Myanmar Journal: The 100-day mark and a focus shift to the education system

Myanmar Protest May 12

May 12th – 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.

(Daily round-up of the latest events in Myanmar by Thai PBS World correspondent David Tun.)

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 vaccinatemembers 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 nearby jungle, but those whoremained 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

School teachers take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on February 10, 2021. (Photo by STR / AFP)

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

Anti-coup protesters burn tires and chant slogans with banner read ”The Kamayut strike will be fight for to the end when we get victory” during the demonstration against the military coup in Kamayut township Yangon, Monday, May 3, 2021. (AP Photo)

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.

This handout from Kachinwaves taken and released on May 3, 2021 shows a protester holding a placard supporting the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) during a demonstration in Kachin state. (Photo by Handout / KACHINWAVES / AFP)

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.

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