SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 29 January 2023, Sunday |

Protesters in Myanmar conduct vigils as US orders non-essential workers to leave

After dozens of deaths in recent days as a result of a military crackdown on anti-coup demonstrators and clashes in ethnic border regions, Myanmar activists held candle-lit vigils overnight, as the US asked non-essential embassy workers to leave.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners(AAPP), at least 521 civilians have been killed in two months of demonstrations against the Feb. 1 coup, with 141 of them killed on Saturday, the bloodiest day of the unrest

The advocacy group said a further eight people died on Tuesday, when thousands came out to march in several towns, according to media and photos on social media.

There were also new candle-lit protests overnight in towns across Myanmar in defiance of a curfew and at least one dawn march on Wednesday by demonstrators, media reports said.

Myanmar has been in turmoil after the army deposed an elected government headed by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, detaining her and restoring military rule after a decade of cautious moves toward democracy.

Fighting has also flared between the army and insurgents in frontier regions, and refugees are spilling over borders.

The Karen National Union rebel group, which operates along the eastern border with Thailand, said on Tuesday it was bracing for a major government offensive.

The group urged the international community, especially Thailand, to assist Karen people fleeing the “onslaught” and for countries to break relations with the junta in order to put an end to the violence against civilians.

Meanwhile, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), a rebel group in the north, attacked a police station in Kachin state at 3 a.m. on Wednesday, the Kachin News Group said.

A march by civilian protesters also took place at dawn on Wednesday in Moegaung in Kachin, the news service reported.

Police and a spokesman for the Myanmar junta did not answer calls seeking comment.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY CONCERNED

The United States on Tuesday ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and their family members from Myanmar due to concerns over civil unrest.

Opponents of the coup have called for a united front with insurgent groups.

Rebels have battled the government for decades for greater autonomy in remote border regions. The military has justified its long grip on power by saying it is the only institution capable of ensuring national unity.

Military aircraft bombed KNU fighters on the weekend, sending about 3,000 villagers fleeing to Thailand.

Activists claimed that Thailand was forcing refugees to return, but a Thai official on the border said the army was sending most of them back because the Myanmar side was deemed peaceful.

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency said it was concerned about reports people were being sent back and it was seeking information from Thailand.

A border state in India withdrew an order to refuse refugees food and shelter after the measure drew fierce public criticism.

U.S. SAYS VIOLENCE “REPREHENSIBLE”

The military seized power saying that November elections won by Suu Kyi’s party were fraudulent, an assertion dismissed by the election commission.

A civil disobedience campaign of strikes has paralyzed parts of the economy and protesters stepped it up by asking residents on Tuesday to leave rubbish at city intersections.

Western countries have condemned the coup and the violence and called for Suu Kyi’s release, and some have imposed limited sanctions.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Washington that certain foreign countries and corporations with large stakes in Myanmar’s military should rethink their investments.

He said the recent violence was “reprehensible” and followed a pattern of “increasingly disturbing and even horrifying violence” against demonstrators opposing military rule.

Despite an old agreement not to comment on each other’s issues, Indonesia has led efforts by members of the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Myanmar is a member, to promote a negotiated solution.

International criticism and Western sanctions imposed on previous Myanmar juntas had little impact in the short term.

    Source:
  • Reuters