Junta Troops Arrest Dozens of PDF Militiamen in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region

The Mingin PDF says its fighters were ambushed after surrounding a pro-military village.

Junta Troops Arrest Dozens of PDF Militiamen in Myanmar’s Sagaing Region

Troops loyal to Myanmar’s junta arrested nearly 60 members of the People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia in Sagaing region’s embattled Mingin township on Wednesday with the help of a paramilitary group, prompting thousands of villagers to flee their homes for safety, according to sources.

Members of the Mingin PDF told RFA’s Myanmar Service that it was carrying out a mission to take over the pro-junta Taungbyu village at around 3:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning when around 70 of its fighters were ambushed and arrested by government troops and members of the Phyu Saw Htee—the militia wing of the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP).

“We had the village surrounded and they said women, children and unarmed people would come out to negotiate. They told us to leave behind our weapons and 57 of our comrades entered the village. They all got arrested. Only 12 of us escaped because we didn’t believe them and wouldn’t go along,” a Mingin PDF fighter said Thursday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“I heard that four have already been killed. We are worried about the situation. We are worried that unarmed prisoners will be tortured and killed in violation of the Geneva Convention.”

The fighter said that the PDF tried to take over Taungbyu and nearby Panset village after junta soldiers and the Phyu Saw Htee arrested and killed several villagers in a recent raid on Mingin township.

He said the identities of the four PDF fighters killed in Taungbyu village were not immediately clear.

Wednesday’s arrest was the largest to date of PDF fighters anywhere in the country since the militia was formed in response to the military’s Feb. 1 coup d’état.

Another member of the Mingin PDF told RFA his group is still trying to determine how the arrest took place.

“The phone line was disconnected as they were about to go in …  How did it happen? Was it a betrayal? If they were armed, they would have been able to fight back,” he said.

“They were a large force and knew the risk of getting killed while engaged in a fight. Being arrested en masse like this doesn’t make sense. It is very difficult to understand. We are trying to find answers.”

Photos purporting to show the arrest went viral on social media Thursday morning. It was not immediately clear who took the photos or posted them online.

Maung Myint, a former USDP lawmaker for Mingin township, wrote in a post to his Facebook page that the residents of Taungbyu “were united and showed good military tactics,” allowing them to “crush” the PDF.

“Since their guns were Tumees, we surrounded them while they were preparing them [to be fired] and we got more than 50 alive,” he wrote, referring to the flintlock style of traditional rifle their forefathers used to fight off British colonizers in the 1880s. “[The PDF prisoners] have been transferred to the army.”

Attempts by RFA to reach junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment went unanswered Thursday.

Panset village clash

Fighting also broke out between the PDF members and the military Wednesday morning in Panset village, located around three miles from Taungbyu, according to the Mingin PDF, which claimed that it killed one government troop and injured three.

The clash and number of casualties was confirmed by Maung Myint, the former USDP lawmaker, who said the wounded troops were airlifted out of the area via the military’s camp in Mingin township.

Residents of the area said that junta troops received support from both the navy and the air force during the fighting in Panset and Taungbyu villages.

Chaw Su San, vice-chairwoman of the Monywa University Students’ Union, urged the PDF not to negotiate with the military to release its detained fighters.

“No matter how much they say they want to negotiate, our people should not believe them at all—nothing they say is trustworthy,” she said.

“Since we have made the decision to fight [the regime] by whatever means possible and have clearly stated our goals, the PDF and the people should not accept any kind of offer.”

Following Wednesday’s clashes, the military set up camp in Taungbyu and Panset villages, prompting more than 8,000 people from 20 nearby villages to flee to safety.

According to the United Nations and aid groups, conflict in Myanmar’s remote border regions has displaced an estimated 230,000 residents since the junta coup. They join more than 500,000 refugees from decades of conflict between the military and ethnic armies who were already counted as internally displaced persons (IDPs) at the end of 2020, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, a Norwegian NGO.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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US Lawmakers Form Uyghur Caucus to Address Rights Abuses in China’s Xinjiang

The US ‘cannot be silent as Xi Jinping tortures and seeks to eradicate an entire population,’ says Rep. Chris Smith.

US Lawmakers Form Uyghur Caucus to Address Rights Abuses in China’s Xinjiang

Lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives formed a Uyghur Caucus on Thursday to highlight the Chinese Communist Party’s abuse of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

The caucus led by Reps. Tom Suozzi and Chris Smith also will support legislation aimed at addressing the human rights abuses, including the detention of about 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in a vast network of internment camps, torture of inmates, sexual assaults, forced sterilization of women, and the use of forced Uyghur labor, and efforts to eradicate Uyghur culture and religion.

“Put simply, we’re talking about the largest coordinated human rights abuse campaign of the 21st century being perpetrated by the Chinese Communist Party,” Suozzi said in a statement. “Not only as Members of Congress, but as human beings we have a responsibility to uphold the values of fundamental human dignity and religious freedom abroad.”

Smith, a veteran lawmaker who for decades has criticized Beijing over its human rights record, said the U.S. must speak out on egregious abuses being perpetrated against the Uyghurs and others in northwestern China, which have been well-documented by rights organizations, international media, and the United Nations.

“The United States cannot be silent as [Chinese President] Xi Jinping tortures and seeks to eradicate an entire population,” he said in the statement. “In solidarity with the oppressed, the Uyghur Caucus will call attention to the Communist Chinese government’s atrocious human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and work to end one of the world’s worst human rights tragedies.”

In January, the U.S. State Department determined that the Chinese government’s actions against Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the XUAR constituted genocide and crimes against humanity.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese government to the announcement about the Uygur Caucus.

Rushan Abbas, executive director of the Washington-based Campaign for Uyghurs, hailed the creation of the caucus.

“Day after day, we are faced with new horrors coming out of East Turkistan,” she said in a statement on Thursday, using the name for the XUAR that Uyghurs prefer. “These atrocities, this genocide, require a response that is proportional to its depravity.”

“With this caucus, we now have a way to organize our allies in the United States and turn activism into concrete policy actions that address this unspeakable crime,” Abbas said. “Together, we will see this genocide ended, and those responsible brought to justice.”

The Germany-based World Uyghur Congress (WUC) also welcomed the development.

“This is such a welcomed initiative, and it comes at an opportune time when Uyghurs most need strong allies to restore their freedoms, and end the Uyghur genocide,” said WUC president Dolkun Isa in a statement.

The Uyghur Caucus joins other such caucuses — groups where U.S. lawmakers meet to pursue common legislative objectives — focusing on ethnic minorities or people living in territories that are repressed or targeted by China.

A bipartisan Congressional Taiwan Caucus set up in April 2002 has 139 members and is focused on enhancing and strengthening U.S.-Taiwan relations and ensuring that Taiwan remains democratic. Its counterpart in the Senate was established in September 2003 and has 24 members.

Smith created a Congressional Hong Kong Caucus in September 2014 to monitor China’s actions in the territory where at the time pro-democracy activists held massive street demonstrations clamoring for free elections.

Two former Congressmen formed a Congressional Tibet Caucus in 2009 to draw attention to the Chinese government’s policies there and to mobilize support for the Dalai Lama, Tibetans’ exiled spiritual leader.

Neither of those groups appear to be active, but the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, formerly known as the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, now takes up rights issues concerning Uyghurs in the XUAR, Hong Kong, and Tibet.

The 17-member bipartisan, bicameral Congressional-Executive Commission on China (ECCC), an independent agency of the U.S. government, also monitors human rights and rule of law developments in China.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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