Freedom Memoirs – Day 170

U Nyan Win, a prominent member of NLD party’s Central Executive Committee, passed away this morning from COVID. The 79 years old has underlying diseases stemming from an old age and long periods in jail due to his position in NLD party. He was arrested on the day of the coup, 1February, and the junta filed sedition charges against him based on NLD party’s announcement two weeks into his arrest, on 13 February. He was detained at Insein Prison in Yangon and moved to Yangon General Hospital emergency ward on 11 July after contracting COVID. As one of the longest serving politicians of the country, U Nyan Win deserved better than to die as a prisoner of junta yet we all felt helpless when the whole world around us was burning. The least we can do now is to call for the safety of the rest of political detainees. 

Thai authorities shut down a border trading gate next to Tanintharyi Region in Myanmar, due to rising COVID cases in both countries. Many of trading gates between Myanmar and neighbouring countries has been shut down, and that has been having serious implications on the inflow of medical supplies required to fight COVID. However, the main bottleneck in the fight against COVID remains the junta, who has been blatantly weaponizing COVID against populace by arresting doctors and seizing medicines and other essential items such as oxygen. After yesterday’s arrest of doctors tending to COVID patients and seizure of medical items at their office, news emerged today about other cases of arrests of doctors tending to COVID patients. Consequently, many of the volunteer doctors have been taking extra-cautions on providing care, with some medical volunteer groups suspending their practice due to increased pressure. 

COVID deaths are ever increasing and senior officials from junta-controlled Yangon municipal said in an interview that there are around 1,200 dead bodies a day waiting to be cremated at cemeteries, for past few days. The junta’s media today issued an announcement from junta-controlled Ministry of Religious Affairs encouraging people to recite a Buddhist chant believed to have healing properties. The announcement, coming at a time junta’s deliberate measures are causing massive COVID deaths, caused much ridicule and derision among the public, particularly from the Buddhist populace.

Yesterday’s clash between the junta’s forces and local PDF in Mingin Township, Sagaing Region saw at least ten deaths from junta’s forces. The PDF group reportedly suffered no fatality after ambush and landmine attack, however junta’s forces retaliated by artillery shelling and shooting to nearby villages which led to thousands of villagers fleeing from their homes into the forests. In the same region, the junta’s soldiers shooting to civilians unprovoked has become a common theme in past few days, on July 17 at a village in the region, four villagers were shot death, with a family member confirming to the media that they were killed by the junta’s troops.  On the 18, three houses from three villages were set on fire by junta-appointed village administrator. Locals confirmed that the village administrator himself had torched these houses, all of which were NLD supporters’ houses. 

Last night, one civilian got shot to death at the centre of Shwe Bo Town. The region has been resisting the junta since April by picking up homemade guns and other available weapons and the junta has been deploying extreme measures against entire populace. Recently 15 mutilated bodies of civilians were discovered in nearby Kani Township, witnesses confirmed that the junta’s soldiers were the culprits of the robbery and the killings in that case.

From the international community, the UN Country Team in Myanmar announced yesterday that it is stepping up its response efforts after an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases.  The announcement state that the UN Country Team is working to address the oxygen shortage through the procurement of oxygen concentrators and other necessary equipment and WHO, UNICEF and other partners are dedicating their efforts to secure COVID-19 vaccination doses through multiple channels including the COVAX facility. The UN aims to get 20% of the population vaccinated during 2021. The statement ended with urging the need for ‘whole of society’ approach, allowing all health workers to practice under safe conditions, and the importance of both public and private providers contributing to the response. We still do not know how the coordination with the junta take place in such an important and huge undertaking.

However, for the UNHCR humanitarian support in Mindat Town, Chin State today, the humanitarian aid could be delivered to refugees in the town itself and not those fleeing/residing in nearby villages and forests, after protests by the junta’s side. The UNHCR convoy arrived to the town yesterday evening and brought medicine, blankets, mosquito nets, PPEs and other essentials. The relief mission was scheduled to disburse those items over three days ending in 22 July and estimated to aid 5,000 people originally. Due to the clashes between junta’s forces and CDF Mindat, there were roughly 30,000 refugees in the area. While the locals are appreciative of the support, they also said there are roughly only 10% of the refugees residing/returning to the town and the vast majority are still in areas not allowed to visit by the junta.

Peaceful protests were observed in parts of Yangon and Mandalay, Kale, Launglong, Myin Chan, Dawei, Mawlamyaingkyun, and other parts. Most were organized without facing any problem, although one protest in Mandalay got cracked down and some protestors suffered bullet wounds.

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