(Daily round-up of the latest events in Myanmar by ThaiPBS World correspondent David Tun.)
March 24: Leaked documents and civil disobedience
There were allegedly leaked documents, widely shared on social media, showing the junta government’s order to suspend or fire civil servants who have been participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). Over a hundred people have reportedly been punished under the order.
This was followed by another leaked government memo, showing that 405 union audit office staff, out of over 1,300, have been suspended. While there is no official confirmation from any government source, Facebook users, claiming to be civil servants, say that CDM remains strong.
Private banks remain closed, although there was an instruction from the Central bank to do otherwise. Another leaked directive, from the Central bank, shows that financial institutions will be fined, based on how many branches remain closed. Then there was another leak that showed the Central bank’s order for all private banks to submit a list of employees who have been participating in civil disobedience.
Perhaps the news that shook people the most, however, was that of the death of a 7 year old girl, who was killed in Mandalay in her own home on March 23rd.
Local media Khit Thit managed to interview the family of the child. The father said that security personnel broke down the door of their home and asked everyone to gather and sit down in one place. Because the child was scared, she was sitting on her father’s lap. Later, one of the soldiers allegedly shouted at the child’s father, accusing him of lying about the number of people in his house and shot him, while the child was still in his lap. Khin Myo Chit, the youngest of 8 siblings, died on the way to receive emergency medical treatment for a gunshot wound to her stomach.
The family told local media that the soldiers returned later to take the girl’s body away, but the whole family had moved, taking the body of the child with them. They said they have heard of similar events occurring before. The funeral for the 7 year old was held on March 24th, according to Muslim tradition.
What is going on impacts the trust people have in officials. The Myanmar military government is having a hard time getting people inoculated against COVID-19.
Locals in Dawei say that they do not trust the military government, or their vaccines, for several reasons. They said there were reports of villagers going to the published location for vaccination and disappearing, with religious leaders being especially pressured to get vaccinated. They fear the side effects as well as not being able to receive a second dose of the same vaccine. All of this on top of the dislike of the military.
The Dawei police also reportedly called for locals to surrender any and all weapons to the authorities, ranging from air guns to sticks. The police said that if any such weapon is found in any residence, the owner will be charged with possession of offensive weapons, as well as under anti-terrorism laws.
Myanmar activists plan more anti-coup protests on Wednesday, including a silent strike with many businesses due to close and calls for people to stay home, a day after a seven-year-old girl was killed in her home when security forces opened fire during a crackdown in Mandalay.
All the while, the government made it clear that there is no plan to restore the mobile internet connection any time soon.
The Junta’s spokesperson, Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, said that five policemen and four soldiers have been killed and that 164 “insurgents” have died, a number of fatalities which is quite different from the tally from The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which will soon reach 300.
March 22 : As night falls, raids and attacks have become usual things
Deadly crackdowns continue across the country, starting as early as 8am in some parts of Mandalay.
In Thibaw, of Shan State, protesters began to hold signs showing support for and calling on ethnic armed forces to unite and fight.
In Lashio, an improvised explosive device was lobbed into a police compound, reportedly by two unidentified men on a passing motorbike. There were no reports of injuries, but buildings and motorbikes were damaged.
The state-owned newspaper reported that the military government has declared the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) to be an illegal organization, while the CRPH issued a warning to jade and precious mineral companies that, if they participate in a precious stones auction, to be held by the military government, they will be blacklisted and face consequences.
Myanmar’s junta on Tuesday defended its seven-week crackdown that has left more than 260 democracy protesters dead, insisting it would not tolerate “anarchy”. The junta has unleashed deadly violence as it struggles to quell nationwide protests against the February 1 ousting of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The US also announced more sanctions, extending to not only the top military brass but also to the 33rd and 77th Light Infantry Divisions. As the date grows closer and India-based media hype up the joint military exercise, called “Quad-plus-France”, the people in Myanmar are hoping that it may help, at the very least, to alleviate some pressure on the people. China, through its media mouthpiece, has called the drill a publicity stunt.
Notably, the Central Bank has announced that all private banks must provide it with lists of all customers and related details, including safety deposit boxes, citing an ongoing money laundering investigation.
As night falls, raids and attacks have become commonplace in townships such as Yangon, with power cuts and arson being reported. Of course, internet connections remain restricted.
March 21 : Junta calls for normality, while continuing its raids and crackdowns
Three weeks after the coup, the death toll is still climbing, as the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reported confirmed fatalities are at least 250.
The terror-tactics being used by authorities have also forced more youths in Yangon to hunker down for now, as most wait for a federal army to form.
The military government is calling for the public to return to normality, but places like the Zaycho market in Mandalay, despite ample security, cannot operate since most vendors dare not open their shops, while consumers dare not to go anywhere near soldiers or police.
In Yangon, a civil society “We Love Yangon” was raided, and items, donated for families of CDM participants and the deceased, were confiscated. The raid resulted in one death when a woman, trying to hide from the authorities, fell from the 5th floor of the building.
The ethnic armed forces in the fight
The KNU, an active ethnic armed force (EAO) fighting the military, announced that any organizations which support the military in any way will not be tolerated and action will be taken.
This statement came after the KNU reported that about 700 bags of rice were sent by the Thai military to military camps near the Myanmar-Thailand border. The Thai military, however, said that the shipment was nothing more than regular border trade.
While the EAO Arakan Army in Rakhine state remains quiet, and seems to be cooperating with the military’s State Administration Council, student union and civil societies in Rakhine issued statements claiming that they remain anti-coup and calling anyone who cooperates with the military council “disgusting traitors.”
While the CRPH say they are trying to bring the military regime before the international courts, and assure CDM participants that they are recognized for their bravery, and will be, somehow, rewarded, only time will tell.
March 18: News of fatalities is no longer a surprise
Reports of new fatalities no longer seem to surprise most people, as security personnel continue their campaign to quell dissent. This is, however, the first time a person participating in the CDM has died.
Htun Htet Aung was a civil servant from the forestry department in Monywa. He was reportedly arrested on March 15th. He suffered an internal hemorrhage and didn’t receive treatment until the morning of his death, when he was en route from Monywa to the Mandalay General Hospital.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reports that, as of March 18th, 224 people have been killed.
The government media reported that Aung San Suu Kyi, and her Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, are guilty of corruption. Despite the military government saying that investigations are ongoing, people are speculating that the junta will continue to pile charges onto her. Aung San Suu Kyi is now looking at around 15 years of imprisonment.
The CRPH have asked people not to listen to any orders issued by the military government. Although there is not yet a “federal army”, ethnic armed forces continue to wage war against the military. Battles are especially severe in Kachin State, where the KIA managed to take over 3 military camps around Hpakant.
As the Tatmadaw continues on its path of silent dissent, the State Administration Council has issued a directive to restart the tourism businesses in the country, especially at popular travel locations such as the Bagan, Mandalay, Pyin Oo Lwin, as well as Ngapali and Chaung Thar beaches.
Meanwhile, security personnel continue their crack–down in Yangon.
Local media in Yangon reported that the raids continue, people are being arrested and forced to clear the makeshift barricades from the road.
By now, it seems that most of the internet has been either completely cut off or has slowed to a snail’s pace, as even fibreinternet connections become sluggish.
As the media and information black out tightens and internet connections fail, people fear that the military will soon plunge the whole country into a total communications blackout, by also cutting phone lines, as they did on the day of the coup.
March 17: Resist, and you will be shot
Today marked the day when the last of all private newspapers in Myanmar shut down. San Taw Chain newspaper announced its decision to stop the publishing temporarily.
All mobile data connections remain cut, with reports from people in the telecommunication sector that Wi-Fi based internet services will also be cut indefinitely from March 17th, while some fibre internet connections will continue to work.
Guilty of graft
The state-owned media broadcast a video of the tycoon Mg Waik, from Say Paing Construction Company, admitting that he personally donated to the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, through Aung San Suu Kyi, four times between 2018 and 2020. The news reported that Aung San Suu Kyi is guilty of graft, and is being investigated and that the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation used state-owned land, but did not pay sufficient fees to the government.
Pockets of resistant
While some places no longer see protests, there still are several pockets of open resistance in Yangon. Amidst the alleged burnings and indiscriminate shootings, places like Hlaing Tharyar remain defiant. Migrant workers from other towns, however, continue to leave the township, as brutal crackdowns continue.
At least 5 more people died on March 17th, with the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) reporting that, as of March 16th, a total of 202 civilians have been killed by the authorities, with 2,181 people charged, sentenced and confirmed arrested. 1,862 are still in detention.
Several Union Election Commission (UEC) members were reportedly released, after being detained for nearly a month, and were not forced to sign any confessions or documents.
As global pressure seems to be putting pressure on the military government, there are reports that several places, where CRPH members were rumoured to have been hiding, were raided, though no arrests were reported.
Throughout the day, security forces have been removing barricades and roadblocks, erected by the protesters, and people seen out public have been arrested. At the same time, local news media reported that there were announcements in Hlaing Tharyar that, if anyone refuses to cooperate, their neighborhoods will be attacked and they will be shot.
March 16: A proud traitor
As Myanmar enters its 43rd day of protests, neither the people nor the military are willing to back off, while marches and city-wide protests are now absent from hub cities, such as Yangon, as security personnel continue their brutal campaign to quell dissent, several pockets of resistance remain.
As the death toll rapidly rose to over 180, people are now concentrating on bolstering the defenses of their neighborhoods, as well as providing food, water and other necessities to not only civil servants, who are part of the CDM, but also in places like Hlaing Tharyar, where martial law has been declared.
The Money Business
The Junta government, through the Central Bank, announced that all financial documents, especially for money transfers in and out of Myanmar, of all INGOs and NGOs are to be submitted to the government. Actions against large foreign entities are also due to increase, as the state-owned media claimed that the Open Society Foundation (OSF), funded by George Soros, is guilty of providing financial support to the CDM.
Arrest warrants have been issued for all 11 OSF staff members. The state-media reported that the foundation withdrew 1.4 million US dollars from its account, at the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Bank, just as the CDM started up, and the account has not been approved by the Central Bank for the deposit of around US$5 million. A number of accounts relating to the OSF in other private banks have been seized, confiscating total assets worth around US$3.8 million.
The military regime had also claimed that George Soros, and his son Alexander Soros, met with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi multiple times, indicating that they will be pulling all strings to uncover financial connections to the National League for Democracy.
Meanwhile, several branches of KBZ Bank across Myanmar reopened Tuesday. The head office in Kamayut Township of Yangon was crowded. After a while, the bank stopped dispensing cash and closed its doors. There was an unconfirmed report that people left inside were arrested and taken away.
There has been no statement from KBZ, and no response to Thai PBS World’s enquiries.
(Reuters) – Myanmar’s most powerful Buddhist monks’ association called on the junta to end violence against protesters and accused an “armed minority” of torture and killing innocent civilians since last month’s coup, media said on Wednesday.
Keep on the Pressure
As the CRPH (Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) and international allies continue their efforts to bring the military generals before international courts, like the ICC, the CRPH announced that businesses paying taxes and other forms of dealings with the junta government will not be recognized by a legitimate civilian government.
The Sangha Mahayanaka, the governing body of Buddhist monks in Myanmar, issued a statement today saying that they will be ceasing all activities, due to the ongoing political turmoil, effectively joining the CDM.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres says that the military regime is acting against the wishes of the UNSC, to exercise control and find solutions through dialogue, urging UN member states to push harder on the military to allow access by a UN envoy team, as well as many other actions.
A total of 488 CSOs collectively issued a statement, expressing dismay over the UNSC’s failure to take action and condemning the stances of China, Russia, India and Vietnam, which have been blocking action by the Security Council.
The Global Centre for Responsibility to Protect (R2P), however, says that “Myanmar’s military has manifestly failed to uphold its responsibility to protect and bears responsibility for the commission of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”
The State-media also announced, via its nightly news, that Dr. Sasa, the envoy to the United Nations for the CRPH, is now a traitor to the nation and that he has been indicted by a court in Nay Pyi Taw Township on a charge of high treason.
Dr. Sasa responded that he is proud to be declared a traitor by an illegitimate junta.