Anti-junta forces in Myanmar have killed at least a dozen army-appointed low-level officials since the Feb. 1 coup – actions the military regime calls terrorism, but which the country’s shadow government says are legitimate acts of war against an illegitimate dicatorship.
The junta has described supporters of ousted State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) Party, the National Unity Government (NUG) formed by ousted NLD lawmakers, and various regional Peoples Defense Forces (PDF) as extremists responsible for murdering its appointed officials.
At a news conference on June 12, the junta’s deputy information minister, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, said 173 innocent people, including the administrators, had been killed by the NLD and its supporters.
According to statistics kept by the military, 173 people were killed in the period between the coup on Feb. 1 and April 15, and 156 since then. There are no reports from independent organizations regarding either figure.
“There are acts of vandalism committed by NLD members and extremists. We have lists of those killed and injured in their destructive activities,” said Zaw Min Tun at a press conference.
“We will give these lists to the media. A total of 198 schools have been bombed, 50 schools have been set on fire and 173 innocents have been killed,” he said, without elaborating.
The attacks should not be classified as acts of terrorism because they were made in in retaliation against the armed coup and the dictatorial regime, NUG Defense Minister Ye Mon told RFA.
“Attacking the military council is not terrorism. It’s just war. We call it a just war because they have forcefully seized power from the elected people’s government… People will decide who the terrorist organization is. History will decide.” Ye Mon said, adding that the junta is also guilty of war crimes against Myanmar’s ethnic minority communities.
RFA’s Myanmar Service was able to document a dozen killings of junta-imposed administrators.
The pro-democracy forces first killed 39-year-old Okkar, administrator of Homalin Township in the country’s northwestern Sagaing region on April 15. In May, two village officials and a village administrator the northern state of Kachin were killed.
As those who oppose the junta became more organized, more deaths of low-level officials followed.
In June, Soe Soe Lwin and Hla Oo, two junta officials administering parts of the country’s largest city Yangon were killed.
Soe Soe Lwin was ward administrator of Yangon’s Tamwe township. She died when a bomb exploded at her apartment building on June 8.
A local resident who declined to be named told RFA’s Myanmar Service that Soe Soe Lwin had been targeted for supporting the junta.
“During her tenure she… had acted as an informer. She was killed as an informer to the military,” the resident said.
Pro-democracy forces in June also killed the administrator of Bamar Aye ward in Yangon’s Dawbon township, as well as administrators in Mandalay, and the Magway, Sagaing and Tanintharyi regions.
Additionally, the family members of junta officials have lost their lives.
Two adult daughters of the administrator of Kyiwa village in the Sagaing region’s Debayin township, Hla Sandar, 45, and Than Than Sint, 35, a schoolteacher at Sap Pya Kyin Village Basic Education High School were killed on June 13.
“Administrators appointed by the military council are often not accepted by the people. It can be said that they acted against the people,” a resident of the village told RFA.
“What the administrators said and did could have endangered the safety of the residents. We think it’s possible that they were killed because of such acts,” the resident said.
A statement released by the junta on Monday said the two women were killed by Tin Maung Myo, 30, from the same village, and Soe Zeyar, 25, a primary school teacher at Kyi Ywa Basic Education High School, who was part of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), the nationwide anti-junta movement of white collar professionals refusing to work.
A resident told RFA that the military’s allegations could not be substantiated because there were no eyewitnesses of the killings.
In light of the attacks on government officials, other administrators appointed by the junta have resigned for security situation. Residents say this has caused major inefficiencies in the day-to-day bureaucracy.
More than 50 village administrators in the Sagaing region’s Kalemyo township resigned, with only seven administrators remaining at their posts.
One former administrator told RFA that he could not continue because he worried for his family.
“We do not want our families to be cut off from the people and I don’t want to be caught in between the two sides,” the administrator, who requested anonymity for security reasons told RFA.
“I had no worries in my area or with any of the villagers under my charge, but there are all kinds of people so I can’t say for sure. That is why we have to be careful,” the former administrator said.
The former administrator said that community elders were forced to take charge of community affairs in their absence.
Sai Kyi Zin Soe, a human rights researcher, told RFA that tolerance for differences in political opinion in Myanmar have evaporated.
“We now see that simple matters that could easily be resolved escalate into violence. The military is always using violence to deal with protesters, and they have launched brutal ‘clearing operations’ in several areas,” he said.
“A terrorist organization could be borne out of such bitter violence. If grieving people get their hands on weapons, it would be easy for them to resort to violence,” said Sai Kyi Zine Soe.
According to statistics from the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), through Thursday 865 people have been killed by the junta, while 4962 have been arrested
But junta chief Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, has said in an online interview with China-based Phoenix news agency that only about 300 people had been killed.
“I can’t say [the situation] is now 100 percent under control. There are still some destructive activities in some areas,” he said.
“The actual number [of dead] is around 300… There will be some casualties, when necessary, responses are made,” he said, while claiming that the 300 deaths were the result of protesters turning to violence.
The continuing violence and bloodshed in Myanmar caused UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to warn that the country was on the brink a “humanitarian emergency.”
“As I had feared, armed conflict and other violence are intensifying in many parts of Myanmar, including Kayah State, Chin State and Kachin State, with the violence particularly intense in areas with significant ethnic and religious minority groups,” Bachelet said.
“State security forces have continued to use heavy weaponry, including airstrikes, against armed groups and against civilians and civilian objects, including Christian churches,” she said.
She called on the military to cease violence, appealing to their sense of duty to protect civilians, while also telling the several newly formed PDFs to be mindful of civilian safety.
“Rather than seeking dialogue, the military is branding its opponents as ‘terrorists’ and pursuing politically motivated charges against the democratic leadership,” Bachelet said.
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