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Myanmar civil war: Is there an end?

Despite the junta using brutal methods like scorched-earth tactics and a war of attrition against the resistance, it has not been able to consolidate its position in the country, particularly in small towns and rural areas, writes Baladas Ghoshal

After nearly a year and a half since the military junta led by army chief General Min Aung Hlaing seized power and formed the State Administration Council (SAC) in Myanmar, the country is steeped in a civil war with no end in sight. There seems little possibility of reconciliation between the junta and large-scale resistance groups, which are gradually increasing their operational capabilities with the help of the old detractors of the military regime.

Apart from the traditional Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Ta’ang National Army (TNLA), the Myanmar army – also called the Tatmadaw, faces hundreds of local defence forces (LDFs) and urban guerrilla cells. Despite the junta using brutal methods like scorched-earth tactics and a war of attrition against the resistance, it has not been able to consolidate its position in the country, particularly in small towns and rural areas. Peoples militia in the form of Peoples Defence Forces (PDF) and Local defence Forces (LDF) have been somewhat successful, in organising alternative governance structure in their own areas.

Though it may sound a bit exaggerated, the assessment of the situation in the country, according to an observer from the International Crisis Group (ICG) is that 200 townships out of 330 have formed an alternative governance structure. Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) are also expanding their territory of operation independent of the Tatmadaw’s control. From an initial status of a weak rag tag formations without any major weapons and equipment, the resistance groups have now developed formidable strength to throw a challenge to the Tatmadaw.

Opinions among the observers vary, as no one knows the exact situation within the country.

Those who get their feedback from the sources of the National Unity Government (NUG), the shadow government put up by the resistance groups, are overly optimistic about the strength of the opposition and even hope the Tatmadaw may lose its grip on power.

Reports coming out from Myanmar say, it appears the Tatmadaw is now stretched very thinly, and is relying on the police force, intelligence agencies and ad hoc militias to help enforce its will over the population. Reports of military casualties are doubtless exaggerated, but security force losses are high enough to raise questions about the attrition rate, and the sustainability of key military formations.

Apparently, the Tatmadaw looks like a strong force with 500,000 men and great resources at its disposal, control over the economy and business interests, but in reality it has just about 100,000 combat forces. Also, it has to fight a vast array of armed resistance groups across the entire country, particularly in large fronts on the North and North-west of the country.

Twenty different Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) are now increasingly coordinating with the LDFs and the PDFs. This does not, however, mean the resistance groups will be able to overwhelm the Tatmadaw and score a victory over it anytime soon or later. It only means that the security situation within the country has changed in recent months.

The resistance still lacks weapons, equipment and expertise. More importantly, it lacks air power, which the junta uses generously to inflict damage on the resistance. But it is now better organised, better trained and better armed. It reportedly consists of some 259 PDF units, with approximately 80,000-100,000 members. In addition, there are around 250 local defence groups, and 400 other ‘guerrilla forces’ (a term that seems to include both rural guerrilla bands and urban resistance cells), that broadly support the NUG’s aims. The NUG claims that it now controls half of Myanmar, (although this seems to include large areas under the sway of EAOs).

Its leaders speak of ‘going on the offensive’. They also point to growing contacts with foreign governments and international organisations. None of these have formally recognised the shadow government or promised lethal aid, but the junta is becoming increasingly isolated and on the defensive. This is evident from junta leader Min Hlaing’s recent visit to Russia where he had gone to shop for more fighter aircraft against the resistance. The momentum seems to be with the resistance.

At the same time, it will be wrong to make any objective assessment of the situation in Myanmar based on NUG’s tall claims alone. Reports coming out of the country are one-sided, which may not truly reflect the actual situation on the ground. That said, some noted Myanmar-watchers are now revising their pessimistic forecasts. A number has acknowledged that the Tatmadaw is on the defensive, and struggling to meet the challenges posed by the armed resistance. The recruitment of ad hoc militias, the training being given to soldiers’ wives, the use of policemen for military duties and attempts to strike peace deals with the EAOs all suggest a regime under pressure.

Even if the regime is under pressure, it can still withstand the challenge from the resistance groups as long as the Tatmadaw remains largely loyal and cohesive, and as long as the generals continue to be backed by Russia and China, it is hard to see them being defeated by force of arms.

Andrew Selth, an Australian analyst puts it aptly: “The junta may lose control of the country’s periphery (a situation past governments have encountered) and it will face serious challenges elsewhere, but it should still be able to survive in the ethnic Bamar heartland. The regime is clearly in difficulties, but it does not have to win the war to remain in power. It just has to avoid losing it.”

Under the circumstances, political and military stalemate will continue for some time, possibly even years. The situation can of course change if there was a significant shift in the strategic environment, say if a major Tatmadaw combat unit mutinied, or if a foreign government provided the PDF with modern arms, like shoulder-fired missiles.

However, at this stage, such scenarios remain hypothetical. As long as the Ukraine war continues and the world is seized with that, there is hardly any possibility of any foreign government materially supporting the resistance groups with arms and ammunitions without which it would not be in a position to make any fundamental change in the military situation.

The chances of a negotiated settlement are bleak as neither side is in a mood to compromise. The junta has vowed to ‘annihilate’ the opposition movement, which it describes as terrorists, while the NUG has formally declared war on the military regime and rejected any suggestion of a negotiated settlement. “For both sides, the goal is total victory, but such an outcome is likely to prove a chimera,” to quote Selth again.

Myanmar’s problem does not rest only with the political and military solution. The resistance groups consist of diverse groups, each having their own agenda and their own vision of the future state of Myanmar but currently united against a common enemy-the Tatmadaw. Even if they are able to defeat the Tatmadaw hypothetically and the common enemy disappears, differences are likely to appear in the ranks of the resistance as to the future contours of the government and the State. For the time being they have agreed on a Federal Charter but implementing it to the satisfaction of all stakeholders would be a difficult task.

Myanmar’s struggle for democracy accommodating aspirations of diverse groups and formation of an equitable federal government structure is going to be a long drawn out struggle and will require unity among the stakeholders based on compromises.

(The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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EU slams execution of Myanmar’s pro-democracy leaders

They will only exacerbate the polarisation, violence, and dramatic humanitarian situation in Myanmar…reports Asian Lite News

The European Union has strongly condemned the execution of Myanmar’s former NLD Member of Parliament Phyo Zeya Thaw, prominent activist Kyaw MinYu, as well as Aung Thura Zaw, and Hla Myo Aung by the southeast Asian country’s military regime.

“These politically motivated executions represent yet another step towards the complete dismantling of the rule of law and a further blatant violation of human rights in Myanmar. The four men were the first prisoners to be executed in Myanmar in more than three decades, a move that is contrary to the overall worldwide trend to abolish the death penalty,” the office of the High Commissioner said in a statement, adding that the EU is fundamentally opposed to the death penalty “as an inhumane, cruel and irreversible punishment that violates the inalienable right to life”.

“The executions are reprehensible acts that show that the military authorities have no respect for the life or dignity of the very people they are supposed to protect. They will only exacerbate the polarisation, violence, and dramatic humanitarian situation in Myanmar.

“The EU stands unequivocally with the people of Myanmar and their aspirations for freedom, and urges the military regime to end all acts of violence without further delay and calls for the unconditional and immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained, as well as to return to a democratic path,” it said.

“We will continue to support all efforts by the United Nations and ASEAN to this end,” the statement said.

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Myanmar ramps up surveillance with Chinese biometric cameras

The reports says that authorities have begun implementing surveillance camera projects for at least five key cities…reports Asian Lite News

Myanmar’s junta government is working on deploying Chinese-built bio metric surveillance systems in key cities.

According to Reuters report, the govt is installing the facial recognition capable cameras in more cities in the name of preserving civil peace and maintaining security.

Citing multiple sources, Reuters reported that authorities have began implementing surveillance camera projects for at least five key cities including country’s fourth-largest city since the February coup.

SECURITY CAMERA

The report further states that the plans are not new, and mentioned projects are in addition to five cities where camera systems touted as crime prevention measures were either installed or planned by the previous government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

The report pointed out that local firms, who won the tenders source the cameras and technology from Chinese surveillance giants Zhejiang Dahua Technology, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Hikvision.

The authorities did not responded to the queries related to the projects.

Earlier, Myanmar’s military has sought Beijing’s assistance and probably received also to build an internet firewall to curb the spread of information against the junta. But Tatmadaw is currently unaware that Chinese agencies by helping them have potential access to the junta’s sensitive information, a media report said.

Myanmar’s junta is currently superior in terms of firepower and arms when compared to the rising groups against it in the country following the February coup. But Tatmadaw is still behind in technological and digital advancement, therefore its atrocities against civilians are spread in minutes worldwide through the internet and social media platforms.

But now Tatmadaw has planned to widen its curbs on the digital platforms and therefore it has turned towards China, seeking Beijing’s help to build an internet firewall to prevent such damning text, images and videos from reaching both global and local online audiences.

China’s role is being watched closely in helping Myanmar’s military regime develop its online blocking and snooping capabilities since the February 1 coup, according to Asian security officials who communicated with Asia Times.

The cooperative effort, they say, aims to implement effective control over what can and cannot be accessed online in Myanmar, similar to the “Great Firewall of China” that Beijing has used for years to repressive effect to police the online activities of dissidents and ferret out anonymous and pseudonymous critics, said Asia Times.

However the concerning facts are emerging, which Tatmadaw is unable to figure out, is that Chinese agencies which are helping the junta are simultaneously able to tap into the Tatmadaw’s military computers and potentially access and collect sensitive information in the construction process, experts monitoring the situation say.

China, they say, has plenty of incentive to tap into the Tatmadaw information streams after vacillating hot and cold relations and years of mutual suspicion on a range of sensitive security issues, according to Asia Times. (ANI)

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‘Crisis deepens in Myanmar’

The special envoy also noted that challenges in the country have “both deepened and expanded” dramatically…reports Asian Lite News

The political crisis unleashed in Myanmar following the February 1 military coup last year, has “opened new frontlines that had long been at peace,” according to UN special envoy Noeleen Heyzer.

He told the General Assembly on Monday, that since she took up the job six months ago, Myanmar has “continued to descend into profound and widespread conflict”.

The special envoy also noted that challenges in the country have “both deepened and expanded” dramatically, the UN News reported.

Already one of the world’s largest refugee emergencies, she reminded the world that multidimensional crises there have left over one million internally displaced people across the country with “serious regional and international ramifications”.

Nearly one million mainly Muslim Rohingyas live in refugees camps in neighbouring Bangladesh, and hundreds of thousands of others are scattered across the region.

And over the past five years, the number of people living in poverty has doubled to encompass half the population. “Today, 14.4 million people, or one-quarter of the entire population of Myanmar urgently require humanitarian assistance,” said the special envoy.

Meanwhile, school enrolment has dropped by up to 80 per cent in two years, leaving at least 7.8 million children shut out of the classroom.

“A generation that benefitted from the democratic transition is now disillusioned, facing chronic hardship and, tragically, many feel they have no choice left but to take up arms,” she warned.

As military violence and distrust have continued to deepen, armed conflict “has become the norm” for all citizens.

“The military continues its disproportionate use of force, has intensified its attack on civilians and increased operations against resistance forces, using aerial bombings,” said the senior UN official. “Civilian buildings and villages have been destroyed by fire and internally displaced populations have been attacked”.

Furthermore, there are reports of up to 600 armed resistance groups, or “people’s defence forces” engaged in fighting, with some conducting assassinations targeting those seen as “pro-military”.

“I will continue to play a bridging role…in Myanmar, in the region, and the international community to address the protection needs and suffering of the most vulnerable, and to support the will of the people for a future federal democratic union based on peace, stability and shared prosperity,” Heyzer said.

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Myanmar rejects US report on right abuses

The ministry also said in the statement that the information contained in the US report are misleading with one-sided accusations from unreliable sources….reports Asian Lite News

Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has rejected the human rights report issued by the US Department of State on Thursday.

In a statement, the ministry said that Myanmar’s government categorically rejected the US report as merely a propaganda tool to defame it on political grounds, XInhua news agency reported citing Myanmar’s state-run media.

The ministry also said in the statement that the information contained in the US report are misleading with one-sided accusations from unreliable sources.

The ministry has also lodged its objections to the human rights report with the US embassy in Yangon, according to the statement.

The US 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices was issued on Tuesday, covering countries including Myanmar.

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Myanmar staring at a long civil war

The Junta may be having its own preferred plan, but whether it will be practicable to implement such a plan when the whole country is in revolt against the regime, writes Baladas Ghoshal

In its one year of power, the Myanmar Junta remains completely alienated from the people, yet not vulnerable to any popular pressure for leaving the political scene. Symbolic of the alienation of the people from the Junta was on December 10, when the whole country was shut down in a “silent strike” against the military, streets in cities and towns nationwide were deserted throughout the day, shops were closed and people stayed at home in a mighty show of defiance.

While resistance to the Junta has been quite widespread and broad-based due to support from major sections of people, including many ethnic groups like Karens and Kachins who have been fighting the State for decades now closing ranks with the resistance, the Junta’s power base is slowly eroding due to widespread discontentment with an oppressive institution determined to remain in power with unprecedented violence, desertion of government and public officials and reported casualties on its side.

Junta’s survival instinct has led the regime not only to indulge in extreme form of violence, but also trying to keep the morale of the armed forces high by adding to its strength in numbers and inflating its image as a modern institution with the purchase of state of the art weapons systems, even while those have no relevance or use in fighting the resistance. The procurement of two diesel-electric submarines, one from India and the other from China together with other advanced weapons from China, Pakistan and Israel, have, in the words of Bertil Lintner, a leading expert on Myanmar, “as much to do with diplomatic balancing as keeping the military’s rank-and-file loyal, proud and satisfied.”

To quote him further: “For their part, Myanmar’s generals aim to ensure the officer corps and rank-and-file remain loyal to the top brass, led by coup-maker Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. It is of imperative importance to the troops, regardless of which military service they belong, that they are on the surface part of a modern, well-equipped and world-class military – even if they’re not.” With all the above strategies, the regime has not been able to consolidate its position in all parts of the country. The Junta is in power but lacks legitimacy.

Lacking legitimacy, the military has resorted to increasing levels of violence to maintain its grip on power. Large number of Myanmar refugees, that includes government officials, policemen and ordinary citizens who are protesting against the coup, are coming over to Mizoram in India and in the bordering areas of Thailand, to take shelter. Peoples’ non-cooperation with the brutal regime has impacted essential services, whose delivery has come to a standstill, affecting daily life in the country. Since the coup, thousands of civil servants, railway workers, doctors, nurses, teachers and others have joined or supported the protests, with many arrested.

Banks, private healthcare and other services have shuttered offices or slowed operations to comply with restrictions on crowds. The pro-democracy and civil disobedience movements are gradually widening their base of support by bringing on board the various armed ethnic groups, who had been fighting against the Tatmadaw for many years for greater autonomy for themselves. Inflexible repression by the Tatmadaw, has pushed segments of the urban-based protest movement into using low-level guerrilla warfare tactics, while escalating hostilities with ethnic armed forces in the north and east threaten a wider war on multiple fronts in the country’s borderlands.

The economic crisis triggered by COVID-19 and the coup could plunge “up to 12 million people into poverty” in Myanmar, driving the poverty rate to 48.2% by early 2022 and pushing the country back to where it was in 2005, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) said in a report released on 30 April last year. The projection is based on a scenario in which the disruption of banking, logistics and trade cuts wages and business income in half. The report said women and children are set to bear the heaviest burden of the crises. “Half of all children in Myanmar could be living in poverty within a year,” said Wignaraja, U.N. Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific, adding already vulnerable internally displaced people also faced more pressure.

In 2017, a survey conducted by UNDP, the World Bank and the Myanmar government showed that 24.8% of the population was living under the poverty line. Millions of people have lost their jobs or sources of livelihood over the last year. The prices of many essential food items have shot up with the national currency, the kyat plummeting in value, pushing up the cost of imports including cooking oil, agricultural inputs such as fertiliser, and refined fuels, and with it rising domestic transport costs. A large proportion of the population, including in the cities, is slipping into poverty and food insecurity, as predicted wiping out a decade of progress and inflicting a terrible cost on the most vulnerable.

With doctors, medical staff and teachers at the forefront of the civil disobedience movement and the majority continuing to refuse to work under the junta, public services have collapsed. “Those on strike have been targeted for beatings and arrest, while those who have continued working face violent retaliation from their communities and local defence forces. The upshot is a health system in disarray and schools likewise disrupted, with few teachers in classrooms and few students in attendance,” says the International Crisis Group in their latest report.

There are widespread blackouts across the country as the regime has been forced to cancel power generation projects pegged to the U.S. dollar that it can no longer afford. All in all, human sufferings have been immense. According to a January 4 joint report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 135,000 civilians have been displaced because of the fighting and, given more recent military operations in Karen and Kayah states, the current figure may be twice as high.

In which direction Myanmar is moving?

The Junta has its own road map, a five point formula in which it wants to hold an election sometime in the middle of 2023 after which it wants to hand over power to an elected President, obviously someone from the Junta itself or what is known as the State Administrative Council (SAC). With that plan in mind, it has been doing everything that is needed to ensure its success in a constitutional framework that would guarantee the dissolution of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, the most popular party in Myanmar. Suu Kyi is already under detention with all kinds of contrived charges and will continue to remain so in the foreseeable future unless some miracle takes place to bring down the army regime. Elections machinery is also under overhaul to make it more amenable to the junta and ensure the success of the Union Solidarity and Development Party, consisting of retired army officials and their henchmen.

The Junta may be having its own preferred plan, but whether it will be practicable to implement such a plan when the whole country is in revolt against the regime. More importantly, in the backdrop of a popularly mandated elections being rejected by the Junta, a new contrived election that will bring retired army generals in civilian garb cannot resolve the political crisis that Myanmar is mired in. Western support and the ethnic rebel armies like the KIA and KNA making common cause with the democracy supporters to build a Federal Myanmar might have emboldened the protesters to challenge the junta and may have raised the hope of gaining recognition from the international community for the NUG. But it is highly unlikely that the Tatmadaw will cave in, as the means of violence is still overwhelmingly in their favour to be pressured to surrender.

 Even if the battle-hardened rebel Kachin and Karen armies provide guerrilla training to the opposition groups, for one, it will require a long time to garner enough strength to match Tatmadaw and win victory over it; for another, will the Myanmar society at large be able to maintain unity in the event of a civil war consuming the country. The international community also may not have the stomach for another Syria-like situation distracting their attention and energy from more serious global issues. More importantly, ASEAN, likely to be most affected by a civil war in Myanmar, will not allow such a situation to develop. Even if the ASEAN Five point consensus lacks much teeth and appears to be too weak, that is the only path through which peace and normalcy can be restored in Myanmar. But the Junta has not shown any inclination so far that it would be amenable to the ASEAN plan. Under such circumstances, a protracted civil war is what the country is destined for in the foreseeable future.

(Baladas Ghoshal is a former Professor and Chair in Southeast Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal and exclusive to India Narrative) (The content is being carried under an arrangement with indianarrative.com)

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UK, US, Canada sanction top Myanmar justice officials

The Canadian government in a statement said the military had “shown no sign of reversing course” on the humanitarian and political situation in Myanmar in the past year…reports Asian Lite News

The United States, United Kingdom and Canada have imposed sanctions on senior Myanmar officials, on the one-year anniversary of a military coup.

The US Department of the Treasury took action against Attorney General Thida Oo, Supreme Court Chief Justice Tun Tun Oo and Anti-Corruption Commission Chairman U Tin Oo, whom it said were closely involved in the “politically motivated” prosecution of ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The sanctions were announced by the US Treasury and State Departments to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the February 2021 coup, when the military detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected officials and seized power for themselves.

The UK said it was imposing sanctions against Thida Oo, Tin Oo and a third person, U Thein Soe, a former military man who was appointed chair of the country’s election commission after the coup.

“We are coordinating these actions with the United Kingdom and Canada to demonstrate the international community’s strong support for the people of Burma and to further promote accountability for the coup and the violence perpetrated by the regime,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“The United States will continue to work with our international partners to address human rights abuses and press the regime to cease the violence, release all those unjustly detained, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and restore Burma’s path to democracy,” Blinken said.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Myanmar’s military regime “has attempted to terrorise the people of Myanmar into submission.”

“Through fear and violence, they have created division and conflict,” Truss said in a statement.

“The UK will always defend the right to freedom, democracy and the rule of law. With like-minded nations, we will hold to account this suppressive, brutal regime.”

The Canadian government in a statement said the military had “shown no sign of reversing course” on the humanitarian and political situation in Myanmar in the past year.

It imposed sanctions on the same three people as Washington, saying they were “using their respective roles to abuse the rule of law and remove political opposition, thus contributing to a grave breach of international peace and the deteriorating security situation”.

The US also separately imposed sanctions against several business leaders and companies accused of providing financial support to Myanmar’s military.

Targeted were Jonathan Myo Kyaw Thaung, CEO of the KT Group and director of the KT Group subsidiary KTSL, which operates a major port in Myanmar’s biggest city and commercial hub of Yangon and Tay Za, owner of “multiple companies known to provide equipment and services, including arms, to the Burmese military”.

Htoo Htet Tay Za and Pye Phyo Tay Za, the adult sons of Tay Za, were also designated for sanctions, the US Treasury said.

The penalties freeze any assets that those targeted may have in US jurisdictions and bar Americans from doing business with them.

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Aung San Suu Kyi hit with new jail term

Suu Kyi, the 76-year-old former State Councillor, faces a total of 11 charges, such as violating the Official Secrets Act. She has denied them all….reports Asian Lite News

Aung San Suu Kyi, the former de facto leader of Myanmar who was ousted during the February 1, 2021 military coup, has been sentenced to four more years in prison after her first conviction last month during which she was given a reduced term of two years.

According to a report in the BBC, Monday’s convictions stem from when soldiers searched her house on the day of the coup and discovered walkie-talkies.

Monday’s trial which took place here was closed to the media and Suu Kyi’s lawyers have been barred from communicating with the media and public.

Last month, Suu Kyi and deposed President Win Myint were initially sentenced to four years in prison after they were found guilty on charges of “inciting dissent and breaking Covid rules” under thr Natural Disaster Management Law.

Both their prison terms were later halved to two years.

Suu Kyi, the 76-year-old former State Councillor, faces a total of 11 charges, such as violating the Official Secrets Act. She has denied them all.

If convicted of all the charges, the Nobel laureate could spend the rest of her life behind bars.

Following the coup which toppled her National League for Democracy (NLD) government, she has been under house arrest in an undisclosed location.

The coup was staged after the military alleged massive voting fraud in the November 2020 general elections, which saw the NLD win a majority of seats in both houses of Parliament.

Reacting to Monday’s sentencing, Human Rights Watch said the proceedings were “courtroom circus of secret proceedings on bogus charges… so that (Suu Kyi) will remain in prison indefinitely”, the BBC reported.

The coup triggered widespread demonstrations and Myanmar’s military has cracked down on pro-democracy protesters, activists and journalists, according to rights groups.

Suu Kyi is one of more than 10,600 people to have been arrested by the junta since February, and at least 1,303 others killed in the demonstrations, according to the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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UNSC condemns Myanmar massacre

The Ambassadors in a statement called for accountability and “the immediate cessation of all violence”….reports Asian Lite News

The UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned the reported killing of at least 35 people, including four children and two humanitarian workers in Myanmar’s Kayah State on December 25.

The Ambassadors in a statement called for accountability and “the immediate cessation of all violence”.

The Council members emphasised the importance of respecting human rights and ensuring the safety of civilians. They also underscored the need for “safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need, and for the full protection, safety and security of humanitarian and medical personnel”, according to UN News.

The Ambassadors reaffirmed their support for the people of Myanmar and the country’s democratic transition along with their strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and unity of Myanmar.

Credible reports suggested that four children were killed, including two 17-year-old boys, a teenage girl and a child approximately age five, whose gender was not mentioned, the UNSC said in a statement.

The two humanitarians worked for the non-Governmental organization (NGO) Save the Children, which confirmed their deaths. They were killed while returning to NGO’s Loikaw office after responding to humanitarian needs in a nearby community, it added.

Earlier in the week, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) condemned the killings, saying it was “shocked and saddened” by the reported killing and burning of victims during a time when many prepared to celebrate Christmas.

In a statement, the UNICEF Regional Director for East Asia and the Pacific, Debora Comini, condemned the attack.

She reminded that the protection of civilians – particularly children and humanitarian workers – must be treated as a priority during times of conflict, in accordance with international humanitarian law and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Myanmar is a signatory.

“UNICEF calls for urgent action to investigate this deplorable incident and to hold those responsible to account,” she said.

“We offer our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to our colleagues at Save the Children”. (ANI)

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India calls for earliest return of democracy in Myanmar

The Foreign Secretary who reached Myanmar on December 22, also met members of civil society and political leaders, including the National League for Democracy, called for resolution of issues through dialogue….reports Asian Lite News

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla who is on a two-day visit to Myanmar reaffirmed India’s strong and consistent support to the ASEAN initiative and expressed hope that progress would be made in a pragmatic and constructive manner, based on the five point consensus, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

During his meeting with the Chairman, State Administrative Council and other senior representatives of the Southeast Asian country, the Foreign Secretary also emphasized India’s interest in seeing the country return to democracy at the earliest, the Ministry said.

The Foreign Secretary who reached Myanmar on December 22, also met members of civil society and political leaders, including the National League for Democracy, called for resolution of issues through dialogue.

He is also scheduled to meet Myanmar-based Ambassadors, and representatives of the UN, the MEA added.

Foreign Secretary Shringla also called for complete cessation of all violence, the MEA said in its statement.

A demonstrator stacks bags on a street as a barricade during a demonstration against the military coup and the detention of civilian leaders in Myanmar(ians)

The Foreign Secretary conveyed India’s continued humanitarian support for the people of Myanmar, the Ministry said.

In the context of Myanmar’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, he handed over one million doses of “Made in India” vaccines to the Myanmar Red Cross Society.

A part of this consignment would be utilized for communities living along Myanmar’s border with India. A grant of 10,000 tons of rice and wheat to Myanmar was also announced.

Foreign Secretary Shringla also expressed India’s continued support for people-centric socio-economic developmental projects, including those along the India-Myanmar border areas, as well as India’s commitment for expeditious implementation of ongoing connectivity initiatives such as the Kaladan Multimodal Transit Transport Project and the Trilateral Highway, the Ministry said.

He also reiterated India’s commitment to continue with the projects under Rakhine State Development Programme and Border Area Development Programme for the benefit of the people of Myanmar, the MEA added.

According to the Ministry, the visit also provided an opportunity to raise matters relating to India’s security, especially in the light of the recent incident in Churachandpur district in southern Manipur.

Foreign Secretary Shringla stressed the need to put an end to any violence and maintain peace and stability in the border areas.

Pic credits Twitter

Both sides reiterated their commitment to ensure that their respective territories would not be allowed to be used for any activities inimical to the other, the MEA said.

India shares an approximately 1700-km long border with Myanmar. Any developments in that country have a direct impact on India’s bordering regions. Peace and stability in Myanmar remain of utmost importance to India, specifically to its North Eastern Region, the Ministry said.

As a democracy and close neighbour, India has been involved in the democratic transition process in Myanmar and in this context has worked with various stakeholders in developing capacities on democratic systems and practices.

India proposes to renew these efforts for Myanmar to emerge as a stable, democratic, federal union in accordance with the wishes of the people of Myanmar, the Ministry added.

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