No Holds Barred: Myanmar Junta Grabs Family Members to Get at Wanted Protesters

One critic likened the hostage-taking tactic to “the work of a terror gang."

No Holds Barred: Myanmar Junta Grabs Family Members to Get at Wanted Protesters

Facing unrelenting popular resistance to military rule three months after they ousted the elected government , Myanmar’s junta has increasingly turned to hostage taking – grabbing family members to force wanted opponents to surrender, legal experts and rights activists said Thursday. 

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Myanmar, a Thailand-based NGO that gas tracked more than 770 killings of civilians and more than 3,700 arrests since the Feb. 1 army takeover, has also document 40 people who have been taken hostage by the military to get at opponent of the junta or supporters of the shadow government.

The well-known film actor couple Pyay Ti Oo and his Aindra Kyaw Zin are now in detention at Shwe Pyi Tha Interrogation camp, charged with incitement under Section 50(a) of the Penal Code, after turning themselves in to protect their children, a friend told RFA.

“They (police and soldiers) asked the family to call them back. They threatened to arrest the children and family if they don't show up,” said a source close to the couple.

Families of members of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) of work stoppages by professionals including teachers, civil servants, bankers and doctors are a major target, as are relatives of supporters of the new National Unity Government (NUG), made up of ousted lawmakers and ethnic minority leaders.

In the Mandalay region of central Myanmar, the military and police raided the home of a schoolteacher involved in the anti-military movement and arrested her mother and younger brother, a second bother said.

"She is a school teacher who had joined the CDM. About 40 soldiers and police raided the house one day without any arrest warrant being issued. And our mother and brother were arrested because they could not find her,” he told RFA.

Soldiers also searched the home of Yan Naing Lin, an electrician in the Bago Division of central Myanmar, seizing his wife, mother and brother without releasing them for about three weeks, he said from hiding.

"I haven’t been able to contact them since April 15th. I can’t find out where they are detained. Their main thing is to get me. I don’t know whether they will release my family or not if I surrender,” Yan Naing Lin told RFA.

Illegal everywhere

The military has accused him of making a hand grenade, he said, adding that he is unable to produce evidence to support his innocence and he isn’t sure his family would be released even if he cooperates.

According to local media reports, incidents of hostage-taking have become more frequent, with most of those detained to force the surrender of a wanted relative remaining in custody.

Khin Maung Zaw, one of the lawyers for deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, said the tactic is illegal everywhere.

"In every country, the law permits action to be taken only against the perpetrator and no one else can be prosecuted in his place,” he told RFA.

Taking hostages to pursue suspects “is not the action of an organization that works with a constitution and existing laws.” Said journalist Si Thu Aung Myint

“It is more like the work of a terror gang," he said.

The brutal crackdown on anyone who has been involved in anti-government protests have driven many demonstrators and NUG supporters into hiding. 

"Ever since we decided to join the CDM, we have considered the consequences,” said a doctor in Mandalay, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“We knew we could lose our jobs, our licenses could be revoked, and we might have to go to jail. We might even get killed. But we never thought our children, our families would be harmed. This is worrisome.”

Security forces walk past shops as they search for protesters, who were taking part in a demonstration against the military coup, in downtown Yangon, May 6, 2021. Credit: AFP

Hindu, Chinese woman killed

The military's actions transcend simple human rights abuses, said Nicky Diamond, of the NGO Fortify Rights.

"Not only are they violating human rights. Their actions are so vicious that they are violating the obligations of the military to protect the people of the country,” he told RFA.

RFA tried to contact Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun to ask about the allegations but reporters phone calls to the junta spokesman went unanswered.

The family of Aung Khaing Myint, 33, were told Wednesday to inspect his body, they told RFA.

“We saw his body at the 1,000 bed hospital in Shwedaung. They said he was arrested in connection with the bombing of Innwa Bank in Sagaing and that he had died after jumping out of the car following the arrest,” said a relative.

“They didn’t show us the whole body – just the face – and we saw beating marks on his cheeks and throat and bruises on his chin,” the family member said.

“We are Hindus and told them we need to hold our religious rites but they refuse to give the body back,” added the bereaved family member

In Mandalay, junta soldiers shot two ethnic Chinese Myanmar nationals who were coming home after getting coronavirus vaccinations at a local hospital, killing one and wounding the other, said witness.

“A passing motorcyclist was showing a three-finger salute and the soldiers fired four shots at him but instead hit the Chinese couple on another motorcycle,” the source said.

“The woman was hit in the face and died on the spot but the guy who got hit near the jawline was taken for medical treatment to Nandwin hospital.  The woman’s body was taken to Chinese Yunnan Temple after an autopsy,” said the witness.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Duterte Apologizes for Getting Unauthorized Vaccine, Sends Doses Back to China

The Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese government for emergency use among the general population.

Duterte Apologizes for Getting Unauthorized Vaccine, Sends Doses Back to China

President Rodrigo Duterte apologized to the Philippine public after he was criticized for being inoculated this week with an unauthorized COVID-19 vaccine which food and drug regulators have not approved for local emergency use.

In a late-night address on Wednesday, Duterte said he told the Chinese envoy to Manila to take back the 1,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine that Beijing had donated to the Philippines. The government had released photos of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III giving Duterte a shot of the vaccine on Monday.

“So we are sorry. You are right. We are wrong,” Duterte said. “By tomorrow or the next day, Sinopharm will be gone."

“We accept responsibility. I myself had already been injected upon my doctor’s suggestion. Anyway, it’s my life,” he said. 

The Food and Drug Administration had permitted the Sinopharm vaccine donated by the Chinese government for “compassionate use” but the agency has not approved it for emergency-use among the general population. 

“You withdraw all Sinopharm vaccines, 1,000 of them. I said just send the Sinovac that everyone is using,” Duterte said, referring to another Chinese-produced vaccine, millions of doses of which have been sent to the Philippines.

Duterte said he received the Sinopharm shot because his doctors had advised him to get vaccinated. 

Despite Duterte’s order to get rid of the vaccine, spokesman Harry Roque said on Thursday that the president would receive his second Sinopharm dose in three to four weeks.

Duterte acknowledged that opposition politicians, including Sen. Leila de Lima, were right to question him about receiving the Sinopharm vaccine.

“Is it too much to ask for our president to obey the law,” de Lima asked in a Twitter post on Tuesday. “There are other vaccines available, but he had to use the ones that were smuggled.”

In January, Duterte quashed investigations to determine how members of his bodyguard team had received the Sinopharm vaccine in September and October 2020 when no vaccine had been approved or procured in the country.

“To Congress, do not tinker with the PSG. Don’t force my hand,” Duterte said in a nationally televised address at that time, referring to the Presidential Security Group.

He said the guards received the Sinopharm vaccine because they wanted to protect him and themselves from the coronavirus disease.

In his Wednesday evening address, Duterte also ordered police to arrest people who do not wear their facemasks properly during the pandemic.

“My orders to the police are, those who are not working their masks properly, in order to protect the public … arrest them and detain them, investigate them to determine why they are doing it,” Duterte said.

“If I don’t not tighten the rules, nothing will happen. I’m having a hard time here,” he said. “Our funds are running out and yet you continue to act recklessly. You will really end up at the police station.”

Millions of doses

Chinese firm Sinovac has a contract with the government to supply vaccines. It has delivered 3.5 million doses and another 1.5 million are expected to be delivered this week, according to Philippine health officials.

The total doses of vaccines already delivered to the Philippines is slightly more than 4 million, of which about half have been administered, officials said. 

Along with the 3.5 million Sinovac doses, the Philippines has received 525,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the World Health Organization’s COVAX facility and 15,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.

On Thursday, the health department reported 6,637 new COVID-19 infections and 191 deaths – pushing the totals to more than 1 million infections and nearly 18,000 deaths since the pandemic began.

On April 27, the government banned travelers from India where a highly contagious strain of COVID-19 originated. In a news release on Thursday, the health department reported that five people who had traveled from India in April tested positive for COVID-19 but made no mention about the variant.

The strain, known as the B.1.617 Variant, was reported in October and has led to a massive surge of cases in India in recent weeks.

India has recorded more than 21 million infections – second only to the United States – and more than 230,000 deaths, according to disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University. In the past day, South Asia’s largest nation recorded more than 400,000 new infections.

Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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