Human Rights Situation weekly update (May 22 to 31, 2023)

Human Rights Violations took place in States and Regions from May 22 to 31, 2023

Military Junta troops launched an airstrike, heavy artillery attacked, and dropped bombs in Sagaing Region, Kayin State, and Shan State from May 22nd to 31st. Civilian houses and buildings were destroyed by 500lb highly explosive bombs and attacking heavy and light artillery. The head of the Prison who works for the Military Junta beat and tortured the political prisoners from Myingyan Prison from Mandalay Region, Thayarwady Prison from Bago Region, and Kyaiksagaw Prison as a result some died by being held in solitary confinement. 3 civilians were burned and killed within a week by the Military Junta’s soldiers.

8 civilians including an under-age child were tortured and killed under interrogation by the Junta troop in Kawthaung, Tanintharyi Region. 5 youths were shot and killed on the road No, 2 near Economic University, Ywathagyi, and arrested 16 youths in Sanchaung Township, Yangon Region.  SNA under the Military Junta command, is threatening the civilians, forcing and recruiting new soldiers in Banmauk Township, Sagaing Region.

Rapper to be imprisoned for complaining about power cuts

A relative has confirmed that hip-hop artist Byu Har will be sent to Yangon’s notorious Insein Prison to face charges of incitement

Hip-hop artist Byu Har will be sent to Yangon’s Insein Prison next month for criticising Myanmar’s junta on social media, according to a relative.

The 38-year-old rapper, who was arrested on May 23 for complaining about frequent power outages in the country since the regime seized power more than two years ago, will be transferred to the prison on June 10, the relative said.

He is currently being held at the North Dagon Township Police Station, where he has been since his arrest at his home in the township’s Ward 48 more than a week ago.

He was remanded there on May 29 on charges of incitement under Section 505a of the Penal Code. He faces up to three years in prison if found guilty.

The relative told Myanmar Now that Byu Har is in good health, contrary to claims made on a pro-junta social media account that he had died while undergoing interrogation.

“He no longer has the injuries that he had in the photo of his arrest that was posted online. He’s in good health and is only facing one Section 505a charge. That’s all we know for now,” said the relative, who did not want to be identified by name.

The propaganda page that claimed Byu Har was dead had also called for his arrest after he posted his criticism of the regime online.

He also faced similar calls in April, when junta backers urged the regime to arrest him for saying on Facebook that he would not be performing during the annual Thingyan water festival, which has been widely boycotted since the military takeover in February 2021.

On the evening of May 29, regime forces also raided the home of Byu Har’s father, songwriter Naing Myanmar. After failing to find him, they detained his wife at the local police station, but released her later that night, sources said.

Naing Myanmar is best known for his pro-democracy anthem “Kabar Ma Kyay Bu,” written during the 1988 uprising against military rule. Based on the melody of “Dust in the Wind,” by American rock band Kansas, it was widely sung at anti-coup protests held two years ago.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a total of 22,737 people have been arrested for opposing the regime, of whom 18,417 are still in detention.

Byu Har at the time of his arrest, in a photo that was widely circulated on pro-junta social media pages

Myanmar Now News

Intense clashes in Myanmar’s Chin, Shan states leave 19 dead

Four civilians, including an 11-year-old, were killed by heavy artillery and airstrikes.

Intense fighting between the military and anti-junta forces in Myanmar’s Chin and Shan states since the weekend left 19 dead, including four civilians, RFA Burmese has learned. 

The clashes, which killed an 11-year-old boy and left a dozen civilians injured, are the latest to erupt in two areas known as hotbeds of resistance to military rule since the Feb. 1, 2021, coup d’etat.

Salai James, the chairman of the anti-junta Zofe Chin Defense Force, told RFA that a battle broke out between his paramilitaries and military troops in the Chin townships of Hakha and Thantlang on May 28.

Over the course of two days, he said, junta troops fired heavy artillery on CDF positions with support from four fighter jets and a military helicopter.

“The junta’s heavy artillery hit the edge of Hakah town, which is close to their artillery base,” Salai James said. “Eleven anti-junta fighters have been killed by their airstrikes so far, but we haven’t been able to retrieve all of their bodies yet as we are still fighting.”

The bodies of only seven of the 11 dead CDF fighters had been retrieved as of Tuesday, he added.

A Hakha CDF official, who declined to be named for security reasons, said that the fighting is “continuing to intensify” as the junta forces seek to regain territory between Hakha and Thantlang, which is currently controlled by a joint force of Chin defense groups.

“They haven’t been able to operate safely in Hakha and Thantlang – that’s why they regularly attack those areas,” he said. “When their ground troops can’t beat the resistance forces, they use their air power to attack us.”

Undated photos of anti-junta medics who died in junta attacks, from left; Angela, John Bosco, Caroline Khine Lin and Mya Htwe. Credit: Karenni Revolutionary Union

Fighting between the two sides continued on Tuesday, residents of the two townships said.

Since the coup, the junta has launched nearly 80 aerial attacks on Chin state, killing 64 people, including members of anti-junta local defense forces, according to a May 22 statement issued by the Institute of Chin Affairs.

Shan fighting

Fierce fighting also was reported in eastern Shan state, when a joint force of ethnic Karenni resistance groups battled junta troops in the townships of Pekon and Pinlaung, according to anti-junta groups.

On May 27, junta troops “randomly fired heavy artillery” into Pinlaung’s Moe Bye village in an attack against members of the anti-junta Moe Bye People’s Defense Forces, killing an 11-year-old boy and injuring four civilians, Banyar, the director of the Karenni Human Rights Organization said Tuesday.

“This kind of attack isn’t a one-off occurrence – the junta plans and attacks this way in many different places, knowingly firing at the civilian population,” he said. “This is not only a war crime but also a crime against humanity.”

The Moe Bye PDF confirmed details of the battle, which was fought intermittently from May 27-29, in a statement issued on Monday.

Additionally, four medics from an anti-junta unit based in neighboring Kayah state’s Demoso township were killed while treating the injured during the fighting in Shan state, the Karenni Revolutionary Union rebel group said in a statement on Sunday.

The dead included Caroline Khine Lin, Angela, Mya Htwe and John Bosco – all between the ages of 17 and 23, the KRU said.

Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing oversees a military display at a parade to mark the country’s Independence Day in Naypyidaw on January 4, 2023. Min Aung Hlaing declared at the Armed Forces Day ceremony in March, that the military would completely destroy NUG, PDF and the organizations supporting them. Credit: AFP

And at around 4:00 a.m. on Sunday, junta forces launched a series of airstrikes on an area of Moe Bye where civilians had taken shelter from the fighting, injuring four people and damaging three homes, according to the Moe Bye People’s Defense Force.

In a May 1 statement, the rebel Progressive Karenni People’s Force said that there have been at least 663 clashes in southern Shan state and neighboring Kayah state between the coup and April 30, 2023.

The junta has yet to issue a statement on the fighting in Chin and Shan states and attempts by RFA to contact junta Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun went unanswered Tuesday.

The clashes follow a vow by junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing on Armed Forces Day in March to eradicate the shadow National Unity Government, the anti-junta People’s Defense Force paramilitary group, and the organizations that support them.

RFA News

Myanmar military arrests civil disobedience movement teacher in Ayeyarwady

The junta claims she had a document connecting her to the shadow National Unity Government.

Junta troops have arrested a teacher in Myanmar’s southwestern Ayeyarwady region claiming she has links to the shadow National Unity Government, according to pro-junta Telegram messaging channels.

Residents of Bogale township told RFA Tuesday that 30-year-old Theint Theint Soe was arrested on May 23. She has been working as a teacher for eight years and participated in the civil disobedience movement following the February 2021 military coup, the locals said.

“Her husband was arrested a week earlier. The teacher was arrested on the same day that her husband was released,” said a resident who didn’t want to be named for fear of reprisals.

“She was arrested for allegedly supporting participants in the civil disobedience movement.”

Residents said Theint Theint Soe was being held at Bogale Police Station but it was not clear what laws she had been accused of breaking.

Telegram channels that support the junta said she was arrested because a document certified by the shadow National Unity Government board of education was found with her.

Nearly 300 civil disobedience movement teachers have been arrested since the 2021 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

RFA News

Prison authorities withhold body of political prisoner who died in custody in Thayarwaddy

Acquaintances questioned the prison authorities’ claim that the 25-year-old died of pneumonia and their reasons for failing to return his body to relatives

Thayarwaddy Prison authorities have not given the body of a political prisoner to his family after telling them he died of pneumonia last week, leaving the true cause of death in doubt.

The deceased was 25-year-old Pyae Phyo Win, also known as Me Gyi, who was serving a seven-year sentence at the prison, located in Bago Region, for incitement under Section 505a of the Myanmar Penal Code and arson under Section 436. He reportedly died at around 3pm on May 21.

Pyae Phyo Win was arrested during the protests in February 2021 and was handed his sentence by a military court in South Dagon Township, Yangon. He was initially sent to Yangon’s Insein Prison but transferred to Thayarwaddy Prison in January of this year.

“[A comrade] in prison sent a letter with the news about him. The prison authorities also contacted his family on the same day the letter was received,” said Nyo Tun, a friend of Pyae Phyo Win.

Nyo Tun was also imprisoned for taking part in the protests but later received a pardon. Pyae Phyo Win and Nyo Tun had been held in the same ward at Insein Prison for a year before the former’s transfer to Thayarwaddy.

Two other sources close to the Thayarwaddy prison community confirmed authorities had not returned Pyae Phyo Win’s body to his family but told them he had died of pneumonia.

Another ex-political prisoner once held at Thayarwaddy, who requested anonymity, said Pyae Phyo Win was “very fit and active” and took care of his health, and that he had never known him to have problems with his lungs.

“We just saw him two weeks ago and he was looking healthy and fit despite the prison authorities saying he died of pneumonia. It’s impossible that he died of the disease within two weeks. They could just return the body to the family if they had no part in his death,” he said.

Nyo Tun also gave an opinion as to the real cause of his friend’s death.

“We are assuming that they took it too far during interrogation, which is not uncommon. I’ve heard prison authorities say that all it takes to kill someone is a pen and a paper,” Nyo Tun said.

Authorities removed a group of political prisoners from their cells for unknown reasons last week at Daik-U Prison, also located in Bago Region. According to a statement by the Bago Township People’s Defence Team, one of their former recruitment officers was among the Daik-U prisoners and died at the hands of the authorities on Friday.

The same week, inmates initiated a hunger strike at Mandalay Region’s Myingyan Prison in response to authorities’ separation of 15 political prisoners, one of whom later reportedly died from beatings.

Myanmar Now News

91-year-old woman killed in arson attack in Ye-U Township

An elderly woman with limited mobility died in a fire started by junta troops after they triggered mines set out by resistance fighters

After incurring several casualties from resistance forces’ explosive devices, a military column torched a village in Ye-U Township, Sagaing Region, killing a 91-year-old woman who was unable to escape the fire.

At around 5am on Friday, the junta column, consisting of some 120 soldiers based in the town of Ye-U on the west bank of the Mu River, set off explosives laid by the local resistance teams near Hpein Kar village, three miles north of Ye-U.

The junta column then torched eight houses in Hpein Kar, and a 91-year-old woman named Thaung Kyi, unable to escape due to her age, died in the fire, according to a spokesperson of People’s Defence Comrade, a local defence team based in Ye-U Township.

“It wasn’t exactly a clash where we exchanged fire, so we still don’t know the exact number of casualties on their side. I think they must have suffered quite a number, as they started torching the nearby village immediately afterwards,” the spokesperson said.

A local man, who asked to remain anonymous, said a group of the village’s residents who had fled on Friday morning found Thaung Kyi’s body when they went back to clean the mess left by the military.

“The old lady could barely speak, let alone walk or run. Half of her body was burned. She was found inside her house after it was torched,” the local man said.

According to the local man, rather than set fires throughout the village, the military seemed to have selected which houses to burn based on where they believed resistance team members lived.

“The village doesn’t have a defence team of its own as it’s near the town, but there were some known resistance fighters there. They torched houses in three separate parts of the village. Nobody could go back to put out the fires as the entire population of western Ye-U Township had to flee. In a way, we were lucky only this much was destroyed and damaged,” the local man added.

The same military column also reportedly went on to raid nearby villages. According to local sources, junta troops arrived at Aung Thar Yar village, Ye-U Township, where pro-military Pyu Saw Htee militia forces are stationed, on Friday morning.

The military council has not issued any statements regarding these incidents.

The junta soldiers stationed in Ye-U township have carried out constant raids on nearby villages including Chan Thar, known for its large Catholic population, where they destroyed a high school building earlier this month.

Chan Thar also came under attack by the military repeatedly in 2022 and again in January 2023, at which time most of the village was destroyed, including the Assumption Church established in 1894.

Similarly, on May 9, a military airstrike damaged a high school run by the publicly mandated National Unity Government in Ye-U Township’s Htan Taw village, on a day when classes had coincidentally ended early and the local population only avoided fatalities by bare chance.

Location of Hpein Kar village

Myanmar Now News