Junta rule continues unchecked

Myanmar’s military continues to crush opposition in the war-torn country, bullying anyone who opposes its grip on power.

Unfortunately, the country’s elected “leaders” remain entirely silent on the issue, reinforcing their puppet status.   

The news continues to provide examples of the military’s refusal to accept dissent. The family of the police officer who told a court on Friday how his colleagues had planted secret documents on Reuters reporters to “entrap” them, has been evicted from police housing. 

They live in the capital Nay Pyi Taw and within 24 hours of his testimony, his relatives said they had been forced out of their home. 

In his high-profile testimony, Captain Moe Yan Naing (pictured) gave the details of the December 12 arrest of Reuters reporters Wa Lone, 32, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 28, telling the court it was a “set up”.

The officer told the court he had been under arrest since December 12, accused of violating the Police Disciplinary Act.

Moe Yan Naing, a prosecution witness, surprised the Yangon court by describing how his colleagues were ordered by a senior officer to “get” reporter Wa Lone by handing him sensitive documents.

The captain told the court that Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko, who led the internal probe, told a junior officer to arrange a meeting with Wa Lone that night and hand him “secret documents from Battalion 8”.

“Police Brigadier Tin Ko Ko gave the documents to Police Lance Corporal Naing Lin and told him to give them to Wa Lone and said that when Wa Lone comes out of the restaurant, Htaunt Kyant regional police have to entrap him and arrest him,” Moe Yan Naing told the court.

No one from the police or government was available to discuss the case or the eviction of the police officer’s family. 

The reporters have been on trial since January, attracting considerable international attention. They are being charged under the colonial-era Official Secrets Act, which could bring a 14-year prison sentence.

The pair were investigating the killing of 10 Rohingya men and boys in a village in Rakhine State, near the Bangladesh border. 

Earlier this month a court martial sentenced seven soldiers to 10 years in prison for taking part in the massacre. Other soldiers have been convicted for different crimes. 

It is unclear exactly why the military chooses to prosecute certain cases and if any jail time is actually served as the authorities refuse to say where former troops are being held.

The Rakhine killings happened during the post-August 25 army crackdown that United Nations agencies are assessing for genocide, in which around 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh.

The defence legal team in the case expressed fears for the safety of the police captain, who was returned to custody, as police officers and soldiers rarely speak out against their commanders in Myanmar. 

Elsewhere in the country, the military blunders into fresh conflicts and sends civilians trapped in the crossfire fleeing for cover. 

About 2,000 civilians in Myanmar’s Kachin State are trapped in Tanaing amid fighting between the army and the powerful Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The state’s chief minister Khet Aung claims they are free to return to their homes, which have been cleared by the military.

The Christian, ethnic Kachin villagers in Tanaing, an area known for amber and gold mining, have been homeless since April 11 after fighting broke out between the military and KIA. 

Villagers lacked medicine or proper food, according to Mung Dan, a Baptist community leader. 

The refugees included five pregnant women, 93 older people and other villagers wounded by government mortar shelling, he added.

Government shelling and airstrikes were reportedly launched in response to KIA threats to retake its lost territory.

The conflicts in Kachin and Shan states receive far less international coverage than the abuse of the Rohingya in Rakhine State. Access to Kachin State is restricted by the authorities who do no let outsiders near the jade mines of Hpakant and there is no option to approach from the other direction. 

China is less welcoming to the international media than Bangladesh, where the testimonies of the Rohingya could be collected without restriction. 

If Bangladesh muzzled the media like more dictatorial states in the region, then news of the Rohingya would have been far more muffled. 

Combat between the KIA and the military resumed in 2011, ending a 17-year ceasefire. Subsequent clashes have left hundreds dead and more than 100,000 civilians displaced.

Under the military-drafted 2008 constitution, the courts and police are controlled by generals through the Ministry of Home Affairs. 

The armed forces can commit crimes across the country and then decide what deserves prosecution and who should be jailed. 

The military’s ongoing abuse of power exposes how little impact the election of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in 2015 has had. 

She set herself up as de-facto prime minister under the title “state counsellor”, this may have been because the military could have said adopting the title of PM breached its constitution. 

But despite winning 80 per cent of available seats and ruling her party with an iron fist, Suu Kyi has achieved almost nothing. 

Will the electorate continue to vote for the “democracy” icon at the next general election, which is due in 2020 when she will be 75?


Police Captain Moe Yan Naing at court last week. Picture credit: YouTube