Residents of two villages in Sagaing Region’s Ye-U Township that were occupied by junta soldiers last week say they found more charred corpses over the weekend.
Late last week, Myanmar Now reported that six bodies had been discovered in a house in the village of Mone Taing Pin after regime forces left early Thursday morning.
Since then, however, the remains of at least 11 more people have been found in the village, while a search of the neighbouring village of Inpin, which is separated from Mone Taing Pin by just one farm, yielded 10 more.
“Two houses had six bodies each in them, another had three, and there were two more in a fourth house. There were also 10 more in Inpin,” said a Mone Taing Pin resident who did not want to be named.
The 27 bodies are all believed to belong to villagers abducted by regime forces operating in the area. While the cause of death was not clear, there was some evidence to suggest that the victims had been murdered before their bodies were burned.
“There was blood in the front of the houses, so it looks like they were killed outside and then dragged inside and set on fire,” said the villager.
More than 100 Mone Taing Pin residents had reportedly been abducted when the troops entered the village last Tuesday. One 60-year-old man who managed to escape said that the soldiers took around 30 people, including three monks, with them when they left on Thursday.
“I saw them take 30 men away with their hands tied behind their backs, in groups of five,” he said.
“Eight of us who were tied up inside the monastery were able to get away when they started getting ready to leave at around 2am that night,” he added.
According to the man, who asked to remain anonymous, the troops repeatedly beat some of the abductees and demanded to know where local People’s Defence Force (PDF) groups were hiding.
Residents of Mone Taing Pin said they believed their village was targeted because of a clash between regime forces and PDF fighters in the area early Tuesday morning.
Two local men, both in their 20s, were killed when junta soldiers opened fire with heavy artillery during the fighting, locals said.
More that 30 houses in the village of some 400 households were torched during the two-day occupation, they added.
Local PDF forces said they refrained from attacking the junta column after it left Mone Taing Pin because they did not want to cause any more civilian casualties among the junta hostages.
Charred corpses discovered in Sagaing village occupied by junta troops
Charred corpses discovered in Sagaing village occupied by junta troops
It was not clear if the six victims were local people or civilians from elsewhere who had been taken hostage as human shields
Want to stop Myanmar military atrocities? Sanction oil and gas
The time has come to cut off the regime’s single largest source of revenue for its war on Myanmar’s civilian population
Among Myanmar’s state-owned entities, MOGE represents the single largest source of revenue for the regime and has been identified by pro-democracy activists as a key enabler of its human rights abuses.
Two Western oil companies—the American company Chevron and France’s Total Energies—withdrew from a collaborative energy development project with MOGE in January 2022 citing concerns about violence and human rights violations in Myanmar. However, the EU is the only entity that has imposed legal sanctions against MOGE to date.
Despite this criticism, JFM spokesperson Yadanar Maung hailed the new sanctions as a needed step towards inflicting costs on the junta and stopping the enablement of its atrocities against Myanmar’s people.
“We welcome the latest round of sanctions from Australia, Canada, the UK and USA, which target military conglomerates, state-owned enterprises illegally controlled by the junta, and the military’s jet fuel supply chain,” she said in the statement.
In ‘significant’ move, EU imposes sanctions on Myanmar state-owned oil and gas company
The action makes the European bloc the first international entity to introduce such a measure, since previous sanctions have excluded Myanmar’s oil and gas industry
When asked whether the new sanctions were likely to succeed in exerting pressure on the Myanmar military, Chollet addressed potential doubts about their effectiveness.
“We think it’s very important to try to ensure that the junta has fewer ways to acquire arms, to generate revenue, and to gain legitimacy. And we believe that that’s why sanctions against individuals and entities that are critical to the junta’s ability to generate revenue and acquire arms are very important,” the State Department official said.
Chollet also emphasised the costs inflicted on junta officials.
“And we have seen, by the way, the sanctions have had an effect on the junta—the economy last year in Myanmar contracted by nearly 20 percent. We’ve seen investors fleeing. We see foreign currency reserves dwindling. And we see it becoming harder for the regime to acquire arms… They’re having to take more extraordinary steps to steer clear of sanctions,” he explained.
Also on the US list of sanctioned entities was the junta-controlled election commission, which has been preparing to hold a vote designed to legitimise the regime’s claim to power. The designation came a day before military council chief Min Aung Hlaing announced an extension of the declared state of emergency in Myanmar, which could require postponing the planned elections.
Australian foreign minister Penny Wong announced legislative amendments on Tuesday applying sanctions to 16 individuals in or connected with the junta, including coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, and two military conglomerates: Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited.
Australia had previously prohibited trade with Myanmar in arms or related military equipment, but had not changed its regulations regarding business with Myanmar nationals since 2018, despite urging from activists to implement sanctions against the junta after the 2021 coup.
The new rules targeting the regime are targeted, prohibiting business with specific individuals or entities implicated in human rights violations or corruption, in contrast to broad sanctions imposed on a country and its population as a whole.
This was the first instance of Australia applying new sanctions to targets in Myanmar since the coup.
“My judgement is that the time has come for sanctions,” Wong said in a public statement, citing the military’s refusal to abide by international measures aimed at abating the conflict in Myanmar.
“Australia will continue to monitor the regime’s actions. We will be looking to see improvements for people on the ground and moves towards the restoration of democracy, including credible elections,” she added.
The Canadian and UK governments’ sanctions took direct aim at suppliers of jet fuel to the Myanmar military, which has enabled indiscriminate aerial attacks by the military causing hundreds of civilian fatalities.
Canada’s new regulations included a blanket prohibition on the trade of aviation fuel with Myanmar, added as an amendment to a preexisting arms embargo. The UK imposed sanctions on the entities Asia Sun Trading Company Limited and Cargo Link Company Limited, both known suppliers of fuel to junta forces.
While welcoming the new sanctions, JFM spokesperson Yadanar Maung urged further action, calling on all four governments to sanction MOGE and adopt a total ban on the supply of jet fuel to Myanmar, and appealing to Asian democracies–namely Japan, South Korea, and India–to join the Western governments in sanctioning the junta.
Anti-junta activists celebrate major win as Chevron and Total announce plans to exit Myanmar
Governments must now announce sanctions on the country’s oil and gas to prevent other companies funding the junta, Justice For Myanmar said
Analysis: Min Aung Hlaing will maintain the status quo that serves him
With his term as junta chief set to expire, Min Aung Hlaing will cling to power with or without army-controlled elections or the military’s 2008 Constitution
The junta chief said that the country was still not ready to hold a general election with an “accurate” voter list and “free” polls, since nearly half of the more than 300 townships in Myanmar lack security and stability.
“We need to hold a general election in all states and regions simultaneously and we can’t do it in one place after another,” Min Aung Hlaing said. “It is not enough to [hold it] only in urban areas,” he added.
He also emphasised that Myanmar’s electoral system needed to be changed to one of Proportional Representation, which would make it easier for less popular junta-aligned parties to win seats. Myanmar’s elections currently operate under a First Past the Post system, meaning that the candidate who wins the most votes in each constituency becomes an MP, while all the votes that went to the losing candidates are effectively thrown out.
He added that the country’s political parties will also need to be changed in line with the electoral system switch, hinting that the parties might need to merge in order to better represent the people.
Days before the NDSC meeting, the regime amended the Political Parties Registration Law, aiming to outlaw the NLD. In Wednesday’s state-run newspapers, the junta’s electoral commission also released by-laws of the Political Parties Registration Law and called on interested parties to start proceeding with their registration.
Also addressed by the military chief at the meeting was the need for the collection of the country’s updated population data. He noted that Myanmar’s last census was carried out in 2014 and that it should be conducted every 10 years. Min Aung Hlaing stressed that an updated census would be critical to obtaining an accurate voter list ahead of an election. However, the military chief did not provide a timeline for the polls.
“Our government will try our best to be able to hold an election in a number of constituencies not less than in the previous 2020 election, and also under peaceful conditions—not [those that are] worse [than in 2020],” Min Aung Hlaing said, referring to his junta.
The 11-member NDSC body is prescribed by the military-drafted Constitution to include the president, two vice-presidents, two house speakers, commander-in-chief and his deputy, and the ministers of foreign affairs, defence, home affairs, and border affairs.
Not all members were present at Tuesday’s meeting. In attendance was the regime’s acting president Myint Swe, Lower House speaker T Khun Myat, deputy commander-in-chief Soe Win, defence minister Gen Mya Tun Oo, home affairs minister Lt-Gen Soe Htut, foreign affairs minister Wunna Maung Lwin, and border affairs minister Lt-Gen Tun Tun Naung.
Also participating were regime officials who were selectively invited, such as military council secretary Lt-Gen Aung Lin Dwe along with his joint secretary Lt-Gen Ye Win Oo, and attorney-general Thida Oo.
T Khun Myat suggested that the council body seek recommendations from the constitutional tribunal regarding whether the new extension was in line with the 2008 charter. According to the broadcast, the tribunal had considered the move and told the regime’s vice-president that the extension was in line with the constitution. Myint Swe, who leads the NDSC, then announced the extension of the country’s state of emergency for a further six months.
Although the NDSC council holds some executive powers of the state, its structure gave military-controlled members majority representation even when Myanmar was under a civilian government.
In response to the regime’s extension of military rule, Aung Kyi Nyunt, who is a central executive member of the ousted NLD party, said that the move was “lawless.”
“The state of emergency will only be over when they are no longer [in power],” he told Myanmar Now over the phone on Wednesday, referring to the military. “They perpetrated this emergency state of affairs. Even if they extend [the junta’s rule], it is lawless.”
According to the 2008 Constitution, only the president can hand over the state’s sovereign power to the commander-in-chief under “a state of emergency.”
Though the military arrested and charged the NLD’s President Win Myint when it staged the coup two years ago, it did not depose vice presidents Henry Van Thio and Myint Swe; the latter is currently serving as the regime’s acting president. However, Van Thio has not been in the public eye since the army’s seizure of power.
While both remain NDSC members, Van Thio did not attend the Tuesday meeting for health reasons, according to the regime. Myanmar Now’s sources in Naypyitaw said he was hospitalised on Tuesday with head and neck injuries.
Tuesday marked his third absence from such meetings since the coup. He did not attend previous NDSC gatherings on January 31 and July 31 last year, when the council extended the junta’s rule. On both occasions, Van Thio’s health was cited as the reason for his nonattendance.
On the second anniversary of the country’s military coup, residents in cities and towns in Myanmar protested junta rule with a “silent strike” by avoiding public activities. Myanmar nationals in neighbouring countries such as Thailand held rallies and called for an end of the military’s power grab, which they condemned as “illegal.”
One night earlier, the US, Australia, and allied Western governments announced an expansion of sanctions against the junta, the regime’s energy officials and its network of suppliers and cronies.