Healing the Cuts

June 19th, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  9 minute read
Featured image

“Cut military leadership off financially, so they are unable to insulate themselves from hardships the rest of Myanmar is facing due to their actions, cut the weapons so they are no longer able to inflict harm and cut the impunity, so they are held accountable for their crimes, past and present.”

Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Last week, 9 June, 2021 marked the ten year anniversary since the resumption of conflict in Kachin State, when the Myanmar[1] military broke a ceasefire of 17 years, leading to fierce fighting and over 100,000 people displaced. However, this year amidst the unlawful coup attempt, the anniversary has been overshadowed and many Kachin have shifted their focus to the immense suffering being inflicted on their people and other ethnic peoples by the Myanmar military through intensified conflict and the concurrent humanitarian crisis.

In a recently released report by the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT), they outline the deliberate and horrific retaliatory nature of attacks by the Myanmar military on civilians after the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) attacked the military. Actions of the Myanmar military have been flagrant violations of international law. This includes reports of interrogating and torturing children as young as 15 for suspected links with the KIA, and killing unarmed civilians through shelling and at point blank range. KWAT reports that between 10 April and 24 May, artillery shelling on civilian areas around the Dawhpumyang-Momauk Highway led to 6,000 people being displaced, adding to the already 10,000 displaced from conflict in this area alone since 2011. Additionally, on 2 June the Myanmar military conducted airstrikes on Tanai Township, destroying a home and school and displacing half the town. These IDPs are in dire need of aid in the form of food, medical supplies and shelter from monsoon rains, aid which has been blocked by the Myanmar military, with the only viable route through cross-border channels or local Kachin humanitarian organizations.

The cutting of resources is part of the Myanmar military’s decades-long four cuts strategy (Phyet-Lay-Phyet) which they are ruthlessly pursuing in Kachin, Karen, Karenni, Shan and Chin States – cutting off food and aid, funds, intelligence and recruits from ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) and more recently the supporters of the Spring Revolution. This military strategy, in which civilians bear the brunt, was developed by the British in colonial Malaya, in an attempt to suppress the communist and national liberation uprising of the 1950s. As part of this four cuts strategy to cut off resources between EAOs and civilians, they target civilians by bombing schools, homes, churches and communal spaces to expel villagers from EAO areas. For those civilians who remain, they trap them, unable to escape and cut them off from the outside world leaving them susceptible to torture and sexual and gender-based violence at the hands of the Myanmar military. Often the Myanmar military will use a scorched earth policy on villages, clearing out by looting homes, burning rice, livestock and homes. This was seen most recently in Karenni State and Mindat, Chin State. In the modern iteration of the four cuts strategy, the Myanmar military uses the blocking of aid and food as a means to force the people into submission through starvation.

For those in Shan State this is also an all too familiar sight as 16 June, 2021 commemorates the 23rd Shan Human Rights Day, a day when in 1997 the Myanmar military massacred 56 villagers in Kunhing. This occured during a period of war perpetrated by the Myanmar military displacing 400,000 people in central and southern Shan State between 1996 -1998, resulted in the sexual assualt or rape of 600 women and wrecking havoc on the lives of those in 1,400 villages using a scorched earth policy. Shan Human Rights Foundation commemorated this day by reminding people of ongoing conflict and the exploitation of ethnic peoples’ natural resources, namely the damming of the Salween River for a Chinese hydroelectric project, 90 percent of which will power Chinese homes.

Compounding issues of humanitarian aid and displacement is the junta’s banning the operations of INGOs, or forcing them to sign new Memoranda of Understanding such as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) who operate crucial lifesaving treatments for more than 2,000 patients in Dawei who are afflicted with HIV and TB – no reason was given to MSF. Denial of life saving medical treatment is a serious affront to the right to healthcare and the right to life.

To raise awareness and galvanise support, many inside and outside Myanmar are defiantly participating in activities, such as the solidarity movement for the Rohingya which took place on Sunday 13 June. Supporters for the protection of the Rohingya wore black, posted pictures on social media with the hashtag #Black4Rohingya, accompanied by messages of solidarity and calls for the international community to ensure safety, healthcare, food and adequate shelter for Rohingya inside and outside of Myanmar. Rohingya activists wished to use the opportunity to raise concerns about the restrictions placed on Rohingya’s freedom of movement after a 140km fence is being erected around Cox’s Bazar camp by the Bangladesh Government, and the state of conditions on the isolated Bhashan Char Island where there are reports of beatings of Rohingya refugees, some of whom were forced to relocate without their informed consent. Another initiative is the Sister to Sister led Red Lipstick campaign, encouraging women to stand in solidarity against sexual and gender-based violence on 19 June, International Day for the Elimination for Sexual Violence during Conflict, asking participants to call out sexual and gender-based violence perpetrated by the Myanmar military and to honor the courage of victims who resist and those that stand with them. These activities build reliance and endurance, so that people on the ground in Myanmar feel supported and have a source of solidarity to keep them going.

The consistent message from Myanmar civil society from diverse backgrounds is for concerted and meaningful actions by the international community through a global arms embargo, targeted sanctions against military leadership and military affiliated business and a referral of the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. Echoing these calls is the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, with their three cuts – cut the weapons, cut the cash, cut the impunity. Cut military leadership off financially, so they are unable to insulate themselves from hardships the rest of Myanmar is facing due to their actions, cut the weapons so they are no longer able to inflict harm and cut the impunity, so they are held accountable for their crimes, past and present. Of additional and crucial importance is implementation of cross border aid to local civil society, outside the grips of the Myanmar military which will use it as a weapon of warfare. These collective meaningful external actions by the international community will aid the work that is being done by the people of Myanmar on the ground, supporting them in defeating the junta.

[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Civil Society and Myanmar People Issue Strong Condemnation of China’s Support for Min Aung Hlaing’s Coup

By 426 Civil Society Organizations

ASEAN: Failure to meet with all parties neglects ASEAN’s own five-point consensus

By 419 Civil Society Organisations

Torture to Death in Detention

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw acknowledges the Japanese House of Representatives’ decision to condemn the military coup in Burma

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

ကရင်အမျိုးသားလွတ်မြောက်ရေးတပ်မတော် စစ်ဦးစီးချုပ်၏ သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By General Saw Johnny, Karen National Liberation Army

Urgent Call for the Release of Myanmar filmmaker Ma Aeint

By International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk

Joint Statement from KHRG and KRW: The Construction of the Hatgyi Hydropower Plant Along the Salween River Must be Stopped

By Karen Human Rights Group and Karen Rivers Watch

မိုးဗြဲပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးတပ် ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် ၆/၂၀၂၁

By Mobye People Defense Force

မိုးဗြဲပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးတပ် ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် ၅/၂၀၂၁

By Mobye People Defense Force

မင်းကင်းမြို့နယ်ပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် – ၄/ ၂၀၂၁

By Mingin People Defense Force

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ပြည်ထဲရေး နှင့် လူဝင်မှုကြီးကြပ်ရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၁/၂၀၂၁)

By Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, National Unity Government

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ပြည်ထဲရေး နှင့် လူဝင်မှုကြီးကြပ်ရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ပြည်သူသို့ ပန်ကြားချက်

By Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, National Unity Government

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ အလုပ်သမားဝန်ကြီးဌာန ကြေငြာချက်အမှတ် ၁/၂၀၂၁

By Ministry of Labour, National Unity Government

H.E Dr. Sasa has sent a special appealing letter to Prime Minister of UK

By Ministry of International Cooperation Myanmar, National Unity Government

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၅/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government

လျှပ်စစ်နှင့် စွမ်းအင် ဝန်ကြီးဌာန ညွှန်ကြားချက်

By National Unity Government

National Unity Government Announcement (4/2021)

By National Unity Government

ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတမြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော် အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ၊ ဒုတိယသမ္မတ ဒူဝါလရှီးလက ကချင်ဒေသအတွင်း တကျော့ပြန်စစ်ပွဲပြန်ဖြစ်ခြင်း (၁၀) နှစ်ပြည့် ကျင်းပသည့် အခမ်းအနားသို့ ပေးပို့သည့် သဝဏ်လွှာ

By National Unity Government

Bachelet issues strong warning of imminent further bloodshed and suffering in Myanmar

By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

PHR Condemns Myanmar Military’s Arrest of Former Head of COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

By Physicians for Human Rights

Myanmar: More Than 100 Attacks on Schools in May

By Save the Children

G7 must fill vacuum left by UN and ASEAN

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Seafic Official Statement on the Arrest of Myanmar Filmmaker Ma Aeint

By Southeast Asia Fiction Film Lab

Statement by the United Nations in Myanmar on the Humanitarian Situation in the South-East

By United Nations Myanmar

World Kachin Congress Condemns Continued Brutality Against Civilians on 10-year Anniversary of Violated Ceasefire in Kachin State

By World Kachin Congress



Children Orphaned, Civilians Dead from Landmines, and Villager Shot by Burma Army in Karen State

By Free Burma Rangers

Mu Traw District Situation Update: Villagers protest against the military coup in Hpapun and K’Ma Maung towns, Lu Thaw Township, February to March 2021

By Karen Human Rights Group

Myanmar Emergency – UNHCR Regional Update – 1 June 2021

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”