Myanmar Junta Turns Auspicious New Year into Nightmare of Bloodshed

By The Irrawaddy 18 April 2021

Myanmar’s military junta marked what has traditionally been one of the country’s most joyful and auspicious holidays by brutally killing at least another 26 citizens, sending the death toll since the Feb. 1 coup to 738.

That number is expected to climb higher because several people were still missing and several others were severely wounded and may not survive.

The five-day Thingyan water festival is usually celebrated with joyful outdoor events, dominated by people splashing water on each other to symbolize the washing away of bad luck from the previous year, offering prayers, and welcoming a new year.  Similar celebrations are seen in Thailand, Cambodia and Laos.

However, this year Thingyan has been muted in most cities across the country as people called off celebrations in an act of defiance against the regime and as a way of honoring those murdered by the military junta.

Pro-democracy protesters in Mandalay marched on Apr. 14 evening to protest against the military regime. The troop cracked down the protest.

Instead of festivities, people marked Thingyan with daily protests against the re-imposition of the military dictatorship.

Their peaceful demonstrations, though, were not spared by the regime, turning the water festival holidays into a nightmare of bloodshed.

On Tuesday, the eve of Thingyan, Myitnge, a small town in Mandalay Region, saw its first violent deaths since the coup. Five civilians were killed when the regime’s forces opened fire on residents while looting public donations that were intended for the town’s striking railway staff. The donations had been kept at a monastery.

During the gunfire, more than a dozen were wounded. Myitnge had staged protests daily against the military regime.

In the border town of Tamu, a town in Myanmar’s northwest along the border with India, a Gurkha couple were shot dead by troops. The pair were riding a motorbike and returning home after collecting cow’s milk to sell in their community.

Five people were killed in Myitnge, Mandalay Region on Apr. 13. (Photo: CJ)

In Yangon region, U Nyein Htet, 44, was shot dead by regime forces while he was waiting for a bus at the MinLan bus stop in Bahan Township on the eve of Thingyan.

The shooting happened around 5 p.m. Soldiers and police were stopping passing vehicles on U Chit Maung Road as they conducted inspections after a series of explosions. Troops fired at a car that drove away and hit U Nyein Htet as he waited for the bus. His body was taken away and later returned to the family. He leaves behind his wife and two daughters, aged 8 and 14.

On Wednesday, the first day of Thingyan, another man was shot dead and one was wounded in Myitnge of Mandalay region, when troops opened fire during a raid in Thazin ward. According to local residents, soldiers and police raided a mosque and reportedly took away donations.

On the same day, a 25-year-old man was killed in Myingyan township in Mandalay region. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) stated in their latest fatalities report that he was driving a motorbike when he was shot and tied up, then dragged away and tortured to death.

A 28-year-old female in Myingyan was also shot in the arm and died on Wednesday in Myingyan, the AAPP stated. Her body was taken away by junta forces.

On Thursday, the second day of Thingyan, a total of nine people were killed, including six in Sagaing Region’s Kani Township, two in Myingyan Township and one in Maha Aung Myay Township of Mandalay region.

Residents of Mogok staged a protest against the military regime on Apr. 14.

The six deaths in Kani township on Thursday occurred during a shootout between the regime’s forces and a civilian protection group formed by anti-regime protesters. After the shootout at least 20 people went missing.

The shootout came after security forces detained more than 70 protesters, including leading members of the protest committee in Kani Township. The group tried to release them and waited at the checkpoint on the Kani-Monywa highway.

A victim shot dead in Maha Aung Myay Township was a 20-year-old Muslim youth, Ko Ko Htet. He was shot in the chest when soldiers randomly opened fire in the compound of Sule Mosque. At least four others were wounded during the raid.

On New Year’s Day, Saturday, at least three people were killed and four were injured when the junta’s troops attacked anti-regime protesters in Mogoke, a ruby town in Mandalay. The soldiers and police were firing on civilians who were dispersing after an anti-regime protest.

Ko Aung Ko Ko Phyo, 25, died on Saturday night after being shot in the head about 9 p.m. in Kyaukme, northern Shan State, when he and two other friends were on a motorbike. His two friends were detained by soldiers and their details are unknown.

Regime’s forces made searches and arrests in Yangon on Apr. 17 as they continued crackdowns on opponents against the military coup. (Photo: CJ)

Another two people were killed in Kani Township of Sagaing reigon on Saturday. One was shot during a shootout, while another was arrested first and later died.

A 20-year-old, Ko Tun Oo, was shot by the regime’s forces in Myingyan Township on Sunday during a crackdown on an anti-regime protest. He is in a critical condition, according to a rescue association. Another young man also wounded when junta forces opened fire on protesters in No. 8 ward in Myingyan. The regime’s crackdown in Myingan has left as least 25 dead since March 3. No fatalities had been reported as of late Sunday.

In addition to taking lives during the traditional religious event welcoming a new year, the junta also made more arrests, sweeping up protest leaders, student protesters, rights activists, celebrities, youths, doctors and media personnel.

As of Saturday, 3,152 people were under detention by the regime.

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