Civilian Struggles Amid Military Council Administration

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – December 20

Civilian Struggles Amid Military Council Administration

MoeMaKa, December 21, 2023

Crisis Deepens for Political Prisoners and Civilians: A Glimpse into Myanmar’s Struggle

Recent reports reveal an alarming escalation in the oppression faced by political prisoners in Monywa Prison, with the local strike committee and revolutionary forces decrying heightened abuses. The Myanmar Political Prisoners Network (MPPN) has sounded an alarm on the deteriorating conditions in Loikaw City’s prison, where over 500 inmates, including political prisoners, face severe shortages of medicine and food. The situation worsened after a fierce battle erupted on December 16 between the Karenni Revolution Union and the military council forces stationed in the prison.

MPPN expresses concerns that the military council is using the prison as a fortress, potentially employing prisoners as human shields. This echoes a broader trend where all detainees, including political prisoners, are subject to oppression and potential exploitation as hostages by the security forces of the military council.

Despite the political and military turmoil in Myanmar, ordinary citizens, especially workers, farmers, and the general public, grapple with daily survival challenges. Reports from RFA News shed light on fuel purchase restrictions in Ayeyarwaddy, causing difficulties for those engaged in agriculture, water-related activities, and transportation. Security forces and fire brigades under the military council are actively investigating fuel retail transactions without a license in Myaung Mya Township, Mawlamyine Township, and Bo Kalay Township. The resulting fuel scarcity has led to a surge in prices, with diesel reaching around 1,000,000 kyats per paper in villages north of Bo Kalay Township. Gasoline prices have also risen significantly, making it difficult for local retailers and farmers to afford the quantities they need.

Fuel prices continue to fluctuate due to the military council’s restrictions on trading in dollars, contributing to a broader economic crisis. Faced with mounting pressures, the military council has occasionally lifted its restrictive measures, as observed in the recent decision to permit fuel imports from abroad.

The military council appears cognizant that breaking the endurance of workers and farmers, the most affected groups in Myanmar’s current economic and social crisis, could lead to the collapse of its administration. Despite challenges in gathering armed forces, the council has resorted to reusing captured deserters and organizing them.

Recognizing the economic strain on workers and farmers, the Myanmar Rice Federation recently unveiled plans to allocate 400 lakh planting loans to large farmers owning 10 acres or more in specific regions and states. Additionally, a scheme for short-term loans to farmers with over 10 acres of rice, in collaboration with five private banks, was announced to support those affected by the ongoing crisis.

The military council is actively working to impose a dollar tax on expatriate workers seeking foreign currency. Under the new tax law enacted in September 2023, embassies are demanding expatriates pay taxes upfront for passport renewal or return to Myanmar.

In Thailand, migrant workers are protesting against the military council’s directive to foreign employment agencies, mandating the remittance of 25 percent of workers’ salaries from family remittances. The financial burden placed on Myanmar citizens for taxes and military council revenue proves challenging amid economic hardships.

As the Spring Revolution’s conflict persists, the military council strives to maintain control over its administrative machinery while limiting its operation to areas under its authority. Concurrently, revolutionary forces aim to establish and expand administrative and living systems to support the oppressed population. The struggle between the military council and the revolutionary forces continues, with the civilian population caught in the crossfire.