Beyond the Headlines: Monk who opposed military dies on Thai-Myanmar border

Junta affairs

​​The Myanmar military regime released the heads of the electoral body appointed by the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government after 20 months in custody last week. 

Sources familiar with the move told Myanmar Now that Hla Thein, chair of the Union Election Commission (UEC), and Myint Naing, the commission secretary, were freed from Yamethin Prison in Mandalay Region on October 27. The military arrested them, along with several other election commission members, in February last year when it deposed the NLD civilian administration over accusations of fraud concerning the 2020 election.

A junta court sentenced the pair, along with another commission member, Than Htay, to three years in prison in July under Section 130a of the Penal Code for wielding unfair influence over the election. It was unclear why the chair and secretary were granted early release, but the sources said that Hla Thein and Myint Naing reportedly admitted wrongdoing, while Than Htay remained in detention. He was said to have been moved to Obo Prison in Mandalay last week. 

Despite the regime’s claim of a stolen election, domestic and international observers have asserted that the results of the 2020 vote reflected the widespread public support for the NLD party and that alleged discrepancies would not change the result.

Myint Naing (left) and Hla Thein (right) pictured at an event in Yangon in 2020 (Myanmar Now)

Political parties

A letter issued by the military-proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) on October 28 confirmed the presence of recently retired army officers in its leadership line-up, following weeks of speculation after the party’s congress earlier in the month. 

The appointment of new chair Khin Yi, a retired brigadier general and a close associate of Min Aung Hlaing, came as no surprise to many. Lt-Gen Myo Zaw Thein, a former Yangon regional commander and adjutant general, was confirmed as one of the three vice-chairs. Lt-Gen Aung Soe, a former deputy home affairs minister and head of Bureau of Special Operations 4 (BSO-4), became a central executive committee (CEC) member who will oversee the party’s international relationships. He was rumoured to have taken over as general secretary at the time the party convened on October 4 and 5. 

Myo Zaw Thein, a graduate of the Defence Services Academy’s (DSA) 28th intake, was promoted to lieutenant general and put in charge of BSO-5 in 2017. He became adjutant general two years later, in July 2019. In July of this year, he was one of several generals to accompany Min Aung Hlaing on a trip to Russia. Aung Soe graduated from the DSA’s 26th intake and was a commander of Light Infantry Division (LID) 33 and the Northeast Regional Command. He also served as deputy home affairs minister under the administrations of Thein Sein under the USDP and the NLD’s Aung San Suu Kyi. 

In December of last year, Aung Soe was tasked with commanding operations in Lay Kay Kaw in Karen State in his capacity as head of BSO-4. Under his leadership, junta forces carried out multiple airstrikes against the Karen National Union (KNU) and its allies, displacing tens of thousands of civilians.

As BSO heads, both men oversaw regional military commands in their respective areas—southeastern Myanmar in the case of BSO-4 and Yangon in the case of BSO-5—and reported directly to Min Aung Hlaing.

Despite some major changes like that of the chair, the composition of the USDP’s central executive committee (CEC) remained largely the same after the conference. According to Myanmar Now’s source, most of the CEC’s 50 members retained their positions.

International affairs

Foreign ministers from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations met in Jakarta, Indonesia on October 27 ahead of the regional bloc’s November summit and reaffirmed their commitment to the controversial Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar’s crisis. The regime’s foreign ministry rebuffed the ministers for convening without Myanmar junta representatives, and said that it “will not be bound by the outcomes of the meeting” and that “injecting additional pressure by setting a timeframe will create more negative implications than positive ones.”


U Ariyawuntha Biwunsa, more commonly known as the Myawaddy Mingyi Sayadaw, named for the Mandalay monastery at which he was an abbot, died at age 71 on October 27. He had been undergoing medical treatment for coronary heart disease at the general hospital in the Thai border town of Mae Sot, Ven Kalyana, a member of the Monks’ Association, told Myanmar Now.

The military filed a case against Myawaddy Mingyi Sayadaw in September 2019 for criticising actions by the institution, such as the allocation of a 30m kyat donation to ultranationalist organisations. At the time of the coup, the Myawaddy Mingyi Sayadaw was out on bail from the Pyigyidagun Township court, and had attended more than 30 hearings. However, he was immediately re-arrested two days after the military’s seizure of power. 

The monk was released six months later on August 2, after which he left his monastery and relocated to the Thai border. Ven Kalyana described his death as a “great loss.”

“He always criticised the military. His death is a great loss not just for the country but also for the revolution and for Buddhism itself,” he explained. 

The Myawaddy Mingyi Sayadaw will be remembered by many for standing up against the weaponisation of religion, and against monks who cooperated with the Myanmar army. He said during an interview with Myanmar Now that “fighting the military dictators is the same as re-building a society based on the Dhamma.”

The Myawaddy Mingyi Sayadaw (Myanmar Now)

Ethnic armed organisations and humanitarian issues

An alliance of revolutionary groups under the leadership of the KNU’s armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), attacked and seized control of a junta base at the Thai-Myanmar border in Karen State on the morning of October 26, with tension in the area rising following the incident.

The coalition attacked the Kwi Lon Taing base in Kyainseikgyi Township, where Light Infantry Battalion 339 of the military is located and the site of frequent recent battles.

Lt-Col Saw Yan Naing, a battalion commander of KNLA, said that 17 junta personnel were taken prisoner by resistance forces and that more than 40 weapons and a large amount of ammunition was also seized during the attack.

He told Myanmar Now that later that evening, the military dropped off 40 soldiers by helicopter near Azin village tract, located in the vicinity of the base in question.

The presence of military-allied Border Guard Force (BGF) troops had contributed to the heightened tension, he explained.  

“What happens next depends solely on them. We also have deployed our troops around the area, and assigned them each to their own mission, so a clash is very likely to take place,” Lt-Col Saw Yan Naing said. 

Some of the 17 captured junta personnel (Supplied)


Following the recent death of three Buddhist pilgrims in a shooting near the Kyaiktiyo pagoda, the military is attempting to entice visitors with free food, accommodation and local transportation to the Mon State religious site in early November. 

“I think they want more people to visit as people are now too scared to come here,” a local man from Kyaikhto Township said. 

According to the KNU, many civilians in the area were displaced after some 500 soldiers from LID 77 raided villages around Kyaiktiyo hill in mid-October, particularly those in territory administered by the KNU. 

Those who fled were reportedly from nearly 10 communities in the area.

“They are clearly conducting their ‘clearance operations’ again,” a local from one of the affected villages, Ingapo, said, adding that around 100 villagers were also detained and questioned. 

At least 10 houses were torched in Painnekone and Shwe Ge Yo villages, and a resident shot and killed, the Kyaikhto Revolution and Information Network reported on October 26. 

A member of a Yangon urban guerrilla group currently in the KNU’s Brigade 1 territory in Thaton District, said that more than 200 internally displaced persons were staying in the area, and that others had fled elsewhere. 

He noted that several junta columns, each with at least 100 soldiers, were still operating around Kyaiktiyo hill, making villagers fearful about returning to their homes, and that the military had increased security around the pagoda.

A carrier is seen at the Kyaiktiyo pagoda in December 2017 (EPA)

Armed resistance

The military launched an airstrike on the third battalion of the Myingyan District People’s Defence Force (PDF), located near Pa Rein Ma village in Sagaing Region’s Myaung Township at 5am on October 28. 

Prior to the aerial attack, a junta column of 50 troops launched a ground assault. Helicopters also airlifted 70 more soldiers to site, who continued the attack after the airstrikes, forcing the PDF to retreat, according to battalion commander Wun Moe.

“The column that launched the initial attack came through the forest, so we are assuming they had a local informant with them,” he told Myanmar Now. He continued that they were assembling members and weapons in Myingyan district when the attack started. 

Two resistance fighters were injured and several handmade explosive devices, motorcycles, and mobile phones, as well as food and ammunition—worth some 50m kyat (US$23,800) in total—were seized by the military. 

In retaliation, the Myingyan PDF’s Battalion 3 launched an attack on the junta police station in Nga Tha Yauk village in Mandalay’s Nyaung-U District at 4pm the following day. Eleven personnel, including the police chief and second lieutenant, were killed. 

“Our base near Pa Rein Ma village was attacked, so our brothers on the other side of the region decided to seize control of one of their bases as well,” Wun Moe said.

The PDF seized control of the police station within 30 minutes and confiscated multiple guns, but a squadron commander was also killed in the operation, according to the battalion commander. 

Weapons seized by PDF members in Nga Tha Yauk (Supplied) 

Urban violence and assassinations

A 100-household leader from Webagi, or “L,” ward in Yangon’s North Okkalapa Township was shot and killed at 8am on October 26 by unidentified assailants. 

The victim, Soe Soe, was shot eight times—in the neck, chest and stomach—at the corner of Sagawa and Thazin streets while driving by motorbike to his ward administration office. 

A local in the neighbourhood said that Soe Soe wielded a pistol but was unable to fire it at the time of the attack. 

The administrator had been awarded a “badge of courage” by the military council in March 2021, a distinction given to people who assisted the junta in cracking down on anti-coup protests. 

Locals accused Soe Soe of serving as a military informant, and of conducting “illegal” business in collaboration with the armed forces in his ward. 


Administrator Myo Min Than is seen after the attack (Supplied) 

Three junta targets, including a police station, were attacked in Yangon’s Shwepyitha Township, on the evening of October 24.

The Yangon Urban Guerrilla Army (MO-7 Eagle), the People’s Defence Force and the Black Tiger UG Team claimed responsibility for the assaults, which also targeted the Ward 27 administration office. Administrator Myo Min Than was injured when guerrilla fighters opened fire on the site, and his wife, Malar Mon, was killed. 

According to reports in junta propaganda newspapers, two assailants on a motorcycle fired eight times at the office, hitting the administrator in the leg and his wife in the chest. Shortly after the incident, a house in the township was attacked with grenades; the location was known to be a site from which motorbikes allegedly confiscated from civilians by junta personnel were being resold. 

“Our troops are all safe but our missions will be more efficient if civilians are able to stay away from the junta’s military, administrative, economic and information pillars,” said an officer of MO-7 Eagle.

Several other explosions went off across Yangon on the evening of October 23, including the Dawbon Township police station. 

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