Thousands Flee into Thailand from Myanmar During Weekend Orgy of Junta Violence

Special to BenarNews
2021-03-28
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Thousands Flee into Thailand from Myanmar During Weekend Orgy of Junta Violence Protesters carrying an injured person in Kalay, in Myanmar's northwestern Sagaing region, March 28, 2021.
Khonumthung

Security forces in Myanmar unleashed machine guns and grenades on protesters Sunday, a day after the army’s slaughter of more than 100 protesters sparked demands for international action and marauding troops in Mandalay burned a night watchman alive while shooting at people who tried to help him.

The fallout from eight weeks of increasingly violent army attacks on civilians since the Feb. 1 military takeover spilled across the border into Thailand, where 3,000 villagers in southeastern Karen state fled after air attacks by the army killed three in a district controlled by an ethnic armed group, aid groups said.

The 13 deaths in Yangon, Sagaing, Mandalay and other regions – following Saturday’s killing of 114 people – including six children – pushed the death toll since the coup to over 450 people, as international condemnation poured in along with calls for action to halt the violence.

“We urge the Myanmar Armed Forces to cease violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions,” said a statement by the defense chiefs of Australia, Canada, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Korea, Britain, and the United States.

“The United States will continue to promote accountability for the coup and the abhorrent violence committed by the Burmese military regime. We call on all countries to speak with one voice against the brutal violence by the regime against the people of Burma,” said State Department Spokesman Ned Price in Washington.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Thailand-based NGO, said it had confirmed 459 deaths and 2559 arrests as of Sunday, with 119 people in hiding. Radio Free Asia’s confirmed death toll surpassed 400 people at the weekend.

3,000 cross into Thailand

In Karen state, several thousand villagers fled to nearby Thailand on Sunday after the military launched airstrikes on camps of the Karen National Union (KNU), whose fighters had seized an army outpost, killing 10 people.

The International Karen Organization said Myanmar military fighter jets bombed Karen territory for the first time since the early 1990s, killing at least three people and driving more than 1,000 local people into hiding in the jungle.

Reuters news agency quoted the Karen Women’s Organization as saying more than 3,000 Karen crossed to Thailand. The agency cited the Thai Public Broadcasting Service as reporting that about 3,000 had reached Thailand.

The KNU, which was part of a 2015 ceasefire with the government that has been thrown into uncertainty by the coup, has been sheltering hundreds of people who have fled violence in central Myanmar, Reuters said.

The weekend carnage showed that “Myanmar’s security forces need to be urgently stripped of the weapons, money and resources that enable them to operate, through a global arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions enforced by a U.N. Security Council mandate,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch.

“It’s time for the international community to do more than issue toughly worded statements when the Tatmadaw and police are shooting dead children in their homes and protesters on their streets,” he said early Sunday in a statement from Bangkok.

‘Only bones were left’

Inside Myanmar territory, witnesses to the grisly burning of neighborhood watch volunteer Aye Ko, a 42-year-old father of four children, said he was shot in the chest as he observed police and the military arrive at the scene of a fire at a local government office.

A witness said the man was still alive and screaming for help when soldiers threw him onto a pile of burning tires, but non-stop gunfire prevented onlookers from coming to his aid.

“They dragged him and threw him into the burning flames,” said a local woman who witnessed the incident in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city.

“Only bones were left by the fire. It was a very inhumane, wild and cruel act. They burned him alive,” she said.

“This inhumanity is a tactic of the junta to create a climate of fear among the people,” said AAPP in a blog post.  The group said some 60 houses in Mandalay were destroyed by fire and “people in nearby neighborhoods were prevented from helping when the junta shot at them.”

Radio Free Asia (RFA), a sister agency of BenarNews, was able to confirm the killing of nine protesters in the Sagaing region, two in the Mandalay Region, and one each in the Bago, Ayeyarwady and Yangon regions.

In the commercial center and former capital Yangon, police and the military used sound bombs, teargas and live grenades in crackdown on protests near a railway stop in the city’s Hlaing township, residents said.

“They came in by train in the morning, around five or six soldiers at Thiri Myaing Station. Then they started shooting,” said a local witness. “Soon after, they started using teargas and grenades.”

“One of the protesters picked (a grenade) up and tried to throw it  back, but it exploded in the air and he lost his hand, while other man was hit in the thigh ad others nearby were also hit with shrapnel,” the witness added.

“They were shooting in and out, street by street,” he said. “They came in from all direction, around 100 soldiers.”  

The relentless killings and brutal crackdown did not stop protest marches in Monywa, Myaing, Salay, Dawei, Mandalay, Sal and several other towns.

“We faced two attacks today,” said a protester in Myitkyina, the Kachin state capital. “They were shooting at all the gatherings using rubber bullets.”

Reported by the Myanmar Service of Radio Free Asia (RFA).

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