SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 21 February 2024, Wednesday |

Myanmar Militia Group halts attacks on troops; Suu Kyi ‘confident’ in court

Following calls from local communities to stop violence that had damaged homes and displaced more than 100,000 people, a militia group in Myanmar’s conflict-torn Kayah State announced a halt to attacks on military sites on Tuesday.

The Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF), one of several civilian militias organized in recent weeks to fight a military coup on Feb. 1, claimed it had temporarily halted offensives but remained opposed to the takeover.

The KNDF issued a statement in which it urged people to unite.

People’s Defense Forces allied with pro-democracy groups have stifled the junta’s bid to impose order, but some activists say the well-equipped military’s use of heavy weapons in response to their attacks has put innocent lives in danger.

Myanmar has been in crisis since the military deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s administration in November, alleging her failure to address alleged election fraud. The ballot was deemed fair by international observers.

Suu Kyi appeared in court for the second day of her trial on Tuesday, facing a series of allegations that her supporters claim are unfounded and designed to terminate her political career.

Her lawyers declined to comment on Tuesday’s court hearings, but stated the 75-year-old was in better shape than she had been on the first day, when she appeared ill.

“She is resilient as always. She looks healthy,” said Min Min Soe, a member of Suu Kyi’s legal team. “We just realised that she is suffering toothache. Because she told us. If not, we would not know. She is strong and confident as before.”

Min Min Soe said the court addressed the charge of incitement. The case centres on efforts in the days after the coup by Suu Kyi’s allies to urge embassies and international organisations not to recognise the junta.

‘TREASONOUS’ OPPONENTS

The military has since outlawed many of its opponents, labelling them as treasonous or terrorists, including a self-proclaimed National Unity Government (NUG) that seeks to lobby the international community and prevent the junta from consolidating power.

The NUG declared the formation of Those’s Defence Personnel in early May, many of whom are equipped merely with hunting rifles, and who have been ambushing security forces in borderlands for weeks amid unmet requests for the release of people detained for participating in anti-coup protests.

A request for response from the NUG was not immediately returned, and a military spokeswoman did not return calls on Tuesday.

The KPDF’s proclamation came just days after the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, criticised the army’s “outrageous” deployment of heavy weaponry, notably in Kayah State in the country’s east, but asked militias to protect people.

The junta said Bachelet forgot to mention “acts of sabotage and terrorism” as well as “security forces’ sufferings and deaths” on Monday.

Amnesty International called for Suu Kyi’s release on Tuesday and slammed the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for “allowing the military’s killing rampage” through its non-interference policy.

The United Nations, as well as Western and Asian countries, have backed ASEAN’s role as a mediator in Myanmar’s issue, but some of its members have condemned the junta’s failure to carry out a plan agreed upon in April, which included putting an end to violence and beginning dialogue.

“Millions of Myanmarese people have lost faith in ASEAN,” Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research Emerlynne Gil stated.

“The regional bloc must alter course and provide a lifeline to the people of Myanmar by supporting international efforts to safeguard civilians and calling for the release of all those jailed arbitrarily, including Aung San Suu Kyi.”

    Source:
  • Reuters