Myanmar junta troops have killed 29 people since May 10 in Sagaing Region’s Ye-U Township, according to local resistance groups and residents.
Two of the victims were resistance fighters, while the rest were civilians from a number of villages who were detained by regime forces and taken to Mone Taing Ping Village, where they were killed, said a resistance fighter.
One member of the Ye-U Township People’s Defense Force (PDF) said: “Some of the victims were shot dead. Some of them had their hands tied. Some of the bodies bear signs of torture and of being burned alive.”
The Irrawaddy was unable to verify the claim of people being burned alive. Ye-U PDF has not been able to identify all the victims, added the resistance fighter.
Around 200 junta soldiers from Sagaing’s Taze Township arrived in Mone Taing Ping Village around 6am on May 10. Two resistance fighters who were preparing to plant mines encountered the troops and were shot dead. A clash followed at the bridge leading to Mone Taing Ping around 8.30am.
Military regime troops then deployed in Mone Taing Ping and abducted and killed residents from neighboring villages, according to local sources.
“After that [junta] column returned to Ye-U, we together with a few residents went to the village on May 12, before another column arrived. Another column is now at the village. Locals are still unable to return to their homes,” a resistance fighter told The Irrawaddy on Saturday.
Subsequently, junta soldiers seized PDF uniforms during a raid on Ponnaka Village and then disguised themselves as PDF fighters and vandalized properties in a number of villages, said local residents.
“They torched houses in Hsi Sone village near Mone Taing Ping around 4pm on May 10. The following day, they raided Ponnaka Village where they got the PDF uniforms. They busted things up in Inn Pin Village disguised as PDF members,” said a local.
Regime troops reportedly torched 29 houses and damaged a fire engine in Mone Taing Ping Village, and also raided a number of nearby villages on Saturday.
At Kan Pauk Village, two members of the village defence force were injured by junta artillery strikes ahead of regime forces arriving in the village.
It was not clear if the six victims were local people or civilians from elsewhere who had been taken hostage as human shields
Local defence forces in Sagaing Region’s Ye-U Township say they found the charred remains of six people on Thursday in a village that had been occupied by regime forces for two days.
Members of an anti-junta group entered the village of Mone Taing Pin after a military column of about 70 soldiers left early Thursday morning. A leader of the group said that the bodies were all found in one house.
No other details were known about the victims, he added.
“We still can’t identify the bodies, as there was nothing left of them but bones. We don’t know if they were local people or if they had been taken from somewhere else as hostages,” said the leader, who identified himself as Bilone.
“The house they were in was completely destroyed by fire,” he added, noting that around 30 of the roughly 400 houses in the village had been reduced to ashes.
Two days earlier, local defence forces clashed with the soldiers who went on to take control of Mone Taing Pin.
According to Bilone, two resistance fighters were killed in that battle after the military opened fire with heavy artillery. Their bodies were also recovered after the junta troops left the area.
“The regime forces picked up the bodies from where they fell and dumped them just outside of the village,” he said.
A funeral was held for the pair later that day, he added.
Anti-regime groups active in the area said that the presence of displaced villagers and other civilians had constrained their efforts to mount attacks on junta forces.
A plan to use explosive devices against the troops that had occupied Mone Taing Pin had to be abandoned after it was learned that they were holding 28 people, including three monks, as human shields.
“We couldn’t attack them. We had already set up the explosives and were waiting for them all night. But we had to cancel the plan because they had hostages,” said KG, the leader of another group in the area.
The soldiers reportedly went from Mone Taing Pin to Ponnagar, another village about 5km to the south.
While no details were available at the time of reporting, KG said that shots were heard after the soldiers arrived at the village.
It was unclear if this indicated renewed fighting, or if some of the hostages had been killed.
Junta officials were not available for comment when contacted by Myanmar Now.
Documenting abuses remains a key way for the country to move forward, even as the military tries to drag it back to the past
Democracy in Myanmar has been sabotaged by the country’s military junta. In its place, the regime has unleashed a lawless campaign of violence against an innocent civilian population. Thousands have been killed, and many more have been arrested to face fabricated charges in closed-door, military-run courts. These acts are the junta’s direct responses to a thriving opposition movement that has rejected its failed power grab.
The Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma) has been documenting state-wide, systematic human rights violations since 2004. Its 13 member organizations seek to collectively use the truth of what communities in Myanmar have endured to advocate for justice for victims. In the wake of last year’s attempted coup, it has continued its efforts to safely and securely document atrocities committed in the country.
Documentation of abuses is always a major challenge for human rights defenders, but over the past year, it has become even more difficult. As it intensifies its use of brutal military tactics across the country, the junta has also targeted those who attempt to collect evidence of its crimes. Internet blackouts and scorched-earth campaigns are just two of the ways the regime attempts to cover its tracks.
The four pillars of transitional justice are truth, justice, reparations, and non-recurrence (institutional reform). In Myanmar, however, all pathways towards granting and ensuring transitional justice have been blocked by the regime. A blanket of denial continues to smother the very function of institutions meant to uphold and preserve the rule of law.
Human rights documentation is a pathway to transitional justice that allows survivors to pursue accountability through the international system. Granting victims safe and accessible spaces to share their experiences ensures that the reconciliation process is clear from the beginning. Organizations such as ND-Burma act as facilitators for psycho-social support and as advocates for restitution. However, under the current regime, these options are no longer even remotely accessible.
There is no rule of law in Myanmar, or any reliable transitional justice mechanisms that would hold the military accountable for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. Attacks against innocent civilians continue with impunity. It’s important to emphasize that transitional justice is not solely about prosecutions and punishment. Justice also involves the provision of reparations to victims, recognition and acknowledgment of the truth about mass violations, and legal security reforms to guarantee non-repetition.
There is overwhelming evidence to suggest that Myanmar’s military forces have committed grave crimes under international law. In February 2022, ND-Burma released “The World Must Know,” a report produced together with the Karenni Human Rights Group that details the junta’s war crimes in Karenni State. These crimes were committed with complete impunity: Not one of the victims or their families in the case studies presented, including the dozens of civilians who were burned alive on December 24, 2021, has seen a single member of the military face any consequences for these unlawful acts.
Justice for victims is routinely denied as soldiers are protected in military courts. As it stands, Myanmar also has no reparations policy which would provide redress to victims or their families. In 2015, the Reparations Working Group was established to advocate for a state-led reparations program. Since February 2021, these efforts have been forcibly put on hold. With no significant policy related to institutional reform in Myanmar, military violations against various ethnic groups and civilians have continued.
ND-Burma documentation shows that survivors want institutional reform to prevent human rights violations from happening again. Fortunately, as Myanmar’s elected, legitimate government continues to look to the future, all stakeholders, including civil society organizations, have an opportunity to collaborate on the drafting of a new federal democratic constitution that guarantees the equality of all ethnic groups, enshrines their right to self-determination, and works toward an end to conflict and security sector reforms that ensure respect for human rights.
Truth-telling and human rights documentation initiatives have long been carried out by civil society organizations. For victims and survivors of the military junta’s harrowing assaults on civilian lives, justice is long overdue. These attacks have spanned decades, yet in the context of the failed coup, the calls for accountability demand concrete action which would finally put an end to the impunity.
Han Gyi is a long-time human rights defender advocating for transitional justice and democracy in Myanmar. He is currently the Coordinator of the Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma.
Maggi Quadrini works on human rights for community-based organizations along the Thailand-Myanmar border.
The UN Special Envoy for Myanmar was blocked by the country’s junta from attending a meeting on humanitarian assistance for the Southeast Asian nation, which has been devastated by last year’s military coup.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Friday held the meeting in Cambodia to discuss plans to deliver aid to Myanmar. The regime was represented by its Minister for International Cooperation Ko Ko Hlaing, the junta’s point man on provision of assistance to Myanmar.
Absent from the meeting in Phnom Penh was Noeleen Heyzer, the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Myanmar.
According to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), a group of former UN experts on Myanmar, and the group ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, her attendance was blocked by the junta.
“She was invited and then disinvited,” SAC-M said in a statement.
Heyzer was appointed as United Nations special envoy on Myanmar late last year to help solve the Myanmar crisis and facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance.
The reason she was banned from the meeting was not clear, but it appears likely the move was prompted by her recent meetings with the parliamentary body of Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and its relief and resettlement minister Dr Win Myat Aye to discuss issues including humanitarian assistance for Myanmar.
The regime has branded the NUG as a terrorist organization. Even international diplomats who mention the NUG are subject to junta condemnation.
When Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah proposed that ASEAN engage informally with the NUG to discuss how humanitarian aid can be distributed to the people of Myanmar, the regime rejected the remark as “irresponsible and reckless”, and warned Malaysian officials against contacting or supporting what it calls a “terrorist group”.
Heyzer has turned out to be the first international envoy to publicly engage with the NUG. Her meetings came after ASEAN was condemned for its failure to make progress on its peace plan for Myanmar. Despite the criticism, the bloc’s officials haven’t met with the shadow government, while being pressed to do so.
Calling Heyzer a crucial actor, the NUG’s Foreign Ministry on Monday said her exclusion from the meeting was yet another insult against the United Nations.
“The National Unity Government also extended its support to the UN envoy and expressed its deep appreciation for her engagement with the National Unity Government and local stakeholders on provision of ASEAN humanitarian assistance to Myanmar,” it said.
The outcomes of the consultative meeting in Phnom Penh included plans for the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) to deliver aid to areas identified by the Myanmar military junta and in coordination with the junta.
The SAC-M condemned this as flouting fundamental humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, saying it would advance the military objectives of the Myanmar junta.
The group said there are 14 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Myanmar, while an estimated 800,000 people are displaced inside the country. Most are seeking refuge from the junta’s attacks in territory along Myanmar’s borders outside the junta’s control. The junta refuses to permit cross-border aid into these areas.
Press freedom is important and fundamental to a flourishing democracy. Under the Myanmar military, not only has the space for freedom of expression been stifled but it’s been marred with deadly and severe consequences.