At least four Myanmar army soldiers were killed in guerrilla attacks in Shan State over the past week, according to the anti-junta defence forces involved, as tension builds in both northern and southern townships.
A resistance group active in Pindaya Township, located in Taunggyi District and the Danu Self-Administered Zone, reportedly ambushed a junta checkpoint at 10am on Wednesday, causing one casualty and leaving another soldier injured.
A spokesperson for the group—which he opted not to name, citing security concerns—told Myanmar Now that the troops at the location did not manage to return fire.
“They were behind a bunker made of sandbags. One of them who was filling water tanks was killed on the spot and another was seriously injured. The rest escaped,” he said, adding that his forces withdrew and did not chase after the fleeing soldiers and police officers, of whom there were “only a few” present at the time of the attack.
They reportedly suffered no casualties.
Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the spokesperson’s report of the incident.
According to locals in the area, Myanmar army soldiers blocked roads at Pindaya’s borders following the attack and were searching passing vehicles.
During the three days prior to the ambush, junta troops reportedly took some 13 residents of Oak Twin and Kyauk Nghat villages in neighbouring Ywangan Township into military custody, even though the local guerrilla group spokesperson said the individuals in question had “no ties” to resistance forces in southern Shan State.
He condemned the move as an attempt to instil fear among locals.
“When they arrest even one or two villagers, others become too scared to help feed and shelter the resistance fighters, let alone take part in the revolution themselves,” he explained.
His Pindaya-based resistance group also claimed responsibility for the assassination of Kyaw Nyein, the vice chair of the township’s chapter of the pro-military Union Solidarity and Development Party on June 18. The deceased is accused of acting as a junta informant and attempting to form a so-called Pyu Saw Htee militia in support of the army.
The military started a series of renewed assaults on southern Shan State in April, and have been said to be combing forests in search of guerrilla bases. Local resistance groups have been operating in Aung Ban, Kalaw, Nyaungshwe, Pindaya, Taunggyi and Ywangan townships in collaboration with Karenni defence forces since early this year.
In the state’s north, the stretch of territory from Lashio to Muse on the Chinese border includes areas where multiple armed groups are active, including ethnic armed organisations (EAOs) such as the Kachin Independence Army, the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.
Other guerrilla forces have emerged since the February 2021 coup, such as the People Security and Defence Army (PSDA), which carried out a June 24 attack on a junta base on a hillside along the highway connecting Lashio and Muse, between Nam Phat Kar and Pang Kaing.
The site is occupied by troops from Light Infantry Battalion 427, under Light Infantry Division 99, who frequently use the road to transport supplies and reinforcements.
“They deploy soldiers along the road for the entire night if they are going to send something to Muse from Lashio, but they don’t dare to go very deep into the area as it is occupied by EAOs,” a PSDA officer told Myanmar Now.
Three soldiers were killed in last week’s PSDA ambush, which involved an exchange of gunfire for around 30 minutes, he said, adding that another military unit stationed on a nearby hill fired heavy weapons at the guerrilla fighters, who reportedly withdrew without suffering any casualties.
At the time of reporting, the military was sending further reinforcement troops to the area, according to the PSDA.
The junta has released no information on its forces’ activities in northern Shan State.
Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the resistance group’s account of the clash.
Yangon factory and Adidas supplier sacks nearly 30 workers for striking in demand of wage increase
The Myanmar Pou Chen garment factory singles out and fires labour union members believed to have organised a 2,000-person strike
Myanmar Pou Chen labour union chair Phyo Thida Win, who was among the dismissed workers, said that the offer of re-employment did not accommodate the workers’ initial demands for paid overtime, guaranteed days off, and manageable production targets. Officials instead reportedly only offered to compensate the employees for the period in which they were laid off.
“We were asked to sign a contract that said we were satisfied and would not negotiate further. We cannot accept that,” he told Myanmar Now. “They did not accept any of the terms we proposed. It seemed like we were being made to simply accept their conditions, so I didn’t sign and I left.”
He was among 17 employees who refused the offer; the remaining nine accepted the compensation before then resigning. With negotiations having effectively failed with the factory officials, the workers said that they would next relay their demands to Adidas.
Phyo Thida Win added that the officials in question had also refused to allow the union to join a Work Coordination Committee (WCC), problem-solving mechanisms which in theory must have equal representation between employees and employers but have been described by union leaders as “notorious for working in favour of the employer.” The junta requires complaints to be filed with WCCs before the issues can be considered by the regime labour ministry.
Shortly after the February 2021 military coup, which was widely protested by the labour movement, the junta declared trade unions and workers’ rights organisations to be illegal. Factory employees began forming WCCs, however, labour rights activists noted that the members selected to represent the workers typically were those who had positive relations with the employers, rather than those with a background in advocacy. At Myanmar Pou Chen, for example, union members were barred from entering the selection pool of candidates to serve on the committee, Phyo Thida Win said.
Factory officials did not respond to Myanmar Now’s requests for comment on the negotiations with the employees in question.
Demands to raise the minimum wage at Myanmar Pou Chen were initiated on August 14 to compensate for the soaring of basic commodities in the aftermath of the February 2021 coup. Workers at factories throughout Yangon have also reported an uptick in verbal and physical abuse by their supervisors during this time, and the termination of social security benefits.
In 2015, under the government led by former general Thein Sein, the minimum wage was set at 3,600 kyat for an eight-hour work day, then valued at approximately $2.70. The minimum wage was raised to 4,800 kyat in 2018 under Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy government, worth around $3.60 at that time.
Laws dictate that Myanmar’s daily minimum wage should be reviewed every two years, but at the time of reporting, the current rates had not changed in nearly five years. Although the military has been amending and abolishing a range of laws since their seizure of power, they have not made changes to statutes concerning minimum wage.