Field report on southeast Myanmar: military coup, protests, armed conflicts and attacks, human rights violations and COVID-19, January to June 2021 – Myanmar

introduction

This field report analyzes the information gathered by KHRG field researchers between January and June 2021.

The reporting period was most clearly marked by the military coup that took place on February 1, 2021. Alleging electoral fraud, Chief General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar Armed Forces, took power just before the members were sworn in. of parliament that was elected in the 2020 general election. President-elect Win Myint and State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi were arrested, along with ministers, their deputies and members of parliament. After the declaration of the state of emergency, Min Aung Hlaing established the State Administration Council (SAC)[1] as executive governing body, of which he appointed himself chairman.

The military coup immediately sparked widespread protests across the country, including in the KHRG area of ​​operation. Civilians took to the streets to voice their opposition and thousands of government personnel quit their jobs in an act of civil disobedience against the new military regime. Civil opposition to the coup led to violent crackdowns by the SAC. Although the majority of violent crackdowns have taken place in urban areas, protesters in rural areas have often encountered obstacles in participating and organizing protests, including receiving threats and warnings from soldiers and administrators. of the SAC. Some urban protesters and government members participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM)[2] fled to areas under the Karen National Union (KNU)[3] control in order to escape arrest and threats from SAC security forces. KHRG recently released an analytical report detailing the experiences of protesters and participants in the CDM.[4]

Military activity, including combat and air and ground attacks by SAC forces,[5] increased shortly after the coup and resulted in human rights violations and a very critical security situation for the villagers of Mu Traw (Hpapun), Kler Lwee Htoo (Nyaunglebin), Doo Tha Htoo (Thaton) and more recently from Dooplaya district. Tens of thousands of villagers in south-eastern Myanmar have been displaced by SAC offensives since the start of the coup, often fleeing with little food and supplies, and with limited access to shelter and drinking water, but also unable to access humanitarian aid. Many have built makeshift new bunkers to hide in and are constantly in fear of yet another attack. Whether or not they fled, villagers in all districts of Karen have expressed concern over the increased insecurity. Travel is also more difficult due to increased military activity and insecurity. This has resulted in livelihood problems, as villagers are often unable to access their land to harvest or work on their farms. Education and health care have also been affected, with schools and clinics damaged or destroyed, or forced to close as a result of conflict and attacks.

There has also been an increase in what appear to be intentional shootings and killings of civilians by SAC forces. Cases of SAC soldiers shooting civilians on sight have been reported by KHRG and other agencies since the coup. Reports of forced labor, mainly portering and boating, also began to emerge. There has been an upsurge in the laying of new landmines by SAC soldiers and armed ethnic groups, which in turn has led to an increase in landmine incidents. Mine clearance and warnings remained insufficient to prevent injuries and loss of life.

The military coup also had broader impacts on education, health care and livelihoods. Teachers and medical staff refused to work for the military government, making them the target of arrests and violence by SAC security forces. Schools have not been able to open for the start of the school year, and medical facilities are understaffed and, in some cases, have closed. Unemployment is rampant and the downturn in the economy is creating problems for farmers to sell their produce. It has also led to an increase in the prices of basic necessities such as rice and diesel fuel, further straining the already fragile living conditions of the villagers.

KHRG received few updates on the COVID-19 situation during the reporting period, with villagers saying they believed COVID-19 was no longer an issue. This change in understanding of the current state of the pandemic was related to the lack of SAC testing and reporting. The rise of a third wave of the pandemic in July can be attributed to the SAC’s mismanagement of the crisis since the overthrow of the elected civilian government.