Anti-coup protesters flash the three-finger salute during a demonstration in Yangon, MyanmarMyanmar’s army battled local militia fighters in the northwestern town of Mindat on Saturday, residents said, to try to quell a rebellion that has sprung up to oppose the junta that seized power in the Southeast Asian country in February. The fighting in Mindat, Chin state, underlines the growing chaos in Myanmar as the junta struggles to impose authority in the face of daily protests, strikes and sabotage attacks after overthrowing elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta imposed martial law in Mindat on Thursday and then stepped up attacks on what it called “armed terrorists”. A spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment on the fighting on Saturday. Residents taking cover in the town said fighting raged on Saturday. “There are soldiers everywhere,” said one man. Video shot by one resident of the hilly town and shared on social media showed a helicopter gunship firing a rocket. Reuters was not immediately able to verify the video. The Irrawaddy news service said some homes had been destroyed as the army resumed artillery bombardment on Saturday. “We are living in a nightmare. Mindat is literally a war zone,” a 32-year-old resident who gave his name as Mang told Reuters from the town late on Friday. “They are using heavy artillery, mortar shells against us. We cannot fight that, we are exhausting most of our ammunition and we are risking everything… I think there is a chance we may be slaughtered. We try our best to defend ourselves but we may not last much longer.” Myanmar already had some two dozen ethnic armed groups, who have waged war for decades against an army dominated by the Bamar majority. The Chinland Defence Force was set up in response to the coup. Reuters was unable to reach the group for comment on Saturday. The junta-controlled Myanmar News Agency said fighting on Wednesday and Thursday in Mindat involved 100 people who attacked a police station and about 50 targeting the state-run Myanmar Economic Bank. A local lawmaker said the fighting erupted after the military refused to release seven local youths detained by authorities. The number of casualties was unclear. At least 788 people have been killed by the junta’s security forces in crackdowns on protests against its rule, according to an advocacy group. The military, which disputes that number, imposes tight restrictions on media, information and the internet. Reuters cannot independently verify arrests and casualty numbers. FacebookTwitterLinkedinEMail
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has promised a United Nations special envoy that he will not force back people fleeing violence in neighboring Myanmar, where the military ousted a democratically elected government in February
BANGKOK (AP) — The United Nations’ special envoy on Myanmar met with Thailand’s prime minister on Friday as she continues efforts to end violence in Myanmar sparked by a military takeover in February.The envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener, told Prayuth Chan-ocha in Bangkok that she hopes Thailand will find ways to work with Myanmar’s military to ease the unrest, the prime minister’s office said in a statement.The army’s seizure of power has been opposed by a broad cross-section of Myanmar’s population, and the junta has responded with a violent crackdown that has cost hundreds of lives. The escalation of violence and the junta’s failure to restore order has led to fears the country could become a failed state, impacting neighboring Thailand and the whole region.Prayuth told Schraner Burgener his government is ready to listen and exchange information that could be beneficial, according to the statement, which said the two also discussed humanitarian assistance for affected people, including those fleeing across the border into Thailand for safety.Prayuth, a former army commander who also came to power by ousting an elected civilian government, is perceived to have a close relationship with the head of Myanmar’s military government, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.The U.N. envoy has been based in Thailand since April. She attended a special meeting of the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Jakarta on April 24 and met with Min Aung Hlaing.Schraner Burgener has said she plans to stay in the region in the coming weeks and remain in close contact with ASEAN to support “the timely and comprehensive implementation” of its “five-point consensus” on the Myanmar crisis.It calls for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all concerned parties, mediation of the dialogue by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties.Story continuesMin Aung Hlaing’s government has since indicated it will only consider the ASEAN agreement after reestablishing stability.While the junta’s use of lethal force against mass protests has reduced turnouts at peaceful rallies in Myanmar’s cities and towns, the level of civil unrest remains high. Some groups of protesters have embraced armed self-defense, often only with air guns, single-shot hunting rifles and homemade grenades and firebombs.On Thursday, the junta announced the imposition of martial law in Mindat township in the western state of Chin, which borders India. The remote area has been one of the most militant in putting up armed resistance to the security forces, who have suffered casualties in almost daily confrontations.A shadow National Unity Government established by opponents of the army’s rule announced last week that it is creating a “People’s Defense Force” to consolidate resistance to the military takeover.In addition to the protests for a restoration of democracy, there has also been an upsurge in fighting in border areas between the military and ethnic guerrilla armies that have declared their support for the pro-democracy movement. The fighting, including government air strikes, has forced tens of thousands of villagers to flee their homes in Karen state, close to the Thai border, and also seen clashes in Kachin state in the north.——Associated Press journalist Jerry Harmer contributed to this report.
Min Nyo, who worked for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) in Myanmar’s Bago region, was arrested on March 3 and was sentenced to three years in jail.A Myanmar journalist who reported on anti-military government protests has been jailed for three years for incitement, his news organisation said, while authorities announced a twice-arrested Japanese reporter would be freed.
Min Nyo, who worked for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB) in Myanmar’s Bago region, was arrested on March 3 and found guilty by a military court in one of the first verdicts against media workers since the February 1 military coup.
“DVB demands the military authority release Min Nyo immediately, as well as other detained or convicted journalists around Myanmar,” it said on Thursday.
He had been beaten by police and denied visits by his family, it said.
Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, also denounced the sentence, saying: “The world cannot continue to sit quietly by while the junta’s repression machine imprisons the truth and those who are risking all to reveal it.”
In its nightly news bulletin, state-run MRTV said another journalist, Yuki Kitazumi, who was charged under the same law as Min Nyo, had broken the law but would be released as recognition of Myanmar’s close relationship with Japan.
Kitazumi, who runs a media company in Yangon, was arrested on April 19 for the second time since the coup and was the first foreign journalist charged.
Japan was a big investor and source of technical help and development aid for Myanmar’s semi-civilian governments in the 10 years of democracy and reform that followed the end of the last era of military rule in 2011.
Risk to life and liberty
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the coup, with the military struggling to impose order amid a groundswell of public anger at its overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.
Many journalists are among the nearly 4,900 people who have been arrested, according to the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group.
DVB is among several news outlets that have had licences revoked by the military, which has restricted internet access and used lethal force to suppress countrywide strikes and protests against it. At least 785 people have been killed by security forces, according to AAPP figures.
People attend an anti-coup protest on the 100th day since the military coup, in Pyigyidagun Township in Mandalay on Wednesday [Reuters]Three of DVB’s journalists were detained in northern Thailand this week for illegal entry after fleeing Myanmar. Human rights groups have pleaded with Thailand not to deport them.
Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director said journalism had effectively been criminalised by Myanmar’s generals.
“They risk life and liberty to shed light on the military’s abuses. The military authorities are ruthless, determined to crush dissent by silencing those who seek to expose their crimes,” Gil said in a statement.
Resistance to the military has intensified in recent weeks, with hostilities reigniting between the military and several ethnic minority armies, fatal attacks on military-government-appointed administrators and ambushes of police and soldiers by militias calling themselves People’s Defence Forces.
MRTV announced on Thursday that martial law had been declared due to unrest in Mindut in northwestern Chin State. Resistance groups there say there has been heavy fighting between armed civilians and military government troops.
Meanwhile, protests continue across the country on Friday, with demonstrators on motorbikes taking to the streets in Mogaung in Kachin state and dozens of protesters marching in Mandalay despite threats of a violent military crackdown.
Candlelight strikes by students were also held on Thursday night in Mingaladon, north of Yangon, the country’s largest city and economic hub.
Myanmar’s ruling junta says that as a gesture of friendship with Tokyo, it will free a Japanese freelance journalist who was jailed and charged with spreading false news or information that could cause public unrest
And the pro-democracy movement has proven resilient.
Five journalists and activists who fled Myanmar’s violence are on trial for illegally entering Thailand.
BANGKOK (AP) — After Myanmar’s military seized power by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, they couldn’t even make the trains run on time: State railway workers were among the earliest organized opponents of the February takeover, and they went on strike.Health workers who founded the civil disobedience movement against military rule stopped staffing government medical facilities. Many civil servants were no-shows at work, along with employees of government and private banks. Universities became hotbeds of resistance, and in recent weeks, education at the primary and secondary levels has begun to collapse as teachers, students and parents boycott state schools.One hundred days after their takeover, Myanmar’s ruling generals maintain just the pretense of control. The illusion is sustained mainly by its partially successful efforts to shut down independent media and to keep the streets clear of large demonstrations by employing lethal force. More than 750 protesters and bystanders have been killed by security forces, according to detailed independent tallies.“The junta might like people to think that things are going back to normal because they are not killing as many people as they were before and there weren’t as many people on the streets as before, but… the feeling we are getting from talking to people on the ground is that definitely the resistance has not yet subsided,” said Thin Lei Win, a journalist now based in Rome who helped found the Myanmar Now online news service in 2015.She says the main change is that dissent is no longer as visible as in the early days of the protests — before security forces began using live ammunition — when marches and rallies in major cities and towns could easily draw tens of thousands of people.At the same time, said David Mathieson, an independent analyst who has been working on Myanmar issues for over 20 years, “Because of the very violent pacification of those protests, a lot of people are willing to become more violent.”Story continues“We are already starting to see signs of that. And with the right training, the right leadership and the right resources, what Myanmar could experience is an incredibly nasty destructive, internal armed conflict in multiple locations in urban areas.”Meanwhile, the junta also faces a growing military challenge in the always restive border regions where ethnic minority groups exercise political power and maintain guerrilla armies. Two of the more battle-hardened groups, the Kachin in the north and the Karen in the east, have declared their support for the protest movement and stepped up their fighting, despite the government military, known as the Tatmadaw, hitting back with greater firepower, including airstrikes.Even a month ago, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was describing the situation as grim, saying Myanmar’s “economy, education and health infrastructure have been brought to the brink of collapse, leaving millions of Myanmar people without livelihood, basic services and, increasingly, food security.”It was not surprising that The Economist magazine, in an April cover story, labeled Myanmar “Asia’s next failed state” and opined it was heading in the direction of Afghanistan.The U.N.’s Bachelet made a different comparison.“There are clear echoes of Syria in 2011,” she said. “There too, we saw peaceful protests met with unnecessary and clearly disproportionate force. The State’s brutal, persistent repression of its own people led to some individuals taking up arms, followed by a downward and rapidly expanding spiral of violence all across the country.”Junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has shunned all efforts at mediation, from the United Nations as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member.Myanmar’s resistance movement, meanwhile, has organized widely and swiftly underground.Within days of the junta takeover, elected parliamentarians who were denied their seats convened their own self-styled Parliament. Its members have formed a shadow National Unity Government with guidelines for an interim constitution, and last week, a People’s Defense Force as a precursor to a Federal Union Army. Many cities, towns and even neighborhoods had already formed local defense groups which in theory will now become part of the People’s Defense Force.Aside from being morale boosters, these actions serve a strategic purpose by endorsing a federal style of government, which has been sought for decades by the country’s ethnic minorities to give them autonomous powers in the border areas where they predominate.Promoting federalism, in which the center shares power with the regions, aligns the interests of the anti-military pro-democracy movement with the goals of the ethnic minorities. In theory, this could add a real military component to a movement whose armaments are generally no deadlier than Molotov cocktails and air rifles — though homemade bombs have been added to its arsenals in recent weeks.In practice, at least for the time being, the guerrilla armies of the Kachin in the north and the Karen in the east will fight as they always have, to protect their own territory. They can give military training to the thousands of activists that are claimed to have fled the cities to their zones, but are still overmatched by the government’s forces. But on their home ground they hold an advantage against what their populations consider an occupying army. That may be enough.“The only thing that the military is really threatened by is when all of these disparate voices and communities around the country actually start working against it, not as a unified monolith, but all working against the military’s interests,” said the analyst, Mathieson. ”And I think that’s the best that we can hope for moving forward, that the people recognize that all efforts have to go against the military. And if that means fighting up in the hills and doing peaceful protests and other forms of striking back against the military in the towns and the cities, then so be it.”It’s hard to gauge if the army has a breaking point.Mathieson said he’s seen no signs the junta was willing to negotiate or concede anything. The Tatmadaw is “remarkably resilient. And they recognize that this is an almost existential threat to their survival.”___Associated Press journalist Jerry Harmer contributed to this report.
The three journalists and two activists are expected to appear in court on Tuesday on charges of ‘illegal entry’.Three Myanmar journalists and two activists are set to appear in a court in Thailand on Tuesday charged with “illegal entry” as the reporters’ news organisation urged the authorities not to deport them to Myanmar because their lives would be at risk.
The group was detained during a “random search” in the northern city of Chiang Mai on Sunday, DVB said in a statement.
“DVB strongly urges the Thai authorities not to deport them back to Burma, as their life will be in serious danger if they were to return,” said Aye Chan Naing, DVB’s executive director and chief editor.
The generals who seized power from Myanmar’s democratically elected government on February 1 have cracked down on the country’s independent media, forcing organisations to stop broadcasts and publication, and arresting dozens of journalists.
DVB’s television licence was revoked on March 8 and the broadcaster banned from doing any kind of media work.
Thapanapong Chairangsri, the head of police in the San Sai district outside Chiang Mai, told Reuters news agency that five Myanmar citizens had been arrested for entering the country illegally and would be brought to court on Tuesday.
He said they would be deported in accordance with the law, but added that because of the coronavirus outbreak they would be held in detention for 14 days before being handed to immigration authorities.
On Twitter, Tanee Sangrat, the spokesman for the Thai Foreign Ministry said the authorities were “coordinating to find humanitarian solution(s) to the recent case of journalists from Myanmar”.
DVB’s Aye Chan Naing, meanwhile, appealed to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok to intervene in the case and “help guard their safety”.
For paywall:Myanmar poet Khet Thi, whose works declare resistance to the ruling junta, has died in detention and his body was returned with the organs removed, his family said.A spokesperson for the junta did not answer calls to request comment on the death of Khet Thi, who had penned the line “They shoot in the head, but they don’t know the revolution is in the heart.” His Facebook page said he was 45.Khet Thi’s wife said both of them were taken for interrogation on Saturday by armed soldiers and police in the central town of Shwebo, in the Sagaing region – a centre of resistance to the coup in which elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted.“I was interrogated. So was he. They said he was at the interrogation centre. But he didn’t come back, only his body,” his wife, Chaw Su, told BBC Burmese language news .“They called me in the morning and told me to meet him at the hospital in Monywa. I thought it was just for a broken arm or something … But when I arrived here, he was at the morgue and his internal organs were taken out,” she said.She had been told at the hospital he had a heart problem, but had not bothered to read the death certificate because she was sure it would not be true, Chaw Su said. Reuters was unable to reach the hospital for comment.Chaw Su said the army had planned to bury him but that she pleaded with them for the body. She did not say how she knew her husband’s organs had been removed.“He died at the hospital after being tortured in the interrogation centre,” the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group said in a bulletin that put the toll of civilians killed since the coup at 780.The group, which monitors details of killings, did not identify the source of its information.Khet Thi was at least the third poet to die during protests since the 1 February coup. Poet K Za Win, 39, was shot dead during a protest in Monywa in early March.Cultural figures and celebrities have been prominent supporters of opposition to the coup with protests daily in different parts of the south-east Asian country in spite of the killings and thousands of arrests.Khet Thi had been an engineer before quitting his job in 2012 to focus on his poetry and to support himself by making and selling ice-cream and cakes.“I don’t want to be a hero, I don’t want to be a martyr, I don’t want to be a weakling, I don’t want to be a fool,” he wrote two weeks after the coup. “I don’t want to support injustice. If I have only a minute to live, I want my conscience to be clean for that minute.”More recently, he wrote that he was a guitar player, a cake baker and a poet – not someone who could fire a gun. But he implied his attitude was changing.“My people are being shot and I can only throw back poems,” he wrote. “But when you are sure your voice is not enough, then you need to choose a gun carefully. I will shoot.”