Two members of the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) chapter of southern Chin State’s Mindat Township went missing during a battle with junta troops on Wednesday only to be found slain the next day, the resistance group said in a statement.
The clash took place on Wednesday morning near the village of Pa Lon Twi in the northern part of the township, where an army unit was reportedly trying to enter Mindat from Htilin, across the regional border in Magway. Fighting reportedly lasted six hours, ending at 3pm.
The CDF found the bodies of their members at noon on Thursday after the military had left Pa Lon Twi, which they occupied overnight. They noted that the individuals had suffered multiple wounds.
Salai Ha Aum, a spokesperson for the CDF-Mindat, said it appeared that the guerrilla fighters had been taken prisoner by the occupying junta soldiers and subsequently murdered, but did not provide further details on the condition in which they were found.
“They were killed in a very brutal manner,” he said.
Their identities had not been released at the time of reporting.
In a previous statement published prior to the discovery of the two bodies, the CDF-Mindat said that one of its members had been killed in Wednesday’s clash and another injured.
Salai Ha Aum said that the resistance fighters would “not lose [their] spirit” and vowed to take further action against the junta’s forces.
Yaw Man, a representative of the anti-coup Mindat People’s Administration Team said that there had also been several recent civilian casualties due to the military’s firing of heavy artillery shells in the township.
A 14-year-old boy was killed in one such bombing in southern Mindat on Tuesday, the fourth death in the area this month due to artillery fire by the Mindat-based Infantry Battalion 274, according to residents. On June 16, shells fired by the battalion also reportedly killed two women and a man who were working in a farm in the village of Mwi Twi.
The military council, which declared martial law in Mindat more than a year ago, has not released any information on the incidents.
Members of the township’s anti-coup movement were among the first in the country to take up arms against regime forces cracking down on protesters at the time, with the CDF forming in April last year. Rural Mindat remains a resistance stronghold.
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Many more deaths
On December 3, the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force captured four junta troops from LIB 108, the unit responsible for the Moso killings. However, it has yet to confirm whether the soldiers in its custody were among those who took part in the incident.
Moreover, even if they could shed some light on the events that led to the deaths of dozens of innocent civilians more than a year ago, the soldiers’ testimonies would have limited legal value, according to Bo Bo.
“We can’t make the captured soldiers testify because they are prisoners of war, which means that they would not be testifying of their own free will. In other words, their testimonies can be influenced and so cannot be used in court,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a statement released on December 23, IIMM head Nicholas Koumjian said that the human rights body continues to collect data on war crimes committed by the military all over the country in order to hold the perpetrators accountable.
According to Thae Mar, there have been many more deaths over the past year. “The things that have happened this year were unspeakably horrifying,” she said.
Less than a month after they were forced to flee Moso, residents of the village experienced renewed terror when they were hit by a junta airstrike while sheltering at a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs). Three people, including two young sisters, were killed in that attack.
Being constantly hounded by the regime has taken a severe toll on the lives of the Moso villagers, at least five of whom have died due to their psychological trauma, according to Thae Mar.
“I just want this year to end so we can get past this chapter of our lives,” she said as 2022—the worst year of her life—drew to a close.
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Myanmar Pou Chen labour union chair Phyo Thida Win, who was among the dismissed workers, said that the offer of re-employment did not accommodate the workers’ initial demands for paid overtime, guaranteed days off, and manageable production targets. Officials instead reportedly only offered to compensate the employees for the period in which they were laid off.
“We were asked to sign a contract that said we were satisfied and would not negotiate further. We cannot accept that,” he told Myanmar Now. “They did not accept any of the terms we proposed. It seemed like we were being made to simply accept their conditions, so I didn’t sign and I left.”
He was among 17 employees who refused the offer; the remaining nine accepted the compensation before then resigning. With negotiations having effectively failed with the factory officials, the workers said that they would next relay their demands to Adidas.
Phyo Thida Win added that the officials in question had also refused to allow the union to join a Work Coordination Committee (WCC), problem-solving mechanisms which in theory must have equal representation between employees and employers but have been described by union leaders as “notorious for working in favour of the employer.” The junta requires complaints to be filed with WCCs before the issues can be considered by the regime labour ministry.
Shortly after the February 2021 military coup, which was widely protested by the labour movement, the junta declared trade unions and workers’ rights organisations to be illegal. Factory employees began forming WCCs, however, labour rights activists noted that the members selected to represent the workers typically were those who had positive relations with the employers, rather than those with a background in advocacy. At Myanmar Pou Chen, for example, union members were barred from entering the selection pool of candidates to serve on the committee, Phyo Thida Win said.
Factory officials did not respond to Myanmar Now’s requests for comment on the negotiations with the employees in question.
Demands to raise the minimum wage at Myanmar Pou Chen were initiated on August 14 to compensate for the soaring of basic commodities in the aftermath of the February 2021 coup. Workers at factories throughout Yangon have also reported an uptick in verbal and physical abuse by their supervisors during this time, and the termination of social security benefits.
In 2015, under the government led by former general Thein Sein, the minimum wage was set at 3,600 kyat for an eight-hour work day, then valued at approximately $2.70. The minimum wage was raised to 4,800 kyat in 2018 under Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy government, worth around $3.60 at that time.
Laws dictate that Myanmar’s daily minimum wage should be reviewed every two years, but at the time of reporting, the current rates had not changed in nearly five years. Although the military has been amending and abolishing a range of laws since their seizure of power, they have not made changes to statutes concerning minimum wage.