Weekly Updates on Current Situation in Myanmar (18 July 2021)
Weekly Updates on Current Situation in Myanmar
Deaths and Arbitrary Arrests
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), as of 17th July 2021, 914 people have been killed, and the total number of peoplebeing arrested in Myanmar is 5,281, whereas 254 of them are sentenced to prison, among which 26 people have been sentenced to death including 2 children. Besides, 1,963 are evading arrest warrants, 118 people sentenced in absentia while 39 amongst them have been sentenced to death in absentia. The AAPP has been continuing its effort to verify the detainees released recently. So although 168 days have passed since the coup, none of the activities conducted by the military terrorist group implies their attitude of ending the violence. Until today, what they have been doing is continuing their inhumane acts at a higher level, arbitrarily arresting civilians and putting peoples' lives at risk.
The tremendous shocking surge of and sufferings from COVID-19
Beginning from the second week of July, infection and death rates related to COVID-19 have been enormously increasing on a daily basis. Currently, hospital spaces and medical supplies needed to use for the treatment of COVID-19 are insufficient, and human resources in the relevant field have also become extremely limited. But instead of resolving these issues, the reckless junta has been intentionally cutting off the supply of oxygen, one of the most crucial elements for the survival of people in Myanmar, and making it unavailable to the general public. Nowadays, there are numerous heartbreaking stories about people lining up to fill up their oxygen tanks quitting in the middle of the lane because their family members, relatives, or friends who are infected with COVID-19 died while they were still in line.
In addition to these heartbreaking incidents, it is even more sorrowful to witness piling corpses in Yay Way cemetery located in Yangon. According to the reports of Myanmar Now media, social welfare groups in Myanmar have been organizing about 600 cremations and funeral services every day during this week. As an estimate, daily death rates at major cities as of 17 July are highly likely between 800 and 1,000, which is a sharp rise compared to the heights in the previous waves of COVID-19 in Myanmar. Moreover, market prices for basic commodities and food, like eggs, which are essential supplies to increase the immune level of people in Myanmar, have been rising excessively since 13 July. While failing to resolve these issues directly affecting people, the inhumane and murderous military forced dealers and retailers to stop selling to the general public. It is crystal clear that the military is whatsoever not capable of controlling the COVID-19 siutaion. At this rate, the junta's way of handling the crisis is simply letting people die in vain. The military, in fact, has no strategic plan to take control of the current disastrous situation.
They neither have a systemic way of collecting data, nor testing facilities. They also lack the ability to obtain and distribute vaccines, and hospitals have already run out of beds in a short period of time. As a result, it is widely assumed that they are only using COVID-19 as a covert tool to eliminate the general public who are resisting them until today.
Unruly acts of the military-sponsored militia group
In Mohnyin Township, Kachin State, the pro-military and military-sponsored militia group "Pyu Saw Htee" has been continuing its unruly acts of threatening the civilians and members of the National League for Democracy (NLD). On 12 July, the "Pyu Saw Htee" group stationed in Hopin town spread a hit list that listed 43 people, including ordinary citizens and party members of the NLD. The group's main objective was to threaten residents in the area who are on their hit list whenever a pro-military person is killed.
On the one hand, the military and members of the "Pyu Saw Htee" militia group have been committing various crimes since the early days of the coup. Besides attacking civilians and NLD party members, they have been committing robberies. In Sagaing Region, the army and the "Pyu Saw Htee" join hands to rob boats owned by the people and even beat the boat owners while robbing them. On the other hand, the military forces have been robbing the properties of the villagers every day. Recently, they have even increased their level of brutality by putting poisons in the water supplies. In Sagaing Region, this militia group has been robbing rice, oil, and other valuables from the residents at gunpoint. Local residents of the Sagaing Region have been living under the fear that their properties and business will be looted at any time.
Discovery of disfigured dead bodies
On 13 July, residents living in Kani Township, Sagaing Region, reported that 15 disfigured dead bodies were found in the forests. According to several reports based on photo and video evidence, these dead bodies were severely tortured using various methods. Not only were some bodies found either naked or half-naked, but also many of their hands were tied up. Most cruelly, these dead bodies were found with gunshot wounds, and some were even beheaded. Based on credible reports, the junta's troops had been stationed in the area and had raided villages of Yin, Kone Thar, and Kyauk Hlay Khar. Their unlawful acts had already caused 26 villagers to go missing, and the aforementioned 15 dead bodies were among the missing ones. By the words of the villagers there, it was noted that retrieving these missing bodies was extremely difficult since the forces of the junta had intentionally laid landmines in the nearby area to deter people from finding the bodies.
In Tamu Township, Chin State, the military killed 4 young men on 10 July, and local news media reported that the forces of the military then cremated the corpse at once on the scene.
Since the coup on 1 February, Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) has been one of the crucial driving forces to resist the military junta. While the primary purpose of CDM was to disobey all unlawful orders laid down by the junta, the movement included not only the participation of civil servants but also ordinary civilians in the form of boycotting the junta-owned enterprises and other products associated with them in whichever ways. This time, one of the spotlight resistance activities of CDM was not paying utility bills, electricity bills in particular. Pro-democracy people have been raising their voices that no households shall pay for the electricity bills to hamper the junta's mechanism and deter the flow of revenues to the hands of the military regime. However, the junta has been putting pressure on the electricity department and forcing staff to collect electricity bills from home to home inperson. In addition, they have been sending soldiers to households that refused to pay for the bills to intimidate them. These incidents have frequently been happening in Yangon and Mandalay. The military only knows to use brute force, and to strike fear into people. It is apparent that they have little regard for the people of Myanmar.
Kayah State incident
As usual, forces of the military had clashes with the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) near Loi-lin Lay town in Loikaw Township within Kayah State. The KNPP reported that the junta troops used heavy artillery near the village, and this way, various thousands of residents were forced to flee and hide in the forests to seek security.
Night Terrors in Katha
In the Sagaing Region, residents in Katha and Shwebo Townships suffer from night terrors as the military continues to use its security forces to commit acts of violence and terrorize people. In Shwebo Township alone, 4 villagers were shot to dead by the security forces of the junta while they were performing their night-watch duties. The security forces have also been cursing at residents in Katha Township while on motorbikes. Additionally, they have been shooting randomly in the area for a week. The military forces' atrocities have generated grave mental and physical worries for the local residents.
Protests showing rejection against the junta
On 14 July, women in Myanmar held a strike under the name of "21st Century Panhtwar Queens" in remembrance of the legendary Queen Baikthano, who was famous as a spiritual lady of war and fame. These women walked to the streets in Yangon, waved flags, and shouted protest-chants only to show that the military can never govern the country. The people of Myanmar never accepted the State Administrative Council (SAC) as a government. Instead, they saw the terrorist military as a usurper of people’s human rights, and people’s right to democracy. In addition to Yangon, there are regular protests in other areas like Mandalay, Laungon Township in Taninthayi, Kalay, and Sarlingyi in Sagaing Region, Hpakant in Kachin State, and Paung in Mon State. Particularly in Insein, South Dagon, and Tharkayta Townships in Yangon, local students staged a protest against the military junta and distributed face masks, sanitizing agents, and other consumables. At this stage, people of Myanmar can only rely on the help of fellow citizens for their welfare.
The people of Myanmar are defending themselves under the banner of "People for the People" because of the military which only harms and suppresses them. Besides the persistent strength of the domestic protest, Myanmar diasporas in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East have also held a Global Myanmar Spring Revolution week during 17-18 July. The theme of their strikes was not only to call for the end of the military regime but also for the international community to recognize the National Unity Government officially.
NUG's measures on COVID-19
Contrary to the attitude of the military junta, the National Unity Government of Myanmar has been taking vigorous steps as a rightful authority to combat against COVID-19, which has been causing serious destruction and tragedies to the Myanmar people these days. Apparently, after the surge of COVID-19 new variant in Myanmar, the NUG formed the National Commission for Prevention, Control and Management of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on 8-7-2021, lead by the Acting President Duwa Lashi La as the Chairman of the Commission, Minister of Health as the Secretary and other prominent Ministers from the cabinet as members. The ultimate aim of establishing the commission was to declare an emergency regarding COVID-19 and laid down essential functions and responsibilities to combat the disease in an orderly manner. Furthermore, the NUG has also opened the Facebook page for "COVID-19 Knowledge Centre" to provide health education to the general public via the online channel. It has also promoted a slogan saying "Overcome COVID-19 Crisis by people taking care of one another" and raised an alert on people and urged them to follow the methods laid down by the Ministry of Health of the National Unity Government in order to prevent COVID-19.
On 18 July, the NUG also wrote an open letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the international organizations, and the international community. The letter's main request was urgent humanitarian assistance for the people of Myanmar due to the escalating COVID-19 crisis. It also delivered an important message to the international community about the potential spread of COVID-19 and new variants across the region if the world continues to fail in saving Myanmar.
International pressure on the military junta
As the infection rates and death tolls of COVID-19reached the peak in Myanmar, the international community is becoming deeply concerned over the situation in parallel to the ongoing violence committed by the military junta. On the one hand, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stressed ASEAN to take immediate actions on Myanmar during the ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers' Meeting held virtually on 14-7-2021. His statement mainly called for an end of the military's violence over the innocent civilians and ASEAN to take joint action to release all those unjustly detained in Myanmar and to appoint an envoy. On the other hand, Joe Biden's administration also cited in the State Department's annual report to Congress on genocide and atrocities prevention that Myanmar remains at particular risk for genocide. Therefore Myanmar could face further possible sanctions for ethnic cleansing in conflicts that the military has been involved in. At the same time, the government of the US also stated that it would continue its endeavor to coordinate with allies and partnering states to press the military to halt all repression, including crackdowns on dissent that followed a coup in February, as well as the violence against the Rohingya.
Date: 18 July 2021
Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations, New York