Weekly Updates on Current Situation in Myanmar
Over twenty-three months 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 6 January 2023, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), 2,707 people have been ruthlessly killed by the military, whereas 16,992 people have been arrested and a total of 142 individuals have been sentenced to death, of which 100 (including two children) are detained and 42 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 to death sentence were executed by the military junta in July 2022.
Atrocities committed by the military
Arbitrarily sentencing a CDM teacher to death
According to the news, on 30 December 2022, Kaung Khant Kyaw, a primary school CDM teacher of a high school branch in Htate Pote Kone Village, Myanaung Township, Ayeyarwady Region, was given a death sentence after being found guilty of murder and terrorism in connection with the death of junta informant Win Nyunt Aung from Thabyay Kone Village, Myanaung Township. He was charged under Section 51(a) of the Counter-Terrorism Law and Section 302(1)(c) of the Penal Code and sentenced by a special court inside Hinthada Prison. After being arrested in October 2021, he was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment under Section 50(j) of the Counter-Terrorism Law in August 2022. According Kyaw Ye Lwin, a member of the Basic Education General Strike Committee’s secretarial team, Kaung Khant Kyaw was not permitted to meet with his family during his trial. The news report also noted that Kaung Khant Kyaw is the first schoolteacher to be sentenced to death since the February 2021 coup, while nearly 200 others are currently in junta custody.
Raiding, Killing and Torching Villages in Sagaing Region
According to the news, at around 5 am on 28 December 2022, some 50 junta soldiers arrived Ah Lel Sho Village in Khin-U Township, Sagaing Region with two trucks and fired into the village. It was reported that the junta forces raided the village and chased after the local defence team, which managed to escape. However, according to local anti-junta forces, the military then captured more than 20 civilians and killed eight. Ah Lel Sho Village has some 1,000 households and is located between the junta base in Zee Kone in Kanbalu Township and Training Camp No. 8 in Shwebo City. The severed heads of the eight victims were reportedly placed near the Ah Lel Sho Village Monastery with Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) flags on them. A Telegram channel called Fifty-Two News, assumed to be operated by the military council, reported on 31 December 2022 that eight bodies were found after the battle, implying that they had died in the fighting. As anti-junta forces attacked the village on 31 December and 1 January 2023, the local defence team claimed to have rescued five monks and 19 other civilians from the village at around 9 am on the second day. According to the local residents who had escaped on 31 December 2022, the regime soldiers threatened that they would kill anyone that supports the revolution and also torch their houses. The junta soldiers began torching houses on 1 January 2023.
On 2 January 2023, at around 9 AM, junta forces stationed at Budalin Township, Sagaing Region, raided Shwe Taung Village and killed a more than 70-years-old couple. They also detained and tortured a local Nga Hmay for wearing long pants. Afterward, they reportedly killed him in a corn field outside the village.
According to Myanmar Pressphoto Agency News Media, on 6 January 2023, the junta forces of Kywal Pone Kyay village shot and killed four people, including a monk, during their raid and attack on Di Pa Yin Khwal Village in Sagaing Region with heavy weapons. According to local residents and a commander of local people defense force (PDF), the four victims were U Gandhasara, a 42-year-old monk; Ma Khaing Sumon, 32; Ko Myo Tun; and Po Tok, a 40-year-old man. Junta forces burned down 90 houses and a public resthouse in the village.
Killing Innocent Civilians
On 28 December 2022, around 40 military soldiers fired and killed a 42-year-old man who had escaped from the war in Yaehtwet Village, Seikphyu Township. They also captured a 15-year-old boy, who they held overnight and reportedly tortured.
On 30 December 2022, junta forces fired an artillery shell that exploded in San Khar Village, Lone Khin Village Tract, Hpakant Township, Kachin State, and injured six local residents, including Kun Jar Naw, who passed away on arrival at the hospital.
According to news reports, on 1 January 2023, as a response to the attack of the local defense force, junta troops stationed in Htan Ma Kauk Village, Seikphyu Township, Magway Region, indiscriminately fired into the village. Twelve-year-old Mu Mu Aung, who was gathering firewood on the hill to the southwest of the village, was killed by a bullet fired by the junta soldier.
Arresting Innocent Civilians
News reports stated that on 3 January 2023, junta forces detained Ashin Arsar Ya (aka Thabeik Khin) from the Sangha Union Mandalay, who was involved in anti-dictatorship protests in Mandalay. He was arrested whilst carrying out a photo campaign at Kyauk Taw Gyi Pagoda, near the foot of Mandalay Mountain.
Torturing and Killing prisoners in Pathein Prison
According to news reports, during the night of 5 January 2023, prison staff and many police severely tortured political prisoners in Pathein Prison. The torturing began when three political prisoners were found with their phones and taken separately. A political prisoner Ko Win Min Htet @ Ko Mei Gyi was reportedly killed that night due to the ruthless torture. According to news, U Tun Kyi, a member of the former political prisoners’ group, said that on 6 January 2023 the political prisoners in Pathein Prison demanded the release of the three prisoners who were taken on the earlier night. Ko Wai Yan Phyo (b) Yarsu was killed by a gunshot wound fired by the military, police and prison authorities towards the prisoners. According to AAPP news, on the night of 6 January 2023, eight political prisoners reportedly received medical treatments in the new Pathein Hospital and are in life-threatening conditions. Moreover, as of 7 January 2023, it was reported that the dead bodies of the two political prisoners have not yet been returned to their families.
Denial of medical treatment in the prison
According to news reports, family members of U Nyi Pu, Former Chief Minister of Rakhine State, confirmed that the military did not allow U Nyi Pu to receive medical treatment. U Nyi Pu was arbitrarily arrested on 1 February 2021 and sentenced to more than 13 years in prison. According to the family members, while being detained in the Sittwe Prison, U Nyi Pu’s one eye could not see. Although U Nyi Pu requested surgery for his clouded eye five months ago, the junta did not allow him to receive necessary medical treatment. Now, he cannot see, because one eye is clouded. Since the day he was arrested, he has reportedly not been allowed to see his family members even once.
Releasing and re-arresting political prisoners
According to the news from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), more than two hundred political prisoners from at least 19 prisons were released. They were among the approximate 7,000 prisoners released on amnesty on 4 January 2023. Among the released political prisoners were former religious affairs minister Thura Aung Ko; Yangon University Student Union central executive committee members Aung Phone Maw, Lay Pyay Soe Moe and Sitt Naing; a former leader of All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) Aye Aung and Sai Ko Ko Tun, a former reporter at 7Day News, which ceased operations after the coup. Numerous political prisoners remain arbitrarily detained.
According to news reports, Dr. Min Htet Paing, a political prisoner who was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment under Penal Code Section 505(A), was released on amnesty from Myeik Prison in Tanintharyi Region on 4 January 2023. However, Dr. Min Htet Paing was rearrested in front of the prison entrance on a new charge. He had been arrested in early April 2021 on Kyay Nan Taing Bridge in Pathaung Village Tract, Myeik Township, on the charge of organizing and inciting riots and violence by posting false information on a social networking site. According to Myanmar Pressphoto Agency’s report, a former political prisoner based in Mae Sot said that this immediate re-arrest is threatening to re-arrest anyone who is freed.
Airstrikes and heavy artillery targeting civilian areas
On 30 December 2022, the junta forces shelled St. Michael Catholic Church in San Hka Village, Hpakant Township, Kachin State. According to local sources, one artillery shell hit the village and another fell in the church compound, killing a 52-year-old man and wounding five other people, including two children.
On 3 January 2023, at around 7:30 PM, the junta fired heavy artillery at Demoso Township in Kayah State without any clashes in the area. One of the artillery shells exploded on a hut near Daw Tangoo Village, and it killed an internally displaced woman named Soe Myar, who was struck in the thigh.
According to news reports, in the morning of 7 January 2023, junta fighter jets dropped more than 20 bombs in Hpapun District of KNU territory. Due to this attack a local villager was injured and one building and a car were damaged. According to the KNU-Mutraw News’ reports, the local residents are facing difficulties and fear because of such air operations.
Charges against anti-junta activists and members of the NLD party
On 29 December 2022, Nang Twal Tar Oo, Joint-Secretary of the Yangon University of Education Students’ Union (ABFSU), and Yu Yu Mon, a CDM staff, former member of the Yangon Institute of Economics Students’ Union and current Vice-Chief Statistician of Nay Pyi Taw Central Statistical Organization, were each sentenced to serve 10 years’ imprisonment. They were sentenced under Counter-Terrorism Law Section 50(j) by the Mawlamyine District Court, Mon State. They were arrested on 9 June 2022 while evading capture in Mawlamyine Town.
On 3 January 2023, Aung Kyawl, NLD Township Secretary of Wakema Township in Ayeyarwady Region, was sentenced to serve 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labour. Aung Kwyal was charged under Counter-Terrorism Law Section 50(j) by the Myaungmya Prison Special Court in Ayeyarwady Region. He is over 70 years old and has already spent over a year under detention.
Pressuring the IDPs in Sittwe to return home
News reports stated that on 29 December 2022, the junta convened and pressured those in charge of the IDP camps to close the 25 camps in Sittwe and that all the IDPs would have to return to their homes. The people in charge of the IDP camps confirmed that they were forced to sign that they agreed to be repatriated. According to one of the people in charge of IDP camps in Sittwe, IDPs have to return, and the camps will be permanently dismantled. After the temporary ceasefire was agreed between the Arakan Army (AA) and the military junta on 26 November 2022, Dr. Aung Kyaw Min, the Junta’s Rakhine State chief minister said on 23 December 2022 that Rakhine State is now stable and peaceful, and thus the IDP camps will be closed. In addition to the continued restrictions of humanitarian aid and the difficulties on the IDP’s livelihoods, IDPs said that it is not possible for them to return home due to the dangers of landmines and remnants of war weapons in their original villages, as well as the military camps.
Activities of the National Unity Government
On 2 January 2023, the National Unity Government issued Weekly Newsletter No. 1/2023, which contained articles relating to the NUG’s activities. Those articles included the NUG Acting President’s new year’s speech, the NUG Union Prime Minister promising that the federal democratization policy will not be changed, the joint statement issued by the NUCC and NUG that they will fulfill transitional justice for the violations committed against ethnic people by successive dictators, the NUG announcing that the military council and their associates will inevitably face a public trial, and the NUG collecting youth’s voices.
On 4 January 2023, the NUG issued a commemorative message for the 75th Independence Day Celebrations. In the message, the NUG noted that due to the love for independence by the people and their endeavours, Myanmar was declared an independent country on Sunday, 4 January 1948. It explained that despite the significant role of military forces in gaining Myanmar’s independence, the military has put their interests before country and become inured with the taste of power. It mentioned that now is the era when the populace and the ethnic communities, are confronting together a group of military dictators who are inhumane, excessive, and irrational compared to their predecessors and who have illegally seized power from the people. The NUG urged all the organisations representing the people, Ethnic Revolution Organisations, and the people themselves to follow their New Year’s resolutions of eradicating the military dictatorship and creating the Federal Democracy Union as a common goal and to follow in the footsteps of our forebearers who garnered the spirit to fight off a force much stronger.
On 8 January 2023, the Ministry of Human Rights issued a statement regarding the violent torture in Pathein Prison. In the statement, it explained the situation in Pathein Prison, where one unjustly detained civilian was killed, more than 70 detainees were injured and another detainee became missing, because of the violence committed by the terrorist military’s prison officials. Highlighting that Ko Win Min Htet has been missing since the day of the demonstration on 30 December 2022, the Ministry added that on 7 January 2023, because of the brutal torture and the gunfire from fifty prison staff members, Ko Wai Yan Phyo was killed, and many unjustly detained civilians were injured, nine of whom were in critical condition. The Ministry stressed its great concerns about the situation of many unjustly imprisoned civilians who are still being detained despite the military terrorist’s amnesties. The Ministry also said that it will continue to document this kind of violence and torture inside the prison and extrajudicial killings. The Ministry also added that it will maintain its effort to bring justice through various means, including coordination with respective international mechanism and UN agencies.
Actions and Remarks by the International Community in response to the Military Coup d’état
On 2 January 2023, the Embassy of Canada to Myanmar released a statement regarding the final sentencing of President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. In the statement, it said Canada strongly condemns the sentences against detained President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. It added that these verdicts follow trials that are emblematic of the regime’s blatant disregard for human rights and judicial independence, and its efforts to silence democratically elected civilian political leaders. The Embassy reiterated calls for the release of all those arbitrarily detained, for a cessation of violence, for humanitarian access to all areas, and for respect for the democratic will of the people of Myanmar. It reiterated its full support for ASEAN and UN efforts on Myanmar and called for the full implementation of both the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus and the recent UN Security Council resolution on Myanmar to restore the path toward democracy.
At the United Nations daily press briefing on 3 January 2023, Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General said that the UN has been asked for a comment on the sentencing of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and it can be said that the Secretary-General expresses his deep concern over the final verdicts and sentencing of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and reiterates his calls for her immediate release and for President Win Myint and all arbitrarily detained prisoners in Myanmar. He referred to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which enshrines the principles of equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, with all the guarantees necessary for a person’s defence.
On 4 January 2023, U.S. Secretary of the State Antony J. Blinken made a press statement on the Independence Day of Myanmar. In the statement, he reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to the people of Burma as they mark the 75th Anniversary of Burma’s independence. He presented that the United States has long supported the people of Burma and their ability to chart their own future. He added that today, Burma’s military regime stands in the way of democratic progress and the will of the people. He added that the military’s brutal and horrific campaign of violence has nevertheless failed to overcome the strong commitment of the people of Burma to forge an inclusive and democratic country. He stressed that the U.S. stands in solidarity with the people of Burma in their determination to bring democracy to their country. The military regime must end its violence, release those unjustly detained, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and recognize the desire of the people for a genuine and inclusive democracy in Burma.
The United Kingdom also issued a statement on 4 January 2023 regarding the 75th anniversary of Myanmar’s independence. It sends wishes to the people of Myanmar, who strive once again for self-determination and freedom. The United Kingdom emphasized that it will continue to stand with people across Myanmar, recognising and respecting their determination to shape a more inclusive, peaceful and democratic future, in which government genuinely serves people, and the rights of all are respected.
On 6 January 2023, according to Jeremy Laurence, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the release of political prisoners in Myanmar is not only a relief to those unfairly detained, but also their families. Taking this opportunity, he called for the release of the thousands of others who remain in detention for opposing military rule. He underlined that even as news emerged about the amnesty to mark the country's Independence Day, OHCHR continued to receive reports of people being detained for opposing military rule, many of whom have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. He stressed that such detentions are not only intended to silence the junta’s critics, but are also designed to instil fear. He added that as the mark of the 75th anniversary this year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the High Commissioner has called for an end to arbitrary detention once and for all. He called on governments and all detaining authorities globally to put the milestone Declaration into action by granting an amnesty, pardon or by simply releasing all those detained for exercising their rights. He also explained that the pathway out of Myanmar’s crisis is not by locking people up – it is by allowing them to freely, fully, and effectively participate in political life.
Date: 8 January 2023
Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations, New York