Myanmar Troops Massacre 24 in Village Attacks in Magway

'It’s the military’s ongoing impunity that allows these types of atrocities to continue,' one rights group says.

Myanmar Troops Massacre 24 in Village Attacks in Magway

Myanmar military forces killed at least 24 civilians in attacks this month on three villages in the country’s central Magway region, murdering eight after taking them alive as prisoners, sources in the region said, with rights groups calling the killings war crimes.

Those killed in the assaults Sept. 9 and 10 on Myin-thar, Mway Le, and Yay Shin villages in Gangaw township included elderly men in their 70s and high school students under the age of 18, family members and resistance fighters told RFA.

Gyo Byu, a member of the local People’s Defense Force unit set up to fight government troops in the wake of the Feb. 1 military coup that overthrew the elected government, said the elderly men who were killed were found tied to chairs and shot in the head, while the young men were shot dead after being captured.

Gyo Byu had helped to bury the bodies after they were found, he said.

One resident of Myin-thar, where 19 were killed on Sept. 9 alone, said that her 15-year-old brother and other high school students were among those killed in the massacre.

“My brother was not even 16 yet. He had just finished the 8th grade,” the woman said, adding that some of the other young boys who were killed had recently graduated from 10th grade, some passing their classes with honors.

“The kids had formed a local security force because we had heard the soldiers set fire to houses when they leave a village.”

“It was raining hard when the armed clash took place, and their Tumee hunting rifles didn’t fire, and that’s why our young heroes had to give up their lives,” she said, referring to the antique rifles now used by villagers desperate to defend themselves against government forces.

“We can’t even flee our homes in peace, since we can’t go back to recover their bodies. When the mothers return, they won’t be able to find their sons,” she said.

Ten of those killed in Myin-thar on Sept. 9 were found lying in a group in a nearby field, one villager said, speaking to RFA like other villagers on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“At least 11 houses were set on fire that day, and 19 people were killed, a few of them during the initial shelling in the attack,” the source said. “Ten bodies were later found in a group in the sesame fields. The rest died near their homes.”

“Witnesses said that two or three of these died right away, and that when the rest turned back to get them they were arrested by the soldiers, and it seems they were then shot at close range. It was very gruesome,” he said.

Three more people from Myin-thar and Mway Le village were killed that day, and on Sept. 10 two residents of Yay Shin village were also killed, making a total of 24 civilians killed during the two days of attacks.

Sources have told RFA that Myanmar troops have repeatedly raided villages in the Magway region since the beginning of September, destroying homes and arresting and killing villagers. Young people are often accused of being dissidents or People’s Defense Force members, and are sometimes tortured and killed under questioning.

Elderly villagers are also not spared, residents say.

Calls seeking comment from Myanmar military spokesman Zaw Min Tun received no replies this week.

The bodies of Myin-thar villagers killed by Myanmar junta military forces are shown on Sept. 10, 2021. Photo: Citizen Journalist

'Unacceptable anywhere'

The killings of civilians reported in Magway should be considered war crimes, said Aung Myo Min, Minister for Human Rights in the shadow National Unity Government (NUG) set up in opposition to rule by the military.

“Any crime against civilians is a crime under the law and a violation of human rights,” Aung Myo Min said. “These people were not killed while fighting or running. They were tortured and killed, and some were shot in the head.”

Another victim was found killed after his genitals were mutilated, he said.

“These were not casualties of war but intentional atrocities—which are unacceptable anywhere, and for anyone.”

Kyee Myint, a veteran Myanmar lawyer, said that the killing of civilians and captives taken in battle by Myanmar forces in Magway and other parts of the country should be reported to the UN Commission on Human Rights.

“Prisoners of war should not be killed,” he said.

“These incidents are happening now because opposition groups are only speaking big words and are unable to provide any assistance—material or financial—or to protect the young people who are taking up arms on their behalf,” he said.

Myanmar’s People’s Defense Forces do not constitute formed armies, said Brad Adams, Asia director at New York-based Human Rights Watch. “So we do not see these [killings] as war crimes. Instead, we see them as human rights abuses.”

“Some people seem to think that a war crime is worse than an extrajudicial killing. It’s not any worse, it’s just a term that people recognize,” he said.

War crimes take place in situations of armed conflict, though, said Matthew Smith of the rights group Fortify Rights.

“[These] allegations of torture or murder are consistent with what we’ve documented in the military crackdown since Feb. 1, and they’re also consistent with the military’s longstanding behavior in the areas of armed conflict for many, many years.”

“It’s the military’s ongoing impunity that allows these types of atrocities to continue,” he said.

In the seven months since the Feb. 1 coup, security forces have killed 1,108 civilians and arrested at least 6,591, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)—many during crackdowns on anti-junta protests.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Richard Finney.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Vietnam’s President to Visit Cuba for COVID-19 Vaccine Assistance

The once exemplary Vietnam has been brought to its knees by a fourth wave of the coronavirus.

Vietnam’s President to Visit Cuba for COVID-19 Vaccine Assistance

Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, whose country is in the throes of its worst coronavirus outbreak, will travel to Cuba this weekend to enlist the Caribbean fellow communist country’s help in fighting against the pandemic, Hanoi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced.

Phuc’s three-day visit comes at the invitation of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who agreed during a phone discussion in August that Cuba would donate 10 million doses of its homegrown COVID-19 vaccine, Abdala, before the end of the year. Phuc will also attend the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Cuba, which has said Abdala was 92.28% effective against SARS-CoV-2 during clinical trials in June, also will send a team to Vietnam to transfer its vaccine production technology.

The meeting follows a trip by National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue to Europe to seek vaccine assistance earlier this month, part of a campaign to step up vaccinations rates in Vietnam. Hanoi has so far fully inoculated only five percent of its 98 million people.

Vietnam had been among the most effective countries in tackling COVID-19, reporting no deaths among its 95 million people through late July 2020—a record that was attributed to effective contact tracing, strict quarantines, and early testing.

After successfully weathering three separate waves of the virus with confirmed cases numbering in the low thousands, a fourth wave arrived in April 2021. As of Friday, the country has reported 663,232 cases of the deadly virus and 16,637 deaths.

During the fourth wave, the country locked down its largest cities and forbade residents from leaving their houses except to procure food, a move that has led to widespread unemployment and loss of income.

But even as the harsh measures dragged on, reported cases continued to climb.

Looking beyond COVAX

Most of the vaccines administered in Vietnam so far come from the World Health Organization’s COVAX program. Now Hanoi is looking to procure more from other countries.

Cuba has fully vaccinated 38.5 percent of its population using doses from China’s SinoPharm as well as its own vaccines, for which it is seeking WHO approval.

Vietnam is also racing to roll out its own homegrown vaccines, with four under development, two of which are undergoing clinical trials.

Vietnam’s National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control and the Vietnam Fatherland Front Central Committee on Thursday launched a fundraising website which called on the Vietnamese diaspora to contribute to the country’s fight against the pandemic.

The Committee’s President Do Van Chien said the government had limited resources, so is calling on society to join hands in combating the epidemic, particularly ensuring the wellbeing of the poor, the disadvantaged, the unfortunate and unemployed by making contributions to the national vaccine fund.

“This will help bring the country back to normalcy,” he said. 

Running out of money

 Also at the event, Pham Quang Hieu, the vice minister of foreign affairs and chairman of the Vietnam State Committee for Overseas Vietnamese Affairs, handed over a donation of one billion dong (U.S. $44,100) collected from people of Vietnamese descent living in Britain, Japan, Ukraine, and the U.S.

According to Vietnam’s state media, the overseas Vietnamese community has contributed over 60 billion dong ($2.65 million). 

The fundraising efforts came as Vietnamese Finance Minister Ho Duc Phoc told the National Assembly that Vietnam’s budget was so tight that it “almost has no money left.”

The widespread lockdowns and social distancing measures decreased the government’s tax revenue in half, as the most restricted areas were the highly populated industrial hubs, the minister said.

The revelation comes ahead of discussions over an assistance package for businesses, possibly hinting that the package will be smaller than what business owners are expecting. 

The minister also said that the most urgent thing to do now was to find a way to open for business as soon as possible. 

Vietnam has shifted from eliminating COVID-19 completely, which authorities dubbed the “Zero F0” strategy, to accepting that the virus would be among the population and trying to live in a way to protect public health, state media reported.

Many people in Vietnam have lost their jobs and income due to the measures, and staying locked down indefinitely is unsustainable, state media reported Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam as saying at a meeting between the government’s Special COVID-19 Taskforce and the leaders of the country’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City.

He recommended that Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong province and other pandemic hotspot areas discontinue the “Zero F0” strategy and prepare to live with the ongoing pandemic.

In the capital Hanoi, Nguyen Khac Dinh, head of the National Assembly Standing Committee’s Working Group on Implementing Resolutions related to COVID-19 Prevention and Control, told state media that his outfit had begun discussing a plan on “living safely with the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

 As of Friday, Vietnam has reported 663,232 cases of the deadly virus and 16,637 deaths.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service, Nawar Nemeh and Eugene Whong. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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