Myanmar Junta Ramps Up Atrocities Amid Lack of International Pressure

By Nayt Thit ​​​​​​ 12 May 2023

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Amid repeated calls from the international community for the Myanmar junta to end its violence, the regime is brazenly escalating its atrocities and campaign of terror aimed at retaking control and deterring civilians from becoming involved in the resistance movement, especially in the anti-junta stronghold of Sagaing Region.

In the absence of any meaningful action from the UN and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the junta and the barbaric soldiers that comprise its special task forces have repeatedly committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against both resistance fighters and civilians.

Regime forces have dramatically stepped up their atrocities including massacres, beheadings and mutilations of victims, and the use of sexual violence, mostly in Sagaing Region.

Sagaing became the first region of the country to launch an armed revolution when peaceful anti-regime protesters took up improvised firearms and old-fashioned hunting rifles to stop junta troops killing civilians during a crackdown in Kale town, which has a mixed Bamar and Chin population, on March 28, 2021.

With daily ambushes and attacks against regime targets, Sagaing, a sprawling region that straddles the central plains and had no previous history of armed rebellion, has become a resistance hub.

Numerous resistance groups in the region have acquired automatic firearms and upgraded their improvised weapons and explosives.

Outside the towns, the junta has lost control. But regime bases and junta-controlled government departments and offices in the towns are increasingly being attacked by urban resistance groups.

The restive region has suffered the heaviest junta atrocities, enduring several massacres as well as arbitrary killings, arson attacks and artillery strikes on civilian targets, as well as air strikes, looting and acts of sexual violence.

While blocking access to phone and internet connections, the junta has escalated its scorched earth campaign in Sagaing including arbitrary killings of both resistance fighters and civilians over the past two years.

On April 11, junta aircraft bombed and strafed a crowd of over 200 civilians attending the opening ceremony of a people’s administration office in Pazi Gyi Village in Sagaing’s Kanbalu Township, killing around 170 people including dozens of children, female residents and pregnant women.

The corpses of civilians killed when a junta fighter jet bombed Pazi Gyi Village in Kantbalu Township, Sagaing Region on April 11, 2023. / Supplied

The air strike was the deadliest since the military seized power in 2021.

“It is clear that the military regime is targeting all civilians in the resistance strongholds, regarding everyone as their enemy,” U Aung Myo Min, the human rights minister of Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG), told The Irrawaddy on Thursday.

In the last two months, military detachments have killed several dozen people during raids on villages in Sagaing, in which many civilian and resistance detainees were beheaded and mutilated while some female detainees were raped before being killed.

The regime forces have left a trail of beheaded and mutilated victims. During a raid on Depayin Kwe Village in Sagaing Township on April 23, regime forces beheaded a male villager and placed the victim’s severed genitals inside his decapitated head.

The remains of a resistance leader’s body after it was mutilated by junta soldiers during a raid on Tar Taing Village in Sagaing Region’s Myinmu Township on March 1. / Supplied

Human Rights Minister U Aung Myo Min said the junta has intentionally escalated the terror campaign by killing all resistance and civilian detainees and leaving the mutilated bodies of the victims in public in order to frighten civilians and dissuade them from getting involved in the anti-regime movement.

He added that these inhumane acts and intentional killings of resistance members and civilians by junta forces are war crimes and violations of the Geneva Conventions, as soldiers are not allowed to kill prisoners of war, let alone civilians.

“Displaying the mutilated bodies is an attempt to instill fear in people. People will be frightened by the killings at first. But they will never give up the anti-junta revolution. It makes people hate the junta even more, and more determined to revolt,” the minister said.

In a raid on a resistance camp of the Chaung U People’s Defense Force in Sagaing’s Chaung U Township on April 5, junta troops killed and beheaded three civilians and five resistance members.

(Left) The decapitated body of a local resistance member. (Right) A resistance member’s head hangs from a tree where it was left by junta troops near Than Bo Village in Sagaing’s Khin U Township on March 13, 2023. / CJ

Asked what he felt after seeing the junta atrocities, the leader of Chaung U PDF told The Irrawaddy, “I was quite shocked and felt sorry when I saw the headless bodies of my three comrades and two other civilians at the raided camp. Their headless necks were still bleeding. The junta is attacking us both physically and mentally.”

However, he and his comrades have become more determined to fight till the end of the military regime, as they cannot allow a military of murderers and rapists to govern the country and the people, the PDF leader said.

“The junta thinks we people can be governed by fear. We have resisted the junta since before we were armed. Now, we are armed with the support of our people. Our anti-junta revolution will never be stopped by fear. We never fear,” he said.

Junta troops pose near the bodies of some of the 29 detained villagers massacred by soldiers during their raid on Mon Taing Pin Village in Sagaing’s Ye U Township on May 11, 2022. / From a mobile phone lost by a soldier

So far, international statements and demands for an end to the violence in Myanmar have fallen on deaf ears. Critics say the international community’s inaction has encouraged the military regime to escalate its daily killings of civilians.

“Polite demands will only have an effect on those who understand that culture. The military of murderous criminals will never understand such a culture. To resist [the junta’s] terrorism, we need effective and collective action. It has been too long in coming [from the international community],” said Human Rights Minister U Aung Myo Min.