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Democratic Voice of Burma

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Democratic Voice of Burma
Aggiornato: 23 ore 7 min fa

Yawd Serk’s RCSS becomes first major EAO to back junta following talks

Ven, 20/05/2022 - 6:15pm

General Yawd Serk, the chairman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS/SSA), attended the junta’s much mooted “peace talks” today, seemingly putting the full support of the EAO behind the military.

The pair are said to have discussed ways to develop a “federal union”, appropriating a phrase popularised by Burma’s parallel and democratically recognised National Unity Government.

The move is extremely significant — the RCSS, a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) signatory, had last year said that it would fight the military as long as it continued to attack civilians; the change in stance likely reflective of the fact that the SSA has faced increasing attacks, losing territory to rival Shan EAOs: the SSPP, TNLA and, to a lesser extent, the UWSA. Fighting between the groups has escalated dramatically in central Shan State since December.

If the military succeeds in brokering deals with all major Shan armed groups that have agreed to talks; the RCSS, SSPP, and the United Wa State Army; it can deflect the threat of the state’s EAOs, removing what would be a key front from the national battlefield whilst fomenting internecine warfare between groups in the region.

Such alliances would also damage the operational capacity of resistance groups operating from Shan and into the broader region, recently formed anti-military guerrilla forces reliant on the covert support of Shan’s EAOs.

Although currently unlikely, if failing to gain the support of other Shan groups and choosing to overtly back the RCSS, Min Aung Hlaing risks bringing Burma’s most powerful EAO, the USWA, into a new power struggle with the Burma Army.

The RCSS — one of the country’s largest EAOs — was the first of ten armed groups scheduled to meet with Min Aung Hlaing; others will meet with the coup leader, in person, every three days from May 20.

Chairmen from three of the armed groups have announced they are to meet the coup leader, while remaining organizations will send lower-ranking party secretaries.

Yawd Serk — ex-top aide to one of the world’s most powerful drug lords, the deceased Khun Sa — is by far the most prominent individual to have agreed to Min Aung Hlaing’s talks, something that Naypyidaw’s state photographers did not fail to take advantage of. Local residents of the RCSS’s traditional bases in southern Shan have told DVB that, in the power vacuum caused by the coup, poppies have returned to fill the hills of the region, a fact contributing to the uptick in Shan violence.

Political analysts point out that all those attending the coup leader’s meetings are not currently at war with the junta, suggesting that the majority of the armed groups have little interest in discussing peace, yet an intent to enhance their own standing with the military vis-a-vis the majority of Burma’s major EAOs, who have boycotted talks.

Among the participants, seven of the EAOs are NCA signatories, while the United Wa State Party (UWSP/UWSA) and the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA) have observed ceasefires with the Burma Army for over 30 years. The Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP/SSA) also maintains relatively cordial relations with the junta.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

KNLA take back Thay Baw Bo camp from military, decades after losing the position

Gio, 19/05/2022 - 7:19pm

A KNU camp, for decades held by the military, is back in the hands of Karen resistance groups after fighting broke out between the Burma Army and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) on the night of May 17 near Thay Baw Bo village, south of Myawaddy.

Fighting continued into the morning and the army fired on homes from a helicopter over the village, according to a Karen Information Center report. 

“The military started shooting near Thay Baw Bo village at 12.15 a.m. Houses in the village were definitely hit. The fighting is still going on, said a resident of the village. He added that a military helicopter flew above the village around 11 a.m. today for reconnaissance and opened fire around the area. 

According to an update from Karen National Media, KNLA coalition forces seized the major camp — which had been taken from the KNU by the Burma Army during fighting in 1990 — at around 3.30 p.m. despite military jets firing on targets aerially. 

A video showing the KNU raising its flag at the camp was released together with the news. 

Six Burma Army personnel including sergeants were detained and given proper medical treatment. Around 10 junta troops were killed in the fighting and another two were captured this morning, according to KNLA sources. 

Three resistance force members were killed and another four were wounded while many weapons, explosives, ammunition, and other military equipment was seized. 

The military conducted is said to have conducted a total of 35 airstrikes during the clashes. 

The KNLA and Cobra Column are now clearing out the area. Around 300 villagers in the area fled to Thailand due to the battle.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

Slow reopening of Thai MoU system fails to halt flow of migrants heading across the border

Gio, 19/05/2022 - 6:55pm

A third legally documented batch of Burmese migrant workers arrived in Mae Sot, Thailand, on Thursday, crossing the Friendship Bridge No. 2 from Myawaddy in Karen State.

The Burmese nationals were recruited under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) system, a Thai government program designed to absorb workers from neighboring countries (~80% of whom typically come from Burma) into Thailand’s industries.

The kingdom suspended the program for around two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet it resumed this May. 588 Burmese workers were sent to Thailand on May 10 and 11 as the first and second batches of MoU workers.

Thailand says it plans to receive over 200,000 migrant workers from neighboring countries — up to 150,000 of the prospective workers are from Burma.

Despite this, Moe Kyo, chair of the Mae Sot-based Joint Working Committee for Burma Nationals’ Affairs, told DVB that hundreds of Burmese immigrants are still entering Thailand undocumented every day.

“Legal means of job recruitment are very slow… There are about 150,000 Burmese workers who have been called for work or received job offer letters from Thailand. But only hundreds are able to come a week. That is why migrant workers are illegally entering the country. They are then arrested,” he said.

The chairman said the Thai government must establish procedures to speed up the recruitment process under the MoU labor system if it really wishes to eliminate illegal immigration.

Subscribing to be accepted as an MoU worker is also a costly process; independent research by DVB found that workers, typically required by Thai authorities to pay THB12,000 (US$375) to enter the program, are paying up to THB30,000 (US$975) after all additional costs are considered — a significant amount for someone looking to enter into industrial work.

The military coup has caused unprecedented numbers of people to flee Burma to find safety and work undocumented in Thailand. Multiple thousands are believed to have crossed the border every month since the MoU system was suspended; around 1,600 Burmese migrants alone are said to have been arrested for illegally entering Thailand between May 1 and 18.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

NUG FM continues US diplomatic mission with McConnell meet

Gio, 19/05/2022 - 6:27pm

NUG foreign minister, Zin Mar Aung, met with US Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, during her trip to Washington DC last week.

“It was an honor to meet with [McConnell] to discuss the ongoing violent campaigns of the military junta in Myanmar. We exchanged notes and agreed on the importance of ongoing support from the US and other countries for Myanmar’s resistance struggles and movements,” she tweeted yesterday.

Mitch McConnell has long been an opponent of the Burmese military and continued to show support for State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi even after her international reputation was tarnished due to the Rohingya Genocide.

However, questions arose amongst Burmese activists over the senator’s commitment to the country’s revolutionary democratic movement after he failed to show support for the a version of the 2021 Burma Act currently awaiting to be discussed in the US Senate — the proposed legislation would allow the US government to take stronger action against the Burmese military yet, despite bipartisan support, still lacks Republican co-sponsors.

The act passed the US House of Representatives yet must be approved by the Senate before being signed into law by President Biden.

Zin Mar Aung also revealed in a tweet that she had met US senators Jeff Merkley and Ed Markey, discussing what she called “current challenges” as well as possible sanctions against Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), a key generator of foreign cash reserves for the junta.

Activists have called on the international community to impose sanctions on MOGE after a European Union embargo in February.

Senators Merkley and Markey advocated putting sanctioning on MOGE since the military coup and have pressured President Biden to take stronger action against the military regime along with other senators. The senators are also among the co-sponsors of the Burma Act.

The meetings come after Zin Mar Aung met with US State Department officials and prominent members of the Biden administration after coming to Washington D.C. to observe the US-ASEAN Summit. She also held high-profile informal discussions with Malaysia’s foreign minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, who has emerged as a key proponent of talks between the bloc and the NUG.

It is unknown what further actions the US government will take to support Burma’s democracy movement and weaken the military regime, while sources close to the administration say that the country is reluctant to provide overt support to resistance groups for fear of potentially falling into a proxy conflict with Burma’s neighbors.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

Leak suggests 27 leading cronies banned from leaving Burma

Mer, 18/05/2022 - 4:51pm

A leaked document described by sources to DVB Burmese suggests that the junta has compiled a list of businesspeople, cronies, and others affiliated to the military that it has ruled are now subject to travel bans, blocking them from leaving the country and requiring them to reenter.

The list includes Max Zaw Zaw and U Tay Za, two of Burma’s richest and most high-profile individuals.

There are growing concerns among the upper echelons of Burma’s business community after a recent spate of arrests and interrogations of leading conglomerate heads.

The secret list was leaked by a source within the military regime and includes 27 names subject to the ban, along with the names of their spouses and children, and their addresses.

DVB Burmese highlights that it has not been able to confirm the authenticity of the list, but sources close to the business community said that there are concerns of a potential sea change in Naypyidaw, a rearranging of those holding the nation’s wealth on behalf of the military.

“They [businessmen] have been charged with corruption. I am not sure how many more will be detained. The rest of the business community is scared because they have arrested the most prominent businessmen first. Chit Khine was charged with corruption after he was arrested at the airport when he returned from abroad,” said a businessman close to Burma’s magnates.

The junta has arrested and detained several prominent business figures this year.  

The infamous crony Khin Shwe and his son were arrested by the military and sent to Insein Prison in March and the energy, construction and banking magnate Chit Khine was a second major crony arrested by the junta while returning from abroad in April. Last week, Nang Lai Kham, the daughter of KBZ conglomerate chief Aung Ko Win and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Kanbawza Bank was questioned by military intelligence for two hours at Yangon International Airport before being allowed to leave for Bangkok.

An economic analyst, who wished to remain anonymous, told DVB that Burma’s overarching economic paradigm of cronyism was not ideal, but that getting rid of the strongly rooted practice was neither simple or, necessarily, desirable. Many of Burma’s richest individuals made alliances with the previous NLD administration, making joint ventures with leading multinational corporations for the common good of the country.

Despite this, much of the wealth of the group is derived from the extraction of resources from Burma’s ethnic regions, a process which facilitates some of the world’s worst human rights abuses.

“Cronies are not good for society, but they are the main pillars of the country. We had to encourage them to use their privileges not only for their own benefit but also for the good of the country. It is not good for the military to take these actions at this time when there is a political and economic crisis in the country,” the analyst said. 

The leaked document lists the following moguls as being banned from leaving / or forced to reenter Burma:

  1. Khin Shwe (Zaykabar Company) 
  2. Aung Ko Win (KBZ Bank Limited)
  3. Zaw Zaw (Max Myanmar)
  4. Tayza (Htoo Trading) 
  5. Khin Maung Aye (CB Bank)
  6. Thein Wai (Yoma Bank)
  7. Zaw Win Shein (Aya Hintha/A Bank)
  8. Chit Khaing (MAB Bank)
  9. Maung Weik
  10. Kyaw Swar Myint (Gandaye/Business consultant) 
  11. Zin Min Aung (PT Power) 
  12. Shein Win (Tat Lann Company) 
  13. Sai Myo Win (EFD)
  14. Kyaw Win (Shwe Than Lwin) 
  15. Hla Myo (Aung Myin Thu) 
  16. Nay Htet Thein Naing (Yo Yo Lay)
  17. Toe Naing Man (Than Lwin Education) 
  18. Htay Aung (Orchid Hotel)
  19. Htay Myint (Yuzana)
  20. Michel Moe Myint (Moe Myint and Associates) 
  21. Win Aung (Dagon International)
  22. Tint Tint Lwin (Tint Tint Company)
  23. San San Ye (Super One)
  24. Aik Htun (Shwe Taung)
  25. Myint Zaw (or) Hansan (Ngapali) 
  26. Kyaw Win (Shwe Than Lwin Company)
  27. Win Win Tint (Ocean) 

“It is not unreasonable for the junta to ban crony and military-backed businessmen from leaving the country. This is because even high-ranking officials, including administrators appointed by the military, are not safe anymore. It is possible they are getting a head start [to keep them in the country] because they fear a drain of wealth and talent. Cronies and other military-backed businessmen are a source of income for the junta — but it is also possible they are being kept inside for another reason,” 

Seven people, including former ministers Win Khaing and Ohn Win and mogul Chit Khine have been arrested on corruption charges. The coup itself was in part sparked by the military’s allegations of corruption within the NLD administration — prominent amongst such allegations were irregularities over the production and sale of coal from the Tigyit power plant, a project tendered to businessmen by the NLD’s Ministry of Power and Energy.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

Failure to launch: 90% of Burma’s cinemas shutter one month after junta’s forced reopening

Lun, 16/05/2022 - 4:45am

Due to extremely low audience numbers, movie theater owners are shuttering locations just weeks after the military forced a nationwide restart of Burma’s film industry. 

Film producers, many of whom have been blocked from leaving the country, say they are finding it difficult to screen movies despite the military recently forcing cinemas across Burma to reopen following a two-year hiatus. 

Nearly 70 cinemas across the country were forced to reopen on April 17, screening movies featuring celebrities recently released from prison sentences — yet the general public has comprehensively boycotted theaters on political grounds. 

Only around 10 cinemas, large military-owned, are still presenting films after last month’s reopening. Most have dropped Burmese titles in favor of dated international offerings.

“Thuwanna Nadi company used to import international movies before the pandemic. But [foreign movie licenses] are no longer available. I have no idea how they can show these movies. How can they show new international movies while the film industry in Burma is sinking? Most people know that any of them may be downloaded online or watched via streaming services,” a source from the film industry told DVB.

In the Kachin capital Myitkyina, the Ayeyar cinema this week screened the Thai movie “Pee Nak 3” — released in April — with the foreign offering managing to attract a modest number of visitors, according to locals.

Theaters forced to open by the junta last month had, amongst other titles, screened the long-shelved Burmese movie “Way Ma Nay Chin Bu”, starring actor and director Lu Min who had been imprisoned by the junta and released in an amnesty The film is believed to have grossed a mere K32 lakh (US$1,700) nationwide before being shelved; the worst opening month for a movie in Burma’s recent history. 

Producers claim that, on average, it costs studios between K800-1,000 lakh (US$40,000-54,000) to shoot a movie in country.

“It costs around K80 lakh (US$4,300) a week to show a movie at [Yangon’s famous] Thamada Cinema. Cinemas pay at least K30 lakh (US$1,600) in rent to the government. The government froze taxes for cinema owners during the pandemic. Now, [cinema owners] are also losing money just by opening their venues. They have to pay the operating costs even if they do not have to pay taxes to the government. Only K80 lakh (US$4,000) was earned from a movie starring Pyay Ti Oo. And now, no one is watching the movie with [Burmese heartthrob] Paing Takhon. Everyone involved in the industry is losing money!” a source exclaimed.

The state-owned Thamada Cinema in Yangon is one of the largest cinemas in the country, with tickets costing from K3,000 (US$1.60) to K20,000 (US$10.70). Those working closely with the theater say that, before the coup and the military’s relentless crackdown on the arts, a movie would typically gross between K1,500 to 3,000 lakh (US$81,000 to 108,000) over a two week opening.

Of 70 cinemas nationwide, only Thamada, Win Light in Mandalay, Ayeyar in Myitkyina, and a few other select locations remain open following the aborted launcha.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

Sittwe University to admit Rohingya students after ten year ban

Gio, 12/05/2022 - 6:46am

Rohingya students barred from attending classes at Sittwe University for ten years are beginning to return to the institution after the Rakhine State Students’ Union advocated for the discriminatory ban to be lifted, a spokesperson for the union has told DVB.

Rohingya students lost their right to attend classes at the university following riots in 2012, henceforth being restricted to attend a limited number of distance learning courses.

Kyaw Naing Htay, a central committee member of the union, said the student body now wished to ensure that all citizens of Rakhine have unfettered access to education.

“Our main purpose is to ensure the right of education is available to all races and religions in Rakhine. Throughout the period of the old policy, Rohingya students expressed their desire to attend classes in person at the university, and they will now be admitted according to the regional government,” he told DVB.

Zaw Min Tun, a Rohingya student, told DVB that the development was a positive step towards building peace and creating harmony in the state, where long-standing tensions remain between ethnicities.

“I am glad to have the opportunity to attend classes at the university after ten years. By studying together, we can create better relations between different races, and create peace,” he said.

Khin Maung Latt, former Hluttaw MP for Rakhine’s Rathedaung and Ponnagyun townships, speculated that the development may have been driven by ulterior considerations.

“This could be a genuine gesture. But, also, this may reflect a compromise between sides due to international pressure. At the moment, both sides [the United League of Arakan and the Burmese military] are attempting to court Rakhine’s Muslim communities for their own advantage,” he said.

Since 2012, Rohingya students have been restricted from studying history, geology, and the Burmese language — a telling list of prohibited subjects. The Rakhine administration had, however, established limited “tutoring centers” in Rohingya villages, according to Rohingya students.

The junta’s Ministry of Education has said that classes at Sittwe University, now nominally open to young Rohingya, will commence on May 12.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

Junta’s election body suspends minor party; NLD and SNLD face similar prospect

Mer, 11/05/2022 - 6:01pm

The Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS), a minority group with past affiliations to the NLD and All Burma Student’s League, has been forced to suspend operations after the party rejected the junta-controlled Union Election Commission’s (UEC) calls to investigate the party.

The UEC said in a letter to the party that the junta twice notified the DPNS to submit to financial records, but the party failed to do so. The DPNS was ordered by the junta to suspend all operations starting from May 3, except in matters related to compliance with the UEC’s investigation.

If continuing to fail to comply with the order, the party faces dissolution under Sec. 24(e) of the Registration of Political Parties Law.

The military’s UEC has repeatedly called for political parties — notably the NLD and Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) — to submit financial reports, threatening to disband any party that refuses to comply.

The demands are seen as yet another means for the military to frame its opponents on corruption grounds.

During a conference in Naypyidaw on April 27, the UEC announced that it had granted the NLD an extended period to submit its documentation, admitting its violent crackdown on the party had put limits on its ability to comply with demands. The SNLD was granted a similar extension to June 30.

Both the NLD and SNLD have so far flatly refused to comply with the military’s demands. The Chinese government last year urged the junta not to outlaw the NLD, Burma’s leading political party.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

100 civilians still hostage after being used as human shield by military in KNU territory

Mer, 11/05/2022 - 5:22pm

The Burma Army and allied Border Guard Force (BGF) recently captured roughly 100 civilians, marching them as a human shield to the military’s Lay Kay camp in Bilin township, located in the Karen National Union’s (KNU) Brigade 1 territory, Padoh Saw Soe Myint, chairperson of KNU Brigade 1’s Thaton District, told DVB.

Around 50 soldiers are said to have marched from Hpa-an to Bilin Township, kidnapping civilians along the way to use as human shields whilst progressing to the camp, believed to be almost entirely surrounded by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and allied forces.

The abducted residents continue to be detained by the army. Most of the hostages are women and elders and are currently being used as porters.

Tensions between the KNU’s other armed wing, the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO), and the military soared after the KNDO gave the Burma Army an ultimatum to withdraw from the Lay Kay and Win Tar Pan camps by April 23.

More than 10,000 locals have recently fled Bilin township due to rising tensions.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

Desperate Myanma Railways seeks staff: no experience required

Mer, 11/05/2022 - 4:36pm

Myanma Railways, which is facing difficulties in maintaining its assets after more than half of its employees joined Burma’s Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), announced on May 10 that it was looking to fill 60 deputy station master positions.

The military-controlled train network had previously filled such roles with experienced staffers from within the state-owned company, yet new applicants require no previous experience, according to sources inside the railway department.

“It means they are going to hire outsiders to run the trains. As far as I know, the department did not do this before,” a deputy station master told DVB.

Staff involvement in the CDM — the boycott has now lasted for over 14 months — is leading to serious disruptions in the running of Burma’s rail network.

As DVB has reported, soldiers and local administrators sympathetic to the junta have, since the coup, evicted thousands of CDM railway employees from government housing compounds across the country, with other facing arrest and intense pressure to return to their positions.

Despite these conditions, most continued to refuse to work, choosing instead to defy the military regime.

According to Myanma Railways’ job posting, applicants must be at least 30 years old, hold a bachelor’s degree, be at least 5’2” (157.5 cm) in height, and weigh between 100 and 160 lbs (45.4 and 72.5 kg).

For those wishing to drive trains on behalf of the military, an application deadline has been set for June 10.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar

The Dirty List: Russian arms traders, US funds supporting Burmese military

Mar, 10/05/2022 - 9:22am

56 companies linked to the Burmese military, human rights violations, and the environmental destruction of the country have been added to Burma Campaign UK’s (BCUK) “Dirty List”. 

Making it onto the now notorious roll call are 15 Russian firms, many of whom have been shown by activists Justice for Myanmar to be providing equipment to the military. 

BCUK has also highlighted the role of US-registered Carlyle Group, parent company of AsiaSat which broadcasts the junta’s MWD TV channels, and US investment firm TGP Capital, owner of telecommunication towers used by MyTel. 

BCUK has once again highlighted the role that mobile app stores play in facilitating the growth of military-owned businesses, most crucially that of MyTel whose products are still available on the Apple Store platform. 

“The fact that so many companies are still linked to the Burmese military, including some of the biggest US tech firms such as Apple, shows the inconsistent and weak response to violations on international law by the Burmese military,” said BCUK’s director, Mark Farmaner.

Dedicated advocacy work by the pressure group has, in part, led to high-profile exits from Burma of a number of international companies and corporations.

An updated version of Burma Campaign UK’s Dirty List may be found here.

Categorie: Birmania - Myanmar