Myanmar Journal: Doctors and medics struggle to save lives while the death toll could well pass 150
(by David Tun in Yangon)
The coverage on this live blog has ended — for up-to-date coverage on the Myanmar protest, visit the March Myanmar Journal.
March 14 – It did not take long for the protesters to start sending out panic calls on Sunday, as a great number of security personnel were deployed and live rounds were fired. Around noon, Hlaingtharyar Township saw at least two deaths and more than five injured.
Social media calls for help created a distraction, such as reports of strong protests elsewhere, and possibly the blocking of key chokepoints, to slow down security reinforcements in Hlaingtharyar.
Townships close-by answered the call and so did the military government. Throughout the day, large numbers of troops were dispatched, followed by more reports of fires, deaths, maiming and severe injuries.
In the midst of the chaos, the CRPH announced that citizens are legally allowed to defend themselves. The people rallied to erect strong defenses in their local communities, to stock up on rations and to build defensive weapons, such as homemade slingshots.
As evening passed and day dawned, security personnel continued their use of force in townships, like South and North Dagon, where citizens reported continuous gunfire as well as stun grenades. Blazes continued in many places well past curfew time.
While the exact number of fatalities could not be confirmed, local news media estimate that 30 people were killed in Hlaingtharyar alone and over 50 killed across the country on Sunday. They also report that, as doctors and medics continue to struggle to save lives, the total death toll since February 13th could well exceed 150.
In its 8pm news, state-owned media announced that Hlaingtharyar and Shwepyithar Townships, in which there were heavy crackdowns during the day, will be placed under martial law. Very soon after, the electricity to some townships was cut.
March 11: The nights continue with the raids and shootings across the country
Citizens in Myanmar woke to news that the United Nations Security Council has managed to pass a resolution which, for the first time since the coup, condemns the excessive force used on peaceful protestors by Myanmar’s security forces.
It did not, however, include the words “military coup,” with Reuters reporting that China, Russia, India and Vietnam had objected to the term.
Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, a well-known political activist based in London, also testified before the United States Senate Committee regarding the crimes committed by the military, urging the US to take measures to help Myanmar. A bill, regarding the protection of democracy in Myanmar, will be discussed in the coming days. The US has also sanctioned businesses owned by Aung Pyae Sone and Khin Thiri Thet Mon, children of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
In other significant news of the day, Myanmar’s anti-corruption commission is looking into a report alleging that NLD’s Yangon Region Chief Minister, Phyo Min Thein, gave the State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi US$600,000 and 7 Pyeittha (about 11 kilograms) of gold, sometime between December 2017 and March 2018. The State Administration Council claimed that Phyo Min Thein himself has confessed.
The council also said that President Win Myint and his wife, Mandalay Region Chief Minister Dr. Zaw Min Tun, Mon State’s Chief Minister Dr. Aye Zan and other NLD leaders are all guilty of graft and are being investigated.
As the international community remains, at best, skittish about recognizing the legitimacy of the military as the rightful government, battles rage between the military and ethnic armed forces in the Kachin and Kayin states. More ethnic armed forces, who are already signatories to a ceasefire agreement, have begun to stir, prompting the military to solidify its alliance with the Arakan Army (AA), a prominent armed force within the Rakhine State.
Since the February 1 coup, the military has sought a temporary peace with the AA and the people of Rakhine, as it would mean they could concentrate their efforts elsewhere. Through the counter-terrorism department, the military has revoked the AA’s status as a terrorist organization, freed prisoners and withdrawn 6 court cases regarding connections to the AA.
The CRPH confirms that they have engaged the international law firm Volterra Fietta to take the State Administration Council to International courts and tribunals, such as the ICJ and the ICC, while continuing to address the formation of people’s governments and urging more to join the CDM.
Despite the UN resolution condemning excessive force against peaceful protestors, at least 11 were killed Thursday with Myaing, a small town in Magway Region, seeing at least 6 people dead. Yangon saw 2 deaths. Since February 1, at least 70 confirmed-cases killings by the military and police forces have occurred.
During the day, photos surfaced online of Polish freelance journalist, Robert Bociaga, surrounded by soldiers and being beaten in Taunggyi, Shan State.
Raids and use of live ammunition continued throughout the night in many towns across the country.
March 10: The idea of a “people’s army” floated
There are increasing calls for stronger forms of defense for protesters. The country’s youth and social media users are calling for intervention by international community. There are even calls for the creation of a people’s militia, a federal army of sorts. The CRPH, however, remains quiet on the subject.
Meanwhile, the authorities show no signs of easing up, as they escalate crackdowns on the protests. Around 300 have reportedly been arrested countrywide, including 14 members of the NLD’s central executive committee. The families were told that they are being charged with offences which could result in prison sentences of up to 4 years if convicted. All 14 are scheduled to appear in court on March 19th.
Among them is Aye Min Oo, also known as Jamal, a Muslim NLD party member who served as a bodyguard for Aung San Suu Kyi and was arrested in Bago. Since Muslim NLD members have reportedly been fatally beaten, his family now fear for his life.
Crackdowns continue nationwide, with people being hauled away in prison trucks. Yangon’s North Oakkalapa Township alone saw 200 people taken away.
In another town of Yangon, Mingalar Taungnyunt, the living quarters of Ma Lwa Gone railway employees were surrounded by the authorities and 17 people were arrested. The railway department is the government unit which has seen highest number of staff join the civil disobedience movement. There were around 900 people living there before the coup. Close to 600 left the compound days ago, but many remain.
In San Chaung Township of Yangon, the hotspot of night raids and arrests over the past several days, is seeing a heavy military and police presence. Initial reports suggest that there was a scuffle between protestors and the police, after which they lost their weapons. San Chaung residents confirmed this report on social media, saying that local administrators asked the public to inform the authorities if they see any firearms.
And of course, the day, as always, ended with the internet blackout.
March 9: More media closed, offices raided, journalist arrested
More of Myanmar’s media have been closed down. Kamayut Media’s office was raided and its Editor-in-Chief, as well as the founder, have been arrested. The offices of Mizzima’s broadcasting department was also raided by the military, but no arrests were made.
At least 30 people are confirmed to have been arrested in San Chaung Township last night, while the unconfirmed list is at least 60 people. Some of them were released after signing confessions later in the night. All of them reportedly bore signs of physical assault.
A leaked document, shared widely on social media, shows an order for strict security checks across towns, especially vehicles heading toward Karen State. People believe that this will only intensify since the ethnic armed forces, especially the KNU, are sheltering police, military deserters, activists and Civil Disobedience Movement participants.
Night raids reportedly continue across the country. Parts of Dawei were blocked off and the locals said the authorities were ready to shoot anyone they saw on the roads.
More NLD members and pro-democracy activists have been arrested. NLD party member Zaw Myat Lin, arrested a day before, is now dead. His wife said she received a phone call from the police station to confirm his death.
As of march 9th, the tally, tracked by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners NGO, shows that 1,939 individuals have been arrested, charged and/or sentenced, 1,620 of whom are still in detention or have warrants issued for them.
The daily internet cuts still start at 1am but now the connection resumes at about 6am.
March 8: A strong gesture for mercy, followed by two deaths from gunshot wounds
The Eleven Media Group was temporarily closed, then publishing licenses for DVB, Mizzima, Myanmar Now and 7 Days were revoked by the coup installed military government.
As the military and the police take up more advantageous positions, in places like universities, hospitals and pagodas, protestors are wearier of surprise attacks.
Even then, International Women’s day saw more women coming out to join the protest, while Htamein (sarongs worn by women) are seen flying alongside other flags.
All banks were supposed to reopen on Tuesday, but only government banks actually did. Commercial banks feared they would be overcrowded by people trying to do transactions and other business.
Protests in towns like Dawei, of Tanintharyi Region, or Kutkai in Shan State, have seen ethnic armed forces guarding the protestors.
Nevertheless, a military truck reportedly ran over motorcycles, resulting in 6 people being injured. Photos of a nun in Myitkyina, Kachin State, kneeling in front of the authorities in an attempt to stop the crackdown, went viral on social media.
It is a powerful gesture, but there were two deaths in Myitkyina reported not long after that moment. The police reportedly told her “they have to do this” and soon used tear gas on protestors, the nun included. Two protesters died of gunshot wounds.
As the sun set, the raids started after the curfew time of 8pm, with officers going door-to-door to make arrests. This sparked late night protests by people in many townships in Yangon, in attempts to divert security forces from the raids. Some forces were, indeed, diverted, but not nearly enough, as those hiding in San Chaung apartments were reportedly arrested.
The incident sparked a wave of statements from embassies in Yangon, including the US, the UK and The United Nations.
The United Nations in #Myanmar is calling for an immediate de-escalation of the situation in Sanchaung, Yangon, and to allow protestors prevented from returning home by security forces to so do safely. pic.twitter.com/eMcWOokBri
— United Nations in Myanmar (@UNinMyanmar) March 8, 2021
They had little to no effect, as security forces continued to make more arrests. Many are worried that, when the internet gets cut at 1am, the military and police will be even more aggressive in San Chaung.
March 6 – Hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst
While actual military intervention or a UN Security Council resolution still seems unlikely, the military are taking more steps to prepare for something.
Since early morning, a convoy of cars were seen leavingYangon, via the Yangon-Mandalay Express highway, toward central Myanmar, where the army’s ground forces are better entrenched, such as in Nay Pyi Taw.
They may be hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst, as sources confirm more troops are being pulled in from army reserves, to completely quell public dissent, especially in areas of central Myanmar.
Though there were no deaths reported on Saturday, a colleague in Taungdwingyi, Magway Region, confirmed that soldiers are routinely and aggressively accosting citizens, as well as entering houses to search for any information to justify arrests.
In Yangon, military and police forces are being more circumspect, burning down makeshift barricades placed by protestors, while the firefighters are left to put them out.
A protestor hiding from the police in Yangon captures a policeman lighting the fires.
More people in plain clothes, carrying assorted weapons, werecaught by neighborhood watch groups, while the state-owned newspaper and broadcasters publish propaganda claiming that the civilians are the violent mob and neither the military or the police are responsible for the deaths.
Perhaps, from intelligence gleaned, they believe some of the members of the CRPH are still in Yangon, military and police are out in force at night. Reports spread rapidly on social media that authorities are roaming, entering houses, arresting whoever seems to be their target, including grass–root NLD members, CDM leaders or participants and more. In some places, live rounds and grenades were reportedly used. Some residents also reported their homes were being pelted with slingshots, if they were found watching them.
A group of police and soldiers also came to my street. From my hiding spot, I saw soldiers patrol the street, while policemen tried to break down the door of a building where a youth member of the NLD resides.
While their targets right now are probably not journalists, colleagues from local news media confirm that another letter of warning was sent to private media companies by the Ministry of Information. Once again, it is attempting to force the media to self-censor.
March 5: “Civilians killed by a third-party” propaganda campaign continues
Despite international condemnation and reminders to the UN about the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) from the CRPH and its representatives, another civilian was killed in Mandalay.
Zaw Myo died after being shot in the neck. The 26 year old leaves behind a widow and a young son, as security forces, now branded terrorists by the CRPH, continue their spree of violence.
Meanwhile, the death of the 19 year old ethnic Chinese Kyal Sin, reported on March 3, will be investigated. Locals reported a heavy military presence was seen in the Chinese cemetery and that the military had exhumed the body for investigation, then re-buried it and covered it with a fresh layer of cement. At the same time, the propaganda campaign, claiming that civilians were killed by a third-party, continues.
The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) announced its political goals:
- to bring an end to military dictatorship
- to free detained President Win Myint and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as all others detained
- to establish democracy
- to ensure the emergence of a constitution rooted in a federal system, after abolishing the 2008 constitution.
The CRPH also declared an oath to all ethnicities and people of Myanmar to fulfill its goals. The KNU echoed CRPH’s sentiments, urging all people of Myanmar to unite to bring an end to the Bamar-centric military dictatorship.
Ethnic armed forces are now being seen with the protestors again, after disappearing for a while. Armed personnel from the Karen National Liberation Army, as well as the Karen National Union (KNU), were seen escorting protestors in territories such as Hpa-an.
Citizens living in Shan State also reported that the Táang National Liberation Army (TNLA) marched in their hundreds and have taken up posts about 8 Kilometers away from the city of Lashio in Northern Shan State. The military had been deployed in Lashio, to crack down on the protests, however, citizens reported that there was no clash between the police and the protesters.
While the intentions of the TNLA are still uncertain, as it is one of the few groups that has not yet denounced the coup, they were also reportedly attacking another ethnic armed organization in Shan State which had condemned it.
There is more news of police personnel joining the CDM. Anonymous interviews, conducted by local media, reveal that, starting on the day of the coup, many police personnel were directed to different places, stationed away from familiar locales and had their phones taken away. Interviewees say that they no longer want to obey the military’s orders for escalating violence and end up as the scapegoats.
In places like Yangon, families of the military were being called to central Myanmar, either in Nay Pyi Taw or elsewhere. Sources from military-families say that their parents or relatives serving in the military warn of the potential for a huge crackdown, possibly followed by a lockdown that might last up to two weeks.
Some believe that the military is preparing for war, either involving the international community or a united coalition of ethnic armed forces. Directives were also issued to businesses, especially banks, to reopen by 8th of March at the latest, with necessary security precautions.
March 4: Condemnation, defection, and more arrests
One day after the bloodiest day so far, in which the United Nations confirmed that the military took 38 lives, protestors countrywide remain undeterred, as demonstrations and strikes rage across Myanmar.
Perhaps due to the bloodshed, or the pressure and growing animosity from the people, more members of the police force have reportedly started participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). The number of defected officers is growing quickly, as those who had already joined CDM call on their comrades to stop serving the military.
A senior police officer, the name of whom was given to the treporter as “Nyi Thuta”, said that he took nearly a month of safety precautions before defection. It will take longer for police, military personnel and their families to come to the side of the people, as they are heavily controlled by their institution, Nyi Thuta told a former Frontier Myanmar journalist, Mratt Kyaw Thu.
Nyi Thuta said that Facebook accounts of military personnel and family members are kept under watch or are even directly controlled by the military.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that 19 Myanmar police officers had crossed the border into India, to seek refuge in the state of Mizoram. Reuters quoted one of the 19 as saying that all of them are lower-ranking policemen and more are expected to come.
The deadly day was widely condemned. Around 14 medical charity and volunteer groups from Maubin announced that they will no longer associate, at any level, with military and police forces or their families. A meeting with business owners, both foreign and local, supposed to be held on March 4 in UMFCCI, was canceled as “no one wanted to be there”, according to a tycoon who had been invited.
As pressure mounts on the State Administration Council, more members of the National League for Democracy continue to be arrested. The authorities reportedly continue their spree of arrests, violence and shootings. Military-owned Myawady said on TV that Kyal Sin, the 19 years-old-girl, who was shot in the neck in Mandalay on March 3, was near protestors holding weapons, trying to imply that the protestors were responsible for her death. The state-run news program continues to report that items used in self-defense by protestors are weapons intended to harm the public and security personnel.
March 3: Anniversary of the Myanmar’s first coup in 1962, and the bloodiest day since February 1st this year.
The 59th anniversary of the first coup in Myanmar is macabrely apt as it is also the bloodiest day since the February 1st 2021 coup, as the military escalates its violent oppression, meant to cow the people into submission.
Since early morning, the military and the police began cracking down on protesters. As soon as midday, news of fatalities began to emerge. The first death of the day was a 19 year old in Myingyan.
The death toll climbed quickly. Reports of more fatalities and violence were initially concentrated in more rural areas, like Monywa, Salin and Myingyan. It didn’t take long to hit main cities like Mandalay and Yangon.
Minutes before Kyal Sin, a 19-years old university student from Mandalay, was shot through the neck and died. She has been an active participant in recent protests. Photo credit:
In the evening, security forces burned down some barricades, which had been erected on the road by the protestors. The fires were contained by firefighters.
At sundown, reports of the use of live ammunition in North Oakkalapa, Yangon, began pouring in. Witnesses said the military used a machine gun, or something similar, judging by the rapid rate of fire.
Locals claimed that people were gathering near a prison truck, to demand the release of detained protesters. The police asked for a representative and when the people replied that there was no single leader, the military opened fire on them.
As of the time of this report, there was no confirmed list of today’s casualties, except that at least 7 were killed and at least 40 were injured by live ammunition, confirmed by the North Oakkalapa General Hospital’s Emergency Department, reopened to treat the sudden wave of victims.
Meanwhile, the CRPH announced that they are working on getting evidence of all atrocities committed by the authorities, to submit at the closed-door UN Security Council meeting on Friday.
More reports of sexual harassment have surfaced, especially against detained female students.
Many people are rallying to calls to form a People’s Militia, to defend themselves better. Many worry that such a move may lead to out of control violence, as it has done in previous coups in Myanmar’s history.
Around midnight, a charity foundation, which specializes in helping to organize funeral services, founded by a famous actor Kyaw Thu, was surrounded by military and police. Local residents were leaving their homes in support, because they suspect the authorities plan to remove the bodies of their victims and hide them away. In the end, the military and police assaulted at least 3 members of the charity group, took away some cash and some office equipment, including PCs.
North Oakkalapa General Hospital has been surrounded by the military and the police. The doctors treating victims have either fled or are in hiding as of the time of writing this article. People fear the authorities will arrest victims who are alive and take away the bodies of those killed.
Whatever the case, the body count is likely to grow. Unconfirmed reports say Wednesday’s death toll was over 60, with 22 dead in Yangon alone. The UN confirmed 38 deaths on just this one day.
March 2: “No need to worry. The Burmese Military has taken care of the nation’s situation.”
Wednesday is the 59th anniversary of the first coup in Myanmar in 1962, and the protests and crackdowns continue.
San Chaung and Myaynigone remain the hot-spots in Yangon. While ample amounts of tear gas, stun grenades, water cannons and physical assaults were used, there were no reports of fatalities. It was far deadlier, however, in Kalay, Sagaing Region. Live ammunition was used against protestors. Local media reported that were 19 injured, with four critical.
Meanwhile, Christine Burgener, the UN Special Envoy on Myanmar, said that the military is trying to provoke the people into committing violence. The State-owned media, however, reported that the military had issued a command for riot police to stop using live ammunition against protestors. It also said that the people were using weapons, such as slingshots and petrol bombs, and that security personnel had to defend themselves.
People believe that, as it has done in the past, the military is beginning to pin the blame for violent deaths and other atrocities on civilians, and in turn, the police force.
There is a video clip circling around, showing the police in Kalay walking up to people and, without warning, initiating a brawl. This was then followed by police announcing that the military will use live ammunition on the demonstrators.
The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) is now resembling an interim, parallel government as it announced the appointment of four ministers to oversee 8 ministries. More appointments are expected to follow. The plan from the CRPH, for the people to form their own local governments, is being picked up by townships across the country, even in Hpakant, known for its jade mines, in the far-north of Myanmar.
The people believe that any sort of compromise is no longer an option, due to the many atrocities the authorities have committed. Day time protests, night time pot banging at 8pm, now coupled with chants and songs, public candlelit prayers for the fallen and even praying to the spirits to put a curse on the Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, are all signs that the people remain defiant in face of armed threats.
As pressure mounts, police and the military continue their night raids and arrests of protestors, strikers and journalists. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reports that more than 1,300 people have been arrested, charged or imprisoned since the coup on February 1.
Six journalists in Yangon are now charged under Section 505(a) of the penal code for publishing or circulating ‘statements, rumours or reports’, ‘with intent to cause, or which is likely to cause, any officer, soldier, sailor or airman, in the Army, Navy or Air Force to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail in his duty’.
Conviction carries with it up to seven years in prison.
Social media posts started flooding in saying that, in Amarapura Township in Mandalay, which is now under occupation by the military and the police, electricity has been cut and police and military are reportedly using live rounds against civilians, with several reportedly injured.
March 1 – Crackdowns and raids
Protests continue, in defiance of the brutal crackdowns by the police and the military. It seems that the military have decided to reinforce Yangon with more than just infantry regiments, as military in Navy uniforms have been seen in some townships of Yangon.
There were no confirmed deaths reported today, but many people were reportedly injured.
Home invasions during the day are now also a regular occurrence, as military and police break down doors and reportedly assault people in their homes.
The police raided a church in Kachin state, when an alleged police informant was captured and detained there. At least 11 people were arrested at the church, including Christian ministers. In Mandalay, the Phalan Bo mosque was also raided, for allegedly sheltering protestors.
Local media, Voice of Myanmar (VOM), reported a list of fatalities since February 1st. The toll came to 23, with speculation that some of the deaths were omitted only because of lack of detail and accurate information.
The Central Bank of Myanmar has announced that individuals can only withdraw a maximum of 500,000 kyats (about 10,720 baht) from ATMs per day, 2 million Kyats (about 42,900 baht) per week and 20 million Kyats per week for businesses.
As protestors gear up for another day of battles against security forces, they are also waiting to see whether the internet will be cut as scheduled, because today is the last day of the announced daily internet cuts.
In Myeik, the police tried to arrest a journalist from DVB – Democratic Voice of Burma. In the videos online, he is seen asking the police why they had come. The police started throwing rocks and using slingshots against him, even as the journalists told them to stop and that he would surrender.