh Mahn Mahn, said two aircrafts fired on the village a total of six times. The assaults made the residents of the village and nearby the villages flee their homes. Since the beginning of the year, the military has reportedly carried out a number of airstrikes on areas controlled by Brigade 5 of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). The KNU reported that six civilians were killed during a 7 January attack on Methu Village Tract in Mutraw. On that day, four military aircrafts bombed three other villages in the same district. The spokesperson of the KNU said, “Considering that the military council is a terrorist organization, such actions are not surprising at all. It is not only the revolutionary groups but also the international community that needs to take serious action against them’’.
The military forces reportedly burnt down 39 houses in Shwe Pauk Pin Kyun village, Myingyan District of Mandalay Region, on 17 January 2023. According to the local residents, a group of around 70 soldiers came to the village at 4am on that day, and the military forces assumed that the members of the People’s Defence Force (PDF) were hiding in the village as the village is situated near Myaung Township. Before burning down the houses, the military forces reportedly fired weapons and forced the villagers to flee to the bank of the river and then looted valuables from the households. The assault was the second time that the village had come under siege; the military also burnt several homes in the same village during September 2022, and hundreds of residents had already fled from the village. According to the local residents, the military troops have frequently detained villagers and forced them to act as guides or porters, or tortured them to get information about the armed resistance movement.
A total of 251 Myanmar refugees have reportedly sought shelter in the Champhai district of Mizoram, India, after the Myanmar armed forces launched two aerial attacks targeting Camp Victoria, the headquarters of the Chin National Front (CNF) located close to the India-Myanmar border, on 10 and 11 January 2023. Champhai Deputy Commissioner James Lalrinchhana said that 251 Myanmar citizens entered India seeking shelter in three villages. It was reported that five CNA cadres, including two women, were killed in the airstrike on 10 January.
Myanmar Military and Access to Weapons Production Resources
The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) reported on 16 January 2023 that companies from more than a dozen countries have been implicated in Myanmar’s “robust” arms manufacturing industry. Marzuki Darusman, an expert from the Council, said, “The Myanmar military has built robust arms manufacturing industry that makes it largely self-sufficient in its ability to produce the small arms, light weapons and ammunition it uses to brutally suppress the Myanmar people.” It was reported that the production processes depend on imports for various weapons components, machinery, advanced technology, and some raw materials; fuses, cast boosters, detonating caps, igniters and electric detonators were purchased from China and India, and assembled in Ka Pa Sa factories. Singapore-based businesses: Excellence Metal Casting Pte. Ltd and STE Global Trading Pte. Ltd.—owned by Myanmar national and “key player” in the industry Tun Hlaing were identified as importing “raw materials of an unknown nature.” Chinese state-owned arms manufacturer NORINCO was also named as “playing an instrumental role in providing a variety of critical supplies” for weapons production. Moreover, it was reported that machine parts made by multiple German entities, Japan’s Tsugami Corporation, Austria’s GFM Steyr, and the American HAAS Automation were allegedly in use. Eight Taiwanese companies were identified as providing these factories with computer-controlled carving machines, and French, German and Israeli software required to operate such machinery was also allegedly found. The SAC-M called on foreign governments to investigate the companies identified and urged UN members to restrict the junta from accessing such weapons and technologies which have been used to kill Myanmar civilians.
Irrawaddy News reported that the junta unveiled new military hardware at the Independence Day parade on 4 January 2023 in Naypyitaw. The Chinese made SY-300 multiple rocket launcher appeared at the parade, which can be equipped with various warheads. It was claimed that rockets have a range from 40 to 130 km. The junta forces have reportedly used 240 mm rockets against the Arakan Army in Rakhine State before the coup and against resistance groups in Demoso, Kayah State, after the coup.
Suspension of Issuing Passports
Irrawaddy News reported that the junta suspended issuing passports since December 2022. In January, the junta completely stopped renewing passports or accepting new passport applications. This created a difficult situation for job seekers and workers planning to work overseas. The military junta did not make any public announcement. According to labour rights activists, this action was a violation of human rights and politically motivated, since the junta wanted to cut the funds provided by Myanmar workers overseas to the resistance forces. There have been many overseas Myanmar workers who lack valid passports. An observer said the junta also wanted to prevent anti-military activists from leaving the country.
Since February 2021, young and middle-aged people have been leaving Myanmar to seek better socio-economic prospects. Thailand, Malaysia, Korea and Japan are the top destination countries for Myanmar people. Thailand already has the largest population of Myanmar migrant workers, and after the coup another 400,000 Myanmar people has arrived in Thailand. The IOM reported in December 2022 that 40,000 Myanmar people were estimated to leave the country monthly through legal or illegal ways, due to conflict as well as economic and other reasons.
Activities of the National Unity Government
The National Unity Government of Myanmar released a statement dated 17 January 2023 calling on Myanmar’s neighbours to block the illegal military junta’s use of their airspace for carrying out its atrocities. The statement highlighted the Myanmar military’s airstrikes on Camp Victoria, the headquarter of the Chin National Front (CNF) on 10 and 11 January of 2023, where the junta jets reportedly entered Indian airspace during the attack and dropped some bombs on Indian territory. The statement recalled UN Security Council resolution 2669, which condemned attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, as well as demanded the immediate end to all forms of violence.
The Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management of the National Unity Government also condemned the junta’s airstrikes against Camp Victoria. It stated that the attacks targeted civilians, including children and women, and public buildings, such as hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. It said the junta has explicitly violated international human rights laws and humanitarian laws.
In her Chinese Lunar New Year Greetings, the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs of the National Unity Government extended her gratitude for China’s support of the people of Myanmar at the United Nations Security Council. She also offered assurances that the people of Myanmar and the National Unity Government are struggling for democracy, which will not harm the interests and long-term peace and stability in the region, and which will only bring fruitful benefits to neighbouring countries, including China. She expressed her wish to have closer relations with China and strengthen Pauk Phaw relations in the interests of the people of both countries.
Actions and Remarks by the International Community in response to the Military Coup d’état
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore responded the report published by the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) which claimed that Singapore functions as a "strategic transit point for potentially significant volumes of items" - including raw materials - that "feed" the Myanmar military's weapon production. The Ministry said, “Singapore does not authorise the transfer of arms or items with potential military application to Myanmar and Singapore was looking into the contents of the report by SAC-M, which comprises independent experts and former United Nations (UN) officials”. The Ministry added that Singapore voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution to prevent the flow of arms into Myanmar in June 2021, and said, “this is on top of our strict compliance with our international obligations on international arms sales and transfers, as well as UN sanctions and embargoes against any country".
Luhut Panjaitan, an Indonesian senior minister has urged Myanmar’s military to consider stepping back and letting qualified‖ leaders govern the country that is in an economic free-fall due to sanctions and worsening civil strife. On a panel at the World Economic Forum, he said, “there are so many militaries in charge of government, but if you are not qualified, why should you be president?” In the context of Indonesia’s ASEAN chairmanship this year, Elaine Pearson, Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, urged Indonesia to use its ASEAN chairmanship effectively to resolve the crisis in Myanmar. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Professor of International Relations from Chulalongkorn University in Thailand also said Indonesia is the biggest and most consequential member, its chairmanship is ASEAN's best hope to rein in Myanmar's bloody spiral from military coup to civil war.
Derek Chollet, Counselor of the United States Department of State, told Voice of America on 19 January 2023 that there is no chance that proposed elections in Myanmar will be free and fair. He stated that there was an election that was deemed free and fair which was already held in November of 2020. As the military did not like the outcome of that election, they conducted the coup on 1 February 2021. He said the military does not control up to half the territory at present. In discussion of the recently passed Burma Act, he said the United States has been very engaged with the National Unity Government as well as some of the ethnic groups in Myanmar, and the Act was put into law in a bipartisan basis with both Democrats and Republicans working together showing the deep support of the United States for the people of Myanmar. He added the United States fully support the efforts by ASEAN and that the junta remain isolated within ASEAN, not having political representation at key ASEAN meetings.
Date: 22 January 2023
Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations, New York