Freedom Memoirs – Day 355

A year ago, youths in Myanmar are freely going around town and enjoying what life has to offer to them. Since the February 1 military coup, the youths in Myanmar lived under duress, and today Khit Thit Media reported that at least eight youths in Yangon were shot at, attacked, violently arrested and killed just for being ‘youths’. Four youths from Sanchaung Township, including a 19-year-old student, were beaten up and arrested around 5am near Padonmar Park for no apparent reason and families told Khit Thit Media that they are worried for their safety as the youths were unable to locate still at the time of reporting.
 
Around 11am this morning as well, two youths on motorbikes were shot by junta soldiers in Thingangyun Township. One reportedly was injured, and they were both beaten up before being taken away. The night before, a youth on a motorbike in Shwepyitha Township was reportedly shot to death after the youth and his friend refused to stop for security checks. The victim died at the scene. The River News TNR, the news outlet which acts as the mouthpiece for the junta, reported that the youth was killed for chasing and ramming into the junta forces. The junta’s atrocities just didn’t end. In another part of Myanmar in Sagaing Region’s Ye-U Township, a monastery and church buildings were reported to have been raided and looted on the afternoon of January 20 in Chan Thar village. According to the residents, the junta soldiers destroyed the buildings and stole every valuable from there.
 
Fighting continued in ethic regions, especially in Karen State. The Karen National Union (KNU) reported that between January 18 and 20, clashes occurred between the Karen National Liberation Army and junta forces in Hpapun District. Two soldiers were killed as well as two innocent civilians who got killed from junta soldiers’ arbitrary shootings on January 18. A spokesperson for the KNU, Padoh Saw Taw Nee said that 2022 should be the year that the resistance forces upgrade from defensive to offensive attacks, Myanmar Now reported on January 20. To add onto this, along with the KNU, the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and the Chin National Front (CNF)—three oldest ethnic political organizations in Myanmar have urged the United Nations (UN), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to impose no fly zones and civilian safe areas in a joint effort on January 19.
 
As we have reported over the past few months, the junta troops have been resorting to airstrikes to attack the People’s Defense Forces and ethnic armed forces, and specifically targeting residential areas and refugee camps in Magway and Sagaing regions, and Chin, Kachin, Shan, Kayah and Karen states. An estimated 200,000 civilians have been displaced by junta aerial attacks as of January 17. We don’t know if the international community actually cared about Myanmar at this point, but the National Unity Government (NUG) said it is working to bring the human rights abuses and atrocities by the junta forces in Chin State, including the recent killing of 10 civilians in Matupi Township, to justice in international courts. Dr. Sasa said NUG is working closely with the Independent Investigative Mechanism Myanmar to collect and compile data for trials.
 
In other NUG news, the Defense Minister U Ye Mon told The Irrawaddy that China has had a discussion with the National Unity Government not to attack Chinese-invested businesses and projects in Myanmar. The report from The Irrawaddy said the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar contacted the NUG on January 7 after a bomb exploded at the power towers of the Tagaung Nickel Plant, a joint venture between Myanmar and China called Myanmar CNMC Nickel. U Ye Mon claimed that the NUG has no policy to attack projects which are invested by the neighboring countries. In an ironic development, the junta soldiers were reported to have planted landmines near a control center for the China-backed oil and gas pipeline in Shan State’s Hsipaw Township. The junta troops tried to protect the landmines, but if people were to accidentally step on them, wouldn’t the pipeline be somewhat damaged also?
 
In international development, oil giants TotalEnergies and Chevron finally announced today that they are withdrawing from their gas project in Myanmar. Both firms were part of a joint venture operating the Yadana gas project and claimed their reasons for pulling out of the project were solely for humanitarian concerns. Total was the biggest shareholder in the project with a 31.24 percent stake, while Chevron holds 28 percent, and the remaining shares are owned by PTTEP, a Thai national energy company and Myanmar state-owned oil and gas group MOGE. Justice for Myanmar, the group which has consistently called out businesses to stop working with the junta, welcomed the decision by TotalEngeries and Chevron, and urged more government to impose targeted sanctions on oil and gas, and others companies in the such as POSCO International, PTTEP, Petronas, ONGC, GAIL, KOGAS, ENEOS and Mitsubishi to stop finding the junta as well.
 
The junta-controlled Ministry of Health reported on the night of January 20 that there are a total of 146 cases of Omicron happening in Myanmar. We have seen the worst COVID-19 situation during the third wave under the military rule with Delta variant, so while Omicron is said to have milder symptoms, we want to remind everyone to continue staying vigilant and to stay safe wherever you go.

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