10 Killed In Myanmar Clashes Between Army And Anti-Junta Fighters

Protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on July 3, 2021.
STR / AFP

 

At least 10 anti-junta fighters and civilians were killed during clashes with the military in central Myanmar, villagers said Sunday, as locals increasingly take up arms against the regime in the coup-wracked country.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since a February coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, with 890 people killed in a junta crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

In some areas civilians have formed “defence forces” to combat the State Administration Council, as the junta dubs itself, often using hunting rifles or makeshift weapons cobbled together from household items.

The central Sagaing region has been the site of multiple skirmishes between defence forces and the military, and on Friday fighting broke out in Depayin township.

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Protesters make the three-finger salute beside a banner featuring Myanmar armed forces chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on July 3, 2021.STR / AFP

 

Residents told AFP that military trucks entered their area and opened fire on a village near the jungle hoping to flush out members of the local defence force.

“We heard the shooting of artillery 26 times,” said a villager, who added that anti-junta fighters tried to retaliate but could not fend off the attack.

“They shot everyone who they saw on the road and in the village. They did not just have one target,” he said.

Civilians were among the dead, he added.

Villagers waited until Saturday to venture out of their homes to assess the casualties, said another witness, who helped to collect the bodies around Depayin township.

“We found in one place eight people were killed, and in another area two were dead,” he said.

Local media reported a higher death toll, though it could not be independently verified by AFP.

State-run media offered a different account of the skirmish, saying the military was patrolling the area when they were ambushed.

Soldiers fended off “armed terrorists” and later found “four mortars and six percussion lock firearms”, reported the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

In another attack in a different part of Sagaing one member of the security forces was killed and authorities were “working to stabilise the area”, the paper added.

Protesters make the three-finger salute as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on July 3, 2021. STR / AFP

 

Despite the threat of crackdowns, protesters in Myanmar are still taking to the streets daily in defiance of the military regime.

On Sunday residents across Sagaing held short demonstrations, flashing a three-finger salute of defiance during rapid marches through the streets.

AFP

US Suspends Myanmar Trade Pact After Bloodiest Weekend

This handout photo taken and released by Dawei Watch on March 29, 2021 shows a protester holding up an overturned alms bowl during a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei

 

The US suspended a trade pact with Myanmar Monday and led international condemnation of the junta’s ruthless crackdown, as protesters and mourners took to the streets after the deadliest weekend since the military coup.

Soldiers and police have killed hundreds in a brutal campaign against mass anti-coup protests demanding a restoration of democracy and the release of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 107 people, including seven children, were killed on Saturday, the United Nations said, as the regime staged a major show of might for Armed Forces Day — an annual parade showcasing Myanmar’s military prowess.

More than 450 people have been killed in the crackdown on protests since the February 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group, as security forces have used rubber bullets and live rounds to break up demonstrations.

US President Joe Biden’s administration announced Monday that the 2013 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement, which laid out ways to boost business but was not a fully-fledged deal, would remain suspended until democracy is restored.

 

This photo taken and received from an anonymous source via Facebook on March 27, 2021 shows protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon’s Hlaing township. Handout / FACEBOOK / AFP

 

“The United States strongly condemns the Burmese security forces’ brutal violence against civilians,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said, using Myanmar’s former name of Burma.

The statement effectively removes Myanmar from the Generalized System of Preferences, in which the United State grants duty-free access to some imports from developing nations if they meet key standards.

Despite the weekend violence, protesters turned out at dawn in towns and cities around the country.

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Hundreds paraded through the town of Plate, in Mandalay region, with banners saying: “The people will never be defeated”.

In Sagaing region, hundreds of mourners lined the street to pay tribute to 20-year-old nursing student Thinzar Hein, who was shot dead while helping rescue workers provide first aid to injured protesters.

As child casualties mount, 60 youngsters in a town in eastern Karen state staged their own protest parade accompanied by their mothers, local media reported.

In Yangon, a one-year-old girl is recovering from surgery after being shot in the eye with a rubber bullet while playing near her house on Saturday, which was also her birthday.

– ‘Shameful, cowardly, brutal’ –
The US suspension of the trade deal came after Biden condemned the weekend’s events as “terrible”, while UN rights envoys slammed the “shameful, cowardly, brutal” actions of the security forces.

The violence is “absolutely unacceptable,” UN chief Antonio Guterres said Monday, calling for a united global front to pressure the junta.

“We need more unity… (and) more commitment from the international community to put pressure in order to make sure that the situation is reversed,” he said.

The UN Security Council will meet Wednesday to discuss the situation, diplomatic sources said, after Britain called for emergency talks.

China added its voice to a chorus of international concern, calling for restraint from all sides.

“Violence and bloody clashes do not meet the interests of any party. The victims are the Myanmar people,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said.

Russia on Monday acknowledged it was developing ties with Myanmar after deputy defence minister Alexander Fomin and other officials joined the weekend parade, but said that did not mean it approved of the “tragic events” unfolding.

“We are very concerned by the growing number of civilian casualties,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

So far, weeks of repeated pleas for restraint and even international sanctions have not persuaded the generals to ease off.

The brutality continued on Monday in Yangon, with three people killed, including a 20-year-old shot dead, rescue workers told AFP.

This handout photo taken and released by Dawei Watch on March 27, 2021 shows protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei. Handout / DAWEI WATCH / AFP

 

One person was also killed in the city of Bago, state media said, adding that a police officer also died in Mandalay after being set alight by protesters.

– Air strikes in Karen state –
An estimated 3,000 people fled through the jungle to seek safety across the border in Thailand Sunday following targeted aerial assaults in eastern Myanmar’s Karen state, the Karen Women’s Organisation civil society group said.

However, around 2,000 people were pushed back as they approached the Thai border, local media said Monday. A spokesman for the Thai ministry of foreign affairs denied this.

According to Hsa Moo, an ethnic Karen and human rights activist, the weekend airstrikes — the first in the state in 20 years — killed four people and left nine injured.

The airstrikes targeted the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the country’s largest non-state armed groups.

There are fears that the Myanmar military may launch a major operation against Karen rebels, which could force more people to flee their homes.

AFP

Global Condemnation After Bloodiest Day Since Myanmar Coup

This photo taken and received from an anonymous source via Facebook on March 27, 2021 shows protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon’s Tamwe township. Handout / AFP / FACEBOOK

 

Defence chiefs from a dozen countries on Sunday jointly condemned the bloodbath in Myanmar a day earlier, when at least 90 people — including several children — were killed after security forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the generals ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering mass protests demanding a return to democracy.

The junta on Saturday staged a major show of might for its annual Armed Forces Day as the death toll since the February 1 coup climbed to at least 423, according to a local monitoring group.

The defence chiefs of 12 countries including the United States, Britain, Japan and Australia condemned the Myanmar military’s use of lethal force against civilians.

“A professional military follows international standards for conduct and is responsible for protecting -– not harming -– the people it serves,” the rare joint statement said.

“We urge the Myanmar Armed Forces to cease violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions.”

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Funerals were held Sunday for some of the victims, after the bloodiest day since the putsch.

In Mandalay, the family of Aye Ko, a father-of-four, commemorated his life at a service after he was killed overnight.

“We are told by the neighbours that Aye Ko was shot and thrown into the fire,” a relative told AFP.

“He was the only one who fed the family, losing him is a great loss for the family.”

This handout photo taken and released by Dawei Watch on March 27, 2021 shows protesters holding candles as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in a village near Dawei. AFP

 

Despite the dangers, protesters hit the streets again in parts of Yangon including Hlaing, and in the cities of Dawei, Bago and Monywa.

“One girl was shot in the head and died at the hospital meanwhile two guys were shot dead on the spot,” a rescue worker from Monywa told AFP.

In Hlaing, a 16-year-old boy lost a hand in a blast, trying to throw back a grenade security forces had lobbed at protesters, a rescue worker said.

– ‘Act of inhumanity’ –
A day earlier, violence erupted across the country with the military using live rounds in nine regions, including the largest city Yangon, local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said.

By sunset, AAPP said at least 90 people had been killed. Local media, however, put the death toll higher at 114.

“Junta forces shot machine guns into residential areas, resulting in many civilians, including six children between ten and sixteen years old, killed,” AAPP said.

“The fact the illegitimate military regime is targeting children is a grave act of inhumanity.”

Rebels in eastern Myanmar’s Karen state said they had been targeted in air strikes late Saturday, hours after the ethnic armed group seized a military base.

Hsa Moo, an ethnic Karen and human right activist said three people were killed and at least eight were injured.

It was the first air assault in 20 years in the state, and targeted the Fifth Brigade of the Karen National Union (KNU) — one of the country’s largest armed groups — which says it represents the ethnic Karen people.

The junta did not immediately comment, and there was no official confirmation of any casualties.

– ‘Harmful to state tranquillity’ –
There was a grand parade of troops and military vehicles in the capital Naypyidaw on Saturday where junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing defended the coup and pledged to yield power after new elections.

But he also issued a threat to the anti-coup movement, warning that acts of “terrorism which can be harmful to state tranquillity and security” were unacceptable.

 

This photo taken and received from an anonymous source via Facebook on March 27, 2021 shows protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon’s Hlaing township. Handout / FACEBOOK / AFP

 

Armed Forces Day commemorates the start of local resistance to the Japanese occupation during World War II, and usually features a military parade attended by foreign military officers and diplomats.

The US embassy in Yangon urged American citizens to limit their movements on Sunday, a day after the US cultural centre in the city had shots fired at it.

“If you must travel move cautiously and ensure you have the ability to communicate with loved ones while travelling,” American Citizen Services tweeted.

Overnight, at the Miss Grand International beauty pageant in Bangkok, a tearful Myanmar contender, Han Lay, pleaded for peace.

“I deeply feel sorry for all the people who have lost their lives on the streets,” she said in an emotional address, before singing Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World”.

“Please help Myanmar, we need your urgent international help right now.”

The Myanmar embassy in London on Sunday confirmed the ambassador met with Suu Kyi’s youngest son Kim, 44, last week, who reiterated a request to speak to his mother by telephone.

AFP

Myanmar Junta Releases 600 Detainees

File photo: Riot police stand guard as protesters take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 9, 2021. (Photo by Sai Aung Main / AFP)

 

Myanmar freed more than 600 coup detainees on Wednesday, including an Associated Press photographer arrested while covering rallies, following fresh outrage over brutal crackdowns on protesters.

The regime has unleashed a deadly wave of violence as it struggles to quell nationwide protests against the February 1 ouster and arrest of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The 75-year-old was due to have a court hearing on Wednesday in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, on criminal charges that could see her permanently barred from political office.

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But her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said the hearing was adjourned until April 1 because of problems with video conferencing caused by a junta-imposed internet shutdown.

In commercial hub Yangon, AP photographer Thein Zaw, 32 — who was arrested last month while covering a protest — was freed from Insein prison.

“I’m now on my way back home to meet with my mum. I’m in good health,” Thein Zaw told AFP.

“The police officer who sued me withdrew his charge — that’s why they released me unconditionally.”

The AP’s vice president for international news Ian Phillips said the agency was “deeply relieved” at Thein Zaw’s release.

File photo: A police vehicle fires water cannon in an attempt to disperse protesters during a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on February 8, 2021 (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

He had been charged with “spreading false news”, along with five other journalists who were arrested the same day and are still in custody.

Seperately, Polish photojournalist Robert Bociaga — who was also arrested while covering protests — was released after nearly a fortnight in detention, he told AFP Wednesday, adding that he was set to be deported.

– ‘Silent strike’ –
Thein Zaw’s release came hours after more than 600 people held for protesting against the coup were freed from the same jail.

“We released 360 men and 268 women from Insein prison today,” a senior prison official told AFP on condition of anonymity, before the AP photographer’s release.

Lawyer Khin Maung Myint, who was at Insein prison for the hearing of two other clients, said 16 busloads of people left the jail at 10 am local time (0400 GMT).

“Some clients called me (after) informing me of their release,” he told AFP.

Local media showed images of the prisoners on the buses flashing the three-fingered salute — a sign of resistance for the anti-coup movement — as people waiting outside the prison waved at them and returned the gesture.

Activists called for a nationwide “Silent Strike” on Wednesday, and streets were bare in the cities of Yangon and Naypyidaw.

In the southern city of Myeik, rows of dolls were set up along roads, holding up tiny signs reading “We need democracy” and “We wish for Mother Suu to be healthy”.

– At least 20 children killed –
There was chaos overnight in Mandalay with barricades burning, arrests, homes raided by security forces, beatings and machine guns ringing out over multiple neighbourhoods, local media reported.

Three people were killed on Tuesday including seven-year-old girl Khin Myo Chit, shot dead at her home in Mandalay, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring group.

Aid group Save the Children and AAPP both say that at least 20 people aged under 18 have been killed in the crackdown.

File photo: Protesters march during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 7, 2021. (Photo by Ye Aung THU / AFP)

 

“We are horrified that children continue to be among the targets of these fatal attacks on peaceful protesters,” Save the Children said in a statement.

“We once again call on security forces to end these deadly attacks against protesters immediately.”

Up to 7,000 refugees are expected to flee the unrest in the country’s urban centres by the end of April, according to the Karen National Union (KNU), an ethnic rebel group which controls territory in southeastern Karen state near the Thai border.

Hundreds of people have already fled to its areas of control, the KNU’s general secretary Saw Tah Doh Moo told AFP.

Myanmar’s junta on Tuesday defended its seven-week crackdown, insisting it would not tolerate “anarchy”.

AAPP has verified 275 deaths since the coup, but warns the toll could be higher, and says more than 2,800 people have been detained.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun put the death toll lower at 164, and branded the victims “violent terrorist people” at a Tuesday news conference in Naypyidaw.

– Suu Kyi graft claims –
Suu Kyi faces several criminal charges, including for owning unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions by staging a campaign event last year.

She is also being investigated for corruption allegations.

Her lawyer says he has still not been able to speak to her privately.

The junta alleges the detained chief minister of Yangon confessed to giving Suu Kyi $600,000 in cash, along with more than 11 kilograms ($680,000 worth) of gold.

AFP

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Hit With Two New Criminal Charges

Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi arrives for a meeting with Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang (not pictured) at the Presidential Palace at the sideline of the World Economic Forum on ASEAN in Hanoi on September 13, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / POOL / KHAM

 

 

Ousted Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with two new criminal charges in a court appearance via video link on Monday, one month after a military coup triggered relentless mass protests.

Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since being detained on February 1, and her court appearance came as demonstrators marched across the country defying an escalation of deadly force by the junta.

At least 18 people were killed Sunday as troops and police fired at demonstrators in cities across Myanmar, according to the United Nations, which cited its own credible information.

State broadcaster MRTV said late Monday that more than 1,300 people were arrested and eleven killed on Sunday, adding that security forces have been directed not to use live rounds against protesters.

Suu Kyi, 75, was already facing obscure criminal charges for possessing unlicensed walkie-talkies, as well as violating coronavirus restrictions by staging a campaign event during last year’s election.

She is now also accused of breaching communications laws as well as intent to incite public unrest, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said.

“We cannot say for sure how many more cases Daw Aung San Suu Kyi will face in this period,” he told reporters in Naypyidaw.

Suu Kyi has reportedly been kept under house arrest in the capital of Naypyidaw, an isolated city purpose-built under Myanmar’s previous junta.

The military has justified its takeover, which ended a decade-long democratic experiment, with unfounded allegations of widespread fraud in last November’s national elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide.

A committee of deposed lawmakers from her party on Monday said that due to the “atrocities and acts of terrorism of the military the streets and communities across Myanmar have become battlefields.”

– ‘Evil era’ –
Hundreds of thousands of people have marched over the past month opposing the coup.

The military has steadily escalated the force used in trying to contain the uprising, beginning with tear gas and water cannons. Weekend violence saw a major escalation as security forces fired rubber bullets and live rounds.

Protesters however remain defiant.

“I’m here as a frontliner because I don’t want my son to grow up in this evil era,” a student called Eric told AFP, adding he had a 10-month-old baby.

AFP independently confirmed 11 deaths in Sunday’s violence, although there were fears the toll was much higher. There were no reports of deaths on Monday.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group estimates that security forces have killed about 30 people since February 1.

On Monday demonstrators in Yangon used bamboo poles, sofas and tree branches to erect street barricades, while police responded with stun grenades and tear gas.

In one clash broadcast live on Facebook and verified by AFP, unarmed protesters fled after a volley of shots were fired.

It was unclear if the security forces had fired live rounds or rubber bullets.

Several journalists documenting assaults by security forces have also been detained in recent days, including an Associated Press photographer in Yangon.

Two reporters from China’s state-run Xinhua news agency were “hit with rubber bullets while they were covering protest near Myaynigone junction this morning,” a journalist friend of theirs told AFP.

Foreign pressure continued to rise, as Germany and Italy summoned Myanmar’s envoys in their capitals to demand an end to the violent repression.

“Such deadly violence against peaceful demonstrators cannot be justified,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert, voicing “consternation” over the crackdown.

The United States has been one of the junta’s most outspoken critics.

“We condemn the Burmese security forces’ abhorrent violence against the people of Burma & will continue to promote accountability for those responsible,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Sunday, using the country’s old name.

Southeast Asian foreign ministers are set to discuss the Myanmar crisis at informal online talks hosted by Brunei on Tuesday.

“We hope all sides in Myanmar will exercise utmost restraint and engage in dialogue in order to achieve peaceful resolution of the situation and the return to normalcy for the interests of the Myanmar people,” the Thai foreign ministry said in a statement.

 

137 NGOs From 31 Countries Ask UN For Myanmar Arms Embargo

People gather around an armoured vehicle maneuvering on a city street, following days of mass protests against the military coup, in Yangon on February 14, 2021.
SAI AUNG MAIN / AFP

 

Nearly 140 NGOs from 31 countries signed an open letter Wednesday calling for the United Nations Security Council to urgently impose an arms embargo on Myanmar after the military coup there earlier this month. 

“The United Nations Security Council should urgently impose a global arms embargo on  Myanmar in response to the military coup and to deter the junta from committing further abuses,” the letter said.

It went on to say, “Governments that permit arms transfers to Myanmar — including  China, India, Israel, North Korea, the Philippines, Russia, and Ukraine — should immediately stop the supply of any weapons, munitions, and related equipment.”

Three of the named countries are currently members of the Security Council: permanent members China and Russia — who both hold veto power in the body — and non-permanent member India.

“Given the mass atrocities against the Rohingya, decades of war crimes, and the overthrow of the elected government, the least the UN Security Council can do is impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) director Kenneth Roth wrote.

“The Security Council should also impose targeted sanctions, global travel bans, and asset freezes on the leadership of the junta and military-owned conglomerates,” said the signatories, which also included dozens of Asian NGOs.

UK, Canada Sanction Myanmar Generals After Coup

This combination of pictures created on February 1, 2021 shows (top L) Myanmar's President Win Myint during a visit to New Delhi on February 27, 2020, (top R) Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok on November 4, 2019, (bottom L) Myint Swe, then the Yangon division chief minister, delivering a speech in Yangon on February 12, 2013, and (bottom R) Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, saluting during a ceremony to mark the 71th anniversary of Martyrs' Day in Yangon on July 19, 2018. Soe Than WIN, Prakash SINGH, Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, Ye Aung THU / AFP
This combination of pictures created on February 1, 2021 shows (top L) Myanmar’s President Win Myint during a visit to New Delhi on February 27, 2020, (top R) Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi at the 35th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok on November 4, 2019, (bottom L) Myint Swe, then the Yangon division chief minister, delivering a speech in Yangon on February 12, 2013, and (bottom R) Myanmar’s Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces, saluting during a ceremony to mark the 71th anniversary of Martyrs’ Day in Yangon on July 19, 2018. Soe Than WIN, Prakash SINGH, Lillian SUWANRUMPHA, Ye Aung THU / AFP

 

 

Britain and Canada on Thursday imposed sanctions on generals in Myanmar for human rights violations following the military takeover in the Southeast Asian country.

The UK foreign ministry said it was imposing sanctions on three junta officials, including the ministers of defence and home affairs, and had begun a review to stop UK businesses working with the regime.

“The UK condemns the military coup and the arbitrary detention of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political figures,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement, referring to Myanmar’s de-facto leader who was detained in the coup.

“We, alongside our international allies, will hold the Myanmar military to account for their violations of human rights and pursue justice for the Myanmar people,” he added.

The United States has already sanctioned Myanmar leaders after the February 1 coup.

Canadian Foreign Minister Marc Garneau announced a broader sanctions list affecting nine officials in Myanmar.

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“The sanctions announced today are part of a united response to send a clear message that Canada will not accept the actions of the Myanmar military and their complete disregard for the will and democratic rights of the people of Myanmar,” he said.

The coup ended a decade of transition from outright military rule in Myanmar and saw the arrest of Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders.

The generals justified the power grab by alleging fraud in November elections that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won in a landslide.

The UK sanctions were placed on Minister of Defence General Mya Tun Oo, Home Affairs Minister Lieutenant General Soe Htut and his deputy home minister, Lieutenant General Than Hlaing.

The government pointed to the role the ministers played in directing the security services as it banned them from travelling to the UK and froze any assets they may hold in Britain.

But the activist group Burma Campaign UK said the sanctions amount to a limit on leisure travel.

“These military leaders won’t have any assets in the UK to freeze, so the practical outcome of these type of sanctions is that they can’t take holidays in the UK,” said Mark Farmaner, the campaign’s director.

The foreign ministers of the G7 group of wealthy nations said in a joint statement earlier this week they were “deeply concerned” by the coup in Myanmar.

AFP

Aung San Suu Kyi ‘In Good Health’: Military Junta

This file photo taken on October 25, 2020 shows supporters of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party taking part in an election campaign event with a portrait of Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon. (Photo by Sai Aung Main / AFP)

 

Myanmar’s deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is at a “safer place” and “in good health”, according to military spokesman Zaw Min Tun.

“It’s not like they were arrested — they are staying at their houses,” the general, who became the country’s vice information minister after the coup, said during a press conference Tuesday.

“We are keeping Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and (president) U Win Myint at a safer place for their security. They are in good health.”

Suu Kyi’s lawyer and her National League for Democracy party have said they have not been able to make direct contact with her, though they believe she is under house arrest in her Naypyidaw residence.

Myanmar General Warns Anti-Coup Protesters To Return To Work

Protesters march during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 7, 2021. (Photo by Ye Aung THU / AFP)

 

Myanmar’s ruling general signalled waning patience Thursday with nationwide protests over the military’s takeover, ordering demonstrators to return to work or face “effective actions”.

His warning comes after a sixth consecutive day of anti-coup rallies condemning the ouster of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and follows US President Joe Biden announcing sanctions against the generals on Wednesday.

While the demonstrations have largely been peaceful, security forces earlier this week used tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets, with isolated reports of live rounds being fired.

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By Thursday evening, army chief General Min Aung Hlaing — who now holds legislative, judicial and executive powers — called for civil servants to return to work after days of nationwide strikes supporting the protests.

“Due to unscrupulous persons’ incitement, some civil service personnel have failed to perform their duties,” he said in a statement.

“Effective actions will be taken.”

Since the February 1 coup, there has been an outpouring of anger and defiance, calling for the release of Suu Kyi and other detained senior figures of her National League for Democracy party.

Protesters face off with police standing guard on a road during a demostration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on February 8, 2021. (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

Demonstrators again marched peacefully on Thursday in Naypyidaw — the capital and military stronghold — as well as Yangon, the largest city and commercial hub, which saw tens of thousands flood into the streets.

“Don’t go to the office,” chanted a group of protesters outside Myanmar’s central bank in Yangon, part of the effort urging people to boycott work and put pressure on the junta.

“We aren’t doing this for a week or a month — we are determined to do this until the end when (Suu Kyi) and President U Win Myint are released,” one protesting bank employee told AFP.

A protester holds up a sign with the images of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi (R) and president Win Myint during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 6, 2021. (Photo by YE AUNG THU / AFP)

Joining the protest were dozens from the ethnic Karen, Rakhine and Kachin communities — drawn from Myanmar’s roughly 130 ethnic groups, some of who have faced intense persecution from the army.

“Our ethnic armed groups and ethnic people have to join together to fight against the military dictatorship,” Saw Z Net, an ethnic Karen protester, told AFP.

In Shan state demonstrators in traditional costumes took their anti-coup message to the water on Lake Inle, with similar scenes unfolding in the ancient UNESCO heritage city of Bagan as hundreds marched between temples and pagodas.

– US sanctions –
Western nations have repeatedly denounced the coup, with the United States leading calls for the generals to relinquish power.

In the most significant concrete action, Biden announced Wednesday that his administration was cutting off the generals’ access to $1 billion in funds in the United States.

“I again call on the Burmese military to immediately release democratic political leaders and activists,” Biden said, as he flagged further sanctions.

“The military must relinquish power.”

On Thursday, former colonial power Britain welcomed Biden’s steps, with foreign secretary Dominic Raab tweeting that “we will hold those responsible to account”.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has also warned the bloc could impose fresh sanctions on Myanmar’s military.

– Crackdown deepens –
There were more reports of arrests Thursday, including the deputy speaker of the parliament’s lower house and a key aide to Suu Kyi.

The number of coup-linked detentions is now more than 200, according to monitor Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

The NLD — whose Yangon headquarters saw a raid this week — also confirmed the arrest of election officials in the afternoon.

The military justified last week’s power grab by claiming widespread voter fraud in November’s polls, which saw a landslide for Suu Kyi’s party.

It quickly moved to stack courts and political offices with loyalists as it ended a decade of civilian rule.

Fears are growing over how long the junta will tolerate the protests.

Live rounds were fired at a rally in Naypyidaw this week, critically wounding two people — including a woman who was shot in the head.

Images depicting the woman have been shared widely online alongside expressions of grief and fury.

The military’s clampdown on information using internet blackouts — with tech companies ordered to cut communications intermittently — has drawn widespread condemnation.

Concern grew Thursday that the junta was planning to impose a much harsher and sustained internet crackdown, including enacting a draft cybersecurity bill that would allow the military to order blackouts and website bans.

A coalition of the world’s largest internet companies — including Facebook, Google, and Twitter — denounced the draft law Thursday, calling it “a regressive step” to the past.

“We urge the military leaders to consider the potentially devastating consequences of these proposed laws on Myanmar’s people and economy,” said Asia Internet Coalition’s managing director Jeff Paine.

UN Security Council Expresses ‘Deep Concern’ After Myanmar Coup

A protester wears a National League for Democracy (NLD) T-shirt as they take part in a demonstration condemning the military coup outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok on February 4, 2021, days after Myanmar’s security forces detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country’s president. (Photo by Mladen ANTONOV / AFP)

 

The UN Security Council on Thursday voiced “deep concern” over the military’s coup in Myanmar, and called in a draft statement for the “release of all detainees” including Aung San Suu Kyi.

But the statement, written by the United Kingdom, no longer condemned the putsch as envisaged in a first draft during an emergency meeting on Tuesday.

Diplomats said veto-wielding China and Russia, Myanmar’s main supporters at the UN, had asked for more time to finesse the council’s response.

The later statement also supports a return to dialogue and the democratic process in Myanmar, where the army has detained civilian leaders including Suu Kyi.

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“It is better a text with less than no text at all,” said one diplomat, recalling that negotiations had been difficult since Tuesday with China.

China’s communist leadership has taken a softly-softly approach to the coup. Beijing has called for all parties in Myanmar to “resolve their differences”, and the official Xinhua news agency on Monday described the coup as a “major cabinet reshuffle.”

Myanmar is a vital piece of Beijing’s huge Belt and Road infrastructure initiative.

US President Joe Biden has called for a quick restoration of democracy in Myanmar, while United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the European Union and Australia were among others to condemn the coup.

The Myanmar military has justified its seizure of power by alleging widespread fraud in elections held three months ago that Suu Kyi’s NLD won in a landslide. It has imposed a state of emergency for a year, and claimed it would then hold fresh elections.

AFP

Facebook Blocked In Myanmar As UN Chief Says Coup Must Fail

People clatter cymbals and pans to make noise after calls for protest went out on social media in Yangon on February 3, 2021, as Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formally charged on Wednesday two days after she was detained in a military coup. (Photo by STR / AFP) 

 

Myanmar’s generals ordered internet providers to restrict access to Facebook Thursday, as UN chief Antonio Guterres said the world must rally to ensure the military coup fails.

The Southeast Asian nation was plunged back into direct military rule on Monday as de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders were detained in a series of dawn raids, ending the country’s brief experiment with democracy.

The coup sparked international condemnation and fears the military will drag 54 million people back to the decades of junta rule that turned Myanmar into one of Asia’s most impoverished and repressive nations.

With soldiers back on the streets of major cities, the takeover has not been met by any large street protests.

But people have flocked to social media to voice opposition and share plans for civil disobedience — especially on Facebook.

“We have digital power… so we’ve been using this since day one to oppose the military junta,” said activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi, who’s behind a so-called “Civil Disobedience Movement” fanning out across social media platforms.

Telenor, one of the country’s main telecoms providers, confirmed Thursday that authorities had ordered it to “temporarily block” Facebook access.

The Norwegian-owned company said it had to comply but “does not believe that the request is based on necessity and proportionality, in accordance with international human rights law”.

Facebook confirmed access “is currently disrupted for some people” and urged authorities to restore connectivity.

NetBlocks, which monitors internet outages around the world, said the disruptions were also affecting Facebook-owned apps such as Instagram and WhatsApp.

For many in Myanmar, Facebook is the gateway to the internet and a vital way to gather information.

“The first thing we look at each morning is our phone, the last thing we look at in the night is our phone,” Aye, a 32-year-old entrepreneur opposed to the coup, told AFP.

A small rally kicked Thursday in front of Mandalay Medicine University, saw protesters carrying signs that said “People’s protest against the military coup!”.

Local media said police arrested four people, although authorities could not confirm the detentions to AFP.

– ‘Coup must fail’ –
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing’s coup has left the international community scrambling to respond.

On Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Guterres said he would pressure Myanmar’s generals to reverse course, in his most forceful comments yet.

“We will do everything we can to mobilise all the key actors and international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails,” Guterres told The Washington Post.

“It’s absolutely unacceptable to reverse the results of the elections and the will of the people.”

Min Aung Hlaing justified his coup by alleging widespread voter fraud during November’s election.

Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since she was detained, won a huge landslide with her National League for Democracy (NLD), while the military’s favoured parties received a drubbing.

International and local observers — as well as Myanmar’s own election monitor — reported no major issues that might have affected the integrity of the vote.

Myanmar’s junta-era constitution ensures the military retains considerable influence, including a quarter of parliamentary seats and control of key ministries.

But analysts say top generals feared their influence was waning and were dismayed by the enduring appeal of Suu Kyi.

On Wednesday authorities brought an obscure charge against the 75-year-old to justify her ongoing detention.

According to her party, she was charged with an offence under Myanmar’s import and export law after authorities found unregistered walkie-talkies at her home.

The United States said it was “disturbed” by the charge.

– Limited options –
Myanmar’s military has declared a one-year state of emergency and said it would hold new elections once its allegations were addressed.

That has caused huge anger inside the nation, but opposing the military is fraught with risk.

During junta rule, dissent was quashed with thousands of activists — including Suu Kyi — detained for years on end.

Censorship was pervasive and the military frequently deployed lethal force, most notably during huge protests in 1988 and 2007.

The new government has already issued a warning telling people not to say or post anything that might “encourage riots or an unstable situation”.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday but failed to agree on a statement condemning the coup.

To be adopted, it required the support of China and Russia, which both wield veto power as permanent Security Council members and are Myanmar’s main supporters at the UN.

Diplomats said Russia and China asked for more time to finesse the Security Council’s response.

Myanmar’s Suu Kyi Charged As Calls To Oppose Coup Grow

A man hits a plastic container to make noise after calls for protest went out on social media in Yangon on February 3, 2021, as Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formally charged on Wednesday two days after she was detained in a military coup. (Photo by STR / AFP)

 

 

Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formally charged on Wednesday two days after she was detained in a military coup, as calls for civil disobedience to oppose the putsch gathered pace.

The Southeast Asian nation was plunged back into direct military rule when soldiers arrested key civilian leaders in a series of dawn raids on Monday, ending the army’s brief flirtation with democracy.

Su Kyi, who has not been seen in public since, won a huge landslide with her National League for Democracy (NLD) last November but the military — whose favoured parties received a drubbing — declared the polls fraudulent.

On Wednesday, the NLD’s press officer said the 75-year-old was formally charged with an offence under Myanmar’s import and export law, with a court signing off on two weeks’ remand.

The unusual charge stemmed from a search of her house following her arrest in which walkie-talkies were discovered, according to a leaked police charging document seen by reporters.

 

A group of Myanmar activists residing in Israel hold a portrait of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they chant slogans during a protest outside the country’s embassy in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 3, 2021. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

A similarly unorthodox charge under the country’s disaster management law against President Win Myint revolved around him allegedly breaching anti-coronavirus measures last year by meeting voters on the campaign trail.

With soldiers and armoured cars back on the streets of major cities, the takeover has not been met by any large street protests.

But signs of public anger and plans to resist have begun to flicker.

Doctors and medical staff at multiple hospitals across the country announced Wednesday they were donning red ribbons and walking away from all non-emergency work to protest against the coup.

 

People clatter pans to make noise after calls for protest went out on social media in Yangon on February 3, 2021, as Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formally charged on Wednesday two days after she was detained in a military coup. (Photo by STR / AFP)

“Our main goal is to accept only the government we elected,” Aung San Min, head of a 100-bed hospital in Gangaw district, told AFP.

Some medical teams posted pictures on social media wearing red ribbons — NLD colours — and raising a three-finger salute, a protest gesture used by democracy activists in neighbouring Thailand, while some have chosen to bypass work altogether.

“My protest starts today by not going to the hospital… I have no desire to work under the military dictatorship,” said Nor Nor Wint Wah, a doctor in Mandalay.

Activists were announcing their campaigns on a Facebook group called “Civil Disobedience Movement” which by Wednesday afternoon had more than 150,000 followers within 24 hours of its launch.

The clatter of pots and pans — and the honking of car horns — also rang out across the commercial capital Yangon on Wednesday evening for a second night in a row after calls for protest went out on social media.

In some neighbourhoods, residents shouted in the streets and sang democracy protest songs.

 

A group of Myanmar activists residing in Israel stand with a crossed-out portrait of Myanmar’s armed forces commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing and a portrait of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, while waving flags of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party and of Israel during a protest outside the country’s embassy in the Mediterranean coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 3, 2021. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP)

 

Military’s deadly legacy

Army chief Min Aung Hlaing appointed himself head of a new cabinet stacked with former and current generals, justifying his coup on Tuesday as the “inevitable” result of civilian leaders’ failure to heed the army’s fraud warnings.

The military declared a one-year state of emergency and said it would hold new elections once its allegations of voter irregularities were addressed and investigated.

The move stunned Myanmar, a country left impoverished by decades of junta misrule before it began taking steps towards a more democratic and civilian-led government 10 years ago.

But protesting is fraught with risk.

During junta rule, dissent was quashed with thousands of activists — including Suu Kyi — detained for years on end.

Censorship was pervasive and the military frequently deployed lethal force during periods of political turmoil, most notably during huge protests in 1988 and 2007.

The new government has already issued a warning telling people not to say or post anything that might “encourage riots or an unstable situation”.

On Wednesday, the NLD announced the military had committed “unlawful acts” in the coup’s aftermath, raiding its party offices across the country and seizing documents and computers.

 

People clatter cymbals and pans to make noise after calls for protest went out on social media in Yangon on February 3, 2021, as Myanmar’s ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was formally charged on Wednesday two days after she was detained in a military coup. (Photo by STR / AFP) 

 

International censure

The army’s actions have been met with a growing chorus of international condemnation — although the options are limited for those nations hoping Myanmar’s generals might reverse course.

On Tuesday the State Department formally designated the takeover as a coup, meaning the United States cannot assist the Myanmar government.

Any impact will be mainly symbolic, as almost all assistance goes to non-government entities and Myanmar’s military was already under US sanctions over its brutal campaign against the Rohingya minority.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and several other nations have also spoken out.

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday but failed to agree on a statement condemning the coup.

To be adopted, it requires the support of China, which wields veto power as a permanent Security Council member and is Myanmar’s main supporter at the UN.

“China and Russia have asked for more time”, said a diplomat requesting anonymity.

Both countries repeatedly shielded Myanmar from censure at the UN over the military’s crackdown on the Rohingya, a campaign that UN investigators said amounted to genocide.

With the UN meeting failing to issue a statement, G7 nations produced their own calling on Myanmar’s military to reverse course.