Myanmar Journal: “The laws of an illegitimate government mean nothing”
(by David Tun in Yangon)
The coverage on this live blog has ended — for up-to-date coverage on the Myanmar protest, visit the June Myanmar Journal.
May 29 – As the junta government is pushing for schools to reopen, Myanmar netizens widely shared what appears to be a leaked document, ordering schools and education centers to not employ Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) participants. The Basic Education General Strikes Committee responded to the document by saying that the laws of an illegitimate government mean nothing.
Myanmar lost to host team Japan 0-10 in a football match where the national team was lacking its popular and regular picks. Those who were on the field gave the three-fingered-salute,while refusing to sing Myanmar’s national anthem.
Veteran striker Kyaw Ko, one of the players who refused to be part of the team, told local media that all the players were under immense pressure to represent the country and those whorefused to do so were threatened and will likely be prosecuted.
As clashes continue, more and more members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) are reportedly being killed across the country. The USDP was the major political party in the first civilian government, under President Thein Sein. The USDP branch in Mon State announced that they will be carrying out “self defence,” basically warning that their men will be armed from now on. The statement also said that the country is moving toward the flames of war.
As if on cue, a video of the graduation ceremony of the People’s Defence Force’s (PDF) Southern Military Command went viral. The ceremony was attended by the National Unity Government (NUG) home affairs minister U Lwin Ko Latt.
In the evening, a group, purporting to be guerrilla fighters within Yangon, issued a warning that people should not gather to pay money to the military government, not engage with soldiers and police, unless out of extreme necessity, avoid proximity toknown informers and pro-military supporters and advising most people to remain at home, avoiding prolonged stays in crowded places.
At around 7.30pm, a group of unknown gunmen attacked a military camp in Tharkayta Township. The soldiers set up a base within the compound of the Zinaman Aung Pagoda and were fired upon in a surprise attack. Locals living nearby reported continuous gunfire and multiple explosions, as well as a subsequent power cut and military movements. Some claimed, on social media, that there were casualties, but no local news media reported as such and independent confirmation could not be made.
As the battle continued, the AAPP confirmed that a total of 833 people have been killed. It also published a separate report onpeople who have gone missing since the February 1st coup, claiming that there are 75 confirmed cases of disappearances across Myanmar.
May 26: Near the end of the fourth month since the coup and more monks arrested
It is nearly the end of the fourth month since the February 1st coup in Myanmar. Despite the crackdown on protesters and media, internet cuts, power blackouts and more, the resistance refuses to be cowed.
As most of the armed resistance to the military government is now occurring in rural states and regions, the military is now attempting to quash dissent being voiced by religious leaders, especially by Buddhist monks. More and more monks, especially senior ones, are reportedly being arrested every day.
One example is the head monk from Kongyi Village in Sar taung Township, where he had been an active participant in anti-coup activities. According to locals, squads of soldiers in four military trucks arrived for a raid, but the monk was a step ahead of them as he managed to avoid capture amidst bursts of live firefrom the army.
Battles continue to rage and the hotspot is now in Kayah State,in places such as Demaso and Phrauso. The local anti-coup civilian militia report that there are now over 10,000 refugees who have fled the fighting into the jungles, as the military retaliates with heavy weaponry, including artillery and armored vehicles.
The shadow National Unity Government (NUG) announced that, excluding the more recent events in Mindat, Kani and Demaso, security forces have executed 73 people under 18 years old between February 15th and May 15th. While the AAPP reports that, as of May 26th, 828 people have been killed with 4,330 still detained, out of the 5,441 arrested.
In areas not struck by conflict, the military-run government is going ahead with the reopening of schools. As the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) continues, the government is,once again, trying “COVID Diplomacy”, as it announces that doses of Sinopharm vaccine from China will be arriving and that priority will be given to teachers and students who return to school.
There are also reports that whole villages are being forced to sign their children up for school, or be charged under Section 505(a), a law which makes it a crime to publish or circulate any ‘statement, rumour or report…..with intent to prevent, or which is likely to prevent public servants from performing their duty’.
Notably, the military-run government had also issued a “whitelist” of internet censorship, a list of domains that it hasdeemed “suitable” for public viewing, which does not include popular havens of public dissent, such as Facebook and Twitter. International experts have heavily criticized the junta, sayingthat such a move will only benefit the regime but harm the nation as a whole. At the same time, the issuing of the whitelist coincides with recent rumours that more IT equipment from China has been shipped in, to increase monitoring, tracking and censorship of internet traffic.
As Dr. Zaw Wai Soe, the Minister of Education for the NUG, issued another warning to people to be ready, as the “Myanmar Spring” revolution could soon take a turbulent turn, Total and Chevron announced that cash distribution, from the 15% share owned by the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise in Moattama Gas Transportation Company Limited, will now be suspended due to the current instability in Myanmar.
May 23: Min Aung Hlaing says elections will be held in a year ‘if things are stable’
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said elections could be held in a year ‘if things are stable’ and that Aung San Suu Kyi remains healthy under house arrest, according to China’s Phoenix media.
The full interview by Phoenix media has yet to be released. The highlights have, however, been made public. Min Aung Hlaing said that, while Aung San Suu Kyi remains healthy under house arrest, he believes that she tried her best when asked what he thought of her actions.
Many accused him of trying to appear magnanimous on international news media, while the actions of the junta had been anything but that.
Meanwhile, the AAPP records show that 818 people have been killed since Feb 1, a figure that Min Aung Hlaing, in his interview, called “inaccurate”. He claimed that the real death toll was only around 300.
In Yangon and Mandalay, retailers in markets are being pressured by the local municipality to open their stores and resume business or have their documents revoked and businesses shut down. Business owners report that, even if they open, there is simply no business and there is a risk of theft. They are also worried that, if there is something occurs near their store, there will be a search by soldiers, which usually includes looting and pillaging.
It is the same situation in Mindat Township of Chin State, where the local resistance group had retreated from the city to avoid any more deaths. Now that security forces have taken firm control of the township, many of the residents have also fled. Photos and video, reportedly sent to local media, appear to show that security forces breaking into and looting shops in the town.
Battles are now intensifying in Kayah and Shan States, but this time, the People’s Defence Force (PDF), the precursor organization of the NUG military, is heavily involved, as well as other groups, such as the Karenni group of the Free Burma Rangers, as well as local ethnic armed groups, who are both fighting for the military as well as against it.
The skirmish at Moe Byal, an area on the state border between Shan and Kayah was, perhaps, the most intense, resulting in 20 deaths among security forces. Four were captured alive, while the PDF suffered one fatality and several others were injured. The police station in Moe Byal was burnt down by the PDF.
Local media, Khit Thit, published video clips showing the PDF is trying to observe and maintain the discipline of a professional armed organization. Soon after, the NUG revealed the official flag of the PDF, as well as other important factors, such as the Rules of Engagement, Chain of Command, etc.
While the general consensus of the public is that the actions were justified, many warned that this can easily escalate into what could only be described as terrorist activities. A great deal of public support is still there, however, for anyone brave enough to fight against the military government in any ways possible and that it was the PDF’s, and by extension the NUG’s fault for failing to connect with the independent resistant group, which have gone underground.
Now that the PDF has issued decrees and regulations relating to military activities, the public, including many self-proclaimed military CDM participants, welcomed the announcement by the NUG that shows more coordination.
May 19 : Right to information vs security of protesters
Myanmar’s netizens held a heated debate about news media reporting on anti-coup activities, especially those in rural towns and villages. Some are of the belief that names, locations, and dates of these activities should be withheld, as rural villages and towns will simply be flattened by security forces, thus killing any further possibility of continuing. Others, however, including journalists, argue the importance of the right to information, as well as the value of letting the public know about continuing efforts against the military regime.
As the anti-coup resistance continues, the attempts by the military-led government are getting more creative.
Days after the military-run government announced in the newspaper a warning that all unpaid electricity bills will be met with swift cuts to power supplies, locals started reporting selective power cuts in townships that see regular anti-coup rallies or protests.
Areas where they still bang their pots, to show their defiance of the military government, also claim that they are experiencing longer and more frequent power cuts.
In general, there are now more frequent power cuts occurring across the Yangon Region and most believe that this is in an attempt to force citizens to pay their utility bills, preferably in cash.
In the political arena, the reformed Union Election Commission (UEC), under the military-run State Administration Council (SAC), sent out a directive, to all registered political parties, that a meeting will be held on Friday, May 21st, at the Union Election Commission’s office.
The invitation for the UEC’s 2nd meeting caused more friction among political parties, as some party members wish to continue fighting within the political sphere, while others do not want to be a part of the system run by the military.
A number of parties, especially in ethnic regions, decided to sidestep the meeting. The Arakan National Party (ANP) says that, while they attended the first meeting with the reformed UEC, they will not be attending this meeting, claiming that this is only because there is no one available to attend. The ANP, one of the most, if not the most influential party in Rakhine State, declared earlier that they will no longer be associating with the SAC. Other parties from Rakhine, such as the Arakan Front Party will be participating, while the Arakan League for Democracy is remaining quiet.
The AAPP reports that, since the coup on February 1st, 807 people have been killed and 4,174 of 5,270 people arrested are still being detained.
May 16: The depths to which the regime will sink to hold on
As prices of general commodities in Myanmar continue to rise sharply, the AAPP reports that, as of May 16th, security forces have killed 796 people with 3,998 still in detention, out of a total of 5086 arrested.
Mindat Township hit the headlines in the last couple of days, when the military reportedly used overwhelming force, which locals said “amounted to war crimes”, in an attempt to quell local resistance.
Myanmar’s social media has shared that, on May 15th and 16th, Mindat saw shelling by heavy artillery, as well as some air support fire from military helicopters. The locals said the companies of soldiers also used locals as human shields, as they pushed into the township. More reports of killings, looting, and sexual harassment followed.
The Mindat’s local militia says that they had temporarily escaped as the military was using underhanded means to harm civilians and they did not want to prolong the fight, possibly costing more innocent lives.
The military’s actions in Mindat were described, by the US Embassy in Myanmar, as a “demonstration of the depths to which the regime will sink in order to hold onto power.”
In Monywa, the largest city in Sagaing region, famous political activist and poet, Sein Win, was burnt alive during a visit to his friend’s place to raise money for refugees displaced by the battles.
Sein Win had been active since the coup on Feb 1st, especially with his philanthropic activities. He was speaking to a gathering of people when a man approached him from behind, poured gasoline on him, and set fire to it. Severely burnt, Sein Win made it to hospital but died shortly after from his injuries. The perpetrator remains at large.
Apart from news on Mindat and Sein Win, people woke up to news of the famous Shwebo Myoma Market in Shwebo, Sagaing Region, burning. The blaze destroyed most of the market, reducing over 900 stalls to ashes. The fire allegedly started at around 2am, which is during the curfew hours.
Locals said that, since the curfew began, the night guards had been removed. People also speculate that, since the market and its vendors have been involved in anti-coup activities, security forces razed the market to the ground. There were rumours that the fire department was informed of the fire shortly after it broke out, but were stopped from being deployed by the military.
On May 15th, the junta-led State Administration Council held a press conference in Nay Pyi Taw, discussing the current economic crisis, which has led to a shortage of cash across Myanmar. The military-appointed Vice Chairman Win Thaw, of the Central Bank, said that people who are attempting to withdraw their savings are politically motivated and that they should not worry because the banks received total deposits of 200 billion Kyat just last week.
Thai PBS World, however, called employees of three private banks, KBZ, AYA, and CB. The bank managers said that a 200 billion Kyat deposit simply isn’t true, unless the money came from other banks, but they said that none of their contacts, working in other private or government banks, could confirm the statement.
One of them said that people continue to lose faith in the banks and the economy because they believe the military-appointed officials are unqualified and have been lying.
The same manager added that the Central Bank had assured private banks that they had enough cash in their reserves to handle the wave of withdrawals, but is yet to make good on the assurance and that, if 200 billion Kyat were indeed deposited, a large transfer of cash would have been provided to the private banking sector already.
May 12th: The 100-day mark and a focus shift to the education system
The 100th day since the coup on February 1st in Myanmar saw a marked increase in anti-coup protests and strikes, in both rural areas and in major cities, such as Yangon and Mandalay.
The AAPP reports that at least 785 have been killed, as of May 12th, with 3,885 out of 4,965 arrested people remaining in detention.
As the junta government announced its plans to vaccinate members of educational institutes, as part of its plans to begin reopening higher learning institutions, protests against participation in the junta-led education system have now become the main focus.
Lethal crackdowns by security forces continue, as do retaliations. Many more places have seen the formation of civilian militia with the title “Defence Force,” taking after the shadow National Unity Government’s “People’s Defence Force”.
There were particularly intense clashes in Talote Village, Myingyan Township, where battles between the local civilian militia and the military took place for two days. The village’s defenders initially had the upper hand, with their makeshift landmines and other weapons, reportedly killing at least 15 soldiers and injuring 7 others. As of May 11th, security forces had reportedly been unable to enter the village, but reinforcements of over 300 infantrymen were sent.
On May 12th, soldiers managed to push into the village, through covering fire from mortars and other munitions. Local villagers reported that many fled into the nearby jungle, but those who remained in the village, and were seen by security forces, were beaten and taken away. Villagers reported that at least five civilians died during the clash.
In Kyaikhto of Mon State, the newly formed local civilian militia reportedly attacked the police station and neighbouring office building, belonging to the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). Kyaikhto locals, living nearby, claimed that the sound of gunfire started around 7.30pm in the Kyaikhto Police Station and later a grenade was thrown into the USDP’s office. They say that while no one died, at least two people were injured.
There are also numerous reports of local ward administration offices burning down, as well as attacks on more ward administrators appointed by the military government, as more and more civilians in rural areas take up whatever arms they can. At the same time, security forces also escalated the use of more lethal weapons.
In Hakha, Chin State, the local civilian militia issued an announcement asking people to be more cautious when traveling, as several locations, including some routes to Hakha University and local bank branches, were land-mined. The local militia claims that the information came from a source within the military, who had a personal disagreement with the tactic. No independent confirmation could be made.
As the Central Bank of Myanmar auctions off US$6 million, a move which they claim is meant to stave off the effects of the fast-plunging Kyat and widening disparity between the Kyat and foreign currencies, Myanmar’s economy continues to falter and people’s fears deeper. Gold bullion rates in Yangon reached an all-time high, with many seeking to convert their money into gold, instead of the dollar, as further restrictions were placed on the private currency exchange market, as well a crack-down on burgeoning black market traders.
May 5: Schools to reopen amidst bomb blasts, arson and protests
Amidst reports of bomb blasts, arson, revenge killings, and other acts of violence, the military-run government announced that preparations are underway to reopen basic education schools throughout the country.
The announcement, by the Ministry of Education, immediately sparked more protests, this time led by teachers and other public school faculty members across the country. Many educators, who have been participating in CDM, are being pressured and/or threatened to go back to work. Many of them have already been removed from duty, according to f leaked internal documents.
As of May 5th, the military had killed around 770 civilians, with thousands remaining in custody.
On May 5, the National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow government formed by ousted lawmakers, officially formed the People’s Defence Force, which The NUG said it is a precursor of things to come in forming an actual working army, which will defend people from the military junta and its forces.
Meanwhile, authorities in Yangon adjusted the curfew to 10pm to 4am, citing a stabilizing situation, notwithstanding the flash protests and other forms of the movement against the coup continuing.
As the ethnic armed forces (EAO) in several states fight with the military, EAO by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is seeing more support from the civilians, while different groups of EAO in Shan state clashed with each other and a whole village being burned down in collateral damage.
The Arakan National Party (ANP) in Rakhine state, the one which had struck a deal with the military junta and had their name removed from a list of terrorist organizations, reportedly seems to be leaning towards the NUG’s causes.
The ANP decided, on May 4th, that the party will cut all contact with the military-run State Administration Council (SAC), essentially also exiling ANP member Daw Aye Nu Sein’s participation in the SAC, describing it as “her own personal decision.” ANP told local media that previous deals with the SAC were merely for the temporary good of Rakhine State and its people. Now that some time has passed, the ANP decided that the SAC is not able to perform for the benefit of the Rakhine State.
As the SAC declared all satellite television to be illegal, it had also revoked the licenses of four more independent news media.
May 3: Parcel bomb kills CDM protesters and a former MP
The day saw demonstrations around the country, praising journalists who are still actively reporting news, despite arrests and other restrictions on news media. Protests were met with lethal crackdowns and more arrests, amidst reports of bomb blasts, without a confirmed number of injuries.
Five people, including a former-NLD MP in Bago Region, were killed by a parcel bomb. A package sent to a house containing four police CDM participants, and the house’s owner, MP Thet Win Hlaing, exploded. Three died immediately and 2 more died on their way to the hospital.
As clashes continue in ethnic states, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) managed to shoot down a military helicopter in Momauk, triggering retaliation by the military on nearby areas, injuring a monk and 10 others in the nearby Kone Law village. The KIA said that three soldiers, including the helicopter pilot, died in the crash, while soldiers, who participate in the CDM, claim on Facebook that the helicopter was one of the approximately 10 Mi-35P Assault Helicopters that the military owns.
One former military officer also claimed that the KIA shot the helicopter down with a Type 85 AA heavy machine gun, using 12.7mm rounds. Unconfirmed sources also report that more than 600 soldiers have been sent to the nearby city, to support efforts to reclaim the strategic base, which the KIA seized last month. Many infantrymen have reportedly fallen in battles, trying to take back the base, resulting in the military conducting more airstrikes.
The AAPP reports that 766 civilians have been killed as of May 3rd.