No Sight of UN Coordinated Humanitarian Efforts as Junta Intensifies Conflict, Violence and Cuts off Internet

September 27th, 2021  •  Author: Progressive Voice  •  10 minute read
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“They are frightening the people here by blocking the internet and the information flow. They also frighten us with their helicopters, drones and gunboats. This is a kind of psychological war against our people,”

Peoples’ Defence Force spokesperson

The National Unity Government’s (NUG) declaration of its ‘people’s defensive war’ against the Myanmar military on 7 September, 2021 has been a turning point in the Spring Revolution. This is a unifying effort to completely disavow the actions of the military junta through an armed resistance and political defiance, aimed at creating a fully-fledged federal democracy. For many, the lack of concerted efforts and concrete actions by the international community to end the unrelenting violence and cruelty of the military junta has forced the people into defensive actions to push back against the military junta. Amidst this announcement, the military junta continues to perpetuate its terror campaign through deliberate attacks, arrests, killings, looting, destruction of property and internet cuts – adding to an already dire humanitarian situation.

One clear pattern and tactic employed by the military junta in their terror campaign against the people is to shut down the internet. This serves two main purposes, one is to shield the military’s abuses by blocking the flow of information into and out of conflict areas, and secondly, to instil fear through the threat of imminent violence under the cover of an internet blackout.  Last week, internet access in most townships in Mandalay, Sagaing and Magway regions were blocked by the military junta which drew speculation about escalating attacks. These regions are anti-junta strongholds for the armed resistance, which the military junta has attempted to take control of. In Kani Township, the military junta raided villages after blocking telephone and internet access in August, with many locals fearing further violence. “They are frightening the people here by blocking the internet and the information flow. They also frighten us with their helicopters, drones and gunboats. This is a kind of psychological war against our people,” a Peoples’ Defence Force spokesperson told The Irrawaddy.

Meanwhile, the military junta continues to wage war in ethnic regions of Myanmar with increased militarization near villages and unrelenting attacks on civilians, such as in Kachin State where shelling has hit the Kachin Independence Organization’s headquarters in Laiza and indiscriminate shooting in Myitkyina at the 21 Mile checkpoint. On 13 September, a woman was shot dead in her car by the military junta as they advanced on the Kachin Independence Army in Tanai Township. Escalating conflict in Kachin State led to an influx of more Myanmar military soldiers to Tanai, and to ethnic regions on the whole, as the military junta desperately seeks to gain any semblance of control. Similarly in Karen State, the military junta has stationed themselves near villages, commandeered homes and monasteries as makeshift barracks. In Paingkalandon, 100 junta soldiers have taken up positions in homes and monasteries causing alarm, as they were forced to cede their homes to the soldiers. One villager told Karen News “We’re afraid there will be fighting, but we still have to work for our livelihood.”

As conflict continues, so do the impacts on civilians and internally displaced persons (IDPs), whose lives have been completely up-ended or destroyed due to previous and current conflict.  Many are forced to flee fighting, abandon their homes, property, crops and livelihood for destitution and reliance on humanitarian support. Yet, currently humanitarian aid is not able to reach those in the most dire conditions, and the military junta continues to block, destroy or impede the distribution. Recently, the military junta rebuffed the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’s request for greater humanitarian access for COVID-19 relief, when the need for medicine, oxygen, PPE and technical medical expertise is at critical levels.

For instance, in Shan State’s Kyaukme IDP camp, half of the over 2,000 IDPs have contracted COVID-19 with 62 people dying – compounding an already horrendous situation. Thus, given these incredible obstacles created by the Myanmar military in inhibiting the distribution of aid, there has to be a shift in methodology by the international community. This is the focus of a recently published briefing paper by 10 Civil Society Organizations, Nowhere to Run: Deepening Humanitarian Crisis in Myanmar, which highlights the agency of trusted local organizations and networks to provide aid for their communities, as opposed to the murderous junta. Additionally, the paper calls on international actors to work with cross border organizations, in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and placing emphasis on human rights principles, conflict sensitivity and the ‘do no harm’ principles, rather than placing the principle of neutrality as the paramount consideration.

The international community has deferred the political, humanitarian and COVID-19 crises in Myanmar to ASEAN, which so far has been inept and slow to act. Last week, ASEAN’s Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) provided $1.1 million USD to Myanmar’s Red Cross for medical supplies and equipment in response to COVID-19 after months of inaction. Yet, this action falls well short of what is required, given the magnitude and scale of the COVID-19 pandemic and does not address the humanitarian crisis resulting from this military’s attempted coup and terror campaign at all. Progressive Voice and FORUM-ASIA published a briefing paper in August outlining the lack of capacity and independence of the AHA Centre to mitigate these crises – as it is primarily a disaster response body ill equipped to navigate the multi-layered political issues and humanitarian crisis that Myanmar military has created. Furthermore, the Myanmar’s Red Cross (MRC) has also shown a lack of conflict sensitivity and neutrality as it has always been an auxiliary wing of the Myanmar military. Thus, there remains a huge deficit of trust and lack of confidence in the MRC, especially in ethnic areas. For example, the MRC attended the Myanmar military’s Armed Forces Day event in the wake of the coup on 27 March, the same day 79 protesters were killed in cold blood by the military junta.

In the wake of grave human rights violations, there is no sight of a UN coordinated humanitarian effort to end this suffering. Going forward the international community and donor organizations must redistribute aid through local community organizations and cross border channels to ensure aid reaches those most in need. The Myanmar military has illustrated through its actions time and time again that places no value on human rights and the dignity of human life. Local community based organizations and networks and ethnic health organizations are best placed to provide assistance to the people and communities in need, as they are part of these communities and have served them through decades of conflict. These organizations have repeatedly called for assistance to be provided urgently and through flexible means without burdensome barriers to accessing funds. Concurrently, the international humanitarian response must be a UN coordinated humanitarian intervention led by the Secretary General and supported by the UN Security Council, while ensuring local leadership and decision making is conducted in equal partnership with these local organizations in full respect of their agency. Such coordinated efforts are integral to support the people on the ground as they fight to stop the military’s violence and atrocities, and realize genuine federal democracy.

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[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

actions

Statements and Press Releases

Statement regarding the internet cutoff in many townships in Sagaing Region and others areas, and recent events happening throughout the country

By 98 Organizations from Sagaing Region

Open Letter in Support of Continuing Recognition of Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun as Myanmar’s Permanent Representative at the UN General Assembly

By 358 Myanmar and International Civil Society Organizations

Civil society calls on UN to Retain Myanmar’s Ambassador U Kyaw Moe Tun’s accreditation to the UN, amid fears Myanmar people could be ‘robbed of their rightful voice’ by the military junta

By 358 Myanmar and International Civil Society Organizations

ASEAN delivers medical support for COVID-19 response to the People of Myanmar

By Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Morrison Government must not recognise Myanmar military dictatorship at UN General Assembly

By Australian Council of Trade Unions

The UN Credentials Committee Must Reject Junta’s Claim

By Burma Human Rights Network

Chinland Defense Force – Mara ၏ ထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Chinland Defense Force – Mara

CDM လှုပ်ရှားမှုတွင်ပါဝင်ရန် ဆန္ဒရှိသော တပ်မတော်သားများ၊ ရဲသားများနှင့် ဌါနဆိုင်ရာလူကြီးများအား ဖိတ်ခေါ်ချက်

By Chinland Defense Force – Hakha

Statement on International Day of Democracy 2021

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Open letter to MAN SE regarding Sinotruk’s business dealings with Myanmar’s military

By FIAN Deutschland, Info Birmanie, Justice For Myanmar, Reporter ohne Grenzen, Stiftung Asienhaus, urgewald and U.S. Campaign for Burma

U.N. Member States: Recognize Credentials of Myanmar Representative Kyaw Moe Tun

By Fortify Rights

ကြားကာလရန်ကုန်တက္ကသိုလ်ကောင်စီ အမိန့်အမှတ် (၁/၂၀၂၁)

By Interim University Council – University of Yangon

Myanmar: Military junta intensifies hostility towards media workers

By International Federation of Journalists

Announcement: 2021 MacBride Peace Prize recipients

By International Peace Bureau

KNDF ၏ တိုက်ပွဲအခြေအနေထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း (၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ်၊ စက်တင်ဘာလ (၁၇) ရက်နေ့။)

By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force

KNDF ၏ တိုက်ပွဲအခြေအနေထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း (၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ်၊ စက်တင်ဘာလ (၁၆) ရက်နေ့။)

By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force

KNDF ၏ တိုက်ပွဲအခြေအနေထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း (၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ်၊ စက်တင်ဘာလ (၁၄) ရက်နေ့။)

By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force

“ကိုလှမျိုးထွဋ် ကျဆုံးခြင်းနှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ ပေးပို့သော ဝမ်းနည်းကြောင်း သဝဏ်လွှာ”

By Meiktila University of Economics Students’ Union

National Unity Government of Myanmar – Weekly Press Release (15/2021)

By National Unity Government

National Unity Government – Press Release (14/2021)

By National Unity Government

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ပညာရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ကြေညာချက်အမှတ်(၃၂/၂၀၂၁) – အသိအမှတ်ပြုကြောင်းကြေညာခြင်း

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ပညာရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ကြေညာချက်အမှတ်(၃၁/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)

Statement on submission of update on human rights situations in Sagaing and Magway Regions to UN Human Rights Council

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)

“မြန်မာ့ဂေါ်ရခါး ဒီမိုကရေစီလှုပ်ရှားမှု (Gurkha Movement for Democracy in Myanmar) အားအသိအမှတ်ပြုဂုဏ်ပြုလွှာ”

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Planning, Finance and Investment)

National Unity Government Ministry of Planning, Finance and Investment: Announcement 11/2021 – Special announcement prohibiting proposed sale of public estate belonging to diplomatic missions of Myanmar and declaring any purchase thereof to be unlawful

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Planning, Finance and Investment)

အမျိုးသားကျန်းမာရေးကော်မတီ (NHC)၊ COVID-19 ကာကွယ်ထိန်းချုပ်ကုသရေးအဖွဲ့ (CTF) – ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက် ၂/၂၀၂၁

By National Health Committee – Myanmar

Two more journalists arrested in Myanmar’s continuing crackdown

By Reporters Without Borders

Statement to the Human Rights Council by Mr. Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, on the 48th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council

By United Nations

reports

Reports

New Briefing Paper by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland Condemns Privacy Violations & Increased Surveillance by the Junta

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

Myanmar : Civil Unrest Response – Operation update n° 1 (MDRMM016)

By International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies

Yetagun: The Japanese Government’s Involvement in Natural Gas Development in Myanmar

By Mekong Watch

Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

Factsheet: United Nations General Assembly Accreditation for Myanmar

By Progressive Voice and ALTSEAN-Burma

Written updates of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of human rights in Myanmar (A/HRC/48/67) (Advance Unedited Version)

By United Nations Human Rights Council

Women’s League of Burma – August Situation Update

By Women’s League of Burma


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.”

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