Junta Watch

Junta Watch: Regime Shrugs Off Outcry on Executions; Claims Troops Uphold Human Rights, and More

By The Irrawaddy 18 June 2022

Protesters hang a bold warning to the junta over its planned execution of Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw in downtown Yangon.

Junta again vows executions will proceed

Despite the international and local outcry over its execution orders against democracy activists Ko Jimmy and Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, the Myanmar junta affirmed on Thursday that the executions would be carried out, saying the death sentences were appropriate and irreversible.

It was the first official confirmation since the regime’s initial announcement of the execution order early this month. It also raised concerns that hanging the men would fuel an even greater bloodbath in Myanmar, pushing the country, already ravaged by post-coup social and political upheaval, into a new level of violence. Several resistance organizations, especially urban guerrilla groups, have already vowed to take revenge if the executions are carried out. 

Many ordinary citizens believe the executions are intended to instill fear among opponents of military rule in the country, but it appears the move will only backfire by shoring up support for the ongoing revolution and becoming another push factor driving the population to seek to topple the regime, whatever it takes.

In one arena at least, Myanmar military a world beater

Even as junta troops perpetrate terrible atrocities including torching houses, killing local residents and taking civilians hostage in villages in Sagaing in central Myanmar, deputy junta chief Soe Win said military personnel had received instruction in human rights and protecting civilians.

Soe Win met military personnel and their families in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township on Monday. At the meeting, he said that in addition to military matters, Myanmar’s armed forces had educated their personnel about rights and providing humanitarian assistance in line with standard practice for armies around the world. 

Well, there can be little debate about the state of the Myanmar military’s capabilities when it comes to fighting. In the field, junta soldiers have been struggling against resistance fighters who only learned to shoot months after the coup, and are mostly armed with rudimentary hunting rifles, homemade guns and improvised explosives. Despite its arsenal of artillery, tanks, gunships and even jet fighters, however, the military is far from containing the resistance.

On the human rights front, it appears the textbook being used at the military’s schools approves of extrajudicial killings, burning people alive, conducting deadly interrogations, raping women, burning houses, stealing and looting, extortion, locking up the parents and children of wanted dissidents, and cutting off internet services to whole communities.

In that regard at least, the Myanmar army under the leadership of Min Aung Hlaing and Soe Win has surpassed itself. It needn’t worry about keeping abreast of international armies—it far exceeds them all in its ability to persecute its own civilians.

Opening a door with one hand, brandishing a gun with the other

An alleged PDF member who surrendered is seen on June 16, 2022 at a military unit in Mandalay’s Thabeikyin.

Since June 12, junta media have been urging members of People’s Defense Force groups (PDFs) to surrender, amid daily clashes that have inflicted heavy casualties on the regime and hampered its efforts to assert its authority.

Of the estimated 50,000 and 100,000 PDF members across the country, only around 30 had surrendered by Thursday, according to the junta’s own reports. And many believe even this number was fabricated by the regime. Local resistance groups said those who have surrendered are not PDF members.

Two days after junta newspapers said that “organizations including PDFs are welcomed if they enter the legal fold of their normal civilian lives by surrendering their weapons,” they repeated the regime’s offer of a reward for information leading to the arrest of members of PDFs, which the regime has labeled as terrorist organizations. Informers will be provided with proper protection, it said.

At the same time, its threats against family members of PDFs and continued detention of them as hostages shows it does not keep its word, and says one thing while doing another. 

A message the regime doesn’t want to hear

People welcome resistance fighters returning from the front line in early May 2022 in Myaung Township, Sagaing Region.

The junta, which continues to struggle to assert control over Myanmar more than 15 months since its coup in February last year, has been given a frank outside assessments of its efforts. “They’re not winning. They’re losing territory. Their military is taking serious losses,” said US State Department Counselor Derek Chollet.

As he told this to The Irrawaddy last Friday, the regime’s troops continued to face unwavering popular armed resistance in the country’s heartland, northwest, southeast and south. The counselor’s remarks reflect the reality on the ground; the junta’s troops have suffered heavy casualties at the hands of local resistance fighters and its administration barely functions in places. In some anti-regime strongholds, meanwhile, schools run by the shadow National Unity Government have been flooded with children.

Reflecting its frustration, the regime has launched a scorched earth policy in some areas, torching whole villages to crush resistance there. However, the effort seems to have been fruitless so far. Not a single day has gone by since it was launched in April without fighting between local resistance forces and junta soldiers, and without regime troops suffering casualties.

You may also like these stories:

Junta Chief to Preside Over Myanmar’s First Grand Military Review in Seven Years

Resistance Fighters and KIA Clash With Junta Forces in Northern Myanmar

Myanmar Junta Raises SIM and Internet Taxes to Silence Opposition