Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Myanmar Coup Boss’s Food Promise Rings Hollow; the Regime Deploys a Horrific Weapon, and More

By The Irrawaddy 19 March 2022

‘Food security scheme’ a cruel joke for Myanmar people

Military coup leader Min Aung Hlaing attends a meeting of the regime’s Financial Commission on March 17, 2022. / Cncds

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing said his regime will provide Myanmar people with food security during its emergency rule, during a meeting of the National Planning Commission on Tuesday.

Since seizing power in a coup last year, Min Aung Hlaing has repeatedly talked about household food security. But now, many people are even struggling to get one meal per day because of a surge in the cost of living, including soaring food prices, amid high unemployment and reduced incomes resulting from the post-coup economic downturn. Meanwhile, rising fuel prices, daily blackouts and water shortages are taking a heavy toll on Myanmar people, while cities are reporting high crime rates.

At the same time, people in some parts of the country continue to be subject to junta atrocities as the regime continues to conduct air and artillery strikes on villages, torch houses and steal possessions, and kill and rape civilians.

According to a United Nations Development Program report on Myanmar released in October last year, the People’s Pulse Survey, more than 25 million people—nearly half the country’s population—are in danger of falling into poverty in the early months of 2022 due to the combined impact of the coup and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite his lip service, Min Aung Hlaing is doing nothing to prevent Myanmar people from going hungry. Rather, he has been busy arresting and killing democracy activists, and seeking divine merit by consecrating pagodas and offering meals to monks in the hope of maintaining his grip on power.

UN rights chief cites deliberate targeting of civilians

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday called on the international community to take immediate measures to stop the Myanmar military’s widespread human rights violations and abuses.

“The military has engaged in systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses—some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the commissioner said in a new report.

Bachelet released the report for the 49th session of the UN Human Rights Council, at which she said Myanmar’s military and security forces have shown a flagrant disregard for human life, bombarding populated areas with airstrikes and heavy weapons.

They have deliberately targeted civilians, many of whom have been shot in the head, burned to death, arbitrarily arrested, tortured, or used as human shields, she said in a statement on the report.

Security forces and their affiliates have killed at least 1,600 people, and more than 12,500 people have been detained since the coup.

At least 440,000 others have been displaced and 14 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance, the delivery of which has largely been blocked by the military in new and pre-existing areas of need.

Following the UNDP’s report, Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government urged the international community to take action against the regime, which has not yet officially responded to the UNDP statement.

No end in sight to regime’s brutality

A fuel-air bomb unearthed by the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force / supplied

The Myanmar junta’s growing brutality against its own people became even clearer this week when it dropped high-explosive aerial bombs in conflict-torn Kayah State. An unexploded bomb unearthed by local resistance group the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force in Demoso on March 15 turned out to be a highly destructive fuel-air bomb (FAB), according to some striking air force officers.

An FAB is defined as an explosive strong enough to destroy any and all personnel, vehicles and unhardened structures in its large blast radius, via a massive and long-duration blast wave caused by a thermobaric reaction.

Kayah State is one the strongest anti-regime resistance areas in Myanmar. Local fighters there have inflicted serious casualties on regime forces since late last year. In response, the junta has conducted a series of indiscriminate airstrikes in the state, causing thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

ASEAN special envoy cancels meeting with EAOs

ASEAN special envoy to Myanmar Prak Sokhonn

The planned meeting between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)’s special envoy to Myanmar and the Peace Process Steering Team (PPST), a group of 10 ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) that have signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, has been canceled.

The secretary of the military regime’s National Solidarity and Peace Negotiation Committee, Lieutenant General Min Naung, informed the PPST on Monday about the cancellation of the meeting, citing the envoy’s tight schedule.

ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, is scheduled to arrive in Myanmar on Sunday and meet junta leader Min Aung Hlaing and political parties during his four-day visit.

The PPST has proposed a meeting with the special envoy either in Thailand or Cambodia to discuss the protection and provision of relief aid to civilians displaced by the fighting in Myanmar.

On March 10, PPST leaders had a meeting with Yohei Sasakawa, Japan’s special envoy for national reconciliation in Myanmar, in Chiang Mai, Thailand. At the meeting, the Japanese government announced a plan to provide 50,000 sacks of rice to displaced people in Myanmar.  Sasakawa’s intervention followed the regime’s failure to convince EAOs to join its peace talks.