At least a dozen civilians were killed by junta forces in Magwe, Sagaing and Yangon regions during the weekend.
On Sunday, junta forces killed two brothers in Taungdwingyi Township, Magwe Region, after a telecom mast belonging to the military-owned Mytel, one of four telecom operators in Myanmar, was destroyed.
Resistance fighters said in a statement that the troops tortured villagers as they interrogated them over the incident and two were killed. Four other villagers were detained, it added.
Telecom towers owned by Myanmar’s military are being targeted by resistance fighters following the shadow National Unity Government’s declaration of war against the junta on September 7.
The junta troops also burned several houses during raids on Hnan Khar and Htet Hlaw villages on Gangaw Township in the region, a resistance stronghold, over the weekend.
According to residents, a villager and resistance fighter were shot dead by junta troops in Htet Hlaw on Sunday morning during a raid. Around 30 houses were also burned down during the raid, forcing villagers to flee.
Villagers said they found the two bodies when they returned to put out the fires.
On Monday morning, junta troops torched Hnan Khar, burning at least 10 houses. Nearly 40 houses have been partially or completely destroyed in the village since Friday.
In Myaung Township, Sagaing Region, seven villagers, who were trapped in their village during clashes between junta forces and resistance fighters, were reportedly shot dead by regime soldiers.
In Yangon Region, 36-year-old Ko Aung Ko was shot dead after he reportedly failed to stop his car at a checkpoint on Saturday night. His wife, who was a passenger, was shot and is in a critical condition.
Since the February coup, junta forces have killed at least 1,080 people, including teenagers, children, student activists, protesters, politicians, bystanders and pedestrians. More than 8,000 people have been detained of whom 6,398 remain in custody, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
By BERTIL LINTNER 13 September 2021
The decision by Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) to declare a “defensive people’s war” against the military junta that usurped power in Naypyitaw on Feb. 1 has not been met with much sympathy from the international community. The British ambassador designate to Myanmar, Pete Vowles, tweeted on Sept. 7 that his country “supports peaceful efforts to restore democracy in Myanmar. We strongly condemn the coup’s coup and brutality, we call on all parties to engage in dialogue.”
Two days later, The Irrawaddy quoted the US Embassy in Yangon as stating that they encourage “all sides to be peaceful and to avoid an escalation of violence.” Chris Sidoti, a member of the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, an independent group of international experts, told Reuters on Sept. 8 that “Violence is the cause of the suffering of the people of Myanmar, it is not the solution…We empathize with the NUG, but we fear for what will happen as a result of this decision.”
ASEAN has proposed a four-month ceasefire to enable the delivery of humanitarian aid and is also encouraging a dialogue between the junta, the State Administration Council (SAC), and its opponents. The Australian government, which before the coup had a bilateral Defense Cooperation Program with the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military), has repeatedly urged the SAC to engage in a dialogue and somehow believes that ASEAN can play a constructive role in solving the crisis in Myanmar.
No one in his or her right mind would be against a dialogue leading to a peaceful solution to Myanmar’s escalating civil wars between the Tatmadaw and the ethnic armed organizations and now also a host of new resistance armies which are active not in border areas but in the country’s heartland. But it is recklessly naïve to believe that the Tatmadaw, with or without foreign encouragement, would be even remotely interested in engaging in such a dialogue. Exchanging views and reaching compromises have never been on the generals’ agenda. They have always believed in military might and demanded surrender from their opponents. But if a peaceful solution to Myanmar’s many conflicts is not possible, what’s the alternative? Does the NUG and its armed wing, the loosely organized People’s Defense Force (PDF), and its ethnic allies have any chance of defeating the mighty Tatmadaw?
As all the readers of The Irrawaddy are aware, I’ve been writing about Myanmar’s civil war for more than four decades. During that time, I have also on numerous occasions seen the Tatmadaw in action and also been in the middle of two major battles in the frontier areas. The first was in the Naga Hills in December 1985 when the Tatmadaw launched an early morning attack on the headquarters of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland in northwestern Sagaing Region (then Division). It is quite possible that my presence there was a major reason why the Tatmadaw decided to move troops across those remote and rugged hills and attack. The battle was fierce because troops from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) were there, and that made a difference from fighting the poorly armed Naga. But, in the end, the Tatmadaw captured the camp. I and other survivors had to flee and hide in the jungle for days before it was possible to move to more secure locations.
The second time was at the battle of Hsi-Hsinwan in northern Shan State in November 1986. I was in a trench together with commanders of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) when their “people’s army” attacked a Tatmadaw position on the top of the mountain. Hundreds of CPB soldiers had been mobilized for the fight, which began at dawn. I have never seen such an arsenal anywhere in Myanmar’s war-torn areas. The CPB’s troops were equipped with 120mm mortars, 75mm recoilless rifles, grenade launchers, machine-guns and automatic rifles.
The Tatmadaw camp was blown to pieces and casualties were severe, but the few surviving troops refused to surrender. I did, though, meet a wounded soldier who had been captured by the CPB. I had witnessed the fight from the CPB’s side, but, as I wrote about the encounter in my book Land of Jade: “I was disappointed at not being able to interview him. I would at least have liked to tell him that I had been impressed by the fighting spirit of his unit.”
In those days, the Tatmadaw was also an extremely brutal force committing numerous and often unspeakable atrocities on the civilian population in the frontier areas. I had learned that from many interviews with villagers and other victims of Tatmadaw cruelty. At the same time, it was actually quite poorly armed — but, despite all that, a battle-hardened and largely effective light infantry force. Soldiers were constantly on the move and there were fights against the CPB, the Karen on the Thai border, the Kachin in the far north and other pockets of resistance in ethnic minority areas.
All that changed after the 1988 pro-democracy uprising. The main fear within the Tatmadaw leadership was that disgruntled soldiers might join the pro-democracy activists and that, in turn, would be the beginning of the end of military-dominated rule in Myanmar. Consequently, in order to prevent a crack in the ranks, everything was done to keep at least the officer corps satisfied. Beginning in 1989, the Tatmadaw spent more than a billion dollars on procuring new, more sophisticated military equipment. It came primarily from China but also from Singapore, Pakistan and Israel. Most of it, however, was materiel that Myanmar did not actually need, such as missile systems that would be of little use in counter-insurgency operations, huge tanks, armored vehicles, naval patrol boats and various kinds of radar equipment. It was simply toys for the boys and the troops also got new, smart uniforms. Before long, Myanmar’s own defense industries began producing new infantry rifles to replace the old, heavy G-3 which was based on German designs.
Equally important was a decision to scrap the previous, unpopular system of constant rotations of regional commanders, which had been done in order to make sure that no such officer built up his own power base in a certain part of the country. And then came a series of ceasefire agreements between the Tatmadaw and a number of ethnic rebel armies. The Wa, the Kachin, Khun Sa’s drug army, the Mon and Pa-O and others made peace with the Tatmadaw. Those agreements, initiated by intelligence chief Gen. Khin Nyunt, were struck in order to prevent a link-up between the urban dissidents and the ethnic rebels, which could have proven disastrous for the junta that took over power on Sept. 18, 1988. It worked. Only a few pro-democracy activists remained with the Karen National Union, the only sizable ethnic army that refused to enter into a truce with the Tatmadaw.
But, to be on the safe side, the size of the Tatmadaw was increased dramatically. The three services — the army, the air force and the navy — amounted to no more than 195,000 men before 1988. Nearly all of them belonged to the army; the air force as well as the navy were very small and, many would argue, almost insignificant. According to the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies and other international think-tanks, the army has now 507,000 men, the air force 23,000 and the navy 19,000, so altogether 549,000 in total. Those think-tanks may have grossly overestimated the strength of the Tatmadaw because most units are undermanned and many troops may exist only in official reports from the field.
Be that as it may, it is undeniable that the strength of the Tatmadaw in terms of manpower and equipment is way above that of the 1980s. But, because of the old ceasefire agreements, which lasted for nearly two decades, that also means that a generation of troops have very limited fighting experience. They are, as a source said, better at parades showing off their new uniforms and guns than at combat. And then, the embrace of the market economy that followed the 1988 uprising gave the officers ample opportunities to earn vast amounts of money. As one Myanmar source wrote on social media: “the army officers are only interested in taking bribes and making business deals with the cronies, they don’t want to fight battles anymore, they joined the army to get rich quickly.” Or, as a retired Tatmadaw officer once told me: “luxury when I was in the army consisted of a badminton set and a bottle of army rum, and I was a colonel. Now even captains and lieutenants have more than one car, several sets of golf clubs, and at least two mistresses. And they don’t have to fight.”
That changed again when, in June 2011, the ceasefire with the KIA broke down. For the first time in more than a decade, major battles raged in an ethnic minority area. I was at the KIA headquarters in Laiza in December 2012 and I was astonished to observe the poor performance of the Tatmadaw. In the beginning, they sent in the infantry, which was poorly trained and had zero fighting experience. Casualties were extremely heavy as the advancing Tatmadaw troops were mowed down by KIA guerrillas. It became so bad that the Tatmadaw had to withdraw its infantry and rely instead on its Russian-supplied helicopter gunships, attack aircraft and heavy artillery fired from bases far from the KIA’s positions. According to credible reports from Yangon at the time, some officers paid bribes to avoid being sent to Kachin State to fight. This was not the Tatmadaw I saw in the 1980s.
Then came another fierce war in Rakhine State as a new rebel force, the Arakan Army (AA), rose up in arms. Tatmadaw dead and wounded numbered in the thousands, including some senior officers. And, again, the infantry’s poor performance prompted the Tatmadaw to resort to air power, firing indiscriminately into villages where they thought the AA would be present — but to no avail. Today, the AA and its civilian wing run a de facto parallel government in Rakhine State. The AA is closely allied with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, a Palaung force, and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, which is made up of fighters from Kokang, an area in northeastern Shan State dominated by ethnic Chinese. Judging from independent reports, those three armies, called the Brotherhood Alliance, have fought what appear to be numerous successful battles with the Tatmadaw. According to a November 2020 paper published by the United States Institute of Peace, “Myanmar has not experienced this intensity of fighting in decades.” Nor has it suffered such heavy casualties.
The big question now is: What’s next? Today, the Burmese-dominated Tatmadaw is sent out to gun down people not only from the ethnic minorities but also their own kin in parts of the country where there has been no insurgency since the years immediately after independence in 1948. That, and the casualties they are evidently suffering even there, must have a devastating effect on the morale of the troops. For the first time in decades, there are now speculations about possible rifts within the Tatmadaw. If NUG sources are to be believed, more than 2,000 security personnel, most of them policemen but also soldiers, have defected to the pro-democracy movement.
None of those reports can be independently verified, but it is clear that something that has never happened before is brewing within the Tatmadaw. It remains to be seen whether the NUG’s “defensive people’s war” will accelerate that process — or have the opposite effect, namely to make the Tatmadaw close ranks even more firmly than before. A main problem is that many officers and even private soldiers must be acutely aware of what they have done when it comes to corrupt practices and atrocities they have committed. They may fear that a change could mean that they would be held accountable for all that — and the brutality that the Tatmadaw now has unleashed in towns and villages all over the country is almost unprecedented.
What began as carnival-style protests immediately after the coup became something entirely different when the police and the Tatmadaw began killing peaceful protesters. Such brutality breeds resistance, and that is what we are seeing in Myanmar today. In any case and whatever the future will be, forget about “dialogues” and futile attempts at urging the two sides to refrain from violence.
Myanmar’s junta has committed massacres and war crimes in Sagaing Region by murdering about 112 people within three months, according to the Human Rights Ministry of the civilian National Unity Government (NUG).
Evidence of junta massacres and war crimes will be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council this month, U Aung Myo Min, the NUG’s human rights minister, posted on Facebook.
Myanmar’s junta killed at least 216 people in the region between March and August, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which is compiling deaths and arrests.
The rights ministry said in July alone the regime committed a series of massacres and war crimes, killing 103 people in Kani, Depayin and Mingin townships in Sagaing Region.
In Kani Township, around 43 people, including a child, were killed in junta massacres during military operations.
The rights ministry said four civilians were tortured and killed in Shinoretat village in Kani Township on July 1.
Another 16 villagers were killed by junta forces in Yin village on July 11 to 12 and more than 23 villagers and civilian resistance fighters, including a disabled person, were tortured and killed at Zee Pin Twin and Htoo villages on July 26 and 27.
The NUG has already reported the junta massacres in Kani to the UN Security Council in August.
U Aung Myo Min told The Irrawaddy last month that willful killing, torture of unarmed civilians and the intentional, excessive use of force constitute war crimes.
Nineteen people, including resistance fighters, were murdered by junta forces in Mingin Township in July.
Eleven out of 57 detained members of the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) were reportedly killed by junta forces in detention, according to the rights ministry.
A junta massacre, leaving more than 40 civilians dead, including several children, was reported in Depayin Township in early July.
During the raids on villages, junta forces used artillery against civilian targets and reportedly opened fire on villagers fleeing for the forests.
In the massacre, six wounded resistance fighters, left behind by retreating civilian combatants, were shot in the head by the soldiers.
Villagers were also shot dead by junta troops the next day when they returned to look for the dead and wounded.
At the time a villager told The Irrawaddy that looting civilian property and shooting at fleeing civilians were human rights violations.
After the declaration of the people’s war against the junta by the NUG on September 7, junta forces have escalated inspections and arrests but also violence and raids, including burning down villages across the country, especially in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Kayah State.
Meanwhile, the PDFs across the country have stepped up operations targeting junta forces and junta-owned telecom masts.
By Saturday, 1,080 people had been killed by junta forces across the country, the AAPP said.
Almost 8,050 people, including elected government leaders, have been detained by the junta or face arrest warrants.
Despite seven months of harrowing violence and state-sponsored atrocities perpetrated with impunity against innocent civilians, the people have not lost sight of their unwavering commitment to dismantle the junta. On Tuesday, 7 September the acting President of the National Unity Government (NUG), Duwa Lashi Li, declared war against the Myanmar armed forces. ‘D-Day’ has been well received by civilians who have been suffering under the military’s rule for months. Even with the anticipated increase in violence and further risks civilians face, it seems the majority agree that “there is nothing worse than life under military rule.” The NUG encouraged people to stock up on food, medicine and to only travel if necessary – in anticipation of increased check points by the military.
In response, Zaw Min Tun, the junta spokesperson accused the NUG of appealing to the international community in anticipation of the 76th session of the UN General Assembly on 14 September. Countries in attendance must decide which authority is the representative of Myanmar in the meetings to come.
The decision by the NUG is significant as it shows defiance not only against the junta, but also to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other international bodies who have failed in their obligations in relation to the human rights situation in Myanmar. Prior to D-Day, the ASEAN Special Envoy had called for a four-month ceasefire to allow for the flow of humanitarian aid – which the junta hastily agreed to. The NUG questioned the ceasefire agreement which was seemingly brokered between the junta – without any consultation of the NUG or the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH). The Myanmar Army has a history of regularly violating ceasefire agreements.
Fighting has already intensified in urban and rural areas against the junta’s military forces. In Yangon, as pharmacies and shops flooded with customers ‘panic buying’ military jets flew over the city and soldiers took defensive positions in several shopping malls.
Several ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and People’s Defence Forces (PDF) expressed their commitment to the nationwide offensive against the junta including the Chin Defense Forces, the Kachin Independence Army and the Karen National Union. The Mandalay Student Union also expressed enthusiastic support of the uprising by vowing to be at the forefront of the fight against the junta.
The Myanmar junta has killed over 100 civilians in Chin State since the coup including 14 children and seven women. The regime has also refused to return the bodies of at least seven to grieving families. The Chin National Organization has been documenting human rights and has called on the UN to take action for crimes against humanity. Religious buildings continue to be destroyed by the junta across the country. Junta troops looted and destroyed a church and a Buddhist monastery in Mindat Township.
Since the NUG declared war on the junta, Chin defense forces have warned their communities against the onslaught of increasing violence.
Karenni State has been plagued by mounting state-wide violence. According to the Progressive Karenni People Force (PKPF), there have been sixty-clashes between the junta and Karenni resistance groups since the coup. This has resulted in 83 civilian casualties which includes members of the People’s Defense Forces, and IDPs. PKPF adds that 120 others have been abducted and over 120 000 internally displaced.
Four junta soldiers were killed in an ambush by the Karenni Army (KA) and Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) in Demawso Township on 7 September. Reports are once again circulating of an increase in violence anticipated since D-Day was declared.
In Pekon Township, southern Shan State, a couple was forced by the junta to walk in front of the regime and guide them. They were used as human shields to protect themselves in any ambush by People’s Defense Forces. This is becoming a more common occurrence as civilians are trapped in the crossfire and left without any choice but to obey the soldiers commands.
On 1 September, the Myanmar junta launched an offensive against the Pekon People’s Defence Force and the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force.
By THE IRRAWADDY 10 September 2021
More than 20 junta troops, including a high-ranking officer, were reportedly killed on Thursday and Friday during ambushes by People’s Defense Forces (PDF) across the country, with the most fatalities in Yangon and Magwe regions. Dozens of civilian casualties were also reported in junta crackdowns.
On Thursday morning, the Karen National Union seized two military camps in Karen State.
Three junta soldiers, including a deputy battalion commander, were reportedly killed in Sanchaung Township, Yangon Region, on Thursday when PDF volunteers attacked a military vehicle.
Following the attack, junta soldiers in around 10 vehicles blocked roads in the township. A video showed soldiers opening fire at random and swearing at a roadblock in Sanchaung. The area was still surrounded by the military on Friday.
Myanmar has seen growing violence between junta troops and PDFs after the declaration of a people’s war against the regime by the civilian National Unity Government (NUG).
When declaring a state of emergency on Tuesday, the NUG’s acting president Duwa Lashi La called on all people to “revolt against the rule of the military terrorists” led by coup leader Min Aung Hlaing across the country.
Since the declaration, the military regime has been escalating inspections, arrests and raids while PDFs have stepped up attacks.
At least 15 to 20 junta soldiers were reportedly killed in Kyaukhtu in Magwe Region on Thursday morning in a PDF landmine attack on four military vehicles, according to the PDF.
More than 22 civilians, including PDF members, were killed and others wounded by junta forces in Magwe Region and Chin and Kayah states on Thursday.
On Friday morning, an intense shootout between junta troops and the Gangaw PDF in Magwe Region occurred in Hnan Khar village on the Kale highway, which connects Magwe and Sagaing regions, according to the group’s leader.
On Thursday junta troops torched more than 20 houses in Myintha village in Gangaw Township after several resistance attacks on the Gangaw-Kalay highway.
During the raid, 22 teenage villagers who fought back with homemade firearms were killed by junta troops, according to a resident.
Also on Thursday, four civilians, including a nine-month-old baby, were injured in random junta shooting after being attacked by civilian Chinland Defense Force at the Chin State mountaintop town of Thantlang.
Houses were damaged by the gunfire and another was blown up by junta explosives, according to residents.
In response to PDF attacks in Demoso Township, Kayah State, troops used explosives and shot at random in the town’s residential areas on Thursday.
A woman was killed and four others injured by junta explosives in Bawlakhe Township, Kayah State, on Thursday when junta troops used explosives on farmers near Nan Hpe village, according to the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force.
A firefight between Laungon PDF and the Pyu-Saw-Htee militia, which is trained and armed by the junta, was reported at Launglon Township, Tanintharyi Region, on Friday morning.
In the shootout, junta-appointed village administrator U Zaw Myo Oo, also a Pyu-Saw-Htee commander, was killed and other members were injured, the PDF leader told The Irrawaddy.
Myanmar’s junta is also being attacked by ethnic armed groups in Kachin, Shan, Kayah, Mon and Karen states and Sagaing and Tanintharyi regions.
By Thursday, almost 1,060 people had been killed by the junta forces, according to the advocacy group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
More than 7,990 people, including elected government leaders, have been detained by the junta or face arrest warrants.
Myanmar junta soldiers are steadily abandoning their posts with the regime and choosing to stand with the people alongside the Spring Revolution. Approximately 2000 soldiers have defected since the coup with the highest ranked defector being an army colonel. The National Unity Government (NUG) has offered to provide protection for junta defectors. Many of those who are leaving the Tatmadaw say that they are ‘ashamed’ to have been affiliated with the murderous regime. While the number is seemingly low considering the size of the Tatmadaw, it is significant because this is a new precedent in the country’s armed struggle.
Freedom of expression and subsequent attacks on the press continue to dilute the environment of free speech in Myanmar. Journalists like Danny Fenster, the managing editor at Frontier Myanmar, have been unlawfully detained without reason for over 100 days. His family has appealed for his release and the many other political prisoners who remain in junta custody. Since the coup, laws have been amended by the military to attempt to justify their attacks on the press. Among these include the Penal Code which has been used against journalists. One-hundred journalists have been arrested, with 46 in prison who are subject to harassment, torture, severe beatings and psychological warfare. In ethnic areas, the impacts of censorship are being felt as Hpakant township in Kachin State surpasses two weeks since the Internet shutdown.
South Korea voiced its support for democracy in Myanmar and openly rejected the junta and endorsed the National Unity Government. South Korean officials also called for an end to the military’s human rights violations and unlawful arrests. Meanwhile, the National League for Democracy continues to face outlandish charges by the junta. Senior officials who have been detained, including ousted State Counselor and regional state officials. If found guilty, they could face up to 15 years in prison. Families have called the situation ‘unbelievable’ as deaths, arrests and raids by the junta are ongoing.
Civilian assaults are ongoing where Sagaing region in particular is targeted with mounting violence, intimidation and threats by the junta. Thousands of residents from ten villages in Tanze, Sagaing fled following an invasion by the military. Property was destroyed and several were arrested in their clearance operations. Since the raid, four civilians have been killed, three disappeared and 12 arrested in Tanze Township. In a separate incident in Mon State, a 27 year old pregnant woman was shot and killed while returning home with her husband who was fishing. The firing was seemingly indiscriminate and indicative of the impunity deeply entrenched in the Myanmar junta.
Religious monuments and places of worship outside the Buddhist faith are being targeted in Chin State where 95% of the population is Christian. Churches continue to be violently destroyed and looted, including hymn books and scriptures. During raids in Chin State over the last week, the junta stole valuables, destroyed homes and looted valuables in Mindat and Falam townships in Chin State. According to local residents, 50 of the 55 homes in Wa Kauk village were raided.
The Myanmar junta has sent in more reinforcements to Karen State, which has put civilian livelihoods at risk as clashes fuel further uncertainty. Following the increase in troops, weapons and supplies, security forces clashed with the Karen National Union. The combined threat of fighting with Karen armed groups, the junta and Border Guard Force has forced residents to run to find safety, though the fears they face are a looming threat over their security. A villager who had escaped three times said: “What else can we do? We are afraid of being caught in the shooting.”
Military casualties and hundreds of civilians have been forced to flee Lashio in northern Shan State. Clashes have been intensifying in the region since the end of August. More than 800 civilians are sheltering in Mongko Township, with at least 17 junta troops killed in the crossfire. A local source remarked that the military fires heavy artillery, and the local civilians don’t see it coming. Four civilians were killed during the heavy exchange of gunfire, and a Ta’ang village was burnt down.
In addition seventeen Myanmar Army soldiers were found in Muse District in an abandoned area. Two women were also found, deceased and with evidence of gunshot wounds.