Myanmar’s Forgotten War

International and local human rights groups are accusing the Tatmadaw of perpetrating war crimes across the country.

“It’s deliberately targeted at the civilian population. It’s designed to destroy livelihoods and lives that support the resistance movement,” says Salai Za Uk Ling, of the Chin Human Rights Organisation.

“If these are not war crimes, I don’t know what is.”

“The methods that they use to instill fear in the population, be it the killing of a child, sexual violence against women, getting rid of bodies, burning, destroying evidence: They knowingly commit war crimes, and these are very well documented.”

August 15, 2022

The status or whereabouts of two children who were abducted by junta soldiers from LIB 268 on Sunday August 14, 2022 following the raid and pillaging of New Haimual Village, Tedim Township remain unknown.

The siblings, 17 year-old girl Lal Nun Pui and her little brother Lal Ruat Mawia (15), remain missing a day after soldiers had taken them hostage during a raid on their village, which left at least eight houses burnt to the ground.

According to a spokesperson of the CDF-HualNgoRam, soldiers from Falam-based LIB 268 terrorized the village by burning houses and abducting the children. It followed the death of the Battalion Commander Major (Lt. Col in waiting) Wai Moe Paing and four of his soldiers, and the surrender of four additional soldiers to the joint Chin resistance forces, which launched an attack on the hill-top camp near the Indian border on August 10.

Junta soldiers routinely burn houses and terrorize innocent villagers in a fit of rage after they suffer casualties in Chin State.


MAE SOT, Thailand—A few times each month, Saw Khu wakes before dawn and sets out on a dangerous mission to deliver sacks full of Western aid money to conflict-torn areas deep inside Myanmar.

After sneaking across the border from Thailand in a wooden canoe, he is driven through a mountain range strewn with soldiers from Myanmar’s military, which seized power in a coup last year. Arriving at a rendezvous point, he divvies up the cash among colleagues who either hand it over to families in need or use it to buy rice, instant noodles, tarps, mosquito nets, soap and other essentials for them.

“I’m not afraid,” said Mr. Khu, a 47-year-old Myanmar national whose nonprofit has around 200 members across southeast Myanmar and a handful in Thailand. “It’s something that has to be done.”

Mr. Khu’s missions are illegal in both countries. They are one of the few precarious avenues being used to get aid to Myanmar’s most vulnerable populations since the 2021 coup ended a nascent transition to democracy and aggravated conflict between the army and its opponents, according to interviews with more than a dozen representatives of local and international aid organizations, human-rights advocates and officials from the U.S. and Thailand.

Aid arriving for people who settled temporarily by the Moei River to escape fighting between the Myanmar army and insurgent groups.PHOTO: ATHIT PERAWONGMETHA/REUTERS

While the U.S. Agency for International Development and United Nations agencies continue to operate inside Myanmar, their reach is limited because the junta controls where they can go and to a large degree what they can do. Getting permission to move around involved complex processes even before the coup, but representatives of three aid organizations said there is now an intentional regime tactic of denying them access to large populations to cut off resources to areas where opposition to military rule is strongest. They cited the regime’s denial of travel authorizations and arbitrary delays in issuing staff visas as obstacles.


To reach vulnerable communities, Western governments often take the cross-border route—but it is convoluted. Myanmar-focused groups like Mr. Khu’s aren’t eligible for legal status in Thailand, which means most foreign governments can’t send funds directly to them. Instead, the governments contribute to larger, registered organizations that, while primarily focused on Thailand, channel some of the funds to the dozens of smaller groups operating inside Myanmar.

Donors have little visibility on how the aid is ultimately distributed but say that the smaller groups that are capable of navigating Myanmar’s tough conditions are their best hope of reaching at least some hard-hit locations. Aid workers like Mr. Khu operate with the help of armed rebel groups in Myanmar that are fighting the junta, traveling through their territories and under their protection.

Displaced people from Myanmar living in makeshift tents on the Thai side of the Moei River, in Mae Sot, Thailand.PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Myanmar’s regime continues to deny humanitarian access to many populations in need and urged all countries to press them for more. “At the same time, we and others in the international community are identifying alternate means of providing lifesaving assistance that is not dependent upon access permission,” the spokesperson said.

U.S.-based advocacy group Refugees International estimates some $10 million worth of aid has entered Myanmar through Thailand since the coup via these informal channels. It is a fraction of overall aid to the country, which is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Large parts of Myanmar remain inaccessible, such as central-northwest Myanmar’s Sagaing region where more than half of those displaced since the coup are located.

The U.N. says the number of people who need aid ballooned from one million before the coup to 14.4 million in its aftermath—more than a quarter of the entire population. Before the coup, roughly 350,000 people were internally displaced by earlier conflicts, forced to flee their homes but staying inside Myanmar. That number has now surpassed 1.2 million. Half of the country’s school-age children have had no access to education for two years.

Nationwide protests broke out last year after Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup, which ended a nascent transition to democracy.PHOTO: EPA/SHUTTERSTOCK

Many live in warzones that have no clear front lines. The coup sparked nationwide protests that were met with lethal force by the military, hardening the resolve of the army’s opponents, some of whom turned to guerrilla-style armed resistance. The military responded by bombing and burning villages suspected of harboring insurgents. Conflict is concentrated near the country’s northwest and southeast borders, and increasingly its central plains.

The Myanmar military didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Conditions for the displaced are desperate. Eh Htoo Say, a 30-year-old teacher from Myanmar’s southeast Karen state, fled in December with her 5-year-old son when the Myanmar military bombed and occupied their village, Au Kree Hta. Sometimes they stay under a tarp propped up by bamboo on the bank of a river that separates Myanmar from Thailand. At other times, they hide in a rickety wooden barn just across the river, in Thailand.

She can’t cook after dark because fire would betray her location. She and her son bathe in the open, either in the river or a flooded rice field. She uses banana leaves to collect rainwater to drink and survives on rice and canned fish brought by local charities—part of the patchwork of organizations like Mr. Khu’s.

“I can keep living as long as I have aid,” she said. “But if I don’t get more I’ll really be in trouble.”

Eh Htoo Say, a displaced villager from southeast Myanmar, stands in Thailand looking across the border to Myanmar.PHOTO: FELIZ SOLOMON/WALL STREET JOURNAL

Thailand Foreign Ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said that cross-border aid is allowed through legally registered groups like the Thai Red Cross Society. But human-rights advocates and aid workers say delivering aid to populations deep inside Myanmar requires familiarity with the country’s languages, terrain and conflict dynamics.

The Myanmar nationals who do that work described living in constant fear of being caught crossing the border. They can’t use Myanmar’s banks or mobile transfer apps, which they believe are monitored by the military.

In early July, an aid worker who was using aid money to buy rice for displaced people in southeast Myanmar’s Bago region was abducted by the Myanmar military and killed, the worker’s organization said. Nearly all of the aid workers interviewed requested anonymity due to fear of arrest, deportation or further restrictions on access.

“We’re just trying to help people, but to do that we have to be tricky, creative, and risk our lives,” said Mr. Khu’s supervisor. “There’s no guarantee—if we die, we die.”

Write to Feliz Solomon at [email protected]

The Dangerous Mission to Sneak Sacks of Cash in Western Aid Into Myanmar – WSJ

A 22 year-old woman is dead and two others received bullet wounds, including her husband, when junta troops from LIB 266 operating under Tactical Operations Command in Hakha, opened fire on a traveling vehicle four miles outside of Hakha this morning.

Siang Hnem Cer (22) was shot in the head and her husband Paul Lian was injured in shoulder, while a third person, Kep Tin Hre received two bullet wounds to the upper thigh. The injured are being treated at a hospital in Hakha. The body of Siang Hrem Cer was transported to her native Falam Town for burial at around 3 pm local time.

LIB 266 is commanded by Lt. Col. Thaung Aye, operates under Hakha-based Tactical Operations Command headed by Col. Saw Tun

The three were traveling in a private SUV from Hakha to Gangaw when they were ambushed by junta troops at around 8:30 a.m. local time. The driver stopped the vehicle on the road when he heard gunfire. Moments later, soldiers sprayed automatic gunfire on the parked car, hitting the woman on the head and killing her instantly. The remaining two in the vehicle were also hit by the spray of bullets.

The soldiers were believed to be hiding in the bushes by the roadside to keep watch on the movement of resistance forces in the area.

Hakha-Gangaw highway is one of only three main highway linking Chin State to the rest of the country with military checkpoints stationed at key junctions. Vehicles traveling along the highway are subject to strict inspections, including commercial goods and passengers as the junta imposed restrictions on movement and food, medicines and humanitarian aid as part of the four-cuts counter-insurgency tactics.

United States Eyes New Energy Sanctions on Myanmar After Execution of Activists (

Oil and gas are a critical economic lifeline for Myanmar’s military junta.

By , a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy, and , an intern at Foreign Policy.

A signboard for TotalEnergies EP Myanmar is seen past a shuttered gate in Yangon on Jan. 22, after energy giants TotalEnergies and Chevron said they would leave Myanmar following pressure from human rights groups to cut financial ties with the junta since last year's military coup.
A signboard for TotalEnergies EP Myanmar is seen past a shuttered gate in Yangon on Jan. 22, after energy giants TotalEnergies and Chevron said they would leave Myanmar following pressure from human rights groups to cut financial ties with the junta since last year’s military coup. STR/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The Biden administration is considering sanctions targeting Myanmar’s energy sector, according to a U.S. official and aides familiar with the matter, following a crackdown on pro-democracy activists by the country’s ruling junta.

The decision, which the sources said was likely and could be announced in the coming month, comes amid mounting frustration from Congress and human rights organizations that Washington isn’t doing enough to crack down on Myanmar’s military rulers. The military took power in a coup last February.

During a closed-door congressional briefing on July 27, senior lawmakers who are important allies of U.S. President Joe Biden, including Rep. Gregory Meeks, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, pressed top administration officials on why they were dragging their heels on levying sanctions against Myanmar’s energy sector, according to the official and congressional aides familiar with the matter. All officials and aides spoke on condition of anonymity, as they were not authorized to publicly discuss internal government deliberations.

“There are Members in Congress with genuine frustrations that the crisis is getting worse,” said a House Foreign Affairs Committee aide familiar with the matter. “Chairman [Meeks] feels strongly that the United States can be doing more to squeeze the military economically and isolate it diplomatically.”

Among the officials grilled by lawmakers was Daniel Kritenbrink, the top State Department envoy for East Asian and Pacific affairs, as well as senior officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development and Treasury Department.

While the United States and other Western allies have slapped sanctions on people and businesses in Myanmar that were involved in carrying out the military coup last year, Washington has so far left Myanmar’s energy sector—including the state-owned Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE)—effectively untouched. The European Union sanctioned MOGE in February, a year after the coup, but advocates have since called on others, including the United States and the United Kingdom, to follow suit. The energy sector is a crucial source of revenue for Myanmar’s military, which earns $1 billion a year from MOGE alone. It is also an important conduit for foreign currency reserves.

“That’s a lifeline,” Salai Za Uk Ling, the deputy executive director at Chin Human Rights Organization, a nonprofit group advocating for the rights of ethnic Chin and other minority groups in Myanmar, said of MOGE’s significance to the junta’s armed campaign.

The United States has been reluctant in recent years to sanction the country’s energy sector, the sources said, because of the undue hardships it would place on average Myanmar citizens. (One natural gas project, called Yadana, supplies Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, with half its power, for example.) They also point to the fact that neighboring countries, including Thailand, rely heavily on Myanmar for energy imports. Washington is working to carefully balance its human rights concerns regarding Myanmar with rallying support among its neighbors, including Thailand, for other regional security priorities, the sources said. The United States also wants to keep the region from falling into China’s orbit against the backdrop of mounting geopolitical competition between Washington and Beijing.

But inside the Biden administration, the sources said, a possible turning point on energy sanctions came after Myanmar’s government announced in late July that it had executed four prominent pro-democracy activists. It was the first of such formal state-sanctioned executions in decades.

Although the United States and other foreign governments quickly condemned the executions, human rights advocates and civil society activists were frustrated that Washington didn’t go further.

“How many more people need to be sacrificed for them to do something practical rather than issuing statement after statement, concerns, and condemnations?” said May Phyu, a leading human rights activist on Myanmar who is currently a fellow in the Dorothea S. Clarke Program in Feminist Jurisprudence at Cornell Law School. “We are all really tired of reading only words and statements. What people need right now is something practical, actions.”

A State Department spokesperson declined to comment on the matter, instead referring Foreign Policy to recent comments from State Department spokesperson Ned Price. “All options are on the table,” Price said during a July 28 press briefing when asked whether the United States would levy new sanctions on Myanmar in the wake of the executions. “We have consistently said that as long as the junta continues to stand in the way of a return to Burma’s path to democracy, we will continue to impose costs and consequences on the junta,” he added, using the official U.S. government name for the country.

Meeks sponsored a House bill, the Burma Act, that would explicitly empower Biden to slap sanctions on Myanmar’s state-owned enterprises and top junta officials involved in the February 2021 coup. While the bill passed the House in April, it hit a wall after a proposed companion bill lost momentum in the Senate. Meeks is trying to include a version of the bill that would make U.S. sanctions on MOGE mandatory into the National Defense Authorization Act, a must-pass defense policy bill.

The proposed sanctions on MOGE, the junta’s main source of revenue, would deal an immediate blow to the junta’s ability to engage in further attacks against civilians and the armed resistance, said Salai Za Uk Ling of the Chin Human Rights Organization.

About half of Myanmar’s foreign currency revenue—around $1.5 billion annually—comes from its energy sector, according to Myanmar government data. The junta has been using jets and attack helicopters to quell civilian protests and independent defense forces, Salai Za Uk Ling said. Isolating its energy industry would effectively ground the junta’s military machine, from funds to fuel.

“It shouldn’t have taken the four activists to be executed for the international community to get a wake-up call,” Salai Za Uk Ling said. Since Feb. 1, 2021, the junta has killed 2,145 individuals during its widespread crackdown on pro-democracy protests, according to the Thailand- and Myanmar-based human rights organization Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).

Two international energy giants, U.S.-based Chevron and France-based TotalEnergies, announced this year that they were withdrawing from operations in Myanmar that supported MOGE’s oil and gas projects in response to the deteriorating human rights situation.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to meet with regional leaders during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, this week. There, Blinken will discuss with ASEAN foreign ministers the situation in Myanmar, as well as other pressing regional issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic, economic cooperation, climate change, and the global response to Russia’s war in Ukraine, according to a State Department press release.

Myanmar will not attend the summit, an ASEAN spokesperson said on Monday. Its military rulers declined an invitation by the regional bloc to send a non-junta representative, according to the spokesperson.

Instead, the junta is hosting Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who is traveling this week to Myanmar, where he will meet with the junta-appointed foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

Russia, as a major supplier of weapons, is one of the only nations with leverage over the historically isolated, domestically oriented junta. From 2017 to 2021, Russia accounted for more than a quarter of Myanmar’s total weapons imports, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. That number has soared as Myanmar has looked to decrease its dependency on Beijing.

“[Junta leader] Min Aung Hlaing looks to Russia as an alternative to China,” said Hunter Marston, a researcher at Australian National University with a focus on Southeast Asian affairs. The Myanmar military, in general, sees China as a national security threat, and Russia plays an important role in lessening its dependence on Beijing, Marston said. Plus, Russia is a desirable partner as Myanmar experiences severe lack of funds.

The Central Bank of Myanmar issued a statement ordering local companies and banks to suspend the repayment of foreign loans, Myanmar Now reported in July. The statement is a sign that foreign reserves—which the junta uses to purchase arms—are dwindling, said a Thailand-based Burmese independent analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity. Blanket sanctions, including sanctions on MOGE, would further bleed the junta’s wallet.

“Many Myanmar people are saying that our country will become the next Sri Lanka,” said the independent analyst, referring to Sri Lanka’s recent political turmoil and near economic collapse. “But Myanmar people—they don’t care. Because their main motive is to remove the military from power.”

While the sanctions targeting Myanmar’s energy sector would be the most sweeping yet, secondary sanctions are still important, experts say. For example, U.S. officials and experts say many regime enablers are based in Singapore, which has an expansive banking system that indirectly supports funding the junta, Marston said. A next step some U.S. lawmakers are pushing for is that the administration increase its monitoring of Singapore-based financial institutions that may have ties to Myanmar’s junta.

July 28, 2022 20:12 IST

On Monday, Myanmar’s military junta announced the execution of the four activists alleging that they were involved in “terror acts” against the administration
India on Thursday expressed deep concern over the execution of four pro-democracy activists by Myanmar’s military government and asserted that the rule of law and democratic process must be upheld in the country.

He was replying to a media query on the issue during his weekly press conference.

“The rule of law and democratic process must be upheld. As a friend of the people of Myanmar, we will continue to support Myanmar’s return to democracy and stability,” Mr. Bagchi said.

On Monday, Myanmar’s military junta announced the execution of the four activists alleging that they were involved in “terror acts” against the administration.

On Thursday, the G7 grouping condemned the executions.

“These executions, the first in Myanmar in over 30 years, and the absence of fair trials show the junta’s contempt for the unwavering democratic aspirations of the people of Myanmar,” it said in a statement.

It said those executed were democracy activists Kyaw Min Yu (known as ‘Ko Jimmy’), former Member of Parliament Phyo Zeyar Thaw, as well as Aung Thura Zaw and Hla Myo Aung. On February 1 last year, Myanmar’s military grabbed power in a coup after detaining Nobel laureate Suu Kyi and other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD). The country witnessed massive protests following the coup.

Hardships for the embattled Chin minority in Myanmar’s poorest state

This aerial photo taken on October 29, 2021 show smokes and fires from Thantlang, in Chin State, where more than 160 buildings have been destroyed caused by shelling from Junta military troops, according to local media. Photo: AFP

Sitting snug against the Indian border, Chin State, arguably the poorest state in Myanmar has more in common with neighbouring India’s Mizoram State than the Bamar region of central Myanmar.

One of the smallest states in Myanmar, it covers 36,019-square-kilometres but it is relatively sparsely populated with only about 479,000 inhabitants, of which more than 221,000 are children, according to the 2014 census.

It is an underdeveloped mountainous state with few roads. Many people live in small, high, remote villages that are hard to access. Traveling by road between some areas in northern and southern Chin State is sometimes impossible and requires travellers to leave the state and go via Sagaing Region. For many people in Chin State it is easier to get to India than central Myanmar.

According to a 2013 government study, Chin State was the poorest area of Myanmar with a poverty rate of 73 per cent. The next poorest area was Rakhine State with a poverty rate of 44 per cent and the average national poverty rate was 26 per cent, though it was not clear what criteria the study used to define poverty.

Aid agency, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), says that more than seven people in 10 in Chin State live below the poverty line. In a 2015 survey, almost 80 percent of households reviewed had poor or borderline food security. One in 10 children are not expected to live to age five. The state recorded the highest rate in Myanmar of child stunting (41 per cent) in 2015, and 17 per cent of children are underweight. Only 15 per cent of children are born in a health facility.

The extremes and vagaries of the weather have had an impact on farming and the level of development in the state. Flooding and landslides devastated Chin State from June to August 2015. The Chin Committee for Emergency Response and Rehabilitation (CCERR) estimated that 54,537 people had been affected by the adverse weather in Chin State. The countryside in many areas still bears the scars of massive landslides.

Speaking Burmese in many parts of Chin State will not get a traveller very far as many Chin do not even speak Burmese. The Chin are ethnically far more similar to the Mizo in Mizoram State and they speak dialects of the same language, though there are a wide variety of Chin people, with 53 different subtribes and languages in Chin State.

The Chin and Mizo people have a long and deeply shared cultural history. They have the same ethnic roots and are both part of the Zo ethnic group. They speak the same Tibeto-Burman languages and are bonded by the same customs, cultures and traditions. There is a history of intermarriage and family kinship on both sides of the border.


The Mizos have long believed that the people of Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts, Myanmar’s Chin Hills, and India’s Mizoram and the Assam States are one ethnic group, divided into three nations by the British.

The Mizo and Chin are also Christians, whereas the Bamar are primarily Buddhist. Originally the Chin were animists, but they were converted to Christianity by American Baptists. The first of the Baptist missionaries to come to Chin State were Reverend Arthur E. Carson and his wife, Laura, who arrived in Hakha, the Chin State capital on 15 March 1899. They are revered in Chin State for having bought Christianity to the Chin and there is even a museum dedicated to Reverend Carson in his old house in Hakha.

Other Baptist missionaries from the U.S.A. followed Reverend Carson at the beginning of the 20th Century. They were extremely successful with their conversions. Now, over 90 per cent of Chin people are Christians and churches are at the centre of society. Pastors and ministers are very respected and often have leadership roles in society.

Every Sunday everyone goes to church and towns and villages are deserted until everyone pours out of the churches in their Sunday best. Apart from Baptist churches, there are also Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist and Evangelical churches in Chin State.

Prior to the February 2021 coup there were no very large, powerful ethnic armed organisation (EAO), unlike in some other ethnic areas such as Kachin, Karen and Shan states where there were large EAOs fighting for autonomy.

While all those states saw extensive fighting at times since the military originally took power in 1962 under General Ne Win, there was less fighting in Chin State and no Chin EAO fighting for autonomy

until the formation of the Chin National Front (CNF) and its armed wing, the Chin National Army (CNA) in 1988.

The goals for the CNF/CNA when it was formed was to help secure self-determination for the Chin people, democracy and the establishment of a Federal Union of Myanmar. It was not a big or powerful organisation and never had more than 200-300 active members prior to 2021.

Despite this, the CNA still clashed with the Myanmar military and in the period between 1988 and 2012 at least 70 CNA soldiers were reportedly killed in fighting with the military. But there was little fighting after 2003 and in 2012 the CNF signed a ceasefire with the military.

In October 2015 the CNF were one of the eight EAOs to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the army at the end of President Thein Sein’s term.

Until the military coup in February 2021 Chin State was relatively peaceful, but since the coup it has seen more than its fair share of violence, regularly cropping up in the Myanmar news.

The CNF/CNA was said to be the first EAO to ally itself with the National Unity Government (NUG). More guerrilla groups have also sprung up in Chin State to help the CNA in its fight against the junta. They include, amongst others, the Chin National Organisation (CNO) and its armed wing, the Chin National Defence Force (CNDF), which were formed on 13 April 2021, and the Chinland Defence Force that was formed on 4 April 2021.

Violence has ratcheted up in Chin State. Some notable atrocities have included the junta army’s attack on Mindat Town in May 2021. They used captured youths as human shields and, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) may have committed war crimes and “grave breaches of the Geneva Convention” in the town.

Another atrocity was the burning down and complete destruction of Thantlang Town leading to all the residents fleeing the town, at the end of 2021.

The violence since the coup has displaced an unprecedented amount of people in Chin State.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in December 2020, just prior to the coup, there were only 6,300 internally displaced people (IDPs) in Chin State, some of whom fled their homes due to natural disasters such as landslides, rather than due to violence.

But, by 4 July this year, according to UNHCR, there were 74,900 people displaced in Chin State, more than 10 times the number prior to the coup. Of those, 33,900 are IDPs in Chin State and 41,000 are Chin refugees in India, most of whom are in Mizoram.

But the junta army has not had it all its own way in Chin State. In March 2022 a CNA/CNF spokesperson told Irrawaddy that they run their own schools, charities and clinics in almost all the rural areas of Chin State except Paletwa Township.

He estimated that they controlled about 75 per cent of Chin State, but that the junta still control the urban areas and the roads connecting towns. But, the junta’s control of the roads is far from complete. They often face mine attacks by resistance groups on the roads that cost them many casualties and make travelling between towns very slow.

Like nearly all areas of Myanmar Chin State has seen a massive increase in violence and displaced people and the situation will likely only improve once the junta are forced out of power.

Myanmar activists vow to fight back following executions

Rights groups and civil society members in Myanmar have vowed to keep up their fight against the military authorities following the execution of four pro-democracy activists.

Young demonstrators shout slogans during an anti-coup protest in Yangon on July 25, 2022Myanmar activists say the executions will strengthen their resolve to fight the military regime

Myanmar’s military executed four democracy activists on Monday under a counterterrorism law and the penal code. The executed activists included Kyaw Min Yu and former lawmaker and hip-hop artist Phyo Zeya Thaw, according to the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

Thaw was a lawmaker from ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi‘s National League for Democracy (NLD) party. The other two executed men were Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw. They were convicted of killing a woman they allegedly believed was an informer for the military.

International rights groups as well as the United Nations have unequivocally condemned the executions.

Myanmar authorities have engaged in a brutal crackdown to quash protests against last year’s military coup. The Assistance Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group said that 2,100 people have been killed by security forces since the coup in February 2021.

Opponents of the military authorities told DW they will resist the authoritarian rule with even more vigor following the executions.

No turning back

“There has been a wave of anger, sorrow and revulsion at the junta following the executions. These feelings have led to the strengthening of public resolve to continue the revolution,” Khin Zaw Win, director of Tampadipa Institute in Yangon, told DW.

Win, who was also a prisoner of conscience in Myanmar for “seditious writings,” said the executions marked a point of no return for the Southeast Asian country.

“With the executions, a new common ground has been established and this would help forge coordinated efforts. There can no longer be a case of sitting on the fence,” he added.

William San, a student leader, agrees with this view. “We will fight till the end. This is undoubtedly tragic but these executions will strengthen our resolve.”

First execution in decades causes outrage in Myanmar: Journalist Tin Tin Nyo

Armed resistance

Myanmar is currently in the grip of a nationwide conflict between the military junta led by General Min Aung Hlaing and his opponents, including ethnic armed groups, civilian militias known as the People’s Defense Forces (PDF), and the National Unity Government (NUG) that was set up by opponents of the military administration last April.

Since seizing power, the government has carried out several brutal military operations in the country. At the same time, the pro-democracy movement has transformed into a quasi-military force.

Many protesters have taken up arms to defend the civilian population from the regime, and opposition activists have formed the Campaign for Civil Disobedience (CDM) that has been organizing strikes and mass protests across the country.

Over a million people have been displaced internally due to the military actions, according to UN observers.

“More people will now organize themselves. The resistance will grow, and if the junta thought this [executions] was going to instil fear, it is terribly mistaken. Their misadventure will prove costly,” Salai Za Uk Ling of the Chin Human Rights Organization told DW.

A rights group representing the Christian Chin population, Ling, who has advocated for human rights and democracy in Myanmar for nearly three decades, said the memories of the fallen heroes of the “Spring Revolution” would not go in vain.

“We’ll fight and we’ll win,” he said.

Dim hope for a peaceful resolution

Another member of the United League of Arakan (ULA) said the miliary regime has increased its use of terror by killing, torturing and raping civilians in the past 18 months.

“Radio Free Asia recently published images and videos showing junta soldiers bragging about how they murdered civilians in cold blood and looted peoples’ properties,” a senior ULA leader told DW on condition of anonymity.

Myanmr activists Kyaw Min Yu and Phyo Zeya Thaw, who were among the four democracy activists executed by the militaryAmong the executed men were democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu and former NLD lawmaker Phyo Zeya Thaw

Myanmar’s mountainous ethnic regions have faced similar assaults in the past. Some of these ethnic fighters are now training the PDF in its battle against the military.

“Now there will be an increased integration with ethnic resistance organizations and we will mount a fierce resistance. We cannot afford the country to slip into a hopeless situation,” the ULA leader added.

According to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), an independent group of international experts working to support the struggle for human rights and justice in Myanmar, the junta has incarcerated at least 11,759 political prisoners without access to legal representation, and many have been sentenced to death since the coup.

There have been several reports of systematic torture in military detention centers.

“What makes these executions revolting is the military’s blatant attempt to gain judicial legitimacy despite the fact that the military court is a sham and a mockery of justice,” Chris Sidoti of SAC-M told DW.

Others like Isaac Khen from the NUG say the military is not ready to solve the country’s problems peacefully.

“This [the executions] is an eye-opener for those who believe the military leaders can be approached and that political solutions to the conflict can be found,” he said.

Edited by: Shamil Shams

Myanmar activists vow to fight back following executions | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 26.07.2022

‘We are not afraid’: anti-junta groups rail against Myanmar executions | Myanmar | The Guardian

‘We are not afraid’: anti-junta groups rail against Myanmar executions

State killings provoke horror and fear of wider crackdown on determined protest movement

Protesters in Yangon on Monday.
Protesters in Yangon on Monday. Photograph: Lu Nge Khit/Reuters
 in Bangkok, Maung Moe and 

It was the recent execution of four prisoners that drove people to revive the protest regardless. Phyo Zeya Thaw, a rapper and former lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, and the prominent democracy activist Kyaw Min Yu, known as Jimmy, were among those killed. They had been sentenced under anti-terror laws in January.

The people of Myanmar are already well aware of the junta’s brutality, said Salai Za Uk Ling, deputy executive director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, which has documented atrocities, including the burning of homes and massacre of civilians, since the coup. Yet the brazenness of the executions was shocking, he added. “In such a public display of brutality, I don’t know what justification they would give,” he said, adding that it illustrated how the junta did not seem to care about its international reputation.

Thet Swe Win, a 36-year-old human rights activist and an executive director of Synergy, an organisation which strives to foster social harmony in Myanmar, said he feared that there may now be a spate of executions. Dozens more prisoners have been sentenced to death.

“This is similar to the first bullet that they shot at Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing,” he said, referring to the first protester killed by the military after the coup last year. “Then they killed many protesters during the crackdown.”

More than 2,100 people have been killed by the junta and 11,759 remain in detention, according to the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) Burma, which monitors arrests and killings.

Ei Ei Moe, 33, is a member of Generation Wave, a movement co-founded by Phyo Zeya Thaw, whom she knew personally. She said he had always wanted the people to stay united.

Observers say the executions are a further attempt to crush opposition that has remained defiant even in the face of crackdowns that the UN rights office has said may amount to war crimes.

Activists say they are undeterred, however. “This generation won’t be scared. If they killed one Zeya Thaw, there will be countless numbers of Zeya Thaw,” said Ei Ei Moe.

Masked protesters in Yangon.
Demonstrations against the junta have to be brief so that protesters can avoid capture.
Photograph: Lu Nge Khit/Reuters

Activist Ella Chris described Kyaw Min Yu, who rose to prominence as a student leader during the 1988 uprising against the previous military regime, as “an idol for the younger pro-democracy generation”. Before the coup, Ella Chris was an avid cyclist posting fitness videos on social media in between her work on gender equality and land rights. Like many involved in anti-coup protests, she was forced to flee her home. “But we are not afraid,” she said.

Myanmar’s military junta, which seized power in a coup in February 2021, has struggled to maintain control of the country. It faces both peaceful protest movements and a resistance backed by several armed ethnic groups.

Some of these powerful ethnic groups condemned the executions, among them the Arakan Army and a representative of the Kachin Independence Army, which both called the killings a “foolish” act that damaged the prospect of negotiations. In eastern Myanmar, the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force vowed to retaliate against the “war crime”.

While many have been driven to join armed resistance groups that use whatever weapons they can source to fight against the junta, others continue to find ways to hold peaceful demonstrations.

In urban areas, these are flash mobs that last just a few minutes but which must be impeccably planned months in advance, with preparations made for the possibility of someone being detained, said Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a prominent anti-coup activist. “Do we have enough safe houses to relocate, do we have enough information to shut down our Facebook accounts and immediately cut all communication? Because once one person gets arrested then every one of us has to relocate.”

Activists continue even though they know they risking their lives, she added. “Not just our own lives, but it could also cost our own families’ lives, our friends’ lives,” she said. Even a critical comment on Facebook is risky.

Sut Seng Htoi, an activist in Kachin, northern Myanmar, questioned the international response given that the junta declared it would carry out the executions.

“I wonder why they didn’t take any action,” she said. “It’s made me even more distrustful of the international community and UN,” echoing the feelings of many who feel the international community has failed Myanmar.

Thet Swe Win, said the international community “must take tangible actions rather than issuing statements on wasted paper”. He added: “We don’t forget and we don’t forgive. We will keep fighting, even if no one helps us.”

Burned churches: Myanmar’s junta accused of abuses against the Christian minority (

Burned churches: Myanmar’s junta accused of abuses against the Christian minority

St Matthew's Church, southwest of Demoso, in flames, on 15 June 2022. The township has been the scene of numerous clashes between the Myanmar army and the Karenni resistance.
St Matthew’s Church, southwest of Demoso, in flames, on 15 June 2022. The township has been the scene of numerous clashes between the Myanmar army and the Karenni resistance. © FBR

Since coming to power in a 2021 coup, the Mynamar military junta has been accused of abuses against the Christian minority, which represents 6% of the country’s population. Local NGOs have condemned the destruction of Christian places of worship.

>> Read on The Observers: How rebel fighters are using 3D-printed arms to fight the Myanmar junta

Images circulating on social networks show churches with smoke-blackened or destroyed walls, debris on the ground, and damaged bibles and other religious symbols.

Photos of Churches with Damaged Walls in Kayah State, June 2021
Photos taken at the United Pentecostal Church in Tlangzar village, Falam township, on 5 May. According to the Chin Human Rights Organization, the NGO that sent us the photos, Burmese junta soldiers burned the church's pastor's quarters and has vandalized the Baptist church three since the coup.
Photos taken at the United Pentecostal Church in Tlangzar village, Falam township, on 5 May. According to the Chin Human Rights Organization, the NGO that sent us the photos, Burmese junta soldiers burned the church’s pastor’s quarters and has vandalized the Baptist church three since the coup. © CHRO

Geolocation here

St Matthew's Church, southwest of Demoso, in flames, 15 June 2022. The town has experienced numerous clashes between the Myanmar army and the Karenni resistance.
St Matthew’s Church, southwest of Demoso, in flames, 15 June 2022. The town has experienced numerous clashes between the Myanmar army and the Karenni resistance. © FBR

The church was in perfect condition in 2018, as this geolocation on google maps shows.

Near the town of Demoso, in Kayah State, all that remains of St Matthew’s Church is a burned-out facade, after the Myanmar army raided it on 15 June 2022. David Eubank, a former Texas soldier and fervent Christian who founded the humanitarian aid association “Free Burma Rangers“, was in Demoso when the clashes between the army and resistance fighters broke out. He told us: “The army was shooting at us, it was hard to see anything. I heard several ‘booms’ and then the church caught fire. Before they left, they [the military] left several anti-personnel mines around the church. A 16-year-old Burmese boy stepped on them, luckily we were able to save him.”

L’église de Saint-Matthieu , le 15 juin 2022. On peut voir les rebelles karenni en tenue militaire .

The St Matthew’s churchgoers live in the jungle, like many Karenni villagers (ethnic group in Kayah State), and pray every Sunday in a makeshift church-school made of leaves and plastic.

>> Read on The Observers:

>> À LIRE SUR LES OBSERVATEURS: Residents of Myanmar’s Kayah State flee to jungle to escape military junta

Several churches have been destroyed in Kayah State villages, where the army has been conducting regular air strikes and ground operations in an attempt to quell resistance from Karenni rebels. David Eubanks told us about several attacks on Christian churches that he and his teams have witnessed.

Impact left after an air strike near Sungdula Church, Demoso Township, Kayah State in March 2022, according to Free Burma Rangers. Photo taken on 27 June by Free Burma Rangers
Impact left after an air strike near Sungdula Church, Demoso Township, Kayah State in March 2022, according to Free Burma Rangers. Photo taken on 27 June by Free Burma Rangers © FBR

David Eubanks filme l’intérieur d’une église dans le village de Sung dula, commune de Demoso (État de Kayah), détruite selon lui par des frappes aériennes de la junte militaire le 8 mars 2022. Selon lui et la presse locale (pro résistance), l’attaque serait survenue alors qu’il n’y avait pas de combats. Une information que nous n’avons pas été en mesure de confirmer de source indépendante.
David Eubanks filme l’intérieur d’une église dans le village de Sung dula, commune de Demoso (État de Kayah), détruite selon lui par des frappes aériennes de la junte militaire le 8 mars 2022. Selon lui et la presse locale (pro résistance), l’attaque serait survenue alors qu’il n’y avait pas de combats. Une information que nous n’avons pas été en mesure de confirmer de source indépendante. © FBR

The state of Chin, located on the Indian border in the west of the country, has also been the scene of clashes between the army and resistance movements. More than 80 percent of the state is Christian.

“The church I went to as a child has been destroyed”

Salai Za Uk Ling is Deputy Executive Director the Chin State Human Rights Organisation (CHRO). He is a Baptist Christian m and along with his team, Salai Za Uk Ling documents abuses committed by the country’s army. They have counted more than 50 church attacks since February 2021 in Chin State, which range from aerial bombardments to ransacking by ground troops.

In churches, the army destroys everything and takes away valuables, including offerings and collection money. This destruction of churches usually occurs when the army moves in convoy through villages.

I was born and raised in Thantlang and the whole town has been attacked more than 30 times, since September 2021. The church I went to as a child was destroyed. The army maintains a presence there and it is dangerous to go back.

Dans la ville de Thantlang, ouest de l’État de Chin, onze églises ont été prises pour cible par la junte selon la Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

In September 2021, the pastor of a Baptist church in Thantlang was shot by the army while trying to save his burning church after a bombing. His phone book was cut off and his wedding ring stolen, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

L’armée birmane aurait mis le feu à une église baptiste de la ville de Thantlang, dans l’après-midi du 9 juin 2022, selon la Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO)
L’armée birmane aurait mis le feu à une église baptiste de la ville de Thantlang, dans l’après-midi du 9 juin 2022, selon la Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) © CHRO

Géolocalisation ici

Salai Za Uk Ling added:

[In Chin State], the junta is targeting churches, hospitals and schools… We know from testimonies of former army personnel that the military is instructed to ‘clear anything that might be in their way’. Much of the fighting between the junta and the resistance is taking place where Christian ethnic groups live (Chin, Karen and Kayah states), so many churches and infrastructures have been affected.

On 24 December 2021, Christmas Eve, the army massacred 35 people in a Christian village in Kayah State.

The junta spokesman said that places of worship were not targeted, except during raids, when it had information that “terrorists” (rebels) were hiding inside. Our observer, as well as many other witnesses, have disputed this statement.

When the military arrives in a village, they use churches as a base, because they know that Christians from the resistance forces will not attack them in the church.

Analysts from Myanmar Witness, a project that documents human rights abuses in the country, told the Observers that it is difficult to know whether the churches are being targeted by the Myanmar military on purpose, or whether they are collateral damage from clashes with resistance movements.

“Anything that is not Buddhist can be considered suspicious”

Salai Za Uk Ling has been documenting human rights abuses in Chin State for 27 years, and according to him, this kind of discrimination is nothing new.

Discrimination on the basis of Christian identity has always been a problem for the Chin [and other Christian ethnicities], as has the destruction of Christian buildings. This is a way for them [the army] to physically destroy Christianity. The junta already removed several large crosses from hilltops in the past (the junta was already in power before Aung San Suu Kyi’s party came to power in democratic elections in 2015: Editor’s note). Several religious buildings were also destroyed under previous regimes.

Anything that is not Buddhist can be viewed as suspicious. The Buddhist majority has always been valued, there is a very nationalistic view of religion.


The various ethnic and religious minorities in Myanmar have long been discriminated against by successive Buddhist regimes. Foremost among these is the Rohingya Muslim minority, made stateless by a 1982 law and considered one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. Since the military coup, the army has also been accused of occupying and burning mosques.

In June, Pope Francis and Myanmar’s Christian religious leaders called on the junta to stop attacking religious buildings.

The Myanmar army is predominantly Buddhist, and has pledged to protect Buddhism, which for our Observers may explain why they have no qualms about attacking churches. The army has also been accused of destroying around 100 Buddhist monasteries.

Photos of a Monastery Destroyed by the Army, according to the Karenni Resistance

1,900 civilians have been murdered by junta soldiers since February 2021, according to a statement by UN Human Rights Council High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet, in which she referred to “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” perpetrated by Myanmar’s military.

To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles