Refugees who met with Michelle Bachelet in southeastern Bangladesh said she told them Myanmar was unstable.
UPDATED at 7:50 p.m. EDT on 8-16-22
U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet advised Rohingya to wait for repatriation because the present situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state is not stable, according to refugees who met with her at camps in southeastern Bangladesh on Tuesday.
Bachelet spent the day holding separate talks with Rohingya leaders, women, youth and religious representatives in camps along the border with Myanmar, as part of the first-ever visit to Bangladesh by a United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Bachelet will be finishing her job in that role when her term expires on Aug. 31.
Reporters were not allowed into Bachelet’s meetings with the Rohingya.
Amena Khatun, one of nine Rohingya women who participated in one of the meetings, said they discussed gender-based violence.
“The High Commissioner asked us why we came here. In reply, we said we came here to save our lives from torture. We want to return to our homeland if we can have citizenship,” Khatun told BenarNews.
Kamrun Nesa, another participant in the women’s meeting, said she and others called for compensation for a crackdown by Myanmar’s military against Rohingya Muslims that forced nearly 750,000 members of the stateless minority group to flee across the border and seek shelter, starting in August 2017.
The sprawling Rohingya camps and settlements in Cox’s Bazar house about 1 million refugees from Rakhine state.
“Expressing my will to return to my Rakhine home, I said to the High Commissioner that I took shelter in Bangladesh five times [while] fleeing from Myanmar. Bangladesh has given us shelter on its land, but we are living here as prisoners,” Nesa told BenarNews, referring to a Bangladeshi government policy that prohibits Rohingya from venturing outside the confines of the camps.
“In reply, Bachelet said the situation in Rakhine is not stable now, so until the situation is normal, sending us there will not be wise,” she said, adding Bachelet told her that the United Nations would have a role in supervising repatriation.
Bachelet did not immediately release a statement after her four-hour visit to Cox’s Bazar district.
Since she landed in Dhaka on Sunday morning, she has met with the country’s foreign, law, home, and education ministers, and is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday before holding a press conference to mark the end of her visit.
Jamil, who participated in the meeting with religious leaders in Cox’s Bazar, told BenarNews that the high commissioner asked them about stopping violence and other unethical activities in the camps.
“We replied to her that religious leaders were always advising people to keep away from bad activities,” he said.
His group also raised concerns about repatriation.
Jamil said he and others called for repatriation under Responsibility to Protect – known as R2P – an “international norm that seeks to ensure that the international community never again fails to halt the mass atrocity crimes of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
The concept emerged in response to mass atrocities in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, according to the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect.
“She asked us to wait for everything,” Jamil said.
Access to education
Other Rohingya expressed worries about a lack of access to education for their children.
Hafez Khurshid, who attended the meeting of religious leaders, said law and order efforts would improve if access to education for all Rohingya boys and girls was ensured.
He said 10- to 12-year-olds do not have access to education inside the camps.
“We demanded at least religious education for them,” he said.
The future is dark for young people because of the lack of learning programs, according to Abdul Aziz, a Rohingya youth leader.
“I asked her [Bachelet] to take steps to start arranging education for Rohingya refugees under the Myanmar curriculum,” he said.
Shah Rezwan Hayat, Bangladesh’s commissioner for refugee relief and repatriation, said his delegation and U.N. officials discussed relief efforts for Rohingya along with repatriation. He did not release details about the discussions.
Low trust in junta
On Aug. 10, the Myanmar military junta in Rakhine state announced on social media that it would accept Rohingya refugees back to Bangladesh, and the state’s attorney general Hla Thein told RFA that authorities had a list of 500,000 Rohingya refugees and was set to begin accepting them back at a rate of 150 per day next month.
Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh accused the junta of acting in bad faith as it faces a trial for crimes against humanity at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
“We have questions as to whether they are doing it in good faith,” said Khin Maung, Director of the Rohingya Youth Association.
“They are doing this to deceive the international community,” he told RFA.
Ali Jaina, a Rohingya refugee from the Baluhali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, he is ready to return if he is given full rights, including citizenship, a return to his orginal home, and compensation for lost property.
“If these conditions are met, we are ready to return. With their (current) policy, there is no reason for us to return.”
Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen told BenarNews that Dhaka has not heard from Myanmar about the refugees for several months.
“I don’t know what they mean about 500,000 Rohingyas. I do not understand what they are talking about with the number, when we had already shared the names of 840,000 Rohingyas,” the minister said.
Nur Khan Liton, a prominent human rights defender, said trusting Myanmar’s claim is tough as they breached agreements several times earlier.
Although most Rohingyas want to return to their home as soon as possible with dignity, there is a high risk of sending them to Rakhine at this time when several armed groups are active there.
“You cannot put any life in danger, even while they are already vulnerable,” he said.
Figures released by the group suggest that Myanmar’s post-coup humanitarian crisis is rapidly escalating
Recent military operations in Mon State and Bago Region have displaced more than 150,000 people, according to a statement released by the Karen National Union (KNU) on Sunday.
Heavy shelling by regime forces in Mon State’s Thaton District and Bago Region’s Nyaunglebin Township, which are under the control of KNU brigades 1 and 3, respectively, has forced a total of 154,866 civilians in these areas to flee their homes, the statement claimed.
If correct, these numbers represent a dramatic escalation of the humanitarian crisis in eastern Myanmar and other parts of the country that have seen strong resistance to last year’s coup.
According to figures released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on July 31, the military takeover and its aftermath have produced more than 866,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) nationwide.
Combined with the number of people displaced by pre-coup conflicts, this brings the current number of IDPs in the country to more than 1.2m, according to OCHA’s estimates.
In its statement, the KNU said that there were also large numbers of IDPs in its territory in Karen (Kayin) State, especially in Mutraw (Hpapun) District and Myawaddy Township.
However, exact figures were not available, it added.
According to the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), the military has also been obstructing efforts to assist IDPs by preventing groups and individuals from transporting supplies to people in need.
“It’s a huge human rights violation to prevent civilians from receiving humanitarian aid. So many of the IDPs’ basic rights are being violated and they have no security at all,” said KHRG spokesperson Saw Nandar Htoo.
Local humanitarian aid organisations say that basic necessities such as food and shelter are in short supply.
It was unclear how many civilian casualties there have been from the junta’s indiscriminate shelling, but last Wednesday, there was one confirmed death in Htoe Wah Sike, a village in Nyaunglebin Township.
The victim, a 52-year-old woman named San Oo, suffered multiple injuries after a shell landed on her home, sources said. She died at the hospital later the same day.
The regime has also carried out numerous airstrikes against the KNU and its allies in the area, resulting in civilian deaths and mass displacement, local sources have reported.
Eighteen people are found dead after a prolonged Myanmar army assault on a Yinmabin Township village involving airstrikes, a ground offensive and days of occupation
Content warning: This report contains a graphic image of human remains
The remains of 18 people, including the body of a 10-year-old girl, were found in a village in Myanmar’s heartland this week following three days of occupation by the military, according to locals and members of resistance groups active in the area.
In one of the most violent and prolonged assaults by the junta’s forces in recent days, regime troops besieged the village of Yin Paung Taing in southern Sagaing Region’s Yinmabin Township on Thursday afternoon. The attack started with the launch of airstrikes from three Mi-35 fighter jets and continued as some 60 soldiers were dropped from three helicopters to carry out a ground offensive, stationing themselves in a village monastery until Sunday morning, residents told Myanmar Now.
Locals and resistance fighters who returned to Yin Paung Taing after the troops had left initially found the bodies of 12 slain civilians, all of whom they were able to identify. As the search for casualties continued on Monday, six more people were found dead, and at the time of reporting, their identities were not confirmed.
Nine of the first 12 bodies had wounds that appeared to have been caused by light and heavy weaponry, according to a 40-year-old man who was involved in the search for his neighbours.
A burned house smoulders following the military’s three-day raid on Yin Paung Taing (Myanmar Now)
Among the victims were two children: 10-year-old Khine Khine Win and 17-year-old Thaw Bhone Naing. There were also five men between the ages of 24 and 73, and two women, aged 45 and 52. Six of the 18 people who were killed—including Khine Khine Win—had suffered burns.
Two other elderly women, both aged 85, are believed to have died of starvation as they hid in the village during the raid.
A 67-year-old man also died from respiratory issues while fleeing the junta attack, the local man who spoke to Myanmar Now said.
By the time that many of the bodies were found, they had decomposed to the point where they could not be moved and had to be cremated on-site.
“They must have been dead since August 11, so it was impossible to pick up their bodies,” the man recalled. “Even cows, dogs and horses were shot by artillery. The whole village was torn down.”
“The village felt like a cemetery and the smell of rotten flesh was everywhere,” he said.
The body of a villager killed in the military attack on Yin Paung Taing (Myanmar Now)
Ambush from above
Yin Paung Taing, which has a population of nearly 3,000, is located 10 miles south of the town of Yinmabin. The three fighter jets which launched the airstrikes on the village came from Monywa, a city around 35 miles east of Yin Paung Taing across the Chindwin River, and where the junta’s Northwestern Military Command is located.
On the day of the assault, a market fair had been taking place in the village, drawing crowds and making it difficult for those present to immediately flee the air attacks, according to one man who managed to flee to safety.
“One helicopter dropped off soldiers at the entrance of the village and the other two hovered around the village and relentlessly fired from the left and the right. Some people escaped. Some didn’t,” he said.
A map showing the location of Yin Paung Taing in southern Sagaing Region
The man recalled that the military aircraft appeared soon after around 80 resistance fighters travelling from neighbouring Chin State had stopped at the village to rest on the afternoon of August 11. He speculated that the Myanmar army had received intel regarding the guerrilla force’s movements and that its members had likely been the target of the attack.
“The jets hovered around the place where members of that group were having lunch and they opened fire on that area, so I think someone must have informed the military that they would be here,” he explained.
He told Myanmar Now that he narrowly escaped the air assault on Thursday afternoon with his wife, teenage daughter and young son. He described how he carried the boy—a toddler—in one arm and held his wife’s hand with the other as they ran upon hearing the sound of incoming jets.
“I held up my son tightly and covered him with my body so that he would not get shot,” he said, adding that the family had no time to gather any belongings.
He left his son and wife under a tree outside the village and returned to locate his daughter and bring her to safety.
An animal killed in the Yin Paung Taing village raid (Myanmar Now)
Those who remained trapped in Yin Paung Taing during the raid were among the community’s most vulnerable residents, including the sick and elderly, many of whom were injured in the siege and held hostage by the military.
Bala, a member of the Yinmabin-based Young Ranger Force, said that fighters from at least 10 local resistance groups—including his—tried to rescue as many civilians as possible, but were overwhelmed by the number of wounded.
“Some of the people were hit by the fragments of walls and windows that had been blasted apart by the shells dropped from the jets,” he explained. “Some had their legs broken and some were even hit right in the head with the shells. We were able to rescue some of them but we had to leave some behind out of desperation.”
He said that the members of the resistance coalition managed to guide the Chin fighters to safety before the junta troops airlifted into Yin Paung Taing had set up posts and began firing artillery into the surrounding area.
Vehicles destroyed in the military attack on Yin Paung Taing (Myanmar Now)
On the following day, August 12, the local defence forces attacked the occupying military column, which responded with airstrikes. Resistance fighters turned their fire to the junta aircrafts hovering over the area.
When the Myanmar army soldiers left Yin Paung Taing at around 6am on Sunday, they released the women and elderly residents who they had held captive, but took 24 men with them as hostages.
As the troops—accompanied by some 70 pro-junta militia members—headed west, a fighter jet fired at villages in their path to “clear” the area in preparation for the military column’s departure, according to members of local defence forces. Hundreds of residents reportedly fled from the communities of Pu Htoe Thar and Mon Thwin, both located along the road travelled by the junta forces.
By Tuesday, the column had arrived in the village of Chin Pyit, less than 10 miles from Yin Paung Taing and located in neighbouring Pale Township. There they torched multiple homes, according to locals.
At the time of reporting, it was not known if the hostages from Yin Paung Taing were still alive.
A map showing township border between Yinmabin and Pale, an area that includes Yin Paung Taing and Chin Pyit
Displaced residents largely returned to Yin Paung Taing on Monday, noting that the destruction of the village was extensive, and included severe damage to the Buddhist community hall.
At least 15 motorcycles and one truck, as well as two vehicle repair garages, were also destroyed.
Yin Paung Taing was first raided in September of last year in an attack that left one civilian dead and seven beaten and tortured, according to the 40-year-old resident who recounted the most recent assault to Myanmar Now.
The military has carried out frequent aerial attacks on multiple Sagaing Region resistance strongholds, including the townships of Ayadaw, Depayin, Myinmu and Ye-U.
Bala, from the Young Ranger Force, explained that although resistance groups have often been able to fend off ground offensives by the Myanmar army, they continue to struggle when confronted with air power.
“We are not afraid to face them on the ground but we still have to flee when they launch airstrikes,” he said. “The jets flew so low while shooting at us. At least if we had anti-aircraft weapons we could fire back.”
Sources say Tabayin, Ye-U and Ayadaw have been pounded by air and by land.
UPDATED at 7:58 p.m. EDT on 2022-08-11
Myanmar’s military pounded the Sagaing townships of Tabayin, Ye-U and Ayadaw with a third day of attacks by air and land, residents and anti-junta fighters said Thursday, following a vow by the junta to restore the embattled region “to its original state.”
Sources in Ye-U township told RFA Burmese that the military used helicopters to strike the village of Kaing Kan three separate times on Wednesday after engaging with anti-junta People’s Defense Force paramilitaries and suffering heavy losses.
“They were shooting from two Mi-35 combat helicopters. They mainly fired at places where people were fleeing the war, like monasteries and schools,” said a resident of Kaing Kan, who declined to be named for security reasons. “There were many injured.”
“Earlier, there was an armed clash between a local PDF unit and junta forces somewhere between Ywar Meik Thar village and Kaing Kan village. About 30 soldiers who got separated from the column were killed in the clash, and that’s when they began the attack from the air.”
The resident said several people were trapped in Kaing Kan during the airstrikes and their status remains unclear.
The air raids on Kaing Kan followed military attacks from Aug. 8-10 on Su Tat village in nearby Tabayin township, where a resident told RFA his was among around 500 homes destroyed by troop arson.
“The adults are very much depressed. Some women were crying and laughing, going crazy. As for the men, their spirits are quite low. They have lost houses and everything, which they had built with their life savings,” said the resident, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“Everything has turned to ashes. The feeling is indescribable. The army that is supposed to protect the country is burning villages. It is so mean and despicable. It wouldn’t be so bad if they had taken away all the things in the houses. Burning the houses leaves nothing for us.”
The resident said this was the second time that the military had set fire to his village since a raid in June, when 165 homes were razed.
Representatives of the three-township Ayadaw-Myinmu-Chaung-U Revolutionary Alliance of PDF units said eight of their men were killed in a clash when they encountered junta troops near Ayadaw’s Kan Yin village on their way to Myinmu.
Sai Htoo of Ayadaw Township PDF said the deaths were among a number of casualties on both sides during nonstop clashes in recent days.
“The other day, the military killed eight of our men who had joined a meeting with the Ayadaw-Myinmu-Chaung-U Revolutionary Alliance. They were brutally murdered — put in a car and the car was blown up,” he said.
“There’s been fighting every day lately and there were casualties on both sides. They are attacking us from the ground as well as from above. They’re increasingly relying on airpower.”
Sources in Sagaing told RFA that fighting in the region since Aug. 8 had forced more than 12,000 civilians from nearly two dozen villages to flee their homes.
A report by the Irrawaddy online news journal said that at least 29 civilians and PDF fighters have been killed in junta raids from Aug. 1-8 on Tabayin, Myinmu, and Monywa townships.
Attempts by RFA to contact junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun and the junta’s spokesman in Sagaing Aye Hlaing for comment on the situation in the region went unanswered Thursday.
Region under attack
Earlier this week, junta chief Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said in an address that Sagaing has seen the most clashes of any region in the country since the military assumed control of Myanmar in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup, with 4,026. He vowed that the military will “restore the region to its original state,” without providing details.
Nay Zin Lat, a former Sagaing lawmaker, said he expects fighting there to intensify now that the military is focusing its efforts on the region.
“I heard that they are sending reinforcements to many townships in Sagaing region that are militarily important,” he said, noting that there has been an uptick in troop movements in Kanbalu township.
“I’m sure the fighting will become more intense very soon. There will be more frequent confrontations. The local civil defense forces will have to protect their families and relatives when junta troops come raiding and burning their villages. The more the troops act [this way], the more confrontations there will be.”
Residents of Sagaing told RFA that internet bandwidth has been reduced and, in some cases, entirely cut off in the region since March of this year.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs announced on Aug. 3 that 866,000 people had joined the ranks of Myanmar’s refugees since the coup, bringing the total number to more than 1.2 million, or more than 2% of the country’s population of 54.4 million.
Of the new refugees, some 470,000 were forced to flee their homes in Sagaing, where clashes between junta troops and the armed opposition are among the deadliest and most frequent in the nation.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
Updated to include local media reports on the number of dead.
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to the name of the village targeted by the military as Kone Thar. The village is named Kaing Kan.
August 9, 2022
At present, news on prison conditions in the country is under a blackout. The outside world is likely unaware of the real situation inside prisons – of human rights violations, torture, and murder.
Monitoring Inside Prisons by Military Security Affairs Forces and Police
The terrorist junta have ordered Military Security Affairs Forces (SAF) and police forces, to directly manage the prisons, as well as closely monitor the prisoners with strict rules to prevent information from getting out.
Prisons Visits Banned
In many of the places, including Yangon, and Obo (Mandalay) Prison, political prisoners have been denied visitation access by relatives since the terrorist junta seized power. As a result, prisoners are deprived of food, medicine and of contact with the outside.
Transfer of Political Prisoners to Different Prisons; Torture and Extortion
During the month, political prisoners have also been transferred to other prisons. In Monywa Prison, political prisoners were transfered twice in July and August, to Myingyan Prison, Nyaung Oo Prison, and Shwe Bo Prison. We also know that on August 5, more than 120 political prisoners from Insein Prison were transferred to Tharrawaddy Prison.
Last July, around 100 political prisoners from Hpa-an Prison were transferred to other places, including Insein Prison. Among the political prisoners transferred, members of the Hpa-an Student Union were beaten and tortured on a daily basis.
In Magway Prison, political prisoners were beaten daily without reason, both the family members and prisoners faced challenges because they were not informed before of the transfer to another prison.
Political prisoners are also forced to do hard work such as carrying sewage and sacks of rice. In addition, they are beaten by a group of other prisoners without cause, until they were severely injured and made to sleep near the putrid sewage. If political prisoners refuse to do this, there are unfair demands like how much money they must pay. Whilst criminal prisoners are ordered to beat political prisoners.
Increased COVID-19 Infections Within Prisons
Increasing numbers of prisoners are catching COVID-19, they are being isolated without medical treatment. Around 50 political prisoners are infected in Obo Prison. Since they are not allowed to see relatives, they find it difficult to get medicine and food. At least three political prisoners are in serious pain and life-threatening condition.
Political prisoners who have been sentenced to death, as well as families, are concerned, they are victims of severe mental stress following the execution of four political prisoners including two prominent activists. Particularly since the terrorist junta force’s announcement that “more death row prisoners are to be executed”. Following this, there have been reports that political prisoners in some prisons are on hunger strike.
We are particularly concerned about the danger to these lives due to solitary confinement, and the severe beatings of political prisoners. There is, therefore, an urgent need to reveal the true situation. AAPP has been told that since a hunger strike in Obo Prison on August 4 and August 5, two gunshots were heard from the prison. Families of the detained are worried.
We, AAPP, strongly condemn these human rights violations, torture, and killings concealed within the prisons. We urge the United Nations, international governments, human rights organizations monitoring the political situation, the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as ASEAN member states to demand the genuine prison conditions, as well as take action to prevent such targetted and widespread human rights violations.
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)
Download link for statement 08.09 Statement on Current Situations in Prisons_AAPP_9 August 2022
Victims of the attacks include an 80-year-old woman found burned to death after failing to escape.
Junta forces stepped up their attacks in Myanmar’s hard-hit Sagaing region in the first week of August, torching nearly 500 homes in 10 villages and causing at least 5,000 people to flee, local sources said.
The attacks in Sagaing’s Tabayin and Ayadaw townships included air raids and ground assaults and appeared especially to target large and well-built homes, but houses were burned in every village through which troops passed, one source said.
Around 180 out of nearly 200 homes were destroyed on Aug. 4 in Tabayin’s Kaing Kan village alone, one resident told RFA on Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
“Troops entered the village at 9:00 am, burning down the bigger and nicer houses as they came in. But houses have been burned down in every village that they entered,” RFA’s source said.
“They think that anti-junta resistance will stop when the people are repressed and have to struggle for their living instead of engaging in opposition activities. I believe that this repression will fail, though,” he added.
Locals said that four bodies, including the body of a woman, were discovered near a drain outside Kaing Kan village following the attack but had not yet been identified.
In Ayadaw township’s Min Ywa Gyi village, heavy shelling by junta forces preceded the burning of homes during weekend attacks, one village resident said on Monday, also declining to be named because of safety concerns.
“The [ruling] Military Council set fire to the houses. This is their usual tactic,” he said. “The troops came by helicopter, shelled the village with heavy artillery and then burned the houses.
“As far as I could see yesterday, no fewer than 200 houses had been burned down,” he added.
Myanmar military forces are at war with People’s Defense Force (PDF) units created to oppose junta rule, “but instead they are destroying civilians’ lives and homes, which isn’t fair,” he said.
Woman burned to death
Local sources said that Daw Shin, an 80-year-old woman, was found burned to death in Min Yaw Gyi after failing to escape the military raid and that local defense groups were busy Sunday clearing landmines left behind by junta troops, with those displaced by the fighting seeking shelter in a nearby monastery and with charity associations.
Calls seeking comment from a Military Council spokesman rang unanswered Monday. But a member of Tapayin township’s People’s Defense Force told RFA that the more junta forces repress the local people, the more the people will fight against junta rule.
“We are not scared by these brutalities,” he said. “If there were 100 people resisting before, 300 people will come out now, and the more violent the junta troops become, the more the people will rise up against them.”
Also speaking to RFA, Nay Zin Lat—a regional MP from Kanbalu township for the National League for Democracy, which was overthrown in a Feb. 1, 2021 military coup—said that military leaders are trying to rule Myanmar’s people through fear.
“They are limited in their ability to attack the PDF forces on the ground, so when they find they can’t do it, they just torture the local civilians, who have nothing to do with the PDFs.
“By doing this, they are trying to cut local contacts with the PDFs and spread fear among the people so that they will end their support for the fighters. This is the cruelest treatment imaginable,” he said.