#AceBreakingNews – Myanmar junta releases 1,600 prisoners for Buddhist new year, but no mention of detained Australian Sean Turnell
Families of detained Myanmar protesters have had their hopes dashed after political prisoners were not included in some 1,600 people released by the junta to mark the Buddhist new year.
The South-East Asian country has been in turmoil since Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government was ousted last year in a military coup, which sparked huge protests and a deadly crackdown.
State television announced on Sunday that 1,619 prisoners, including 42 foreigners, had been “pardoned” and will be released to mark the new year — an annual tradition that last year saw 23,000 prisoners freed.
A prisoner released from Yangon’s Insein prison said that “political cases and protesters were not among those released”, with authorities only freeing criminals.
Crowds in front of the prison slowly left on Sunday afternoon, with more than 100 people gathering with the hope of being reunited with loved ones.
There was no mention of the Australian economist Sean Turnell, a former Suu Kyi adviser who was arrested shortly after the coup.
He is on trial for allegedly breaching the official secrets act, which carries a maximum 14-year jail sentence.
Among the crowd was a woman waiting for her 19-year-old nephew, sentenced to three years imprisonment for incitement against the military.
“He was young, and he may have some feeling to fight,” she said, declining to give her name.
“I wish all young children will be released including my nephew. They all were innocent.”
Aye Myint’s 19-year-old daughter was serving three years on a political charge, and she had hoped she would be released.
“Now, she has been more than one year in prison,” Aye Myint said.
The country typically grants an annual amnesty to thousands of prisoners to mark the Buddhist New Year, usually a joyous holiday celebrated in many parts with water fights.
But this year, with the bloody military crackdown on dissent, the streets in many major cities have been silent as people protest junta rule.
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#AceNewsDesk – Bellingcat News Report: Over the Christmas and New Year period, two videos were posted by two separate groups, each showing makeshift explosive munitions being carried and dropped by small drones. In the first video, posted in late December by the Karenni Generation Z Army (KGZ), a small team is shown launching a DJI Phantom drone modified with a release mechanism and armed with a small munition. The second video, posted by the Aung San Force-MPDF on 2nd January, shows six strikes, as well as footage from drones observing what seem to be indirect fire attacks.
Since the Islamic State first systematically started using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) drones to drop munitions in 2016, the use of small, remotely controlled airborne devices to carry out attacks has been replicated around the world, from rebels in Ukraine, to Mexican cartels. It’s a low-cost tactic that now appears to have been adopted by some anti-coup, armed groups in Myanmar.
According to the news website Myanmar Now, the KGZ is a rebel group active in the Kayah State in the country’s east. The Aung San Force, meanwhile, is reported by Myanmar Now to be a self-organising resistance group. Both were reportedly formed in the aftermath of the February 2021 coup, which resulted in protests and a brutal military crackdown.
It is unclear if any other anti-coup groups in Myanmar have employed similar tactics. A number of militias of varying size and capability have formed in the year since the Myanmar military took control of the country despite Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy winning a landslide in elections.
These militias pale in scale, experience and capability when compared to more organised ethnic rebel groups, some of whom have been operating in Myanmar for decades. And while some of these more established groups are reported to have assisted anti-coup outfits, the dynamics that underpin these relationships remain complex, ever evolving and are not uniformly replicated across the country.
That being said, analysing the deployment of such weapons remains a useful exercise, allowing us to observe the innovations, influences and tactics employed by some sub-state armed groups in Myanmar.
“Aung San Force” Video
This video shows six strikes carried out by drone; the accompanying post suggests it was taken during operations in the Sagaing Region in the country’s northwest and then posted to social media on January 2. While we don’t see the drone itself, we do get a decent look at the munitions, as well as the effect they have on the ground.
Although the quality of the video limits analysis, it’s possible to draw some firm conclusions about their nature. The munitions themselves appear to be either the same or of very similar design to each other. The Aung San Force does not appear to have modified a conventional munition, as the Islamic State did with 40mm grenades and the PKK have done with 30mm grenades. The fins at the back and a plunger at the front of the munitions strongly indicates they have a simple point-detonating fuze. Some of these examples appear to be covered in a wrap of some kind.
While these are relatively small, simple munitions, they clearly do the job they were designed for, producing a small blast on the ground. Their similarity to one another also indicates a relatively consistent manufacturing process. It is clear that thought has been put into the design and production of these munitions, rather than simply being an ad hoc attempt at weaponisation.
This is in contrast to other attempts at weaponisation of drones elsewhere in the world that have varied from well planned and effective to ineffective and suspiciously slapdash.
The KGZ video is less obviously instructive. Although we see the drone and the munition, the quality of the video is such that it’s difficult to make many useful observations about either from this clip by itself. Indeed we don’t even see the moment of impact of the bomb, making any assessment of effectiveness (or if they even detonated) impossible.
A panning aerial view of buildings, presumably filmed by the drone itself could be geolocated to the area around a police station in Demoso, a town in Kayah State.
KGZ released this video of using drone to drop a bomb onto fascist position. If the resistance can effective utilize such tactics, this could change the war. There are even bigger drones on open market.#WhatsHappeningInMyanmarpic.twitter.com/4N2njvOm6Z
The drone is a DJI Phantom, versions of which were used widely by the Islamic State, and has been modified with a release mechanism to drop the bomb.
Although we don’t see too much of the munition used by the KGZ in the video, a post on their Facebook page displays clear images of devices that appear to match those on the drone.
As with the Aung San Force bombs, they do not appear to be modified conventional munitions, but rather improvised from scratch. A strip of metal foil is visible at the tip with wires leading to the base where what appear to be batteries are embedded. This indicates a crude electric contact fuse. When the munition makes impact with the ground, the foil will crush onto the front of the munition, completing the circuit and detonating the bomb.
While electric initiation mechanisms, such as electric contacts attachedto opposing arms of a clothes peg, have been used by other armed groups to initiate IEDs, this seems a poor choice for a drone bomb. The passing wind could either detonate this kind of munition in flight, or bend it out of alignment so it does not detonate at all. This may be why the KGZ video does not show any explosion.
Despite appearing to be more of a novelty rather than a fearsome weapon, bombs, even small ones, dropped by recreational drones can be very effective despite being unguided. This was most aptly demonstrated by the Islamic State which carried out hundreds of such drone attacks in 2017. Notably, these attacks disrupted Iraqi troops during the Mosul offensive, with Islamic State utilising their makeshift air force to drop custom-made drone bomblets onto a multitude of targets, including vehicles and infantry, to deadly effect. Although vastly different organisations to the Islamic State, it appears some anti-coup groups have been experimenting with similar tactics.
Yet the use of these weapons, and the means by which their deployment has been communicated, also speaks to another purpose.
According to Richard Horsey, an advisor on Myanmar to the International Crisis Group (ICG), footage of this kind can be a powerful tool in the information battle too. He noted that these videos have gone viral on Facebook in Myanmar, allowing anti-coup groups to demonstrate their capabilities and provide hope to their followers.
While such devices can have an impact on the battlefield, as already demonstrated in other conflicts, they are not going to win the war, Horsey said. But they can boost morale and encourage viewers sympathetic with the aims of these groups to provide money that may let them purchase more drones or weapons.
#AceNewsReport – Feb.17: The Myanmar military has murdered civilians, and used them as human shields, in a series of atrocities in eastern Karenni State that may amount to war crimes, prominent human rights group Fortify Rights said in a new report published on Tuesday.
#AceNewsDesk says that Myanmar military committed war crimes in Karenni state HRW Report:
According to Al Jazeera Fortify Rights says evidence shows military massacred civilians and used them as cover, as it urges ASEAN to support arms embargo.
The group says it documented attacks on churches, residential homes, camps for displaced people and other non-military targets that took place in the state, also known as Kayah State, between May 2021 and January 2022.
At least 61 civilians were killed during that time, it said.
The report comes as foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) prepare to meet in Cambodia with no progress in a five-point consensus agreed with the military last April that was supposed to end the violence.
Fortify Rights said it was time ASEAN gave its support to a global arms embargo.
“The Myanmar junta is murdering people with weapons procured on the global market, and that must stop,” Ismail Wolff, Regional Director at Fortify Rights said in a statement. “Clear and definitive action is needed to compel the Myanmar junta to rethink its attacks on civilians. The UN Security Council must urgently impose a global arms embargo on the Myanmar military, and it would be strategic and sensible for ASEAN to support it.”
The Fortify Rights report is based on testimony from 31 eye-witnesses and survivors, as well as verified photo and video evidence.
It includes new details on the Christmas Eve killings in Hpruso Township, in which at least 40 civilians, including a child and two Save the Children staff, were killed.
A doctor who worked on the autopsies of those killed told the group that some of the bodies were so badly burned they were impossible to autopsy, but that his team was able to confirm that five of the bodies were women and one a girl under the age of 15.
“Some had their mouths stuffed with cloth, so we were pretty sure these people were gagged,” the doctor told Fortify Rights. “Almost every skull was fractured and badly cracked . . . [In some bodies], we could gather enough evidence to say they were burned to death alive.”
In another case, Fortify Rights said the Myanmar army used an 18-year-old man, his uncle, and two other men as human shields during clashes with fighters from the Karenni People’s Defence Force (PDF) in Moe Bye Township on the border with Shan state.
“The soldiers put their guns on our shoulders and shot PDFs, staying behind us,” the man told Fortify Rights. “We were kept tied up and blindfolded. We were tortured a lot, in so many ways. They kicked our bodies, hit our heads with gun handles, and more.” Fortify Rights said three of the men eventually escaped, but it was unable to confirm what had happened to the fourth.
The generals have resorted to force in an attempt to put down public opposition to its rule, cracking down on protests and stepping up attacks on anti-coup civilian militias and in ethnic minority areas where it has been embroiled in decades-long conflict with numerous armed groups.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which has been monitoring the situation, says at least 1,549 people had been killed across the country as of February 14, and more than 12,000 arrested.
“Coup-leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his forces claim to be fighting ‘terrorists’,” Fortify Rights said in its report. “Instead, his forces are carrying out these and other mass-atrocity crimes against the civilian population with complete impunity.”
Fortify Rights said a United Nations-led global arms embargo to prohibit the sale of weapons and dual-use technology to the security forces was essential and that the UN should impose additional sanctions to deny the military access to its most significant source of funds, income from the sale of natural gas.
The situation in Myanmar should also be referred to the International Criminal Court, it added.
An estimated 170,000 civilians in Karenni State, or more than half of the state’s estimated population of 300,000, have been forced from their homes as a result of the military’s continuing attacks, according to the Karenni Civil Society Network.
Diplomatic efforts to resolve the Myanmar crisis have made little progress. The UN Security Council has issued five press statements expressing concern at the situation in Myanmar and a single presidential statement – on March 10, 2021.
ASEAN, which Myanmar joined under a previous military regime in 1997, has sought to take the initiative but with little success.
The military’s foreign minister has not been invited to this week’s meeting, with an invitation sent to a “non-political representative” instead.
Fortify Rights said it was time for ASEAN to take a firmer stance against the coup leaders, urging the organisation to engage with the National Unity Government established by elected politicians who were removed from office by the military as well as representatives from ethnic groups.
“The junta is not a government; it’s a criminal enterprise and doesn’t belong at the ASEAN table,” Wolff said. “It would be dangerous for ASEAN to give Min Aung Hlaing and his junta any political legitimacy.”
#AceNewsReport – July.30: When Swe Win was shot through the leg while on holiday in the west of Myanmar in December 2019, his first thought was that it must have been a stray bullet:The investigative journalist was in the car with his wife and daughter when a shot ricocheted off the car door near the handle………Then, as Swe was preparing to leave Myanmar with his family, he received a chilling message shattering any illusion that his shooting was a random event: Just before boarding a flight from the capital Yangon to Australia, a military intelligence officer pulled him aside, warning it “was not an accident”
#AceDailyNews says investigative journalism & uncovering the shadowy business empire bankrolling Myanmar’s military generals can be a dangerousbusiness Swe Win found out after a bullet was fired at him and soon after he received a message from an officer who said ‘it was not an accident’ soon the attack it was never investigated but Swe believes the order to kill came from the top, from Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s powerful military….
A former political prisoner who spent seven years in jail, Swe is the editor and co-founder of Myanmar Now, a bilingual online news outlet.
[It] came towards my neck,” he tells Foreign Correspondent from his new home in Melbourne, “then got redirected and hit my leg. I immediately thought this must be an accident.”
In the years leading up to his assassination attempt, Swe and his team of 40 journalists had published a swathe of articles exposing the Burmese military’s vast and shadowy business empire.
One article about the business interests of Min Aung Hlaing’s children had hit a nerve, undercutting the “selfless image” the military leaders tried to project, according to Swe.
“Our stories destroyed that sort of propaganda,” he says. “It’s about the level of corruption within the top echelon of the military establishment. So that infuriated the military generals.”
Myanmar’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, maintains a network of over a hundred business entities spanning most sectors of the nation’s economy, from mining to transport, tourism, telecommunications, banks and even beer.
It delivers hundreds of millions of dollars in cash into military coffers annually and has become a powerful factor in the military’s enduring grip on power in Myanmar.
Six months after the military launched a brutal coup to oust the civilian-led government, some observers are calling on the international community including Australia to ratchet up sanctions targeting the junta’s expansive business interests.
“We need to use every means possible to put pressure on the military to get back in the barracks, and the economic side of that is critical,” says Australian lawyer Chris Sidoti.
Uncovering a secret empire
In 2017, Sidoti was part of a United Nations fact-finding team tasked with uncovering evidence of the military’s abuse of Myanmar’s ethnic communities, particularly the Muslim Rohingya.
Sidoti says they found plenty of evidence of war crimes and possibly even genocide. Then they also uncovered something they weren’t looking for — the source of the military’s power.
As well as identifying business entities, the UN found 15 foreign companies engaged in joint ventures with military businesses and at least 44 others with some form of commercial ties with the Tatmadaw.
For Sidoti, it raised alarming questions about how much control the civilian government could wield over the cashed-up military.
“They were not dependent on the parliament for their funding but they had all these independent means of acquiring wealth for corruption, and also wealth for operations,” he said.
“It was impossible to see how the civilians could gain control over the military when the military had independent access to very substantial sums of money.”
After the UN team’s report was published, a covert activist group called Justice For Myanmar continued to document the true extent of the military’s business interests, with more than 130 business entities so far identified as linked to the generals.
Two opaque conglomerates are the key to the military’s wealth: Myanmar Economic Holdings (MEC) and Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL).
Justice For Myanmar conservatively estimates the two conglomerates, which are controlled by the military’s top brass with ultimate authority resting with Min Aug Hlaing, funnel at least $435 million to the military annually.
Since the coup, the military has also taken over control of the lucrative Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), the state’s principal revenue earner forecast to generate more than $2 billion in 2021 to 2022.
Sidoti warns if that money falls into the hands of the military, it will further cement the Burmese military’s grip on power and allow it to continue to act with impunity.
“The military has been in a constant state of war with its own people for 70 years now,” he says. “And it’s been able to do this because of its economic wealth.”
A broken system
Thinzar Shunlei Yi knows first-hand just how tight the military’s grip on Myanmar has become. She grew up in a military family and was supportive of the Tatmadaw as a young child.
Then in her 20s, she became a prominent pro-democracy activist, campaigning against the military’s brutal treatment of ethnic minorities.
Before the coup, Thinzar Shunlei Yi presented a popular youth TV show.
When the military seized control of the country, shattering its young democracy, Thinzar Shunlei Yi took to the streets along with millions of others to protest.
“It was such a shocking time,” she says, “I never thought that it could happen, it was the worst nightmare I could ever have imagined.”
Led by Generation Z, the protesters called for the civilian government to be reinstated but within weeks their demands grew bolder.
“Many young people were dreaming of more than just restoring the civilian government, or to release the civilian leader, they are demanding a bigger future,” she told Foreign Correspondent from a secret location.
“They wanted to abolish the 2008 constitution. When the coup happened, it gave us space to reshape our future.”
The Tatmadaw has been the most powerful institution since the country’s independence from Britain in 1948 and has had unchecked control over the country’s political system ever since.
After ruling for nearly 50 years, in 2008 the military held a constitutional referendum, a step in its so-called “roadmap to democracy”.
The Green Book, as the constitution became known, preserved the military’s control over the government, guaranteeing it 25 per cent of parliamentary seats and giving it effective veto control over any constitutional reforms.
Apart from its economic wealth, the 2008 constitution also gave the military political power with complete control over three key ministries of Defence, Border Affairs and Home Affairs.
“The 2008 constitution was always the main root cause of the problems in the country,” says Thinzar Shunlei Yi.
“Because whenever we try to advocate to advance our freedoms … they control what should be there.”
In April, in response to the people’s demands, a new political force emerged to challenge the military’s reign.
The National Unity Government — currently in exile — is comprised of ousted MPs, leaders of anti-coup protests and members of ethnic minorities. It say it’s the answer to healing a divided country.
They have abolished the 2008 constitution, recognised the Rohingya and are calling for a federal democratic union.
Zin Mar Aung, a National League of Democracy candidate, was elected to parliament in the November 2020 elections and is now the Foreign Minister in the new government in exile and is also in hiding.
Having grown up under military dictatorship she spent nine years in solitary confinement after protesting peacefully against the military.
In her first television interview, she told Foreign Correspondent that there will be no compromise with the military.
“If we win, democracy wins,” she says. “If we lose, the authoritarian will win. It’s the last battle for us and for our country, whether we let the military win or the democracy win. We don’t want our new generation to be under such a brutal military government.”
Cutting off the cash
As democracy advocates and the National Unity Government continue to push for a political solution, Chris Sidoti says there’s another way to undercut the military’s power.
With more information now known about the Tatmadaw’s secretive business operations than before, he says targeted sanctions could help unravel its control.
“Cut the arms flow, cut the cash and cut the impunity,” he says. “Sanctions are an essential tool provided they are carefully targeted on the military and the military’s businesses.”
The United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada have all started implementing targeted sanctions against the military and senior generals.
However, Myanmar’s regional neighbours — its biggest foreign investors — have been slow to act.
Chris Sidoti is particularly scathing of Australia’s lack of action. He says the government imposed sanctions on a number of generals following the UN report but not against Min Aung Hlaing.
“I find it bizarre that after what happened on the 1st of February, there was any longer any excuse whatsoever for not sanctioning the criminal in chief and his deputy,” he says.
A government report by the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Defence and Trade published in June recommended the Australian government “further consider imposing targeted sanctions upon additional senior figures in the Tatmadaw and Tatmadaw-linked entities including MEC and MEHL”.
Another recommendation stated that “the Australian government formally engage with groups and individuals representing the legitimately-elected representatives of Myanmar … and the National Unity Government.”
Zin Mar Aung from the National Unity Government told Foreign Correspondent while some members of parliament had communicated with the National Unity Government, the Australian government had had limited dialogue.
“Australian government response is quite delayed and not enough pressure. We need to make clear that government is quite slow.”
The Australian government told the ABC “additional sanctions have not been ruled out” and that “Australian officials are engaging with representatives of the ‘National Unity Government’ and plan to continue doing so”.
While the international community remains divided on sanctions, the people of Myanmar are launching their own action to sever the military’s purse strings.
Apps like”Way Way Nay”, which translates to “stay away”, encourage consumers to boycott military affiliated products.
Within months of the coup, a mass boycott of Tatmadaw-affiliated beer saw sales plummet by up to 90 per cent, wiping an estimated US$1 billion off the value of its military-linked parent company Myanmar Brewery Limited.
Meanwhile, a nationwide civil disobedience movement led by doctors, teachers and civil servants have launched strikes and shut down public schools and hospitals.
Manny Maung, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, says the Burmese people understand that “they don’t want these criminals to profit” from money that should be helping run schools and hospitals.
“They do want to bring the economy down to its knees and they know what the consequences are,” says Manny Maung.
Since the coup, Swe Win’s team of journalists have gone into hiding in Myanmar, fearful of military reprisals, while he manages the team from exile.
Many journalists are still working covertly inside Myanmar like “underground operatives”, Swe says, shunning cameras in public and being careful to not openly conduct interviews.
The stakes are high, with more than 900 people including children killed by the military and thousands arrested, including more than 80 journalists.
“Our work is very dangerous,” Swe says. “We are trying to do as much as we can … to play our roles in fighting against the military rule and giving a more honourable — a more dignified life — for the future generations.”
Watch Foreign Correspondent’s #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar on YouTube.
#AceNewsReport – June.02: We call on the Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer to take responsibility for Mratt Kyaw Thu’s asylum procedure.”
RSF Report: ‘Asks Germany to let Myanmar journalist Mratt Kyaw Thu apply for asylum after the journalist was able to obtain a Schengen visa at the Spanish embassy of one of Myanmar’s neighbouring countries, but decided to enter Germany during a stopover in Frankfurt’
Thanks, among other things, to a three-week stay in Germany on a Goethe-Institut programme, he has many contacts and is well connected there. When he arrived at Frankfurt airport, he applied for asylum. However, he was refused entry and a Dublin Procedure was initiated, because under the Dublin Regulation he is obliged to file his application in the country of destination, in his case Spain.
At the same time, at the request of the federal police, on 24 April 2021 the Frankfurt District Court issued an order for him to be put into preventive detention. Since that date Mratt Kyaw Thu has been living in a closed refugee accommodation centre at the airport. He had to hand over his mobile phone to the police, he has no internet access and he can only speak to a handful of people.
Germany can take responsibility for the asylum procedure
Article 17 (1) of the Dublin III Regulation provides an EU member state with the possibility, known as the sovereignty clause, to declare itself responsible for processing an asylum procedure even though it would normally not be responsible for this process. So far Germany has systematically applied the sovereignty clause for asylum seekers who entered the country via Greece and for Syrian asylum seekers. In the case of Mratt Kyaw Thu, too, many circumstances speak in favour of applying this possibility.
A broad alliance of people and organizations supporting him argue that granting a journalist like him a place where he can be safe would be a good move not only from a human rights perspective, but also as regards gaining a deeper understanding of the anti-democratic developments in Myanmar. Few journalists are as well connected as he is in the country. International media rely on his knowledge and analysis of the situation there. German broadcaster Deutsche Welle has already offered him a paid internship, and the daily paper tageszeitung (taz) has offered him work on a freelance basis.
RSF published an exclusive interview with Mratt Kyaw Thu last April, in which he explained his dreadful working conditions in %yanmar before he left the country. He became known internationally as one of the few Myanmar journalists to report critically on the persecution of the Rohingya ethnic minority by the country’s military in 2017. He received the AFP news agency’s Kate Webb Prize for his coverage of the crackdown. Since the military coup on 1 February, he has taken the lead in reporting on the pro-democracy movement against the military junta, the Civil Disobedience Movement. He provides daily updates to more than 250,000 people via his Twitter and Telegram channels.
Since the military coup in February there have been numerous serious violations of press freedom in Myanmar. Reporters have been shot at with live ammunition, editorial offices have been raided, and mobile internet has been completely shut down on several occasions.
#AceNewsReport – May.26: Before the hearing, Ms Suu Kyi was allowed to meet her lawyers in person for the first time: She has been held under house arrest for the 16 weeks since she was deposed:
MYANMAR: Aung San Suu Kyi appears in court for first time since military coup: The hearing, in the capital Naypyidaw, was immediately adjourned. The former leader faces several charges including violating a state secrets law.
22 hours ago
Myanmar’s military has accused Ms Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, of fraud in the general election it won last November.
Independent election monitors say the election was largely free and fair, and the charges against Ms Suu Kyi have been widely criticised as politically motivated.
Myanmar’s military has brutally cracked down on pro-democracy protesters since the February coup, killing more than 800 people and detaining more than 4,000, according to the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Protestors hold a moment of silence in Nankham for those killed by the military since the February coup
The six charges against Ms Suu Kyi, 75, also include illegally importing handheld radios and breaching coronavirus rules. She was allowed 30 minutes with her lawyers on Monday before the hearing was adjourned.
They said she appeared to be in good health at the meeting in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, but had no access to news media during her house arrest and had limited knowledge of what was happening in the country.
Ms Suu Kyi “wished people good health”, her lawyers said. She also made a reference to threats by the military to dissolve her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
“Our party grew out of the people so it will exist as long as people support it”, she said, according to one of her lawyers, Khin Maung Zaw.”They have guns but we have people”: Inside Myanmar’s Spring Revolution
Myanmar in profile
Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under military rule
Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
In 2017, Myanmar’s army responded to attacks on police by Rohingya militants with a deadly crackdown, driving more than half a million Rohingya Muslims across the border into Bangladesh in what the UN later called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
#AceNewsReport – Apr.25: Myanmar’s military fired warning shots above a civilian boat carrying Thai border patrol officers amid heightened tensions in border areas since the junta seized power, but Thailand said on Saturday the incident was a misunderstanding:
ASEAN leaders to meet Myanmar coup leader at summit: by ASSOCIATED PRESS & Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said the warning shots on Thursday were used to signal boats for inspection due to the lack of official coordination method on the section of the Salween River where Thailand and Myanmar shared a border according to Reuters Telegram Its a misunderstanding, the Thai border patrol police hired a villagers’ boat to carry things and they were not wearing their uniforms,” Tanee said.
Thursday’s shooting took place near the Thai village of Tha Ta Fung in Mae Hong Son province, near where thousands of ethnic Karen from Myanmar fled military air strikes last month: Thailand prevented most from entering its territory and tens of thousands are sheltering in the jungle on the Myanmar side. Humanitarian groups say Myanmar forces have also opened fire on boats carrying aid to the displaced in recent weeks: A spokesman for Myanmar’s junta, which seized power nearly three months ago, did not answer phone calls seeking comment on the incident.
The Thai Ministry of Defence said all agencies under the ministry and the armed forces had been instructed to “be ready to handle problems and the impact from the violent situation and fighting in border areas.”
The two security sources said no one was injured in the shooting at the boat, which had hoisted the Thai flag.
“The Myanmar military unit was concerned about boats sending supplies to their opponents on the other side so they signalled the boat for inspection,” one of the sources told Reuters, adding that Myanmar officers had searched the vessel.
Jumi, 49, a restaurant owner in the area, said the shots were fired into the water beside the boat on the Salween river.
“People are very frightened by these shootings and they don’t want to take their boats out,” she said.
The military has attempted to crush protests across Myanmar against its Feb. 1 coup, killing hundreds and fighting with ethnic groups along the border has also escalated.
Southeast Asian leaders, including Myanmar’s junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, are meeting in Indonesia on Saturday for talks on the crisis, which analysts fear could turn into an all-out civil war.
Some of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic armed groups, including the Karen National Union (KNU), which controls territory on the Thai border, have vowed to back the protesters and help overturn the coup.
Padoh Saw Taw Nee, the KNU’s head of foreign affairs, said in a message the shooting showed Myanmar’s military was “very aggressive and arrogant”.
Southeast Asian leaders are to meet Myanmar’s top general and coup leader in an emergency summit in Indonesia Saturday, and are expected to press calls for an end to violence by security forces that has left hundreds of protesters dead as well as the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees.
There is little hope for an immediate breakthrough in the two-hour gathering in Jakarta between Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing and the six heads of state and three foreign ministers representing the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But his decision to face them offers a rare chance for the 10-nation bloc to directly deal with the general who ousted one of its leaders in a Feb. 1 coup.
“The unfolding tragedy has serious consequences for Myanmar, ASEAN and the region,” Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said on the eve of the summit.
One proposal, which has been discussed in preliminary meetings, is for Brunei Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah, the current ASEAN chair, to travel to Myanmar to meet the military leadership and Suu Kyi’s camp to encourage dialogue. He would be accompanied by ASEAN Secretary General Lim Jock Hoi — also from Brunei — if the junta agreed, a Southeast Asian diplomat told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
Another diplomat said humanitarian aid could be offered to Myanmar if conditions improved. The diplomat also spoke to AP on condition of anonymity for lack of authority to discuss such plans publicly.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi of Indonesia expressed hopes that “we can reach an agreement on the next steps that can help the people of Myanmar get out of this delicate situation.”
Following the coup, ASEAN, through Brunei, issued a statement that did not expectedly condemn the power grab but urged “the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.” Amid Western pressure, however, the regional group has struggled to take a more forceful position on issues but has kept to its non-confrontational approach.
All ASEAN states agreed to meet Min Aung Hlaing but would not address him as Myanmar’s head of state in the summit, the Southeast Asian diplomat said. Critics have said ASEAN’s decision to meet him was unacceptable and amounted to legitimizing the overthrow and the deadly crackdown that followed. Daily shootings by police and soldiers have killed more than 700 protesters and bystanders, according to several independent tallies.
Amnesty International urged Indonesia and other ASEAN states to investigate Min Aung Hlaing over “credible allegations of responsibility for crimes against humanity in Myanmar.” As a state party to a U.N. convention against torture, Indonesia has a legal obligation to prosecute or extradite a suspected perpetrator on its territory, it said.
“The Myanmar crisis trigged by the military presents ASEAN with the biggest test in its history,” said Emerlynne Gil of the London-based rights group. “This is not an internal matter for Myanmar but a major human rights and humanitarian crisis which is impacting the entire region and beyond.”
Police dispersed dozens of protesters opposing the coup and the junta leader’s visit.
More than 4,300 police have fanned out across the Indonesian capital to secure the meetings, held under strict safeguards amid the pandemic. Indonesia has reported the highest number of COVID-19 infections and deaths in Southeast Asia.
The leaders of Thailand and the Philippines skipped the summit to deal with coronavirus outbreaks back home. Laos, which has the least number of infections in the region but this week imposed a lockdown, also canceled at the last minute. The face-to-face summit is the first by ASEAN leaders in more than a year.
ASEAN’s diversity, including the divergent ties of many of its members to either China or the United States, along with a bedrock policy of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs and deciding by consensus, has hobbled the bloc’s ability to rapidly deal with crises.
Aside from Myanmar, the regional bloc groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
#AceNewsReport – Apr.18: Myanmar typically grants an annual amnesty to thousands of prisoners to mark its traditional Buddhist New Year holiday – which in previous years have been joyous affairs with citywide water fights:
Myanmar’s junta plans to release more than 23,000 prisoners: ‘But this year, with the military back in power after ousting civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, anti-coup activists have used the holiday as an opportunity to protest the growing death toll and mass arrests’
On Wednesday a rebel group executed a man who had been freed in that amnesty, who it said had subsequently raped and killed a five-year-old girl.
Just before Armed Forces Day, the regime also freed around 900 jailed demonstrators.
But since the February 1 coup, more than 3,100 people – the bulk of them anti-coup protesters and activists – have been detained, according to local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The junta has issued nightly arrest warrants on state-run media, targeting celebrities, influencers, journalists and prominent activists with large social media followings.
By Friday night, they totaled 380.
Some 80 doctors have also been named as wanted fugitives for attempting to “deteriorate peace and stability.”
Myanmar’s health care workers have been at the forefront of a nationwide civil disobedience movement, refusing to return to work under a military regime. Their absence has left many of the country’s hospitals unstaffed during the pandemic.
The country has been under the junta’s control for 11 weeks.
The military has consistently justified the putsch by alleging widespread fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s party had won in a landslide.
Myanmar Update: Unrest: Over 80 Protesters Killed, 19 Sentenced to Death: Reports emerged on Saturday that security forces fired rifle grenades at protesters during a brutal crackdown in the city of Bago, near Yangon: By Saturday evening, monitoring group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) confirmed “over 80 anti-coup protesters were killed by security forces in Bago on Friday.”
“They piled up all the dead bodies, loaded them into their army truck and drove it away,” AFP quoted a resident as saying that authorities had refused to let rescue workers near the bodies.
“It is like genocide,” Myanmar Now news outlet quoted a protest organizer, Ye Htut as saying. “They are shooting at every shadow.”
Following the bloodshed, medical treatment had been “denied’ to the injured, according to the United Nations office in Myanmar.
“We call on the security forces to allow medical teams to treat the wounded,” it said in a tweet on Saturday.
The latest fatalities in Bago brought the death toll to 618, according to the AAPP.
That figure, however, was disputed by the military, which put the number at 248.
Soldiers randomly shoot at protesters
Protests were also held on Saturday in the northwestern town of Tamu, near the Myanmar-India border, where people fought back when soldiers tried to tear down barricades erected to protect their community.
Soldiers started randomly shooting at protesters, killing at least two civilians, said a local.
She said that protesters were also retaliating by throwing a bomb that exploded and overturned a military truck, killing over a dozen soldiers.
“Some are in hiding — we are worried that our people will be hurt as a reprisal” she told AFP, adding that all Tamu’s residents are calling for is “down with the dictatorship.”
Unrest also erupted Saturday in northern Shan State, as Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), an ethnic rebel group, mounted a pre-dawn attack on a police station, according to local media.
At least 10 policemen were killed in the attack, it said.
The Southeast Asian country has been convulsed by mass rallies and strikes since the military ousted de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, and arrested her and several other political leaders over election fraud allegations.
Military court sentences 19 protesters to die
In the meantime, state-run media announced that a military court sentenced19 people to die for “robbery and murder.”
Seventeen of the defendants were tried in absentia.
An international human rights group condemned junta for the death penalties, saying, “It indicates the military are prepared to go back to a time when Myanmar was executing people.”
The county has not carried out an execution in over 30 years, although it has had the death penalty in its penal code, said Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division for Human Rights Watch.
He said that trying cases in a military court means there can be no appeals, and there are “no guarantees of a free and fair trial in any way, shape or form.”
The death sentences could be a tactic to force protesters off the streets and back to work, Robertson said.
“Their core mission is to use force and violence to get everybody off the streets and to break apart the (civil disobedience movement),” he added.
UN urged to take action
In another development, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN Kyaw Moe Tun called on a Security Council meeting on Friday to take action.
“Your collective, strong action is needed immediately,” he said, proposing a no-fly zone, an arms embargo and more targeted sanctions against members of the military.
An independent analyst with the International Crisis Group, also warned the council that Myanmar was “at the brink of state failure.”
“(The junta’s) actions may be creating a situation where the country becomes ungovernable,” said Richard Horsey.
Ousted Myanmar lawmakers also urged the Council on Friday to apply both direct and indirect pressure on the junta.
“Our people are ready to pay any cost to get back their rights and freedom,” said Zin Mar Aung, who has been appointed acting foreign minister for a group of ousted lawmakers.
International powers have sought to slap sanctions on the Myanmarese military as its forces, but Russia warned earlier that punitive measures could spark a full-blown civil war in the country.