More Than Seven Dozen Reporters Arrested Since Myanmar Coup

Observers say that more detentions are expected as the junta faces growing resistance to its rule.

More Than Seven Dozen Reporters Arrested Since Myanmar Coup

Authorities in Myanmar have arrested over seven dozen journalists since the junta seized control of the country more than seven months ago, and the number is rising as political tensions reach a new high with the shadow National Unity Government’s (NUG) declaration of war on the regime last week.

As of Tuesday, the military had arrested 87 journalists since its Feb. 1 coup d’état and had only released 14 as part of a June 30 general amnesty that saw 200 detainees freed from detention across the country.

Since the coup, security forces have killed 1,089 civilians and arrested at least 6,477, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)—mostly during crackdowns on anti-junta protests.

The junta says it had to unseat Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) government because the party engineered a landslide victory in Myanmar’s November 2020 election through widespread voter fraud. It has yet to present evidence of its claims and public unrest is at an all-time high.

Last week, the NUG declared a nationwide state of emergency and called for open rebellion against junta rule, prompting an escalation of attacks on military targets by various allied pro-democracy People’s Defense Force (PDF) militias and ethnic armed groups.

The declaration came weeks after the NUG announced plans for a “D-Day” operation to purge the country of the junta through a popular uprising supported by the PDF militias, formed to protect the public from the military.

Throughout its rule, the military has repeatedly vowed to clamp down on the media, including on July 12, when Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun accused journalists of “tricking the public.”

“These media outlets are a danger to the people and traitors to the State, as they are broadcasting fake news and incorrect opinions,” he said at the time.

Zaw Min Tun called the independent media “only less treacherous than the groups they are working with,” suggesting they were aligned with the NUG and were working to “destroy the State and the economy,” but providing no proof of his allegations.

In the two months since, authorities have continued to target journalists for their work, with at least two believed taken into custody in the past two weeks alone.

Over the weekend, family members of former RFA Myanmar Service reporter Thuzar said she went missing on Sept. 1 and was likely detained.

The freelancer had been in hiding since police raided her Yangon home in March after she reported on anti-coup protests and the difficulties facing government employees that take part in a nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) opposing the junta.

“She knows her family members would be worried sick if she didn’t contact them,” her husband Ye Ko told RFA, saying he is convinced that Thuzar was arrested and had already contacted a lawyer to represent her.

“We know the authorities have been arresting journalists, but journalists will cover the news, no matter who the government is.”

Days after Thuzar went missing, authorities arrested Hmu Ein Zaw, a former journalist and current humanitarian worker, together with his wife, sources said.

Meanwhile, authorities have filed an additional charge under Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Association Act against veteran journalists Sithu Aung Myint and Htet Htet Khine. The pair were already facing charges for “committing an offense against the State” under Section 505(A) of the Penal Code following their arrest on Aug. 16.

No letup in arrests

Veteran journalist Myint Kyaw told RFA that the release of journalists in the June 30 amnesty should not be taken to mean that the junta has stopped targeting the media.

“Many people assumed that journalists were no longer being arrested after the release, but by early August they were being detained again,” he said.

“This shows that the authorities have not relaxed their policies concerning journalists. In fact, I think they are targeting journalists even more to discourage coverage of the situation in the country. Reporters need to be even more cautious these days.”

Myint Kyaw noted that there had been an internet blackout in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State after the NUG declared war on the junta last week and suggested that such a tactic could be “extended to other regions” as well.

Court attorney Khin Maung Myint, who has been helping arrested journalists, told RFA that a recent addendum to the Counter-terrorism Law which designates groups like the PDF, NUG and Parliament’s Pyidaungsu Hluttaw Committee of Representatives (CRPH) as terrorist organizations has led to the detention of even more reporters.

“The new additions in the law enable the authorities to punish anyone who is involved with groups designated as terrorist organizations, so when journalists interview members of the NUG, CRPH and PDF, they are accused of supporting or propagating for these organizations,” he said.

“They are simply targeting journalists for providing news to the people.”

Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF) ranked Myanmar 140th out of 180 countries in the 2021 edition of its annual World Press Freedom Index and singled out junta chief Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing as among the world’s 37 worst leaders in terms of media crackdowns. The country has fallen in position every year since it was ranked 131st in 2017.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Chin State Coalition Overruns Myanmar Military Outpost, Killing 12 Soldiers

A citizen militia teamed up with the Chin National Army to take over the camp, which they burned to the ground.

Chin State Coalition Overruns Myanmar Military Outpost, Killing 12 Soldiers

Anti-junta resistance forces in Myanmar joined up with an ethnic rebel group over the weekend and took over a military outpost in Chin state near the Indian border, killing 12 regime soldiers in the firefight, sources told RFA.

A coalition of about 400 combatants of the Chin National Army (CNA), and newly organized Chin Defense Force (CDF), were able to overrun the sparsely manned outpost Saturday evening in Chin State’s Thantlang township.

The CDF was formed by citizens who took up arms following the military takeover of the country Feb. 1 that oustied Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government.

They joined forces with the CNA, the armed group connected to the Chin National Front (CNF), a nationalist political organization that advocates for Myanmar’s Chin ethnic minority. Since its foundation in 1988 the CNA had been fighting against the Myanmar military, but it signed ceasefire agreements in 2012 and 2015.

Eight members of the CDF lost their lives in the attack over the weekend, according to local outlet The Irrawaddy.

Ronoe Lian, a CDF spokesperson in Thantlang, told RFA that the clash over the base in Lungler village lasted two days.

“A combined force of the CDF and CNA laid siege to the camp on the evening of Sept. 10. There was a four-hour-long battle that day, and at around 1:00 p.m., a jet fighter flew by twice, then circled the surroundings and bombed four times,” Ronoe Lian said.

The junta air support bombed the area about nine or 10 times that day, Ronoe Lian said. A report in the local media outlet Myanmar Now said the coalition that first attacked the base numbered about 200, but they retreated after the arial bombardment. The next day they returned in greater numbers.

“On the second day, we battled for over five or six hours. Finally, we overran the camp, seized all the ammunition and set it on fire,” Ronoe Lian said.

He said that the coalition were able to acquire ammunition and small arms stored in the camp, which was located just across the border from Mizoram state in India. The camp had been manned by 12 soldiers and had not received reinforcements in months.

The CDF told RFA that after the base was taken over, military helicopters were spotted in the area, likely on reconnaissance missions.

CNA spokesman Salai Htet Ni told RFA that the fighting could intensify because the military will likely bring in reinforcements to the area.

“The military can put a lot of pressure here. What we know is that they are sending reinforcements to this region, and we have heard that they plan to wipe out all CDF movements statewide,” Salai Htet Ni said.

“That’s why we are expecting bigger clashes. We think this is going to happen,” he said.

About 1,000 people living near the base fled toward the Indian border when fighting began Saturday, sources told RFA.

“People from Longler village and two other nearby villages are fleeing to safety to avoid the fighting,” a resident who requested anonymity for security reasons told RFA.

“Some people fled their houses before the battle started. Later on, more people fled toward the border,” the resident said. 

Salai Za Op Lin, the deputy executive director of the India-based Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) told RFA that about 1,000 civilians fled to Mizoram in recent days.

“Most of the villagers have fled to safety. This morning, when they saw military planes flying nearby, many of the villagers were terrified. We heard that a lot of the villagers left their homes after Sept. 10, when the military planes showed up,” Salai Za Op Lin said.

“They fled toward Kyainseng village in Mizoram, but there are also some people who are taking refuge nearby, an estimated 5,000 in total,” he said. 

The CHRO said more than 30,000 people have fled from Chin state to Mizoram since the coup. The military has responded by setting up road checks in many areas, which could cut of certain parts of the state from supplies and cause food shortages.

Junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun was not available for comment.

The attack on the outpost came days after Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) on Sept. 7 urged supporters to engage in a nationwide revolt. Interim President Duwa Lashi La called for for the complete overthrow of the junta.

Since then, the country has seen an increase in clashes between soldiers and citizens defense groups all over the country.

In the seven months since the coup, security forces have killed 1,089 civilians and arrested at least 6,477, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)—mostly during crackdowns on anti-junta protests.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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