The cracks in the military junta are showing. In addition to heavy casualties, the regime is struggling to maintain recruits. The Myanmar Army has less support now than ever as an unstoppable Spring Revolution topples the regime’s incessant claims for legitimacy.
Junta casualties continue to mount as the regime sends more reinforcements while expanding their recruitment tactics, which now include the wives of mid-ranking soldiers and compulsory military training for the children of soldiers who are over the age of 15. This is in violation of laws which strictly prohibit the use of children in combat. As the junta continues to engage in unlawful practices, soldiers are continuing to defect at an unprecedented rate. To counter this, the junta has even attempted to coax some retired soldiers out of retirement to battle the resistance movement. Over 8000 soldiers and policemen have joined the civil disobedience movement, and an estimated 2000 soldiers have defected with many more considering leaving the regime. The NUG has offered protection to those who do so. According to the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG), 160 soldiers were killed within the first month of January 2022.
The ongoing airstrikes by the Myanmar junta are also a sign of the Tatmadaw losing the fight between them and the people as experts speculate that the reliance on air attacks is a sign of weakness. Even so, it is the regime’s ruthless targeting of innocent civilians which has created a refugee crisis as people flee to various borders and neighboring townships seeking safety. During a meeting over the last week, Noeleen Heyzer, the U.N. secretary-general’s special envoy on Myanmar, called on Thailand to take a more proactive role in responding to the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. There are now over 3 million people in need inside the country, who have been vehemently deprived of their basic rights to protection and survival. The majority of those who require support continue to be women, children and the elderly.
As the international community bides its time waiting to respond, the people on the ground are suffering. The junta is still evading wide-spread accountability and as a result, they have failed to halt any of their offensives. Rather, they are committed to expanding their forces to squander the resistance at all costs. The leaders of the world must act with intention and urgency. The many victims and families of the junta’s crimes deserve justice and to be heard.
In Chin State, the resistance and opposition to the military junta remains fierce. The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) says they have documented over 180 killings and unlawful deaths, in addition to the arrests of 892 Chin people by the military junta. The junta deployed airstrikes in civilian areas in northern Chin State after local armed forces attacked a military convoy carrying over 150 soldiers near Hiangzing village.
Horrifying evidence of crimes committed against civilians continues to emerge. Of the ten civilians abducted by the junta in Matupi Township, Chin State, all were found with signs of severe torture before they were killed. Among the victims was a 13 year old boy who had his throat slashed. CHRO has said those responsible are from infantry battalion 140 based in Matupi.
The steady increase in fighting has forced opposition groups to prepare for an even worse onslaught of violence. A spokesperson for the Chin National Front said more operations are ‘likely to be carried out in the northern and southern parts of the State.’
Refugees and IDPs from Karen State are continuing to flee violence perpetrated by the military junta. Almost 50 000 IDPs who had been forced to leave their homes over the last month are seeking refuge from the onslaught of offensives that they continue to be berated with. In territory controlled by the Karen National Union, there has been an increase in IDPs who are seeking safety and shelter in nearby villages. Karen civil society organizations alongside local communities are urgently trying to respond to emergency needs including shelter, food and basic hygiene items.
Along the border, there are between 3000 and 5000 refugees. Many of those displaced include women, children and the elderly who require medicine in addition to food and clean drinking water. The junta is continuing their onslaught of violence through air and ground strikes not only against Karen armed groups but also against innocent civilians in refugee camps – as was the case on January 13 when the regime launched an airstrike on a Democratic Karen Buddhist Army base where many IDPs had fled.
KAYAH (KARENNI) STATE
No one appears to be safe from the military junta’s violence. In Kayah (Karenni) State, civilians were urged by the Karenni State Consultative Council (KSCC) to build bomb shelters for their own protection. The announcement came after two IDP camps were bombed with aerial strikes which killed six people on 17 January. Three medical volunteers were also killed in airstrikes in Nann Mal Khon village the day before on 16 January, in yet another incident where civilians have been directly targeted. The KSCC said, “the regime is clearly murdering both innocent civilians and resistance fighters without any discrimination. [They] are committing genocide and it will potentially increase in ferocity.”
According to the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, between 7 and 17 January 2022, the junta deployed at least eight airstrikes in the State.
Myanmar’s military regime is seeking to adopt a new cybersecurity law to jail anyone accessing banned sites like Facebook via virtual private networks (VPNs).
The regime banned social media following last year’s coup, including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – the main gateways to the internet in Myanmar – but people access the sites using VPNs, which allow internet users to bypass blocks.
The move to outlaw VPNs is seen as a further attempt to curb digital freedoms, including stifling online fund-raising for resistance groups, internet criticism and the flow of reliable information. Last month the regime doubled mobile internet data taxes.
According to a letter leaked online, the regime’s Ministry of Transport and Communications distributed a revised bill, which it first proposed within a week of the February coup, to 13 other ministries, chambers of commerce, banks, financial services, telecommunications operators and internet service providers and asked for comments by Jan. 28.
The draft law would grant the regime unlimited power to access user data, ban content it dislikes, restrict internet providers and intercept data, and imprison those criticizing the regime online and employees of non-compliant companies.
In the letter, the ministry stated that the decision to enact the law had been made.
An earlier proposal for the cybersecurity law was shelved amid opposition from both domestic and international business groups and IT communities as it would enable the junta to intrude into companies’ internal management.
Rights groups have widely condemned the proposed law as a violation of digital rights, privacy, human rights and freedom of expression.
A former Yangon regional lawmaker from the ousted National League for Democracy, Nay Phone Latt, said the bill is further evidence of the junta’s intent to permanently undermine internet freedom and proof of the success of the anti-regime digital strike.
Sentencing VPN users “would be similar to jailing the whole country”, he said.
“It is totally unacceptable. Only a parliament of elected representatives should have the power to draft legislation. The terrorist regime has no authority to draft laws,” he said. Nay Phone Latt said unless people follow the law, it will just be a written document.
BANGKOK — Two prominent political activists in military-ruled Myanmar have been sentenced to death for alleged involvement in terrorist activities, an army television station reported Friday.
Myawaddy TV said on its evening news broadcast that Kyaw Min Yu, better known as Ko Jimmy, and Phyo Zeyar Thaw, also known as Maung Kyaw, were convicted under the country’s Counterterrorism Law. They were found guilty of offenses involving explosives, bombings and financing terrorism.
Both have been detained since their arrests, unable to comment on the allegations, and no lawyer ever emerged to comment on their behalves. Min Yu’s wife, Nilar Thein, in October denied the allegations lodged against her husband.
Details of their trials were unavailable because the proceedings were carried out in a closed military court. It was unclear if their two cases were linked.
Modern-day Myanmar has a record of rarely carrying out death sentences.
The two are among the most prominent activists to be given death sentences since the military in February last year seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Its takeover sparked wide-scale popular protests, which have since turned into a low-level insurgency after nonviolent demonstrations were met with deadly force by the security forces. Almost 1,500 civilians are estimated to have been killed, and more than 11,000 arrest carried out for political offenses.
Some resistance factions have engaged in assassinations, drive-by shootings and bombings in urban areas. The mainstream opposition organizations generally disavow such activities, while supporting armed resistance in rural areas, which are more often subject to brutal military attacks.
Kyaw Min Yu is one of the leaders of the 88 Generation Students Group, veterans of the popular uprising that failed to unseat a previous military government.
He has been active politically ever since then and has spent more than a dozen years behind bars. His Oct. 23 arrest in Yangon was originally reported by his wife, an activist who also has been jailed in the past. Both went into hiding after the February takeover and she is believed to still be in hiding.
Two weeks after his arrest, a statement from the military-installed government accused Kyaw Min Yu, of “conducting terrorism acts including mine attacks to undermine the state stability” and alleged he headed a group called “Moon Light Operation” to carry out urban guerrilla attacks.
He had already been on the wanted list for social media postings that allegedly incited unrest.
Phyo Zeyar Thaw is a former lawmaker with Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party. He was a hip-hop musician before becoming a member of Generation Wave, a political movement formed in 2007.
He was arrested on Nov. 18 in possession of weapons and ammunition, according to a statement at the time from the ruling military.
That statement also said he was arrested on the basis of information from people arrested a day earlier for carrying out the shootings of security personnel.
Other statements from the military accused him of being a key figure in a network of dozens of people who allegedly carried out what the military described as “terrorist” attacks in Yangon.
The underground civilian administration is investigating and documenting junta massacres of civilians with the aim of bringing cases before the ICC and ICJ
Two ministers from Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) said in a press conference on Thursday that their administration was gathering information on crimes committed by the junta in Chin State to submit to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
Dr Sasa, the Minister of International Cooperation, said that the NUG is working collaboratively on the process with the Independent Investigative Mechanism Myanmar (IIMM) to share their documentation with the courts.
“We are doing all of these procedures along with the IIMM. We are also going to submit the evidence gathered by us and the IIMM to not only the ICC and the ICJ but also to other places such as Brazil, Australia and Germany where we can get international jurisdiction,” he explained.
Minister of Human Rights Aung Myo Min said that the violations would also be reported to the UN Security Council with the aim of convincing the body to approve sanctions on arms exports to the Myanmar junta.
“The NUG is filing reports and trying to bring about stronger action [against the junta], such as preventing airstrikes and stopping the imports of weapons and airplane fuel,” he said.
Among the crimes being investigated by the NUG is the massacre of 10 civilians in southern Chin State’s Matupi Township earlier this month after they were used as human shields by the military.
Relatives of two of the victims spoke at Thursday’s press conference, explaining how their loved ones were tortured and killed by Myanmar army troops, and cited eyewitness reports from those who recovered their bodies on January 8 and 9.
They said that the deceased were found blindfolded, with their hands tied behind their backs and with knife wounds to their necks and bodies.
“How could they be that cruel? They weren’t even resistance fighters. They were just innocent civilians. How will I ever be able to cope with this?” Thidar Htwe, whose husband Paw Va Htoo was among those murdered, said.
The youngest of the victims was La Nang, a 13-year-old boy. He was abducted and later killed while accompanying his brother on an errand to buy fuel, according to his father, Joseph.
“We waited three days for his return, because we hoped he would be spared as he was just a child. It is heartbreaking. I don’t think I will be able to withstand this pain,” Joseph said.
The military sent massive troop reinforcements to Matupi Township in early January, and serious clashes have been taking place between the military and the Chinland Defence Force across the state.
Similarly, the entire population of the Chin State town of Thantlang was displaced due to a military offensive and occupation of the area last year. Some 700 houses and seven religious buildings were destroyed over a three-month period ending in December.
Minister Aung Myo Min said that these acts were clearly war crimes, and that investigators had gathered sufficient evidence implicating both the military leaders who ordered the attacks and the troops who carried them out.
Citing figures compiled by the Chin Human Rights Organisation, the NUG stated that some 892 people had been arrested and 182 people killed in Chin State from the period following the February 1 coup until the end of 2021.
Some 50,000 Chin State residents were also displaced from their homes last year, and around 30 senior citizens died as a result of the forced relocation.
Similar rights violations have taken place in neighbouring Sagaing Region, where the military burned 11 civilians to death in Salingyi Township’s Done Taw village in December of last year.
The NUG is also planning to bring an international legal case against the Myanmar army for the Christmas Eve massacre of more than 30 people outside Moso village, in Karenni State’s Hpruso Township. The troops set fire to the victims’ bodies and the crime scene.
More than 80 percent of the houses in the Magway Region village of San Myo have been burned by the military
The military raided and torched San Myo village in Magway Region’s Gangaw Township on Tuesday, destroying more than 100 homes in the second attack on the community in less than one month, locals said.
Two junta columns began targeting the village at around 1pm, according to Nway Oo, an officer in a local anti-coup defence force. The troops involved—around 100 personnel, including members of the pro-military Pyu Saw Htee network—had been occupying the nearby villages of Kyauk Pyoke and Myauk Khin Yan before clashing with the resistance a half mile north of San Myo.
“The local defence force tried to defend against the columns but eventually had to retreat due to the difference in firepower. The military then started torching the village,” Nway Oo told Myanmar Now.
He said that the Myanmar army soldiers also fired heavy artillery at the resistance fighters, and that some of the shells landed in San Myo.
Less than 40 homes in the village of 210 households were left undamaged following the attack, a local said.
“Over 100 houses were lost [this time],” a local man said on Wednesday, unsure of the exact number of homes that were destroyed, since residents were forced to flee when the troops arrived.
He confirmed to Myanmar Now that the junta had fired shells, rifles, and thrown handmade explosives, such as molotov cocktails, into the village, and that two villagers were injured.
“They also threatened the head monk of the village, saying that they would burn the monastery down if the villagers did not support the military,” the local man said.
“A similar thing happened not too long ago, so just over 30 houses have been left unburned now. The fire had not gone out yet until this morning,” he added, referring to the previous military assault on San Myo on December 21, when junta forces burnt more than 30 homes and shops to the ground while looting others.
Defence force member Nway Oo said that the soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members responsible for Tuesday’s attack had also carried out an air raid on Hnan Khar village on December 17.
He added that more than 10,000 people had been displaced due to the military’s airstrikes and raids on villages in the region.
The Myanmar military’s war on the people has continued unabated and without international action for the last eleven months. Innocent civilians including women and children remain caught in the crossfire. Over the last week, worsening offensives in Karen and Kayah(Karenni) State have forced thousands more civilians to flee where they are in desperate need of humanitarian aid. Inside Myanmar, key aid routes remain blocked. The regime has targeted first responders since the beginning of the attempted coup, and have not hesitated to intercept food deliveries and have even burned supplies intended for the most vulnerable.
Civil society organizations have boldly continued to document the widespread human rights violations taking place on the ground. Evidence of the junta’s crimes are essential for ensuring justice for the thousands of victims at the highest possible level of international jurisdiction. Civilians must not be targeted or used as human shields. They must be permitted safe passages to flee and aid must not be blocked. By failing to adhere to basic norms and protection for civilian life, the junta is responsible for crimes against humanity and those amounting to war crimes.
Despite a visit by Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is not in agreement on how to engage with the terrorist junta. Cambodia, who is the current chair of ASEAN, postponed a meeting with the foreign ministers citing travel concerns. However, observers were quick to note that it likely signals something quite the country – rather the brewing disagreement over inviting any junta representative.
The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) was among those to condemn the visit by the Cambodian Prime Minister who came to Myanmar while the junta forces were launching airstrikes in ethnic areas. “Prime Minister Hun Sen undertook an ill-advised and contested visit to Naypyitaw to meet with Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing on 7 and 8 January 2022.” said SAC-M in a statement released on 11 January.
The voices of the people in Myanmar cannot and will be silenced. It is time the international community took action and responded to their calls for protection, safety and justice.
Civilians in Karen State have been forced to flee worsening offensives as the junta continues to deploy air and ground strikes in local villages. According to ND-Burma member, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland, sources from the Karen National Liberation Army Brigade 6 forces, landmines planted by the junta battalions were found in some Mae Htaw Thale village in Kawkareik Township houses. “We just discovered the Burmese soldiers have planted landmines under the homes, inside the rooms, and yards. As a result of the landmines, many conflict-affected IDPs have been unable to return to their homes. The junta battalions burned down an estimated 65 houses. Because of losing their residences and the Burmese laying landmines in civilian areas, it has been challenging for them to return.”
The Karen Peace Support Network reported on 13 January at 1AM, the military junta “conducted deliberate and indiscriminate airstrikes on Shwe Nyaung Bin located between the border of Bridge 1 and Bridge 5 of the Karen National Union controlled area. A civilian was killed and three were severely wounded from the attack.”
These attacks have prompted calls from Karen civil society and allied human rights groups for international action, including sanctions and the halting of aviation fuel which supply the military jets.
KAYAH (KARENNI) STATE
Ongoing airstrikes in Kayah (Karenni) State have forced the majority of people living in the capital city of Loikaw to flee. The attacks were launched on 8 and 9 January after intense clashes followed between resistance forces and the military junta. Civilians reported being hesitant to flee because they could hear helicopters hovering and the status of the town has been described as ‘deserted’ while the junta continues to threaten a full-blown offensive if anti-coup forces do not surrender. Offensives have forced over 150 000 people across the State to flee to neighboring Shan State or close by villages. Loikaw was hit with more airstrikes launched by the military junta on 12 January as fighting continued.
The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) has called for protection for civilians affected by the ongoing military offensives. In an appeal to the international community, the KNPP made clear that the regime is deliberately targeting civilians by burning their homes, and buildings in their villages. Electricity and water have been cut off by the junta in Loikaw on the weekend.
The Karenni National Progressive Party announced that they are committed to exposing the junta’s widespread human rights violations by creating a documentary. One quarter of the population in conflict-torn Kayah (Karenni) State has been forcibly displaced by the Myanmar military’s violence. The junta has committed serious violations which have forced the most vulnerable to the brink of survival.
Over the weekend, the Kayah (Karenni) capital city of Loikaw was violently assaulted by junta armed forces in clashes which killed at least four civilians and displaced over 1000. The civilian armed resistance in Kayah (Karenni) State has been met with brute force from the Myanmar military. The ‘scorched-earth’ tactics being used are indicative of a worrying tactic of the junta to eliminate opposition, even at the cost of innocent civilian lives.