Conflicts & War

The painstaking work to document the Myanmar junta killings

By Noel Caballero

Bangkok, Jul 1 (EFE).- The number of people Myanmar’s military junta has killed is likely a lot higher than official records suggest, according to a rights organization that documents deaths at the hand of the February 2021 coup makers.

The Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners of Myanmar has to date documented at least 2,040 murders and more than 11,300 detentions of civilians by the military junta.

“The number of deaths may well be over 2000,” the organization said. Its numbers are supported by the United Nations agencies and other organizations that cite data from the Myanmar NGO in their reports on the conflict after the military coup.

Through meticulous work to corroborate the data, the organization puts the face, name, age, sex and cause of death of the civilian victims of the brutal repression unleashed by the military regime against the Myanmar people who oppose the putsch.

“… The military does not want the public to know the atrocities they are perpetrating, so the junta tries really hard to cut information,” a spokesman for the association told EFE, asking to hide his identity for security reasons.

The organization, founded in 2000 by former political prisoners in exile from the previous military junta that ruled between 1965 and 2011, has managed over the years to form a “solid network” of thousands of collaborators in the different states and regions of Myanmar.

This wide chain of informants, many trained in person during the decade of incipient democracy, are the cornerstone for the association to “verify” first-hand the information after the military uprising that has plunged the country into chaos.

“The main challenge is security concerns for our workers on the ground, but there are also financial difficulties. Since the coup we also must deal with internet restrictions and energy blackouts,” they said.

In its latest update Friday, the organization said at least 2,040 civilians were killed by the violent repression unleashed by the army after the coup, while at least 11,338 people are under arrest, including the deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Although the spokesman told EFE the total data is “much higher” than those figures.

The coup led by Gen. Min Aung Hlaing put an end to the fragile democratic transition in Myanmar and plunged the country into a deep political, social and economic crisis. This opened a spiral of violence with new civilian militias that have exacerbated the guerrilla war that the country has been experiencing for decades.

“But (the organization’s) fatality list is different to others. We count deaths from the military’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. But we do not count resistance fighters who were killed in conflict,” clarifies the activist.

They also do not count the deaths of soldiers or alleged collaborators of the regime at the hands of dissident groups.

In a report dated May 14, the Myanmar Institute of Strategy and Policy (founded in 2016) shows that the total number of victims would be greater than 5,600 when adding the figures of Public Administrations with those reported by the regime, the political party linked to the military and other information on deaths in combat.

The spokesman for the military junta, Zaw Min Tun, rejected in a message sent to EFE the figures provided by AAPP and called them “false” and “disproportionate.” EFE


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