Southeast Asia

Dateline Southeast Asia – Updates on Myanmar military coup

Dateline Southeast Asia – Updates on Myanmar military coup


The first day of February jolted Southeast Asia after Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of Myanmar, was arrested along with other key officials in a morning raid.

The military later declared a coup, putting Myanmar under a state of emergency, after an election they denounced as fraudulent.

Get updated on this – and more about neighboring countries – through Dateline Southeast Asia, Rappler’s dynamic wrap of the latest in the region.

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UN rights chief urges ASEAN to move on Myanmar dialogue


The United Nations top human rights official called on ASEAN countries on Wednesday, July 7, to launch a political dialogue with the military junta and the democratically elected leadership in Myanmar, with support from the international community.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc agreed a five-point consensus in April, “but unfortunately the Myanmar military leadership have shown little sign of abiding by it,” Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council.

“It is urgent for ASEAN to appoint a special envoy or team to get some kind of political dialogue underway. I encourage ASEAN to engage with the democratic leadership and civil society, not just the military front,” she told the Geneva forum.

Myanmar junta to release 700 prisoners from Yangon’s Insein jail


Myanmar’s authorities will free around 700 prisoners from Yangon’s Insein jail on Wednesday, June 30, prison chief Zaw Zaw told Reuters, in a release that is expected to include some of the thousands of people detained for opposing military rule.

The prison chief said he did not have a list of those being released, but BBC Burmese language news reported it would include people accused of incitement after speaking out against the coup.

A crowd of people gathered ahead of the release outside the Insein prison, a colonial-era jail on the outskirts of the commercial hub of Yangon, photographs on social media showed.

The Myanmar Now news portal reported that across the country about 2,000 prisoners would be released. A prisons department official declined to comment.

Since the junta ousted the elected government of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, authorities have faced daily strikes that have paralyzed official and private business, while ethnic insurgencies, that have beset Myanmar for decades, have also flared up. Many people have been arrested under section 505A of the penal code, which criminalizes comments that could cause fear or spread false news and is punishable by up to three years in jail.

More than 5,200 people are being held in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group. It also says 883 people have been killed – a figure challenged by the junta.

On Tuesday, June 29, the army run Myawaddy television said authorities had dropped charges against 24 celebrities who had been declared wanted under the anti-incitement law after anti-government comments.

Actors, sportspeople, social media influencers, doctors and teachers have been among hundreds of people listed as wanted for opposing the junta.

Suu Kyi, 76, along with other members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party have been held in detention since the military overthrew her elected civilian government.

She is accused of a series of offenses ranging from bribery and violating coronavirus protocols to illegally possessing two-way radios and incitement to commit crimes against the state – allegations her lawyers reject.

The military said it took power after accusing Suu Kyi’s party of a manipulated vote that swept it to power in a November poll, though the election commission at the time rejected its complaints. The NLD said it won fairly.

Russia says to boost military ties with Myanmar as junta leader visits


Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told visiting junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing that Moscow is committed to strengthening military ties with Myanmar, Russia’s RIA news agency reported.

“We are determined to continue our efforts to strengthen bilateral ties based on the mutual understanding, respect and trust that have been established between our countries,” RIA quoted Shoigu as saying at a meeting late on Tuesday, June 22.

Min Aung Hlaing was in the Russian capital to attend a security conference this week.

Rights activists have accused Moscow of legitimizing Myanmar’s military junta, which came to power in a February 1 coup, by continuing bilateral visits and arms deals.

Russia said in March it was deeply concerned by the rising number of civilian deaths in Myanmar.

Defense ties between the two countries have grown in recent years with Moscow providing army training and university scholarships to thousands of soldiers, as well as selling arms to a military blacklisted by several Western countries.

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United Nations calls for halt of weapons to Myanmar


The United Nations General Assembly on Friday, June 18, called for a stop to the flow of arms to Myanmar and urged the military to respect November election results and release political detainees, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The General Assembly adopted a resolution with the support of 119 countries several months after the military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in a February 1 coup. Belarus requested the text be put to a vote and was the only country to oppose it, while 36 abstained, including China and Russia.

Read more here.

North Korea gives $300,000 for Myanmar in first financial aid since 2005


North Korea has provided $300,000 to a UN-led humanitarian aid initiative for Myanmar, marking its first donation to other countries since 2005, UN data showed on Thursday, June 17.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ financial tracking service showed that North Korea paid the contribution on May 24 to the Myanmar Humanitarian Fund.

Read more here.

Myanmar’s renewed war scatters tens of thousands to forests


Some camps dotted in the forest have a few dozen people, some more than a thousand. The displaced sleep packed together under plastic sheeting for protection from Myanmar’s monsoon rains.

Food is short and there are signs of disease spreading, according to people who have fled recent fighting in eastern Myanmar’s Kayah State – just one of several conflicts to surge since the February 1 coup toppled elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Read more here.

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Myanmar junta media accuse ethnic army of killing 25 workers


Myanmar’s junta-controlled media on Monday, June 14, accused an ethnic armed group of killing 25 construction workers in the east of the country after abducting a group of 47 people last month.

Reuters was unable to reach the Karen National Defense Organization (KNDO) for comment on the accusation. The junta spokesman did not answer calls to seek further comment.

Read more.

UN rights commissioner warns of escalating Myanmar violence


The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights warned on Friday, June 11, of intensifying violence in Myanmar and condemned the army’s “outrageous” use of heavy weapons, while urging a wider diplomatic effort to pressure the ruling generals.

Michelle Bachelet said the junta had shown no willingness to implement a five-point consensus it agreed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in April to halt violence and start dialogue with its opponents.

Bachelet, whose requests to visit Myanmar in April were denied, said there were credible reports that in Kayah State, civilians were being used as human shields and the army was shelling homes and churches, which had forced more than 108,000 people to flee, with little food, water or sanitation, and humanitarian access was blocked.

“There appear to be no efforts towards de-escalation but rather a build-up of troops in key areas, contrary to the commitments the military made to ASEAN to cease the violence,” Bachelet said in a statement.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since a February 1 coup ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government, unleashing daily protests and strikes that have paralyzed the economy, and fighting in borderlands between the armed forces and ethnic minority guerrilla forces and militias.

A junta spokesman did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

The Southeast Asian mediation effort has made little progress, with ASEAN’s foreign ministers, China and Japan among several countries this week stressing the importance of the peace plan being implemented.

The United Nations, Western countries and China all back the ASEAN effort, but the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, has paid little heed to that and instead touted the progress of its own five-step plan towards a new election.

Bachelet encouraged the intensification of diplomacy, including from influential states, and said dialogue was urgently needed with all political stakeholders, including a shadow government made up of opponents of military rule.

Two ASEAN envoys visited Myanmar last week and met top junta officials, including military chief Min Aung Hlaing, a trip that was criticized by pro-democracy groups, who say they are being shut out.

“The international community needs to unify in its demand that the Tatmadaw cease the outrageous use of heavy artillery against civilians and civilian objects,” Bachelet said.

“The military leadership is singularly responsible for this crisis, and must be held to account.”

She also said newly formed civilian forces, known as People’s Defense Forces, and other armed groups, must take all measures to keep civilians away from harm.

Bachelet also said she was deeply troubled by detentions and reports or torture.

According to the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group, 5,965 people been arrested since the coup. Of those, 4,804 remain in prison, interrogation centers, and under house arrest.

At least 860 people have been killed, 22 of those from torture during detention, the AAPP.

The junta has branded its opponents terrorists and outlawed many organizations, including the AAPP.