The protesters have been defending themselves against well-armed police and soldiers with rudimentary hunting guns
Two more people were killed overnight on Monday in the town of Pinlebu, Sagaing Region, as the coup regime’s forces attacked protesting local residents who defended themselves with single-shot hunting rifles.
The deceased were two middle aged men, a protester told Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity. Earlier on Monday a protester named Aung Naing Win was killed when a bullet hit his ribs and passed through his body.
The violence began that morning when the coup regime’s forces attacked protesters with tear gas and guns outside a high school and arrested two people. When the demonstrators began demanding the release of their comrades, the junta’s force started shooting again.
Locals then fired back with traditional Tumi hunting rifles, which are loaded at the muzzle with gunpowder and are far less sophisticated or powerful than those used by police and soldiers.
“We have to prepare the gunpowder for each shot,” said the protester. “There is of course a big difference.”
Two other protesters were injured in the clash earlier on Monday. They were a woman who was shot in the left arm and a man who was shot below his armpit.
The violence continued throughout the night and by morning three government buildings had been burned down: a courthouse, the building of the local branch of the General Administration Department (GAD), and the former office of the auditor-general.
“The courthouse and the GAD offices were built with wood a long time ago,” a local resident told Myanmar Now. “But the police station is not easy to burn down,” another local said, adding the station was newly built with cement.
The regime’s forces had the advantage both in terms of location and weaponry, the resident said. It is unclear if any police or soldiers were injured.
The military sent two trucks full of soldiers from Kawlin, a town about 60km southeast of Pinlebu, to support its attack on the protesters, locals reported. But residents in between the two towns blocked the roads by chopping down trees, they said.
Thousands have been protesting in Pinlebu against the military junta on a daily basis since the first week of February. Monday was the first time the regime’s forces have shot anyone in the town.
By DAVID SCOTT MATHIESON 25 March 2021
Pressure on the Myanmar military’s State Administration Council (SAC) just incrementally tightened in recent days with the United States designating two commanders and two military units under Executive Order 14014, a further step in US government targeting of the Tatmadaw (military) following the February 1 coup.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken named on March 22 Bureau of Special Operations head Lieutenant General Aung Soe and national police chief Than Hlaing and Light Infantry Divisions (LID) 33 and 77 for penalizing the exercise of freedom of expression or assembly.
LID 33 and LID 77 were listed for firing live rounds at protesters and for being “part of the Burmese security forces’ planned, systemic strategies to ramp up the use of lethal force. These designations show that this violence will not go unanswered.” In mid-March, Amnesty International reported that troops from LID 33 and LID 77 were involved in shootings in Mandalay, and soldiers from LIB 101 shot at protesters in Monywa.
This follows from similar sanctions on units involved in the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in 2017. LID 33 and LID 99 were rightly sanctioned by the United States under the Global Magnitsky Act in August 2018 over their role in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State, but they were not the only troops involved in the campaign.
Who are these LIDs and how do they operate? LIDs were formed in the 1960s to perform as shock troops to pacify insurgent-controlled areas, such as the Pegu Yoma. The first was LID 77 in 1966 based in Pegu/Bago, LID 88 the following year in Magwe and then LID 99 based in Meiktila, Mandalay Region. They are often used in large, well-planned offensives against fixed positions, and to clear the area of insurgents and their civilian support base: the pya ley pya or “four cuts” counter-insurgency approach.
The four cuts and the divisions specifically raised to pursue them are similar to the French approach called quadrillage employed to brutal effect in Algeria. It is essentially deploying troops on a grid-like pattern throughout a populated area and then slowly eliminating armed insurgents, often by punishing civilians. It is not dissimilar to the US approach in Vietnam, although large-scale airpower and artillery were used, often indiscriminately, to devastating effect on the civilian population. By the 1980s and definitely during the 1990s as patterns of conflict transformed from large-scale offensives against insurgent areas, many of whom had agreed to ceasefires with the military regime, to low-intensity pacification, the general behavior of troops resembled a four cuts strategy even without any specific large-scale objective in mind: objectifying and terrorizing the civilian population was the only purpose.
Gradually more LIDs were formed in the 1970s and 1980s and stationed at key towns with LID 22 in Hpa-an, LID 99 in Meiktila and LID 33 in Sagaing. But since the Tatmadaw expanded to 10 LIDs over the last few decades, the idea that LIDs are an “elite formation” is misleading. Within a division, there might be units that are deployed for specialist operations whilst others continue with garrison duties in specific places. Certain battalions may well be the shock troops but not the entire division. For example, the US 82nd Airborne Division can be deployed rapidly around the world as a division but that capacity, even domestically, is beyond the Tatmadaw.
For example, when LID 99 was deployed in Rakhine State, I encountered a unit from the division manning checkpoints on the road to Hpakant in Kachin State. They had an “enlist in the Tatmadaw” billboard prominently displayed. In 2019, Amnesty International documented routine abuses perpetrated by 99 LID in northern Shan State. The June 2016 killing of seven unarmed men in Mong Yaw in northern Shan State was perpetrated by soldiers of Light Infantry Battalion 362 of LID 33.
Elements of division-sized LIDs are seconded to the Military Operations Command (MOCs), usually in battalion strength which could be between 150 soldiers or the maximum of 600 which frontline units rarely reach. MOCs oversee routine operations in specific areas within a regional military command, of which there are 14. Yangon Command’s troops are clearly identifiable by their insignia and have also been photographed with sniper rifles. LID 22 had a notorious reputation in the 1990s attacking Karen National Union-controlled areas on the Thai border. LID 88 operated in Kachin State in late 2012 and 2013 when widespread reports of crimes against humanity and war crimes were documented.
Many of the LIDs instill a sadistic esprit de corps and brag about their abusive excesses. When they rotate through different parts of Myanmar they often intimidate civilians with tales of their cruelty elsewhere. It is a fallacy to claim LIDs only perform frontline operations when often static garrison troops can be just as abusive. It should not be any sinister code involved with 33 or 77, when 88 and 99 are just as bad, 44 is also implicated in abuses and LID 66 troops have also been spotted. It should be a matter of grave concern when any regular armed force trained and deployed for counter-insurgency warfare or conventional defense duties is deployed on city streets.
LIDS have been deployed to crush urban dissent before, most notably in 1988 and 2007. During the September 2007 crackdown on peaceful protests in Yangon, elements of the 11, 66 and 77 LIDs were deployed, according to Human Rights Watch.
It is important to note which units are involved in conflict and crushing dissent to establish complicity in abuse and important in establishing command responsibility and individual wrong-doing. It is more important though to maintain that the Tatmadaw is itself a terribly abusive institution, from its ongoing abuses against civilians in Karen and Shan states, a host of units perpetrate abuse. Human rights reports from eastern Shan State over the last 20 years frequently mention Infantry Battalion 65 as abusive and corrupt.
Many urban civilians have little idea about the Tatmadaw and which units are notorious because they rarely encounter troops. Civilians in conflict areas have well-founded fears of new troops arriving. But the idea that LID troops are an axiomatic indicator of an impending crackdown is not that straightforward: their appearance should be a cause for concern but so should any regular army deployment.
In the late 1990s, in Nyaunglebin District of northern Karen State, the Tatmadaw’s Sah Thon Lon (Guerilla Retaliation Unit) allegedly assassinated 50-100 civilians suspected of supporting the Karen National Liberation Army, according to the Karen Human Rights Group. Myanmar has not fostered a culture of “death squads” per se but a broader pattern of Tatmadaw troops being abusive almost everywhere they go. The entire organization acts as a death squad.
Identifying LID 77 is important, but it is not exactly the same as specifically abusive militias such as Arkan’s Tigers during the Bosnian war or the US-backed Atlacatal Battalion in El Salvador responsible for the December 1981 massacre at El Mozote where over 1,000 civilians were murdered. The Pyithu Sit and Border Guard Forces allied to the Tatmadaw are without doubt abusive and corrupt but their behavior is often eclipsed by the brutality of the regular army.
As important as identifying and sanctioning abusive units is, it is crucially important to remember that the entire Tatmadaw is abusive, aggressive, entitled, predatory and violently unreformed. Looking at troops and police beating injured protesters, vandalizing shops and motorbikes and looting apartments is like seeing uniformed locusts preying on a vulnerable population. That is precisely how many people in long-standing ethnic conflict areas experienced them for decades, often in obscurity and under dismissive denials from the international community. There is extensive documentation to prove that their patterns of behavior were replicated wherever they operated and not as some anomaly or aberration. This was a key finding of the UN fact-finding mission in 2018.
By 2013, examples of security forces connivance in abuse in Rakhine State during 2012 and police impotency in Meiktila months later, the West’s fledging flirtation with the Tatmadaw to build confidence in former president U Thein Sein’s “transition to democracy” and the nascent “peace process” resulted in the horrific battlefield record of the LIDs and other infantry being viewed as an inconvenience. In dealing with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and the Tatmadaw, especially for craven investors such as Norway who wanted to leverage peace support for corporate contracts, military abuses were given short shrift.
For most of the past 10 years, people in Myanmar have had to withstand hordes of foreigners screeching self-serving gibberish about a military that could be trusted, seeking proficiency in new equipment supplied by Russia, Ukraine and China, and a grudging partner in a hybrid form of quasi-civilian rule. Min Aung Hlaing was widely perceived as the main driver of this modernization. The Tatmadaw’s performance in conflict areas against the Arakan Army and multiple insurgencies in Shan State exhibited more use of air support and artillery, use of transport helicopters and other support equipment, but its bestial behavior on the ground was unreconstructed: against the Rohingya, Rakhine, Ta’ang, Shan, Kachin and Bamar for those who bothered to take notice.
But there were many foreigners who exhibited far more exuberant optimism in the Tatmadaw’s sincerity. Workshops were offered on “human security and counter-terrorism”, peacekeeping, study tours thrown at senior officers to travel the world and witness the benefits of reform. Many foreign interlocutors extolled the virtues of elite engagement with the Tatmadaw and trammeled talk of abuses in conflict areas as obscure incidents or small, little wars like gangster rivalry. Tens of millions of dollars of international “peace support” was predicated on the Tatmadaw as a trustworthy partner. Anyone casting an honest eye over the performance of the Joint Monitoring Committee would have concluded a complete lack of sincerity on the Tatmadaw’s part and by funding such a cynical farce donors are complicit in the cover-up of the military’s abusive nature.
The past decade of ingratiation has obscured the true nature of the Tatmadaw, its LIDs, regional command troop support units such as the police and their approach to peace and pacification. What we are witnessing is a quadrillage of Myanmar’s society by a military hell-bent on maintaining power. Calling out the most abusive tips of the spear is crucial, but so too is seeing the entire institution of the military for the invasive species it is.
David Scott Mathieson is an independent analyst working on conflict, peace and human rights issues on Myanmar. He has been a contributor to The Irrawaddy since 2003.
Responding to the adoption of a resolution on Myanmar by consensus at the UN Human Rights Council, Amnesty International’s Representative to the UN in Geneva, Hilary Power, said:
“Speaking with one voice today, the UN Human Rights Council has sent a clear and unequivocal message to the Myanmar military that they must halt their violations, and to businesses with ties to military-owned companies in Myanmar that they must end those partnerships immediately.
As the military further escalates its all-out assault, the people of Myanmar cannot wait another day for justice
“UN member states have tasked the UN human rights office to investigate the economic interests and business ties of the Myanmar military, and report back to the Human Rights Council with a comprehensive report and recommendations.
“Now it remains for the UN Security Council to move beyond statements of concern, and take the long-overdue action needed to halt violations and hold perpetrators to account.
“We urge all members of the Security Council to set aside politics and stand with the people of Myanmar – and not the generals ordering daily killing sprees against peaceful protesters, bystanders and political opponents.
“The Security Council must urgently refer the situation to the International Criminal Court and impose, without further delay, a comprehensive global arms embargo and targeted financial sanctions on senior military officials responsible for atrocity crimes.
“As the military further escalates its all-out assault, the people of Myanmar cannot wait another day for justice.”
On 24 March, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar by consensus.
In September 2019, the former Independent International Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar presented a detailed report to the UN Human Rights Council on the economic interests of the Myanmar military, in which they identified businesses with commercial ties to the military-owned Myanma Economic Holdings Public Company Limited and Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEHL and MEC).
The resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council today recalls the recommendation made by the FFM that no company active in Myanmar or with business links to Myanmar should do business with the Tatmadaw or one of their business entities, until and unless those businesses are restructured and transformed.
The resolution also mandates the UN human rights office to follow up on the findings and recommendations of the FFM’s 2019 report on the economic interests of the military, and to report back to the Human Rights Council on a regular basis and to deliver a comprehensive written report in September 2022.
The resolution renews the important mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, and puts in place more comprehensive and regular monitoring and reporting on the human rights situation on the ground, by the Special Rapporteur and the UN human rights office. Both actors have been asked to keep the Human Rights Council and “other United Nations bodies,” including the Security Council, updated.
Amnesty International’s Military Ltd. report, published in September 2020, demonstrates how a number of the international and local companies identified in the FFM’s report have been linked to the financing of Myanmar’s military units implicated in crimes under international law. Since then, the Myanmar military (individual members and units of which are shareholders of MEHL) has been involved in the commission of serious human rights violations and crimes under international law following the military coup of 1 February 2021.
Many of the companies that Amnesty International and the FFM urged to end business ties with MEHL have not yet done so, including South Korean steelmaker POSCO and Chinese Wanbao Mining, which continue to operate in Myanmar in partnership with the military.
Updated 24 March 2021
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) has documented and identified (275) heroes killed yesterday (March 23), and (12) heroes killed today. However, one person previously included in the list of casualties was removed today, details further below. Therefore, (286) heroes have been killed so far. That number is documented and verified by AAPP, and the actual number of casualties is likely much higher. We will continue adding as and when.
As of March 24, a total of (2906) people have been arrested, charged or sentenced in relation to the attempted military coup on February 1. Of them, (24) were convicted. (109) have been charged with a warrant and are evading arrest, and (394) were released as of yesterday. (628) people, including students and civilians, were released across Burma today. The names of today’s released detainees have not been immediately available to compile. Therefore, we will provide the list of names who were released and remain in prison.
The silent strike, so-called “the silence is the loudest cry” was held across Burma today to protest this military dictatorship. Nobody left their homes, shops and shopping centers closed and no cars or people were seen on the roads. Demonstrating the general public’s solidarity against dictatorship. Only some sit-down strikes were held because they did not know about the silent strike campaign from lack of internet connection.
Ko Man Swin Khaing (a.k.a Wai Yan Maung Maung) was removed from the fatality list. He was shot in the thigh and disappeared during the North Okkalapa strike. His family members went to hospitals, police stations, and Insein Prison to investigate, but no further information was found, his family therefore assumed he died and held a funeral for him on 7 March. This is why his name was added to the AAPP fatality list, he is since included in the release list today. AAPP sincerely apologizes to all people, including the victim, and those citing our data with trust.
While people adhered to the silent strike, the military junta last night went around communities and announced with loudspeakers the country was in a stable condition with no danger, and that people should carry on their daily lives as usual. At the same time, more than 600 students and civilians were released. The released raised the three finger salute on their way home to show solidarity with the people and opposition to the military dictatorship.
However, according to AAPPs confirmed data, over 2000 detainees are still detained, sentenced, or face outstanding warrants. The junta coup continuously arrests, and today the military and so-called police raided Kyauk Myaung in Tamwe township, Yangon and captured the people there. Furthermore, they yelled and threw sound grenades, opening fire with live bullets onto Myanandar 13th Street, Yankin township and raided two houses, attacking and detaining 17 people including a 14-year old 8th Grade student.
The coup junta commits these crimes against humanity, brutally arresting children, taking away dead bodies. Last night, they attempted to loot the body of a 7-year-old child who was shot and killed by the junta in Mandalay. Family members of the killed child were able to escape with the body of the child, in response the junta destroyed the house in rage. Moreover, the junta beat the head of the child’s brother with a gun, tortured and dragged him away. There has been no further news and he is assumed dead by his family. Such incidents are extreme human rights violations, children and their lives are given no dignity, constant threats to their security and education.
AAPP will continue to keep you informed of verified daily arrests, charges, sentences and fatalities in relation to the attempted coup, and update our lists to the details of these alleged offences. If you receive any information about detentions of, or charges against CSO leaders, activists, journalists, CDM workers and other civilians in relation to the military and police crackdown on dissent. Please submit to the following addresses:
If you need legal assistance, contact Aung Gyi on 09 451 529 000 from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) and lawyer Khin Thida Lai Lai Htun on 09 774 081 585.
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Download link for fatality list Total Fatality Lists_English (Last Updated on 24 March 2021)MP
Over the last week, crackdowns continued to be heavily enforced by the #Tatmadaw. Mass destruction occupies the streets of urban and rural areas as barricades are torn down, and those resisting are shot by the junta. Martial law, a mobile shutdown and more in our weekly summary.