Displaying items by tag: Myanmar
Since the military junta seized power in Myanmar in February's coup, violent resistance against the regime has been intensifying. Young people across the country have begun taking up arms to join the fight against their own army. Some of them have been getting military training from the separatist Karen National Defence Organisation, which operates near the Thai border. Myanmar’s military launched air strikes on a village and outpost near the Thai border in April. Thailand will provide humanitarian aid but stressed it is not taking a side in the conflict. The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) are one of the biggest adversaries of Myanmar's military. Myanmar soldiers have murdered, burnt villages, forced labour, tortured and systematically raped women and girls. They have also suffered many losses to KNU guerrillas. Other guerrilla forces, in the north and the west, are also supportive of the anti-junta coalition. See also
Christians in Myanmar are praying for their country, they are in the streets, on their knees with their head bowed or laying down stretched out with arms raised. Whole neighbourhoods are involved in visible prayer. Christians in Myanmar have been persecuted for probably a hundred years in this Buddhist country; they make up about 6% of the population. The military has been continually attacking them, and they have suffered terribly. When there was a democratically elected government the Christians were doing better. But with the recent military coup, under Chinese pressure, the whole population, including Buddhists have had enough of the military and they want democracy. The Christians are lying down in the streets: not a political protest, they’re crying out to God for peace and healing. Please join those praying for an end to this deteriorating situation and relieve the population from fear of civil war.
While a Russian minister visited Myanmar for Armed Forces Day, security forces killed 114 peaceful protesters. His visit left observers wondering what Russia wanted to gain by strongly supporting the junta amid the bloodshed. But the timing was such that Russia, which never admits to anything, let alone apologise, felt the need to distance itself from Myanmar and sought to soften the damage to its image amid outrage over the deadly violence. Mr Putin’s spokesman said, ‘We are really worried by the growing number of civilian casualties. It is a source of deep concern. We are following Myanmar’s unfolding situation closely.’ The violence also challenges the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which must decide whether to stick to its principle of non-interference in members' internal affairs or not. China, which is the only nation against imposing sanctions on Myanmar, is influencing the situation for its own commercial and political advantage.
On 27 March security forces killed over fifty protesters who defied a warning that they could be shot ‘in the head and back’ if they came out while the country's generals celebrated Armed Forces Day. ‘Today is a day of shame for the armed forces,’ said Dr Sasa, a spokesman for the anti-junta group of deposed lawmakers. Local media reported that around 3,000 people from Karen state have left the country and crossed the border into Thailand to escape the violence. Airstrikes that sent villagers fleeing into the jungle show the Myanmar situation is ‘much worse’, a humanitarian worker said. At least 114 people were killed by security forces on 29 March, including a five-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl. Despite the bloodshed, protesters returned to the streets. Citizens are living amid increasing violence. People are being beaten and shot; now they face multiple airstrikes. Myanmar has not had airstrikes there for over twenty years.
Myanmar protesters burned down and looted Chinese-owned businesses in Yangon. When China's embassy asked the junta to restore order, they obliged and killed scores of demonstrators. The anti-China riots add a fresh international dimension to Myanmar's political crisis. The protesters are angry at China's thinly veiled support for Myanmar’s junta. This backlash is a big test for Beijing, a rising global power and regional heavyweight. Many believe China will not look the other way while its interests in Myanmar literally go up in flames. China has always wanted a piece of Myanmar’s earth metals and waterways. Beijing wants the generals to restart long-shelved plans for a controversial hydropower dam to generate electricity for China, which locals fear will damage the environment and force thousands to relocate. China also needs Myanmar to continue building a natural gas pipeline which will give them access to the Indian Ocean, where China is competing for maritime supremacy with India.
In what has been called Myanmar's ‘Tiananmen moment’, Sister Ann Roza knelt in front of armed security forces to stop them firing on civilians. She was giving treatment at a clinic when groups of protesters passed by; then they were fired on and beaten by the police and military. ‘I was shocked and thought today is the day I will die. I was asking and begging them not to do it and was crying like a mad person, like a mother hen protecting the chicks. I thought it would be better that I die instead of lots of people. I was crying out loud. My throat was in pain. My intention was to help people escape and be free to protest and to stop the security forces. I was begging them. At that time I was not afraid.’
Myanmar's military fired the country's ambassador to the UN after he called for the army to be removed from power. The security forces are intensifying their crackdown on protesters with live ammunition, killing many. A police major resigned in a show of solidarity with anti-coup protesters, saying, ‘I don’t want to continue serving under the current military regime.’ He had been with the Special Branch since 1989. See Christians in the country are asking for help because they have lived under military leadership for decades. They don’t want it back. But the church is not all aligned. Some think they need to be peaceful; others are more activist in nature. Please pray for the safety of Christians in Myanmar. Asian Access said, ‘If you have any way of connecting with people there, sending them words of encouragement is a huge help. You could even send messages to asianaccess.org. We could send those messages along, and say, “People are praying for you, they care about you”.’
Handicap International’s involvement in Thai refugee camps gives children the opportunity to be a cared-for child. Being a child in poverty and stress is particularly challenging if you are disabled. Since 1984, Thailand has sheltered people fleeing Myanmar’s violence in camps along the border. Some refugees were born in the camps and have never set foot outside. Most are Karen, a mixed people group without a shared language or religion. Since the 1940s, ongoing conflicts between Karen separatists and the Burmese army have forced many to flee. 400,000 Karen people are homeless. Camp conditions are extremely poor; in the past cholera and malaria have occurred. Children suffer from chronic malnutrition and respiratory infections. There is no electricity, phone signal, healthcare, or education.
An army document has been discovered instructing soldiers to ‘punish and break down’ ethnic-minority Christians and anyone objecting to the military regime. The discovery came as the army ramped up armed patrols in Karen and Kachin States. Since December 2020, the military have increased ceasefire violations in Karen State, shelling villages in order to clear land for new roads and military installations. The official document states military personnel should fire 12mm weapons (equivalent to a machine gun) at individuals or use a 38mm weapon (a gun to launch grenades) on groups of civilians. The directives include special instructions to round up any dissenting civilian doctors and nurses and to report on any local leaders who are not fully cooperating with the military. There are many Christians amongst both the Karen and the Kachin ethnic groups, and thousands of Christian villagers fled to remote jungle areas when persecution began.
The military held its first news conference since toppling the government. They said the armed forces would not remain in power for long, and would ‘hand power back to the winning party’ following another election. On 18 February the military ordered more arrests, and civil servants went on strike. Large numbers have protested for 16 days. ‘It is incredible to witness that our people are unified. People’s power must return to the people,’ actor Lu Min wrote on Facebook. Many of the country’s lawyers have joined the Red Ribbon Campaign calling for the restoration of democracy in the country. The Defend Lawyers website reported that forty barristers could face prosecution for participating in the anti-coup movement. Doctors Without Borders are ‘gravely concerned’ about the recent arrests and detentions of health care workers and other civilians. The situation has the potential to severely interrupt the lifesaving healthcare that they and others have been providing to the most vulnerable people in the country, particularly in the time of the Covid pandemic.