Myanmar is mired in conflict and chaos a year after a coup

In the days after Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1 last year, millions of people took to the streets to oppose the takeover...


In the days after Myanmar’s military seized power on February 1 last year, millions of people took to the streets to oppose the takeover, quitting their jobs in what became an enduring nationwide civil disobedience movement resisting the deadly violence of the junta.

A year later, the Southeast Asian nation is mired in conflict, the economy is crippled, war has spread to all regions and state institutions are in a state of collapse. Peaceful protesters have been shot, suspects have been tortured and thousands of civilians have been killed.

The first daily protests, loud and colorful, were replaced by an eerie calm.

To mark the anniversary of the coup, protest leaders called for a “silent strike” on Tuesday, urging people to stay home, close shops and suspend outdoor activities for six hours. The junta circulated leaflets warning that participants would be charged with terrorism, incitement and violation of the Electronic Communications Law. Dozens have already been arrested.

The regime engendered such hatred that it was unable to consolidate its control. Hundreds of armed rebel units have sprung up across the country and a shadow government of national unity – led in part by ousted lawmakers – has formed to help lead opposition to the junta.

“Since the early days of the coup, when protests were concentrated in cities, the conflict has spread to the rest of the country,” said Khu Ree Du, spokesman for the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force, l one of the many armed groups fighting the military. “The shape of the conflict will be more intense in the coming year because what the Myanmar military has done is unforgivable.”

As part of the coup, the army arrested more than 100 elected officials, including the country’s top civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, 76. She faces up to 173 years in prison on 17 charges that her supporters say are false. She was convicted on five counts until now.

Corn Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the army’s commander-in-chief and coup leader, appears to have underestimated the public’s contempt for him and his generals, who responded with brutal repression.

Junta forces have killed at least 1,500 civilians targeted during peaceful protests or in raids on homes and businesses, according to the UN Human Rights Office. Almost a fifth of the deaths – at least 290 – occurred while the victims were in custody and often resulted from torture, the Human Rights Office said.

Thousands of other civilians died in remote areas during military attacks on towns and villages, sometimes using heavy weapons, artillery and airstrikes. More than 8,800 opponents of the regime have been imprisoned.

“Myanmar’s army has used extreme force and airstrikes in many areas,” said Padoh Saw Hla Htun, spokesman for the Karen National Union, another ethnic group seeking autonomy. “They are targeting civilians. Now they are waging war on the whole country and trying to rule the people by fear. The military turned Myanmar into a failed state within a year.

In a statement Monday, President Biden denounced the regime’s “indescribable violence against civilians, including children,” and its denial of humanitarian access to millions of people in need of lifesaving assistance.

Addressing the people of Myanmar, Mr. Biden said: “We have not forgotten your struggle. And we will continue to support your valiant determination to establish democracy and the rule of law in your country.

For decades, the army fought many ethnic groups in Myanmar but never achieved full control of areas on the northern outskirts of the country. Today, the fighting has reached all parts of the country and in some areas newly formed anti-regime units are fighting alongside ethnic armed groups.

In recent months, the junta has lost control of even more territory, including Chin and Rakhine states, Sagaing region and Magway division. In a recording leaked to local media, a Magway region security minister told junta officials last week that the army had lost control of half a dozen districts in the region. He blamed the rebels’ popular support and their effective use of guerrilla tactics.

“As you all know, a government must be able to impose its authority on the people,” said the official, Colonel Kyaw Kyaw Lin.

Yanghee Lee, a former UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, called the military’s overthrow of the civilian government a failed coup because the regime was unable to consolidate its power. What the country is seeing now, she said, is a “nationwide democratic revolution.”

“Min Aung Hlaing tried to seize power over Myanmar on February 1 last year,” she said. “A year later, he didn’t make it. Why did he fail? Because the people of Myanmar resisted.

With the military attacking civilian targets in the countryside, more than 400,000 people have fled their homes. The international aid group Save the Children reports that at least 150,000 children are among those displaced and many are living in makeshift jungle shelters, where they are vulnerable to hunger and disease.

In the weeks following the coup, pro-democracy protesters called for help from the international community. Many carried signs reading “R2P” or “Responsibility to Protect,” referring to a United Nations Doctrine of 2005 affirming the responsibility of nations to protect populations from the most serious crimes.

But they were quickly disappointed.

The United Nations Security Council, which includes Myanmar’s allies Russia and China, took no action to intervene. And the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which counts Myanmar among its members, has been ineffective in stopping the violence.

Human rights groups have urged the international community to reduce the supply of arms to the army, eliminate the flow of money to the regime and end the impunity of the junta by prosecuting the generals before the International Criminal Court.

In January, oil giants Chevron and Total gave in to pressure and announced its intention to withdraw a natural gas field off the coast of Myanmar, a major source of cash for the regime. But US sanctions against military leaders have not proven to be a significant deterrent.

On Monday, Britain, Canada and the United States added new sanctions against senior judicial officials and others helping the junta, including U Jonathan Kyaw Thaung, the scion of an important business family.

“How many more people does Myanmar’s military need to arrest, torture and shoot,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, “before influential governments act to cut the junta off its money and weapons?

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Newsrust - US Top News: Myanmar is mired in conflict and chaos a year after a coup
Myanmar is mired in conflict and chaos a year after a coup
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