Myanmar military charges families $85 to retrieve bodies of loved ones

Myanmar military charges families $85 to retrieve bodies of loved ones killed by its own forces as ruling junta issues new criminal charge against Aung San Suu Kyi

  • Myanmar military ‘charging families $85 to retrieve bodies of dead victims’  
  • Asian nation has been embroiled in unrest since February military coup
  • Protesters are staging massive demos which are leading to bloodshed 
  •  Aung San Suu Kyi faces criminal charges as military tries to discredit her 

The Myanmar military is allegedly charging families $85 to retrieve the bodies of victims killed by its own security forces as the bloody crackdown on anti-coup protesters rages on.

The Asian nation has been embroiled in unrest since the military carried out a putsch on February 1, disputing the results of an election that resulted in a pro-democracy party winning power.

Across Myanmar, citizens have been pushing back against the ruling junta, staging massive demonstrations which have been met with violence by the military and led to the deaths of hundreds so far.

An estimated 700 people have been killed and more than 3,000 detained as the Myanmar military squares off against its opponents in the courts, the streets, and the countryside. 

In a further assault on dissent, ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi was hit with a fresh criminal charge on Monday as she appeared by video link before a judge in the Myanmar capital Naypyitaw. 

Suu Kyi, who led the government toppled in the military takeover, was accused of breaching a law intended to control the spread of coronavirus, the second such charge against her under the same law. 

She is already facing charges of illegally importing walkie-talkies, unlicensed use of them, inciting public unrest and breaking a colonial-era official secrets act that could see her jailed for 14 years.

The junta has also accused Suu Kyi of corruption and presented on state television what it said was evidence that she took bribes. However, her supporters claim the prosecutions are politically motivated tactics to discredit her and attempt to legitimise the coup.

This handout photo taken and released by Dawei Watch on April 11, 2021 shows mourners attending the funeral of Saw Sal Nay Muu, who died after attempting to flee a checkpoint

Lawyers for Aung San Suu Kyi, who led the government toppled in the military takeover, allege she is accused of a fresh criminal charge when she appeared by video link before a judge

Police talk as they arrive at the site of a demonstration by protesters against the military coup in Yangon on April 12, 2021

In this file photo taken on March 12, 2021, protesters hold up the three-finger salute and placards with the image of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi while using their mobile torches during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon

Protesters took to the streets of Myanmar’s two largest cities on Sunday. Pictured: A protest in Mandalay

Military personnel participates in a parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27

Britain has offered safe haven to Myanmar’s ambassador who was ousted in a mini-coup for supporting pro-democracy groups.

Nigel Adams, the UK’s Asia minister, said the government will ‘support’ Kyaw Zwar Minn and ‘ensure his safety and security’ while he remains in this country.

‘I pay tribute to [Minn’s] courage and patriotism,’ Mr Adams tweeted after the pair met in the Foreign Office on Thursday.

The meeting came just a day after Minn’s former deputy Chit Win led staff in a mutiny which saw him locked out of the country’s Mayfair embassy before spending the night asleep in his car outside.

Myanmar’s military rulers also sent official notification to the UK that his diplomatic status had been revoked for refusing to recognise their authority and continuing to support jailed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Minn said he had stopped obeying orders from the junta last month after he was ordered to return home for criticising them.

Asked yesterday whether he intended to return to his home country, Minn replied: ‘Do you want to see me get killed?’

The generals overthrew Ms Suu Kyi’s government less than three months after she won a landslide victory in a democratic election, and any conviction could see her banned from a future election. 

The coup put a halt to the progress Myanmar was making towards greater democratisation after five decades of dictatorship. The takeover and the bloody crackdown on the opposition which has followed has led to calls for an arms embargo on the country and other sanctions that could put pressure on the military.

As of Sunday, 706 protesters and bystanders have been verified as killed in the post-coup crackdown, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which tracks casualties and arrests. 

The group claimed that at least 82 people were killed in the town of Bago on Friday, in one of the deadliest attacks of the post-coup period to have happened so far. The number of dead is expected to grow, they added. 

Later, the Bago University Students’ Union posted on Facebook that the military was charging 120,000 Myanmar kyat ($85) to retrieve the bodies of people who had been killed by its own forces, CNN reported.

Witnesses said that security forces used heavy weapons and shot at anything that moved, according to the BBC. Many residents were forced to flee into nearby villages, the British broadcaster.

But in a state-run media report, the military’s account differed dramatically, blaming the conflict on the protesters. The Global New Light of Myanmar claimed that the security forces were attacked by a group of rioters armed with handmade guns and grenades, among other weapons, and that only one rioter died. 

On Monday, detained political leader Suu Kyi asked a court to be allowed to meet her lawyers in person when she appeared at a hearing via video link to face charges brought by the military junta.

As Suu Kyi appeared, her supporters called for people to show their opposition to the coup during this week’s traditional new year holiday in the largely Buddhist country.

Suu Kyi, 75, who has led Myanmar’s struggle against military rule for decades and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been detained since the coup and charged with various offences.  

She has only been allowed to talk with her lawyers via video link in the presence of security officials and it is not known if she is even aware of the turmoil that has engulfed the country since the military seized power.

‘No, we haven’t, we could only talk about legal matters,’ lawyer Min Min Soe told Reuters when asked if her legal team had been able to talk to her about the protests in which more than 700 people have been killed.

The lawyer said Suu Kyi looked healthy as she repeated a request to meet her lawyers face-to-face. The next hearing is on April 26.

As well as the official secrets charge, Suu Kyi has been charged with illegally possessing two-way radios and violating coronavirus protocols. She has also been accused by the ruling military council of bribery.

Her lawyers say the charges were trumped up and they dismiss the accusation of bribery as a joke. An additional complaint against her was filed on Monday related to the coronavirus rules, Min Min Soe said. 

Despite the lethal threat, anti-coup protesters returned to the streets and rural by-ways of southern Myanmar on Monday, determined to keep public demonstrations going. 

Aung San Suu Kyi reviews a guard of honour in New Delhi in October 2016

Protesters hold signs relating to ‘R2P’, or the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ principle as they take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on April 12, 2021

Pictured: A protester with his face painted stands near a burning makeshift barricade during a protest against the military coup, in Yangon on March 30, 2021

JAPAN: Myanmar people living in Japan demonstrate against the coup and China’s support for the military in Tokyo on April 11, 2021

In Launglone Township near the city of Dawei, a large group mounted motorbikes and rode through the villages of Pandale and Nyin Maw, red banners snapping in the breeze as they sang and chanted slogans of resistance. 

In Dawei itself, students, teachers and engineers carried their message of defiance through the city on foot.

Marches took place in other cities and towns as well, and a few carried on a trend of assigning a quirky theme to their protests. Demonstrators in Mandalay held a Watermelon Strike, marching with big slices and making displays featuring slogans painted on the melons or attached to them. 

In Yangon, five public city buses caught fire before dawn, with no indications of who might have set them alight. 

Such mysterious attacks have mounted in recent weeks, with the junta blaming protesters and protesters blaming the junta.  

More intense violence took place in the northern state of Kachin, where two Myanmar military fighter jets attacked a base belonging to the Kachin Independence Organisation, which is the main political group representing the Kachin ethnic group in the area.

The organisation, which seeks autonomy for the Kachin, maintains its own military force, and said its base has also been under artillery attack, reported the Kachin News Group.

Their report also said Kachin forces on Monday staged a successful attack to drive away a Myanmar military force guarding a bridge on a major road. The Kachin are one of more than a dozen ethnic minority groups who have been seeking autonomy for decades.

Another, the Karen in eastern Myanmar, have also been facing attacks from the army since the coup, including air strikes. 

The Free Burma Rangers, who offer humanitarian medical assistance to ethnic minority villagers in Myanmar’s border regions, say more than 20,000 villagers have been displaced by the government’s offensive, which was continuing on Monday with the use of artillery.

The Kachin and the Karen have declared their solidarity with the protests against the coup and vowed to protect demonstrations in the territory they control.

Also appearing in court on Monday by video link with Ms Suu Kyi were former president Win Myint and the former mayor of Naypyitaw, Myo Aung, who also face charges.

According to the head of her legal team, Khin Maung Zaw, the three defendants appeared in good health, but the lawyer who was in court was not allowed to speak to them about any matters other than the immediate cases against them.

Why did the military stage a coup?

Myanmar’s military is central to the country’s political life – it led the fight for independence in 1948, formed the country’s first government, and then ruled as a junta for five decades after abandoning democracy in 1962.

That all appeared to change in 2010 with a return to democracy that saw an elected government sworn in – though in reality the military was guaranteed control of key ministries and 25 per cent of seats in parliament.

Free elections held in 2015 saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s party win a large majority with the military hammered, amid the belief that she would reform the constitution and remove the military from power altogether.

More elections held last year handed an even larger share of power to Suu Kyi, prompting fears among military top-brass that their powers were about to be removed.

Just hours before the new government was due to be sworn in, the military struck – arresting Suu Kyi, president Win Myint, and many of the country’s most-influential MPs – officially for ‘voter fraud’.

With border closures in place and international governments distracted by domestic issues and the coronavirus pandemic, they have faced few obstacles. 

A year-long state of emergency has now been declared, Vice President Myint Swe – a former general – declared leader, and banks shut until further notice.

‘Free’ elections will take place after the state of emergency ends, the military has claimed.

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