Myanmar military denies responsibility for child deaths and says elections could be pushed back

During an hour-long dialog with CNN, the military spokesperson was steadfast in upholding the junta’s official narrative: that the generals are merely “safeguarding” the nation whereas they examine a “fraudulent” election. The bloodshed on the streets that has killed at the very least 600 folks is the fault of “riotous” protesters, he mentioned.

The interview befell throughout a week-long press tour of Myanmar’s greatest metropolis, Yangon, and Naypyidaw from March 31 to April 6. Prior to the journey, the military assured CNN it could be capable of report independently and be given freedom of motion, however the journalists’ request to remain in a Yangon lodge was denied and the crew as a substitute had been housed in a walled military compound, given solely intermittent and closely managed entry to the general public.

CNN was supplied with military interpreters, however carried out its personal translations afterward.

The back story

Hours after commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s armed forces Gen. Min Aung Hlaing ordered his troops to grab the capital earlier than daybreak on February 1, he introduced on tv {that a} state of emergency would be in place for one yr, after which elections would be held. His takeover got here as newly-elected lawmakers had been on account of take their locations on the opening day of parliament.

The state of emergency induced all legislative, government, and judicial energy to be transferred to Min Aung Hlaing.

Zaw Min Tun mentioned the state of emergency could be prolonged for an extra “six months or more” over “two terms” and “if the duties are not done yet.” He didn’t give a agency date for when elections would be held, however mentioned that based on the 2008 military-drafted structure, “we have to finish everything within two years. We have to hold a free and fair election within these two years.”

“We promise that we will make it happen,” he mentioned.

Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, on March 27.

Many observers have questioned whether or not the military, which dominated Myanmar for half a century between 1962 and 2011, would be keen to relinquish energy once more, whether or not elections would certainly be “free and fair” — and whether or not ousted chief Suu Kyi and her standard celebration the National League for Democracy (NLD) would be allowed to contest.

Zaw Min Tun pointed to a string of reforms the quasi-civilian authorities embarked upon in 2011 after the military gave up direct rule, which paved the way in which for the 2015 elections, wherein Suu Kyi gained a convincing victory. “If we didn’t want her from the beginning there would be no process like this,” he mentioned.

However, the 2008 structure was designed so the military would retain energy regardless of a civilian authorities. It allotted the military 1 / 4 of seats in parliament, giving it efficient veto energy over constitutional amendments, and the generals saved management of three highly effective ministries — protection, border and residence affairs.

Myanmar's military is waging war on its citizens. Some say it's time to fight back Myanmar's military is waging war on its citizens. Some say it's time to fight back
Zaw Min Tun additionally highlighted that Suu Kyi, who’s underneath home arrest and has not been seen in public because the coup, is facing five charges, together with illegally importing walkie-talkie radios, and for breaking Covid-19 rules. She has additionally been accused of corruption and bribery. The most critical cost, nonetheless, is violating violating the nation’s Official Secrets Act, which carries a jail sentence of as much as 14 years.

“What happened is because of the corruptions on national level and errors on state level procedures and we are accusing on the facts,” Zaw Min Tun mentioned. “Daw Aung San Su Kyi is a well-known person both in Myanmar and the world and we will not accuse that person without any reason.”

But slapping perceived opponents with prices underneath vaguely-worded colonial-era legal guidelines has been a well-used device by the military all through its rule, and throughout the reform interval. The prices towards Suu Kyi have been described as “trumped up” by her lawyer, who known as the bribery accusations a “complete fabrication.”

To justify the coup, the junta has alleged widespread election fraud within the November vote that may have given the NLD a second time period and a mandate to proceed its reform agenda, which included makes an attempt to amend the structure to restrict the military’s energy. Zaw Min Tun mentioned the military had tried to barter with the NLD authorities however “no action was taken.”

Zaw Min Tun mentioned the junta had “solid evidence” the elections had been fraudulent, however didn’t present any to CNN.

“The voting fraud we found in the election is 10.4 million, the number of eligible votes announced by the Election Commission was around 39.5 million and the voting fraud is a quarter of the vote,” he mentioned.

The election fee denied there was mass voter fraud and unbiased election displays mentioned there have been no substantial issues that may be sufficient to overturn the end result. Suu Kyi gained with 83% of the vote.

Bloodshed on the streets

It is clear from the interview that Myanmar’s military leaders need the world to imagine they’re appearing according to the nation’s legal guidelines and structure, and say they’re dedicated to constructing a “multi-party democratic county.”

But the bloodshed on the streets, wherein troopers and police have shot dead protesters, bystanders and youngsters, belies that declare.
At least 600 civilians have been killed by safety forces, based on advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The UN envoy has reported enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture in prisons. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said authorities have “increasingly resorted to heavy weaponry such as rocket-propelled and fragmentation grenades, heavy machine guns, and snipers to kill demonstrators in massive numbers.”
A police officer aims a gun during clashes with protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Naypyidaw on February 9.A police officer aims a gun during clashes with protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in naypyidaw on february 9.
Around 3,000 folks have been detained, many saved out of contact from their households, their situation or whereabouts unknown. Meanwhile, protesters, activists, journalists and households of these killed by the junta, have been compelled into hiding as they concern safety forces will hunt them in nighttime raids.

On Wednesday, a particular envoy of Myanmar’s ousted civilian authorities to the UN warned of a civil struggle if the world fails to cease the junta from seizing energy and killing pro-democracy protesters.

“The bloodbath is real. It is coming, more people will die. I am afraid,” Dr. Sasa mentioned on CNN. “It is the time for the world to prevent another genocide, another ethnic cleansing, another massacre, so the world has the power to stop it before it’s too late.”

Myanmar's military is killing peaceful protesters. Here's what you need to knowMyanmar's military is killing peaceful protesters. Here's what you need to know

Zaw Min Tun blamed the violence on protesters “provoking” the gang and mentioned safety forces cracked down as a result of protesters “blocked the civil servants” from going to work.

In actuality, 1000’s of civil servants, in addition to white- and blue-collar employees, together with medics, bankers, legal professionals, academics, engineers and manufacturing unit employees, left their jobs as a type of resistance towards the coup. The strikes, known as the Civil Disobedience Movement, have disrupted sectors of the financial system.

“The crowds were throwing stones and slingshots at them in the beginning but later the crowd are blocking with sand bags, shooting with handmade guns, throwing with fire, throwing with molotov (cocktails) and the security forces have to use the weapons for the riot,” Zaw Min Tun mentioned.

Asked whether or not he was significantly evaluating slingshots to assault rifles, Zaw Min Tun mentioned the safety forces had been utilizing “minimum force.”

“There will be deaths when they are cracking down (on) the riots, but we are not shooting around without discipline,” he mentioned.

Protesters gather to demonstrate against the February 1 military coup, in downtown in Yangon on February 8.Protesters gather to demonstrate against the february 1 military coup, in downtown in yangon on february 8.

According to the military, the dying toll on the time of the interview was 248 folks, together with 10 law enforcement officials and six troopers, he mentioned — lower than half the toll documented by a number of human rights teams, which have repeatedly mentioned safety forces are violating worldwide humanitarian legislation by taking pictures indiscriminately into crowds of peaceable protesters.

Bullet wounds within the heads and necks of lots of these shot additionally recommend the troopers are shooting to kill. Video and photos captured by native journalists and eyewitnesses and verified by CNN present safety forces taking pictures into crowds. In others, safety forces are beating detainees with their rifles, or dragging our bodies by means of the streets.

The killing of kids

According to the UN Children’s Fund, 46 children have been killed because the coup. CNN has documented instances of kids being shot of their properties or whereas enjoying outdoors.

When requested about three youngsters who’ve died by the hands of safety forces — Kyaw Min Latt, 17, Htoo Myat Win, 13, and Tun Tun Aung, 14, — the military spokesperson blamed protesters for “using” youngsters on the entrance traces.

“In some places they provoke the children to participate in violence riots … Because of that they may get hit when the security forces were cracking down (on) the crowds,” he mentioned. “There is no reason we will shoot the children, this is only the terrorists are trying to make us look bad.”

He mentioned it was “not possible” {that a} child would be shot inside their home and an investigation would be carried out if that was the case. Videos posted on social media corroborate that safety forces have shot at homes.

Grieving family of young girl shot dead by Myanmar's military forced into hidingGrieving family of young girl shot dead by myanmar's military forced into hiding

Htoo Myat Win’s father mentioned his son was shot when a number of bullets smashed a glass window in his home in Shwebo metropolis on March 27. “I dodged the bullet but my son was coming up to the glass window and got hit,” he mentioned, including that his son was hit within the chest. “I don’t understand why they have to shoot us when we were inside our house.”

“They were shooting at protesters before and the protesters were running and we hid some of them because we worried that they might get arrested. They (army) must have positioned themselves in this neighborhood,” he mentioned.

Video extensively circulated on-line confirmed Htoo Myat Win’s distraught father screaming with grief within the back of a taxi as he rushed to his son’s lifeless physique for assist. Forced to go to a military hospital, Htoo Myat Win’s father mentioned medical doctors there did an post-mortem and informed him to signal a doc stating there was no bullet.

“I asked them my son die with a bullet wound why you want to say it is not from a bullet?” he mentioned.

Perhaps eager to keep away from creating martyrs, the military has sought to manage the narrative over some high-profile deaths. Junta forces exhumed the body of 1 younger protester and carried out an post-mortem wherein they decided the bullet that killed her didn’t come from a police gun.
The wife of Phoe Chit, a protester who died during a demonstration against the military coup on March 3, cries over the coffin of her husband during his funeral in Yangon on March 5.The wife of phoe chit, a protester who died during a demonstration against the military coup on march 3, cries over the coffin of her husband during his funeral in yangon on march 5.

In one other incident, a military hospital claimed Kyaw Min Latt died after falling off his bike in Dawei metropolis. CCTV footage, nonetheless, captured the second a soldier standing on the back of a truck shot on the teenager as he rode with two others, who managed to run away. His mom verified the footage to CNN.

“The doctor told us that my son is suffering from the injuries of fall from motorbike, we couldn’t say back anything except just kept say yes to everything,” his mom Daw Mon Mon Oo mentioned. She mentioned X-rays of her son’s physique carried out at a second hospital had been taken away by officers from the military-run hospital.

His dying certificates, seen by CNN, states Kyaw Min Latt died on March 30 due to “the primary brain injury due to the fall from cycle (motorcycle).”

When his household had been capable of take his physique residence, his mom mentioned “there was no injury from the fall of the bike but only when there the bullet went in and out, and bruised on his right eye.”s

Pressed by CNN concerning the allegations from households of troopers taking pictures into homes and of the military making an attempt to cowl up the causes of deaths, spokesperson Zaw Min Tun demanded CNN present him proof. “If that kind of thing occurred, we will have investigation for it,” he mentioned. “There may be some videos which look suspicious but for our forces, we don’t have any intention to shoot at innocent people.”

It is unclear whether or not the military has launched any inside investigations into repeated claims of extrajudicial killings.

She was shot dead, her body dug up and her grave filled with cement. But her fight is not overShe was shot dead, her body dug up and her grave filled with cement. But her fight is not over
CNN additionally pressed Zaw Min Tun on why at least 11 people were detained shortly after talking with the CNN crew in Yangon. Some had been detained merely for flashing the three-finger salute from the Hunger Games films that has develop into a logo of resistance. According to 3 sources near these detained, who spoke on situation of anonymity over fears of reprisal, eight had been later launched.

Zaw Min Tun confirmed safety forces detained three folks from the primary market and eight others at a second after interacting with the crew on the bottom. When requested by CNN what crime that they had dedicated, he mentioned they hadn’t damaged the legislation.

“The security forces were worried they would provoke others and start the protest in the market, and that is why they got arrested,” he mentioned, including the military expressed “regret” over the arrests.

CNN has since realized these eight are actually in hiding, fearing rearrest.

International response

The coup and subsequent lethal crackdown have been extensively condemned internationally. The United States, United Kingdom and European Union have imposed sanctions on a number of generals answerable for the coup, in addition to on military-owned corporations.

However, whereas Zaw Min Tun insisted elections would be held sooner or later, he warned the military’s model of democracy would maybe not be a Western-style liberal system.

“The democratic country we are building is the one suitable with our history and geography. The standard of democracy in Myanmar will not be the same as from Western counties,” he mentioned.

Despite the risks, protesters from all walks of life in Myanmar proceed to demand the military hand back energy to civilian management and are held totally accountable. They proceed to name for the discharge of Suu Kyi and different civilian leaders. Myanmar’s many ethnic minority groups, which have lengthy fought for better autonomy for their lands, are additionally demanding the military-written 2008 structure be abolished and a federal democracy be established.

Having grown up with a degree of democracy, and political and financial freedoms their mother and father and grandparents did not have, Myanmar’s younger folks main the resistance motion stay decided to struggle for what they see as their future — and they are saying they won’t surrender.

CNN’s Helen Regan wrote from Hong Kong.

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