Myanmar Journal: The internet resumes to encourage more use of online banking services
(by David Tun in Yangon)
The coverage on this live blog has ended — for up-to-date coverage on the Myanmar protest, visit the May Myanmar Journal.
April 28 – Myanmar’s Central Bank has announced that banks will be accepting applications for new accounts, which will have no restrictions on withdrawals or other limitations. This move is being widely seen as a way to get more cash flowing while holding the rest of the money hostage in other accounts.
The Central Bank has also urged businesses and the general public to utilize online banking services, instead of paying in cash. Some mobile data services are to resume to encourage more people to use mobile banking, while some internet fiber services are no longer being cut at 1am.
As more economic sanctions loom, the military-run State Administration Council announced that certain projects will be speeded up, such as the US$300 million investment in the Fish Auction Market in Myeik Township, Tanintharyi Region.
Meanwhile, the Peace Process Steering Group (PPST), chaired by the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (South) commander-in-chief General Yawd Serk, issued another statement, saying that the 10-ethnic armed forces, which make up the PPST, welcome the National Unity Government (NUG) and will continue to support it.
The Karen National Union (KNU) managed to take over 5 military camps along the Thanlyin River, near the Thailand-Myanmar border. The military retaliated with airstrikes on areas around the bases.
In Chin State, an armed civilian militia, called the Chinland Defence Force (CDF), reported on social media that negotiations to release civilians, who were arrested on April 23rd, are being proposed, after 3 days of fighting, which saw the deaths of 20 soldiers.
In Kachin State, several attacks against military camps were also reported. Bridges and railway tracks are being targeted, to cut transportation routes for troop reinforcements.
As battles between ethnic groups and the military continue in many regions, four student unions sent a joint open letter to the NUG, trying to persuade the shadow government to launch an official armed revolution against the military.
The AAPP reports that 756 people have been killed, as of April 28th. This is an increase of 8 since the ASEAN consensus to stop killing civilians.
April 26: Anti-coup protesters want recognition of the dead and accountability
Though the international community is abuzz with ASEAN’s attempts to intervene and whether the junta will adhere to the five-point consensus, people in Myanmar, be it the strike committees, student unions, or Civil Disobedience Movement participants, are doubtful that the military will serve nothing but lip-service to the other ASEAN nations.
Despite demands to stop the killing of civilians, the death toll has risen to 753.
One of the protest organizing groups, the General Strike Committee Network, condemned the consensus, pointing out that it said nothing about the over 700 civilians murdered, nor were there demands to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Anti-coup protesters marched with signs that revised the ASEAN consensus, adding “stop all inhumanities, punish the military/murderers and to reform the military as a whole.”
Myanmar military junta leader Min Aung Hlaing said he will consider proposals by ASEAN to solve the ongoing crisis in Myanmar after peace and stability is restored in his country. It is seen as the first known response by the general to the ASEAN leaders’ “five-point consensus” designed to find a peaceful solution to the bloody turmoil that has gripped Myanmar since he seized power on February 1.
Meanwhile, in Sagaing Township, upon hearing the news that soldiers were on their way, villagers fled their homes for fear of being shot on sight. The villages which have shown strong resistance are targeted, with reports of heavy weapons being used against civilians.
Amongst the displaced villagers were expectant mothers, the elderly, and the sick. Some villagers told local news media that, as they had to hide in the jungle, the tough living conditions had led to the deaths of some of the old and the sick.
In Chin, Kachin, Mon, and Kayin States, ethnic armed forces continue to aid anti-coup protests and clash with the military. The military did not report any casualties on their side, but the local media, like Khit Thit, reported that dozens died on April 25th and 26th, in clashes against civilian resistance.
The only answer to people who have suffered great loss is the complete eradication of the military dictatorship and the creation of a peaceful and all-inclusive society, said the Vice President Du Wala Shi La of the shadow National Unity Government.
April 21: ASEAN summit invitation is recognition of the coup government
While flash protests in Yangon, aimed at getting the message of opposition across to the upcoming special ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, the Blue Shirt movement, the latest addition to Myanmar’s coup opposition, held protests in many states across the country, together with other anti-coup and anti-military dictatorship movements.
The Blue Shirt movement said they are supporting the National Unity Government and are demanding the release of all those who have been detained.
Police and security forces were quick to crackdown, but protestors were also swift and not many arrested, except in Pathein Township, where locals reported that multiple squads of plain clothed officers launched surprise raids.
The AAPP reports that 739 people have been killed in violent crackdowns as of April 21st.
According to anti-coup youths, more young protesters have been arrested in places that are under martial law, some as young as 18 years old, with almost no evidence of any wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, Nikkei Asia reported that the junta’s spokesperson, Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun, said that General Min Aung Hlaing will definitely attend the ASEAN summit in person, contradicting the leaked document, addressed to the Indonesian embassy, alleging that he will be attending via online conferencing instead.
Zaw Min Tun also dismissed rumours that 11 high ranking officers in the military have broken rank and are being held under house arrest in Nay Pyi Taw, despite local media reports citing credible sources from inside the military.
Human Rights Watch has issued a statement stating that ASEAN should withdraw its invitation for the junta leader to attend the ASEAN Summit, because the invitation and his attendance could be seen as legitimising the coup installed government.
April 20: International sanctions as ASEAN summit set to welcome the General
While more sanctions and restrictions are being put in place by the international community, ASEAN is still set on hosting Min Aung Hlaing himself or, perhaps, his representative, at its summit on Saturday, April 24th.
There have been rumours of a representative from the parallel National Unity Government being invited to the summit as well, but there has yet to be any official confirmation. It is notable that China expressed its full support for the special ASEAN summit on Myanmar, with its embassy in the country claiming that they were also in contact with members of the CRPH.
In Myanmar, the forced return to normality has been sluggish. The Central Bank is still limiting withdrawal amounts per customer to Ks 20 Lakhs (around 1,334 USD) per week and Ks 200 Lakhs (around 13,334 USD) for companies and organisations.
Yoma Bank in Yangon, one of few which have reopened some branches, had to prevent a run on the bank by closing early, after long lines could be seen in front of the bank’s branches and ATMs. It later announced that customers must inform the bank in advance of their intent to withdraw cash.
Meanwhile, the military government continues to tighten the screws on protest leaders, CDM participants and journalists. Prominent protest leaders, such as Ei Thinzar Maung and Tayzar San are, however, yet to be caught, and there are reports of a 100 lakhs (around 6,667 USD) bounty set for Tayzar San in Mandalay.
Many people believed that Ei Thinzar Maung was out of the country, after she had not been seen at the protests in Yangon for some time. She later appeared, though, as the Deputy Minister of Women, Youth and Children’s Affairs in the National Unity Government.
The military’s news and information website also announced that the passports of CDM participants, especially doctors who are currently being prosecuted, will be revoked.
The AAPP reports that, as of April 20th, 738 people have been killed, a number denied by the military council as inaccurate and inflated.
April 19: Min Aung Hlaing might only be at the ASEAN summit virtually
Following the rumours that Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing will not be attending the special ASEAN summit in Jakarta on April 24th, a leaked document, supposedly sent to the Indonesian Embassy, said that he will be attending the summit via video conference. This news was met with a wave of criticism, even among supposedly pro-military Facebook users, saying it shows “weakness” and “cowardice” by a man in uniform.
Meanwhile, a state-owned TV station showed images of detained youths, many of whom had been terribly beaten. This coincides with accounts, from recently released prisoners, that some of the injured anti-coup protesters are not receiving medical care, with injuries left untreated, to the point where maggots had started to infest the open wounds.
While the death toll, reported by the AAPP, is now 738, the state news media reported that the death and missing toll is just 240, calling any other reports lies.
Some families, who have seen members killed by security forces, reported that, if they want the body back for a funeral, they had to sign an agreement stating that the person had died due to some reason other than being killed by the military.
Lethal crackdowns continue. They are especially intense in Kani and Myingyan townships. Villagers had to flee their homes as hundreds of soldiers were reportedly deployed. Those who stayed behind said that soldiers invaded every house, and took away food, among other things.
In the Shwe Kyin Township of Bago Region, 18 youths, who had just returned home after holidays, were arrested on suspicion that they had attended military training. The police told their parents that they would be released on April 18th, because there was no evidence against them. As of April 19th, however, they are reportedly still in police custody for “further investigation”.
As the world is watching to see what the ASEAN summit in the next couple of days will bring, Min Aung Hlaing attending or not, the clashes, raids and arrests will probably continue.
April 17: An auspicious day with reports of explosions in Yangon
The first day of the local New Year, “Nhit San Ta Yat Nae” in the Myanmar language, is an auspicious day when many Buddhists join in mass prayers or other religious gatherings. This year, however, the New Year saw a low turnout, despite urges from the administration for people to join the prayers.
Over 23,000 prisoners were given amnesty and released, a tradition at this time of year.
The CRPH’s newly formed National Unity Government (NUG) also gave its first address to the people, through the Vice-President Duwa Lashi La, saying that the NUG will be working to reach all people domestically, as well as seeking recognition from the international community and forming a federal army.
Not long after the speech, there were five reports of explosions across townships in the Yangon region. One was an incident in Yankin Township, where three IEDs exploded simultaneously, reportedly injuring two soldiers. Thai PBS World was unable to independently confirm details with the authorities, but Yankin residents all gave similar accounts.
In Kachin State, the KIA continues its offensives against the military, recently managing to capture a camp near a town 15 miles from Myitkyina, the biggest city in Kachin State. Military reinforcements were dispatched to the areas, with locals claiming, on social media, that they saw military convoys and aircraft heading in that direction. The death toll has yet to be reported.
At the end of the day, the AAPP reported that 728 have been killed since the coup on February 1st.
April 16: The biggest annual holiday passed without the usual fanfare
Myanmar’s biggest annual Buddhist holiday, Thingyan, passed without fanfare. Except for holiday goers taking short trips to popular beach destinations, such as Chaung Thar and Ngwe Saung, major cities remained devoid of the usual revellers. While some boycotted the festival, as an act of defiance against the junta, many were simply wary of security forces, who have been displaying a tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.
All the while, the state-owned TV channels, Myawaddi and MRTV, broadcast photos and videos recorded at the beaches to show that “everything is normal and peaceful”.
Crackdown, clashes, and arrests
In Mandalay, an anti-coup protest in the medical sector was stifled before it could even begin. The subsequent hunting down of protesters, by police and soldiers, led to a Muslim man being shot and killed inside a mosque, during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
In Monywa, a prominent anti-coup protest leader was arrested. In video footage, was seen as part of a motorbike protest when a civilian car rammed into his motorcycle. He got up and attempted to escape, but was surrounded, beaten and taken away. Later, a photograph of Wai Moe Naing showed that his face had become severely swollen from, what is assumed to be, torture inflicted upon him.
The Swedish and US embassies in Myanmar issued statements calling for Wai Moe Naing and all those arrested to receive their right to medical attention. Following the arrest, Tayzar San, another prominent anti-coup activist from Mandalay, urged people not to lose hope, as the movement against military dictatorship isn’t about one or two icons, but for everyone.
In Kachin State, the Kachin Independence Army launched more offensives on military-controlled outposts and bases. The KIA began their attack on the Nambyu army base in the early morning of April 15th and airstrikes from the military were also reported by local residents.
Nambyu was under the control of the KIA up until 2014, when the Tatmadaw managed to regain control.
A journalist from Kachin State was also arrested. Myo Myat Pan, a former Myitkyina News Journal correspondent, was reportedly taken by security forces on the night of April 14th. Her whereabouts are still unknown.
It is now over 2 months since Myanmar’s military coup on February 1st, ousting the elected civilian government, led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. Over 700 people have been killed, over 300,000 arrested and over 60 have been sentenced, with some facing the death penalty, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Perhaps the biggest development in recent days is the formation of the “National Unity Government” (NUG) by the CRPH, who claims that, as per the decision from a council, assumed to be made up of the ousted NLD lawmakers and ethnic armed force representatives as well as other international representatives, the NUG was formed. The parallel government is still helmed by the still-detained President Win Myint and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, but features both new and old Union Ministers. While the majority of the people support this decision, many also criticize the CRPH’s decision to keep Win Myint and Aung San Suu Kyi at the top, instead of other prominent ethnic leaders. There is, however, a good deal of ethnic representation, especially by Kachin ethnics, as at least 2 union ministers and 1 vice-president are ethnic Kachin.
The Arakan Army’s C-in-C Twan Mrat Naing wrote on Twitter that, while the CRPH had approached him to be a part of the NUG, he had respectfully declined and that he will be taking a more neutral stance. Other details of the NUG are still unknown, except that it will be working towards a Federal Democracy Charter.
On the night of April 16th, several explosions were reported across multiple townships in Yangon during curfew hours. The one in Kamayut Township reportedly occurred in front of a private hospital, a hospital with alleged ties to the military brass. Local residents reported that soldiers were going around checking anything and everything, as well as threatening and cursing at anyone who was curious enough to take a peek from their homes.
As of Friday, April 16th, the AAPP reports that at least 726 people have been killed with over 3,100 arrested.