Freedom Memoirs – Day 142

by mohingamatters

Today’s biggest story is in the center of Mandalay where a shootout was observed between junta’s forces and a Mandalay People Defense Force (Mandalay PDF) cell. The shootout at the multiple-storied building at the urban setting of the country’s second biggest city attracted people’s attention throughout the day. The clash began around 8am and lasted till afternoon. While junta’s forces initiated the raid began by deploying around 50 soldiers, soon reinforcements were mustered from nearby Pyin Oo Lwin, a town with substantial military presence. The tension remained high across the city for entire day, armoured vehicles were seen patrolling the streets and electricity was cut off in parts of the city. 

As of yesterday, the clashes are at small towns or rural areas, and today’s one may signal conflicts are no longer restricted to non-urban centres. Shootings and blasts dominates the Mandalay atmosphere today with junta’s soldiers unleashing their firepower on armed combatants and unarmed bystanders alike, even the use of rocket-propelled-grenades were recorded. In the aftermath, Mandalay PDF announced that there were two deaths (a lieutenant colonel and a captain) by junta’s side and six PDF members got arrested, while junta’s propaganda mouthpieces announced eight PDF were killed during the clashes. However, further development including causalities were still updating and we might have clearer picture by tomorrow morning.

In response to above-mentioned clash in Mandalay, embassies of many western democracies such as the US, Canada, French, the Netherlands, Italy, etc., issued statements expressing concerns over casualties of unarmed civilians and warning against escalation of violence.

As the PDFs were getting surrounded, others come to their aid, either violently or non-violently. Multiple PDFs in nearby areas vowed solidarity in support of the Mandalay PDF, and while the raid was ongoing, a blast at Mandalay police station led to death of one police. 

Many peaceful protests today also showed solidarity with citizens of Mandalay. Today, we see multiple protests in Mandalay led by different groups such as student unions, monks, general public etc., multiple locations of Yangon, Dawei, and in many other places, often in solidarity with residents of Mandalay. Additionally, one notable protest was observed in Pale township where Khet Thi (the respected poet died over overnight custody by junta’s forces) passing’s 45 days remembrance vigil.

Last night, a 33-year-old man from Lal Zin village, Monywa township died during overnight custody, he was part of the six who were arrested last night 10pm after allegation of involvements on arson attacks to local public school building. At the time of arrest, he was returning home from visiting his mother as soldiers rounded up whoever they see in the streets, his wife answered to Mizzima news. Residents also claimed that soldiers beat up others villagers and caused property damage to a roadside teashop and looted five motorbikes. The village has over 800 households and most residents have fled to nearby forests since last night rampage by junta’s soldiers.

It has been over a week where temporary ceasefire in Kayah (Karenni) State was announced and a local monitoring group has been updating the human cost of conflicts. Today Progressive Karenni People Force (PKPF) announced confirmed death toll in Kayah (Karenni) State now mounts to 71. Disaggregation of the number shows 55 unarmed civilians getting shot unprovoked and 13 armed combatants. Civilian fatalities show three minors. Demoso township faced the largest number of casualties when the rest are from Loikaw, Mobye, Pekon and Bawlakhe townships. The area is currently on the brink of humanitarian disaster and over 100,000 people are being internally displaced, 2014 Myanmar Census recorded 286,627 people in the state.

In another seemingly less bloody but potentially equally fatal news, COVID cases yesterday showed record high since coup. Yesterday, junta’s media showed 595 new COVID cases were recorded on 21 June 2021, considering that was out of 4,964, it was 12% positive rate, way more than WHO-recommended 5% positive rate which indicates the epidemic is under control in a country. COVID claimed over 3000 lives in Myanmar over the course of 2020, primarily during the second wave surge, for 2021 and third wave surge, currently collapsing health system and economic conditions, further deteriorated by junta’s relentless attack on health, may claim a higher death toll.

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH)  announced today that Vice President Duwa Lashi La will assume position as Acting President while the junta staged illegal coup and detained President U Win Myint.

Junta’s media covers widely on Min Aung Hlaing’s photos taking trip to Russia. He was seen shaking hands with Secretary of the Security Council of Russia and meeting with senior officials from Rosoboroexport, a Russian state-owned arms company. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office answers in a statement that the President has no plan to meet the coup leader, although this still does not deter Min Aung Hlaing from seeking photo opportunities with Mr. Putin’s lesser ranked officials.

On the media front, junta’s media council today issued a statement lambasting the press and diplomatic missions for failing to sing to the junta’s tune, specifically on the case of Kinma village where the locals answered of junta’s soldiers burning down the village together with two elderly people. Junta’s press council, which has been silent about junta’s rampant oppression to free press, today blamed the press and diplomatic missions for basing their views on witness accounts and not on junta’s propaganda.

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