In Myanmar, crime increases as the military comes under pressure

When soldiers from Myanmar’s notorious army arrived at the village of Nanneint, the people fled. Some took refuge in the basement of a nearby Buddhist monastery.

“They thought soldiers would not kill the monks and the people inside the monastery,” said Khun Htwe, a resident who fled to another village.

But the monastery is not a sanctuary. On Sunday, ethnic rebels fighting Myanmar’s military regime said they had found the bullet-riddled bodies of 22 people there, massacred by the army.

A gruesome video, shot by a Karenni National Defense Force fighter, posted on Facebook, shows victims lying on the bloody ground or collapsed against a convent wall riddled with dozens of bullet holes. Among the dead were three monks wearing robes.

Khu Ree Du, a rebel soldier who saw the bodies, said by phone: “It looks like they lined up and were shot in the head.

Since Myanmar’s military – which has a long history of crimes against civilians – came to power two years ago, a resistance that began with peaceful protests has turned into an uprising today. better armed. Analysts who follow the conflict say the military is under pressure as the insurgency strengthens, and the military is employing even bloodier tactics, such as the killings near Nanneint.

“Now we are talking about beheadings, dissections and massacres, and this clearly reflects the frustration and anger in the country,” said Anthony Davis, a security analyst based in Bangkok. field level in the army. “It also reflects a broader strategy based on terrorizing the civilian support base of the resistance — that is, the majority of the population.”

Ye Zaw, a doctor, said on Thursday that all 22 victims at the monastery were tortured, some cut or burned with cigarettes.

Dr Ye Zaw, who examined the bodies for the shadowy National Government of Unity, which considers himself the legitimate government of Myanmar, said most were shot in the head at close range. Its human rights minister, Aung Myo Min, said the victims were all civilians and called the killings “war crimes perpetrated by the military.”

A spokesman for the military junta, Major General Zaw Min Tun, said in a statement that clashes began in the Nanneint area earlier this month, when “terrorists” from outside the occupied area held positions and the army tried to drive them out.

“Miscommunication has been disseminated that villagers have been killed,” he said. The general refused to take calls from The New York Times.

The conflict raging now is a far cry from the initial resistance to the February 2021 coup. In the first months, protesters fought soldiers and police with slingshot and air gun made of plastic pipe.

After the demonstrations were quelled, many protesters fled the cities and allied with armed ethnic groups that had been fighting the army for decades. Together, the ethnic army and the recently formed Public Self-Defense Force now hold much of the countryside, while the military controls large urban areas.

Mr. Davis said factories in two ethnic military-held areas that manufacture assault rifles and grenade launchers are spreading across the country. Other weapons, including the M16 and M4, are smuggled across the border from Thailand.

Drawing on the expertise of engineers and technologists fleeing to rebel-held territory, a cottage industry has sprung up to produce IEDs and tune drones, said Davis. rider to drop explosives on enemy targets.

“What we have seen over the past year is a dramatic improvement in the level of organization and weapons now used by the resistance forces,” he said. “Still David and Goliath, but David looks increasingly cocky and belligerent.”

Tatmadaw, as the military called it, is perhaps most notorious for ruthless campaign against Rohingya Muslims in 2017, killed at least 24,000 people and pushed more than 700,000 across the border into Bangladesh, where most still live in squalid refugee camps.

During protests against the 2021 coup, soldiers and police shot down protesters and bystanders, even small children. Many people were shot in the head. Last October, Military planes bomb a concert in Kachin State and killed 80 people.

As Tatmadaw faced an increasingly well-equipped resistance force, regime that put 40 towns under martial law in February, adding to the already existing 10. The statement sent the military the message that everything was fine, Davis said.

Since then, military atrocities have increased, including the beheading, dissection or dismemberment of nearly two dozen rebels and civilians this month in the Sagaing Region.

“All these crimes are not just violations of human rights,” Myanmar Ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, who was appointed before the coup, told the General Assembly in New York on Thursday. “They are part of the junta’s coordinated, systematic and widespread attacks against civilians.” He held up pictures of the bodies at the Nanneint monastery.

But Mr Davis said the resistance was now too large and well-armed for the Tatmadaw to subdue it with increasing brutality.

“The military is a large and powerful organization, but it is also severely understaffed and overstretched, and that clearly creates weaknesses,” he said. “It’s hard to know what politically or militarily they can bring into the war.”

Tom Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, calls for a coordinated international approach to the conflict, like the coalition supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression. “This is the forgotten war,” he said in an interview.

Mr. Andrews said that soldiers slaughtering monks and other civilians in a monastery is a sign of how much the junta is willing to terrorize people.

“They are losing ground and they understand that they are losing ground,” he said.

He quotes a leaked memo from December meeting of senior administration officials, who concluded that the resistance was out of their control and that rebel attacks would escalate this year. The document was posted online by a Burmese-language news agency, Khit Thit Media.

According to the memo, officials say the resistance’s capabilities have increased so dramatically that instead of sneaking in, they launch artillery attacks with makeshift 107mm rocket launchers. . Officials also complained that they had difficulty gathering intelligence and that the money budgeted to pay informants would not be used.

Mr Andrews said: “The response of the authorities to their increasingly dangerous position has been to double down on brutality. “What they don’t realize is that it has the opposite effect of what they intended. It is increasing the resolve of the people to resist the regime.”

In a statement on Thursday condemning the Nanneint massacre, the Government of National Unity and coalition groups called on the international community to impose sanctions that halt the sale of jet fuel, weapons and technology for government.

Nanneint, a village just 50 miles east of the capital Naypyidaw, in Shan state remains largely under military control. During the fighting there, military jets bombed the village, said Khun Htwe, a villager. He said soldiers burned about 60 houses.

“The Myanmar military considers the people as the enemy,” he said. “The Myanmar army will kill anyone if their interests are affected.”


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