Weekly Updates on Current Situation in Myanmar (19 Feb 2023)
Weekly Updates on Current Situation in Myanmar
More than two years ago, on 1 February 2021, the Myanmar military attempted an illegal coup, toppled the civilian government, and unlawfully and unjustly detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other senior members of the civilian government, parliamentarians and activists. Since then, the Myanmar military has ignored the will of the people of Myanmar, placed the country in turmoil, and made the people suffer with inhumane and disproportionate actions.
As of 17 February 2023, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), 3,000 people have been ruthlessly killed by the military, whereas 19,739 people have been arrested and a total of 144 individuals have been sentenced to death, of which 103 (including two children) are detained and 41 in absentia since 1 February 2021, when the military unleashed systematic and targeted attacks and violence against innocent civilians. Four democracy activists who were given death sentences were executed by the military junta in July 2022.
Violations committed by the military
Arresting a person charged with death penalty
According to the AAPP, a person who was sentenced to death in absentia was arrested by junta forces while fleeing. As of 13 February 2023, he was included in the number of post-coup death row prisoners.
Raiding, killing and torching villages in Sagaing Region
According to the news, during the raid on Tint Tal Village in Shwebo Township, Sagaing Region, by around 80 military and Pyu Saw Htee forces on 12 February 2023, approximately 400 houses were set on fire. Four villagers, Than Naing, Pan, Kyi Win, and Phoe Kyaw, were killed. Among them, Than Naing and Daw Pan, who were elderly women in their 70s, and Kyi Win, who was in his fifties, were burned alive, as they were bedridden and could not escape the raid. Phoe Kyaw, who had a leg disability, was detained and had his hands tied behind his back. He was later killed by a blade wound to his neck. It was also reported that a large quantity of rice stored in the village was destroyed.
On 13 February 2023, around 100 junta troops and Pyu Saw Htee members raided Let Pan Hla Village in Khin-U Township, Sagaing Region, and set houses on fire. During this raid, a nun was burned alive in her house, as she could not flee the village due to her age.
Killing innocent civilians
On 8 February 2023, after a clash broke out between junta forces and Chinland Defense Force Mindat at the entrance gate of A Shay Pyin Ward, Mindat Town, Chin State, the junta forces opened fire indiscriminately and injured a ten-year-old girl near the entrance gate. It was reported that she later died from the wounds.
According to the news, on 13 February 2023, junta forces stationed on the village mountain of Palaw Township, Tanintharyi Region, shot Soe Pu dead while he was entering the village. It was reported that Soe Pu was a local of To Village and was seeking refuge in a nearby village of Palaw Township.
Arresting lawyers and other innocent civilians
According to the AAPP, on 10 February 2023, junta forces arrested five lawyers who were representing political prisoners in Mandalay City. The junta arrested lawyer U Than Tun Aung, lawyer Daw Yin Mar Win, and Higher-Grade Pleader U Win Kyaw Soe on their way to Chanayethazan District Court for a hearing. The two other lawyers were arrested while they were leaving Mahaaungmyay Court.
According to DVB, on 15 February 2023, during a raid on a jade mine in Mawsisar Village, Hpakant Township, Kachin State, the junta troops arrested at least 15 locals. According to locals, the motive behind the raid and arrest is currently unknown.
Airstrikes, heavy artillery, and other targeting of civilian areas
According to news reports, on 8 February 2023, Light Infantry Battalion 545, which stations in Kyondoe Town, Kawkareik Township, Kayin State, fired heavy weaponry into villages of Kyondoe Town. One of the artillery shells exploded in Kyauk Phyar Village, killing a local villager named Naw Tar Moo Naw.
The news reported that on 12 February 2023, the Nam Mar-based No. 367 Artillery Division fired heavy weaponry indiscriminately in Nam Mar Town in Mohnyin Township, Kachin State, without any clash taking place. An artillery shell landed inside the yard of a house in Aung Mingalar Ward, near Nam Mar Hospital, killing Di Par, who was talking on the phone in front of the house. On 13 February 2023, junta forces raided the house where his funeral was being held and arrested at least twenty people in attendance, including the victim’s family members. Under the pretense of needing to do an autopsy on the body, the junta soldiers seized Di Par’s dead body without allowing him to be cremated.
According to DVB news, on 11 February 2023, three locals were injured when the junta forces fired a heavy shell into a village of Nyaunglebin Township, Bago Region, in the territory of the Karen National Union’s (KNU) Brigade-3. A civilian-owned rice warehouse is also reported to have been destroyed in the attack.
Charges against anti-dictatorship activists
On 9 February 2023, the Yangon Region North Okkalapa Township military tribunal sentenced Hein Htet (aka Po Po) to life in prison under Penal Code Section 505(A) and Counter-Terrorism Law Section 50(j). Eighteen-year-old Hein Htet was a Deputy Chairman of No. 1 North Okkalapa High School Student Union (ABFSU) as well as a member of North Okkalapa Township Student Union (ABFSU). He was arrested in Mingaladon Township on 30 November 2022.
According to the news, on 13 February 2023, Linn Htet Naing (aka Aung Thant Zin Oo aka James) was sentenced by the Yangon Region Botahtaung District Court to serve five additional years in prison under Section 52(b) of the Counter-Terrorism Law. Linn Htet Naing was a leader of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU). On 7 December 2022, he was previously sentenced to serve three years in prison under Penal Code Section 505(A).
According to Myanmar Now, a sixty-five-year-old Kachin religious leader and the former chair of the Kachin Baptist Convention, Dr. Hkalam Samson has received an additional charge under Section 52(a) of the Counter-Terrorism Law. The charge was filed during a court hearing inside Kachin’s Myitkyina Prison on 14 February, accusing him of meeting with National Unity Government (NUG) officials. Reportedly, he has already faced two charges of incitement under the Unlawful Associations Act Section 17(1) and Section 505(a) of the Penal Code. Samson was arrested in December 2022 upon his return to Myitkyina after being stopped from boarding a flight from Mandalay to Bangkok for a medical appointment.
According to the news, on 15 February 2023, Soe Paing Oo was sentenced by the Pathein Prison Special Court to serve 20 years in prison under Counter-Terrorism Law Sections 49(a), 50(f), and 52(a). Soe Paing Oo was a Pathein Town local who actively participated in anti-military protests. He was accused of carrying weapons for the revolutionary forces in Pathein Town and was arrested on 2 December 2021.
Torturing the detained anti-dictatorship activists in the prisons
According to news reports, several women being detained with political charges in Obo Prison, Mandalay Region, have been injured during physical assaults by prison guards in recent days. A handwritten eyewitness account from inside the prison described in detail the crackdown and beatings on detainees in two women’s wards on 3 and 4 February 2023. The letter was titled “oppressed prisoners” and said that the male prison authorities charged into the ward and beat over 70 female political prisoners. The female detainees were also allegedly hit with slingshots. According to the activist who shared the letter, the document also included a list of the prisoners who had been beaten and injured. One of the detainees who experienced the assaults was 20-year-old San Lin May, who was arrested in December 2021 after being accused of funding an urban guerrilla force. On 3 February 2023, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a junta court under Section 50 of the Counterterrorism Law. On 4 February 2023, following a dispute between detainees and the prison authorities, the prison guards reportedly attacked inmates in her ward with wooden and iron batons to which tasers had been attached. During those conflicts, San Lin May was caught in the crossfire and her ear was partially cut off. Another woman identified on the list was reportedly Po Pyae Thu, a restaurant owner known for her philanthropy work and now serving a lengthy sentence after being convicted by the junta of multiple politically motivated charges. The family of San Lin May and friends of Po Pyae Thu were worried, since they could not make direct contact with the prisoners. According to news reports, a woman released from Obo Prison three months ago said that the prison authorities treated political prisoners with “extreme hostility, out of spite” and that other criminal convicts were also encouraged to take part in the abuse.
Restrictions to testify or attend hearings at the court
According to the news, as of 14 February 2023, the political prisoners in Obo Prison were no longer permitted to give testimony or attend hearings at the prison court. According to the comment by a lawyer, the restriction was consistent with other measures that cut off all the connections to the inside of the prison. He also concluded that the restriction was imposed in order to hinder investigations into events inside the prison, including a recent case that involved prison authorities reportedly beating female prisoners en masse. Reportedly, the suspension of court testimony had not been imposed by the court’s judge, but by the prison administrations. It was reported that any prisoner required to testify in court must do so through an online conferencing system.
Rejecting the appeal of two corruption charges by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), on 15 February 2023, Myanmar’s Supreme Court rejected the appeal of two corruption charges by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. She was sentenced by a military junta court in October 2022 to three years in Naypyidaw Prison for two corruption cases which involved charges of accepting money from Maung Weik, a businessman linked to the military. Maung Weik has reportedly testified that money was not given to Suu Kyi, but donated to be used at the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, which supports education, healthcare and rural investment. Regardless of the argument by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyers that she’s innocent of corruption because the money that Maung Weik gave was found in the foundation’s bank account, the Union Supreme Court has denied the appeal for unknown reason.
Junta’s landmines in civilian areas in Rakhine State
According to DVB news, on 15 February 2023, a man was seriously injured and had his leg amputated after stepping on a landmine in Kyauktaw Township, Rakhine State. According to locals, the incident occurred near a Burmese Army battalion. The news reported that the detonation of unexploded ordnances in Rakhine State in 2023 have resulted in five civilian deaths and another six injuries.
Issuing “Right to Arms” policy
According to news reports, at the end of January 2023 the junta’s Ministry of Home Affairs approved a new policy to allow members of the public who are loyal to the state, in other words, who support the military council, to legally acquire and possesses weapons. It was concluded that the policy formally authorises the right to arms for junta allies including militia members. It was learned that licenses are required for pistols, hunting rifles and airsoft guns, as well as other light firearms. In addition, permits for more high-powered weapons, such as army-grade rifles and submachine guns, are also available under the new rules. Under the new regulations, gun licenses can now be officially issued to both individuals and organisations that meet certain requirements. News media reported that two weeks after the policy was approved, hundreds of applications have been submitted to the junta’s ministry.
Activities of the National Unity Government
On 14 February 2023, the National Unity Government (NUG) issued Weekly Newsletter No. 6/2023, containing articles related to the NUG’s activities. Those articles included the Ministry of Justice urging civilians, revolutionary forces and other organizations to report evidence of the junta’s atrocities, crimes and human rights violations; the NUG announcing serious actions taken against labour agencies that violate labour rights; the statement by Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun at the First Regular Session of the UNICEF Executive Board; and that the junta’s atrocities and arson resulted in four deaths in Sagaing Region.
On 14 February 2023, H.E. Daw Zin Mar Aung, Union Minister for Foreign Affairs of the NUG met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman in Washington, DC. During the meeting, Sherman welcomed the opening of the NUG office in Washington, D.C, and reiterated the U.S.’s support for democratic groups and ethnic resistance groups. While mentioning the U.S.’s actions to stop the junta’s terrorist activities, Sherman stated that the U.S. government will continue to work with its partners to put Burma back on its path toward democracy.
On 15 February 2023, the President Office of the National Unity Government released an Announcement No. 1/2023 titled “Statement on The Honourable Prime Minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim's ‘The Future of ASEAN’ address on 10 February 2023”. The announcement welcomed remarks by the Honourable Prime Minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim on Myanmar during his "The Future of ASEAN" keynote address on 10 February 2023. It stated that the Malaysian Prime Minister has spoken with conviction and authority in calling for a "strong consensus in giving a strong message to the Myanmar regime" to end its discrimination, marginalisation, intimidation and perpetration of violence against the people of Myanmar. It also mentioned that Prime Minister Anwar has made a clear call to action in pressing for new ASEAN mechanisms to end the junta's atrocities against the people. It underlined that this process must see direct engagement with the National Unity Government, ethnic organisations and Myanmar civil society, and further pressure piled on the junta including by blocking its representatives from all ASEAN meetings and forums. While extending its continued partnership with ASEAN and its full support for Indonesia as ASEAN Chair, the NUG expressed its deep gratitude to Prime Minister Anwar and to H.E. Dato' Seri Diraja Dr. Zambry Abd. Kadir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, for their abiding solidarity with the Myanmar people.
On 16 February 2023, the President Office of the National Unity Government released Announcement No. 2/2023 regarding Singapore's prohibition of arms and dual-use item transfers to Myanmar. In the statement, the National Unity Government welcomed Singapore's confirmation on its prohibition of arms transfers to the illegal military junta in Myanmar. The statement referred to the confirmation by H.E. Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs, on the existing ban in his statement at the parliament on 14 February 2023, highlighting that it was consistent with UN General Assembly Resolution 75/287 (2021) on the situation in Myanmar, which Singapore voted for. The statement also mentioned the confirmation by Foreign Minister Balakrishnan that Singapore would not authorise the transfer of dual-use items "assessed to have potential military application to Myanmar, where there is a serious risk that they may be used to inflict violence against unarmed civilians". The statement also informed that the Singapore Foreign Minister said that Singapore would take a "very firm line" against companies who contravened its laws including those on the transfer and brokering of strategic goods and technology. In the statement, the National Unity Government thanked the Government of Singapore for its principled stance, and to Foreign Minister Balakrishnan for his expressions of solidarity with the Myanmar people. The National Unity Government also expressed its commitment to working in partnership with Myanmar's fellow ASEAN Members to end the illegal junta's atrocities and to advance the peace, security and prosperity of our region.
On 19 February 2023, the NUG’s Ministry of Human Rights issued Human Rights Newsletter Vol. 1/ No. 28. The newsletter included information on how to report on human rights violations in Myanmar; records of junta’s human rights violation during 1 to 16 February 2023; an interview with a local regarding the junta’s raid and arson in Pan Nyo Village, Myaung Township, Sagaing Region; human rights barometer episode (6); how the terrorist junta has been using aerial attacks targeting the civilians; and sanctions on the import of plane fuel in addition to sanctions in arms import.
Actions and Remarks by the International Community in response to the Military Coup d’état
On 13 February 2023, the UNICEF published Myanmar Humanitarian Situation Report No. 12 for the period of January to December 2022. Its highlights explained that Myanmar continues to experience a severe - and worsening - humanitarian and human rights crisis. Conflict and violence have escalated across the country, impacting children and their families and displacing more than 1.5 million people. It informed that access of conflict-affected populations to services and delivery of humanitarian assistance has been further constrained by restrictions imposed on movement of both people and goods. It also underlined that grave violations of child rights have increased in 2022 compared with 2021.There has also been an eightfold increase in the number of abductions in 2022. It stated that as of December 2022, at least 670 children had been killed or maimed by armed actors since the military takeover in February 2021. It also stated that in 2022, UNICEF received US$33.92 million, representing 22 per cent of its Myanmar Humanitarian Action for Children appeal of US$151.4 million. Despite the gap, UNICEF and its partner reached close to one million children and their families.
On 14 February 2023, the Office of the Spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State issued a press release on Deputy Secretary Sherman’s meeting with National Unity Government (NUG) Minister of Foreign Affairs Daw Zin Mar Aung in Washington. The press release stated that the Deputy Secretary welcomed the NUG’s establishment of a liaison office in Washington and underscored the United States’ commitment to deepening engagement with the full range of pro-democracy stakeholders and diverse ethnic groups in Burma. It stated that the Deputy Secretary and NUG representatives condemned the Burma military regime’s ongoing violence and repression against those striving for genuine democracy and human rights in Burma. It also mentioned that the Deputy Secretary also underscored U.S. efforts to promote accountability for the regime’s atrocities and to increase pressure on the regime to pursue a just and peaceful end to the crisis in Burma. It underlined that the Deputy Secretary pledged to work closely with allies and partners, including ASEAN, and the international community to expand assistance to the people of Burma in support of their aspirations for an inclusive, multiparty democracy.
On 15 February 2023, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that the United States, through USAID, is providing an additional $50 million in humanitarian assistance for emergency food and nutrition assistance in Burma, where increased displacements, armed conflict, and growing food insecurity are compounding existing needs. It stated that according to the United Nations’s recently released Humanitarian Needs Overview, more than 17 million people across Burma, almost one in three, are now in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023, compared to less than one million in 2020. It informed that with this new funding, USAID will work with the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) to treat and prevent malnutrition in conflict-affected states, helping more than 750,000 people. It explained that this assistance includes providing monthly food rations, as well as nutrition commodities for children under five and pregnant and lactating women. It stressed that USAID remains committed to providing immediate and emergency life saving support to people in need throughout Burma and commends those working peacefully towards an inclusive and democratic future for the people of Burma.
On 16 February 2023, the Office of the Spokesperson of the U.S. Department of State posted the press release regarding Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s call with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on 16 February 2023. It stated that Secretary Blinken reaffirmed the United States’ support for Indonesia’s chairmanship of ASEAN and for Indonesia’s role as country coordinator for U.S.-ASEAN dialogue relations. It also informed that Secretary Blinken and Foreign Minister Marsudi discussed Indonesia’s ASEAN priorities for 2023, including ASEAN’s approach to addressing the crisis in Burma as well as the next steps for Timor-Leste’s accession to ASEAN.
On 17 February 2023, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published Myanmar Emergency Update (as of 1 February 2023). The report includes key displacement figures, a timeline of key events, highlights and responses. Its highlights informed that according to the UN, an estimated 1,584,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) were reported across the country as of 30 January 2023, including 1,254,000 people newly displaced since 1 February 2021. The report described the situation of people in the North-West and the South-East, in Kachin and Shan (North) and in Rakhine and Chin (South). The civilians throughout the country are suffering from air strikes, indiscriminate shelling, explosions and fire, landmine incidents, arbitrary arrests, forced labour and destruction of properties. The highlights also informed about the increasing number of displacement and shortage of food and other basic necessities due to the situations mentioned above.
On 17 February 2023, the UNHCR published Weekly Highlights: Myanmar South East - Emergency Overview Map on the number of people displaced in South East since Feb 2021 and remain displaced. According to the highlights, in the South-East, the number of IDPs increased from 368,400 last week to 371,300 this week. In Bago Region (East), indiscriminate shelling displaced about 4,300 people to Kyaukkyi, Phyu, and Htantabin Townships. Of the approximately 4,300 IDPs in Kyaukkyi Township, 1,880 were re-displaced. In Htantabin Township, 20 IDPs from Thandaunggyi Township in Kayin State were verified. In Kayin State, fighting in Kawkareik and Kyainseikgyi Townships on 24 January displaced about 250 people within both townships. In Mon State, 360 IDPs were verified in Mawlamyine town following fighting in Kawkareik and Kyainseikgyi Townships in Kayin State.
Date: 19 February 2023
Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations, New York