According to Kyodo News, a number of teachers and others engaged in education have joined the so-called civil disobedience movement to boycott work, as a protest against the junta.
Myanmar’s military government announced it will reopen public schools on June 1 but many teachers and students opposed to the coup might refuse to return. According to Kyodo News, a number of teachers and others engaged in education have joined the so-called civil disobedience movement to boycott work, as a protest against the junta. But the junta called on them to return to work and prepare for the reopening of the schools as it announced the restart on April 30. The junta also said it will dismiss those who do not follow the call, maintaining its hard-line stance against protesters since the coup. On February 1, the Myanmar military overthrew the civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency. The coup triggered mass protests and was met by deadly violence. At a press conference in the capital Naypyitaw, junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun said it will reopen public elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools on June 1, adding it has resumed classes of public graduate schools and the final year of public universities on May 5. “It is a sad thing that some instigators and extremist political activists are campaigning for the students not to go back to the schools and are trying to stop reopening of the schools,” Zaw Min Tun said. The academic year in Myanmar starts on June 1. But public schools in the country have been closed for more than a year since the ousted government led by detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi had decided not to open the schools in June last year as the country saw a surge in the coronavirus infections, Kyodo News reported. It further reported that, while the junta plans to reopen public schools amid efforts at normalizing the country, some 10,000 teachers and others engaged in education, which account for 60 percent of the total, are refusing to go back, according to teachers’ unions in the country. One teacher said he does not mind losing his job by boycotting work from June 1. “I will keep on joining the civil disobedience movement until we win against the junta,” said teacher. A female junior high school student expressed anger toward the junta, saying, “How can we go to school under the military government that has killed hundreds of people and continued firing (at protesters)?” The junta’s security forces have killed 788 people as of Saturday since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group monitoring the situation in Myanmar.
Khin Mai Aung shares how Buddhists and other allies can support Myanmar’s activists and Civil Disobedience Movement in the aftermath of the February 2021 military coup.
As Myanmar spiraled into chaos after a February 2021 military coup, the international Buddhist flock and other friends of the country who had been heartened by its transition to semi-democracy watched with mounting concern. To be sure, Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, has been backsliding on civil liberties for a few years – with an exodus of over 700,000 persecuted Rohingya Muslims, an alarming rise in religious nationalism, surging discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and targeting of political opponents with arrest.
But in the months since the coup, a widespread and rapid erosion of order and security has engulfed Myanmar, with scores of peaceful protestors gunned down, internet shutdowns, large scale targeting of journalists and media institutions, and a looming threat of all out civil war. The people of Myanmar – Buddhists and religious minorities, Bamar as well as ethnic minorities – collectively face a singular threat, the barbaric junta which has ruthlessly taken power despite a resounding loss in last year’s elections.
As international observers reflect on how to support Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement of boycotting government workers and brave protesters taking to the streets, Burmese community groups within the country’s diaspora and international Buddhist organizations have sprung into action. Partnering with vetted intermediaries in Thailand and Myanmar, these groups are dispersing aid in grants and in kind support on the ground within Myanmar.
The Clear View Project, a Buddhist nonprofit that funds social change and relief efforts from a socially engaged Buddhist perspective, is one such organization. In partnership with the International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB), Clear View has conducted fundraising for relief projects, including for telecommunications equipment like SIM cards, personal protective equipment for protestors, medical and funeral expenses, and financial support for government workers boycotting the junta.
Clear View and INEB are also launching a new initiative specifically to support monks and nuns in the Civil Disobedience Movement. While these religious figures have not been categorically targeted, this initiative is directed at assisting those who participated in protests, some of whom are in hiding to avoid arrest. Clearview is also working with partners to organize a “Burma Spring” virtual film festival benefit in June 2021 to raise additional funds to support Myanmar activists. As of late April, Clear View and INEB had raised about $24,000 for their collective efforts, and donors can designate their preference for use of funds.
Hozan Alan Senauke of the Clear View Project recommends that American allies can also make a difference by lobbying the United States “to apply pressure on Thailand [to advocate] for humanitarian treatment of displaced people, for opening its borders, and for not repatriating them – that’s a place that via the State Department we have some agency.”
Clear View’s sister program, the Buddhist Humanitarian Project, provides targeted support to Rohingya refugees. Over the past few years, it has raised over $50,000 to support Rohingya in refugee camps and local communities. It has continued these efforts since the coup, especially as fires ravaged several camps in Bangladesh this year. Such support is critical as Rohingya refugees remain in squalid camps and are at risk of COVID without sufficient personal protective equipment, as the world’s attention has turned to the coup and conditions inside Myanmar. One bright point, Hozan Senauke points out, is that after the coup “the whole nation of Myanmar is a tuning itself into the Rohingya issue [and broader concerns about] the government and military’s brutal discrimination toward various ethnic groups.”
Buddhist temples and secular community organizations affiliated with the Myanmar diaspora and its allies have also stepped up efforts to support the people of Myanmar. Mutual Aid Myanmar is a non-partisan volunteer organization consisting of activists and academics that is raising money to disperse humanitarian aid in Myanmar via trusted civil society groups. Like Clear View and INEB, their support covers funds for food, healthcare and shelter for now unemployed Myanmar government workers in the general strike against the junta. Mutual Aid Myanmar’s vetted local partners remain anonymous for their protection. Mutual Aid Myanmar has raised and distributed an impressive $275,000 for these purposes since the coup.
Other community-based efforts have focused on non-material supports, community education, and relationship building. The Baydar Collective is a network of youth activists from the Myanmar diaspora based in North America, named after the baydar (hyacinth) flower, which is associated with resilience and resistance. According to Ashley “Aye Aye” Dun, a graduate student at Brown University and a member of Baydar’s steering committee, Baydar’s goal is to “unite people in the Myanmar diaspora to talk about the ways that ongoing events in Myanmar affect our diasporic communities, because it directly affects us too through our families, relatives, and friends in the country struggling in the resistance.”
Baydar is hosting a virtual reading series focused on topics ranging from analyzing implications of the Myanmar opposition’s new constitution (the Federal Democracy Charter), discussing ethnic and religious divides in Myanmar and its diaspora, and examining parallels between anti-Chinese sentiment in Myanmar with the recent surge of anti-Asian violence in the United States. To celebrate Asian Pacific American heritage month in May, Baydar is launching a virtual art circle where members of the Myanmar diaspora will come together to discuss current events, socialize, and participate in drawing and art activities. Baydar has also supported activists in Myanmar though social media campaigns and public information dispersal, and plans to build coalitions with other Asian American activists and communities of color in the United States.
Aye Aye Dun reports that one critical way for Buddhists abroad and other supporters to support Myanmar’s resistance is to attend local anti-military protests, which Burmese Buddhist monks often attend. She believes “these events are a valuable opportunity for interfaith unity.” She also pointed to strategic boycott efforts – for example recent efforts to target Chevron, an American corporate investor in Myanmar which has actively lobbied against more aggressive sanctions on the country’s military.
More abstractly, and directed at the longer term, Aye Aye Dun suggests that allies can also focus on simply educating themselves more generally about the heterogeneity of resistance in Myanmar and its diaspora. In addition to providing direct support, allies can gain a more nuanced understanding of Myanmar’s ethnic and religious diversity and the country’s historical and sociopolitical context. They can also learn about how supporters of democracy within and outside Myanmar deploy their resistance in myriad ways, taking into account safety concerns within the country for themselves or relatives left behind. “A more sustained relationship to support Myanmar’s prodemocracy efforts requires us to always keep learning” about the situation and dynamics on the ground, says Aye Aye Dun, and “this is something we are trying to do at Baydar.”
While the situation in Myanmar is dire and likely to be protracted, these fundraising, support, and education efforts can foster a modicum of hope regarding the spirit of the people of Myanmar and its diaspora, and the diligent efforts of its diverse allies working to lift up and champion those on the frontlines of Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement.
More information about the efforts described above – which are not affiliated with Lion’s Roar – is listed below in alphabetical order.
Baydar Collective is a group of young people in North America from the Myanmar diaspora that conducts community education on the heterogeneity of anti-military resistance (and how it is shaped by intersecting differences in ethnicity, religion, class, gender, and sexuality), promotes the work of vetted United States nonprofits to support the people of Myanmar, highlights issues affecting the diaspora of Myanmar, and builds affinities and coalitions with other Asian American activists and activists of color.
Buddhist Humanitarian Project provides aid and support for Rohingya communities in Myanmar, Bangladesh and India. It is an initiative organized by the Clearview Project, in order to call upon the global Buddhist community to take a stand against violence inflicted upon the Rohingya and to support Rohingya refugees.
Clear View Project provides Buddhist-based resources for relief and social change, promotes dialogue on issues of socially engaged Buddhism, and supports communities in need, both internationally and within the United States. A successor of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s Burma Project, the Clear View Project has worked in Myanmar for many years including supporting activism leading up to the 2007 Saffron Revolution and throughout the country’s political and economic reforms since 2011, supporting political reforms and community development.
International Network of Engaged Buddhists is an autonomous organization under the Bangkok-based Sathirakoses-Nagapradeepa Foundation, and includes both organizational and individual members from more than 25 countries across Asia, Europe, North America and Australia. From this diversity, INEB promotes an understanding of socially engaged Buddhism which integrates the practice of Buddhism with social action for a healthy, just, and peaceful world.
Mutual Aid Myanmar provides humanitarian support via resources to unemployed general strike workers in Myanmar in the form of food, healthcare and shelter. Mutual Aid Myanmar and verified partner organizations provide this aid in kind and via small cash stipends. Partner organizations are vetted by their Board of Directors and are part of local civil society networks.
The suspensions come as the resumption of universities after a year closed due to the coronavirus epidemic prompts a new confrontation between the army and the staff and students who are calling for boycotts over the Feb. 1 coup.
More than 11,000 academics and other university staff opposed to Myanmar’s ruling junta have been suspended after going on strike in protest against military rule, a teachers’ group told Reuters.
“I feel upset to give up a job that I adored so much, but I feel proud to stand against injustice,” said one 37-year-old university rector, who gave her name only as Thandar for fear of reprisals.
“My department summoned me today. I’m not going. We shouldn’t follow the orders of the military council.”A professor on a fellowship in the United States said she was told she would have to declare opposition to the strikes or lose her job. Her university authorities had told her every scholar would be tracked down and forced to choose, she told Reuters.
As of Monday, more than 11,100 academic and other staff had been suspended from colleges and universities offering degrees, an official of the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation told Reuters, declining to be identified for fear of reprisals.Reuters was not immediately able to ascertain exactly what proportion of total staff that figure represents. Myanmar had more than 26,000 teachers in universities and other tertiary education institutions in 2018, according to the most recent World Bank data.
Students and teachers were at the forefront of opposition during nearly half a century of military rule and have been prominent in the protests since the army detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and halted a decade of tentative democratic reforms.
Many teachers, like medics and other government workers, have stopped work as part of a civil disobedience movement that has paralysed Myanmar. As protests flared after the coup, security forces occupied campuses in the biggest city, Yangon, and elsewhere.A spokesman for the junta did not respond to phone calls seeking comment on the suspensions.
The junta-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said teachers and students should cooperate to get the education system started again.
“Political opportunists do not wish to see such development by committing sabotage acts,” it said.
BOYCOTTSIt was not clear to what extent the 11,000 staff suspensions would hamper efforts to reopen colleges but many students are also boycotting classes.
At the public West Yangon Technological University, the student’s union published a list of 180 staff who had been suspended to hail them as heroes.
“I don’t feel sad to miss school,” said 22-year-old Hnin, a student of the Yangon University of Education. “There’s nothing to lose from missing the junta’s education.
“Zaw Wai Soe, education minister in a rival National Unity Government set up underground by opponents of the junta, said he was touched that students had told him they would only return “when the revolution prevails”.
Doubts have also been raised over the return to school of younger students, with institutions now taking registrations for the start of a new year. There are nearly 10 million school students in the country of 53 million.
Protesters daubed “We don’t want to be educated in military slavery” at the entrance of a school in the southern town of Mawlamyine last week, a phrase that has been echoed at demonstrations across Myanmar by students.
“We’ll go to school only when Grandmother Suu is released,” read a banner of students in the northern town of Hpakant at the weekend, referring to detained leader Suu Kyi. “Free all students at once,” said another sign.
Many students are among at least 780 people killed by security forces and the 3,800 in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.
At least 47 teachers are also among the detainees while arrest warrants have been issued for some 150 teachers on charges of incitement.
Myanmar’s education system was already one of the poorest in the region – and ranked 92 of 93 countries in a global survey last year.
Even under the leadership of Suu Kyi, who had championed education, spending was below 2% of gross domestic product. That was one of the lowest rates in the world, according to World Bank figures.
Students could have little expectation of progress in Myanmar this year, said Saw Kapi, a founding director of the Salween Institute for Public Policy think tank.
“When it comes to education, I would suggest that instead of thinking about getting a bachelor’s degree, you must go to the University of Life with a major in revolution,” he wrote on social media. “You can go for a Masters or PhD later.”
Opposition to the military’s coup has boosted ethnic armed groups, creating a new challenge to its lucrative jade and gems business.
Life in Myanmar’s jade-producing regions was always difficult and precarious but since the military seized power from the civilian government on February 1, it has become even more dangerous.
In Kachin State’s Hpakant township, which has the world’s largest and most lucrative jade mines, there are more soldiers and police, access to mining sites has become more difficult and local markets have stopped operating.
“Many places are dangerous to dig jade now. There are only a few places where we can dig by hand or small machine,” said Sut Naw, a local miner who preferred to use a pseudonym for security reasons.
Police and soldiers are now guarding company compounds, he added, patrolling roads day and night. They also stop people on the streets or in their vehicles, checking for jade and other valuables and searching through people’s phones for evidence of resistance to the coup.
“I have seen many zombie movies, but never realised that I would be living in a similar environment,” he said. “People don’t go out at all unless they have to.”
The military has long dominated Myanmar’s jade industry and continues to rake in immense profits. Myanmar’s annual jade and gems emporium, held from April 1 to 10, brought in $6.5m on the sixth day alone, according to state media.
In 2015, the environmental watchdog Global Witness valued Myanmar’s jade industry at $31bn and described it as possibly the “biggest natural resource heist in modern history.” Identifying the Tatmadaw and armed elites as the industry’s biggest profiteers, the exploitation of jade was “an appalling crime that poses a serious threat to democracy and peace in Myanmar,” it said.
Keel Dietz, a Myanmar policy adviser with Global Witness, told Al Jazeera that with the Tatmadaw now in total control over the formal governance of natural resources, they were likely to step up that exploitation.
“There is a huge risk that the military, in their desperate efforts to maintain control, will look to the country’s natural resource wealth to sustain their rule, to buy weapons, and enrich themselves,” he said.
Escalating clashes between the Kachin Independence Army, the armed wing of an ethnic armed group in the resource-rich northern state and the military, known as the Tatmadaw, have raised questions over the control over the jade mines.
Before a 1994 ceasefire, the Kachin Independence Organization, which has been fighting for federal rights to self-determination since 1961, controlled most of the mines and local people were able to enjoy a share of the wealth through small-scale mining activities. The KIA is its armed wing.
The ceasefire saw most of the jade-mining region nationalised under a military government known for exploiting resources without regard for the social and environmental consequences.
The state-owned Myanmar Gems Enterprise took control over the regulation of mining activity and issuing licences, which it signed over to itself and to companies that benefitted its interests, including proxy companies, companies run by military cronies and those connected to armed actors including the United Wa State Army, which runs its own special administrative region on the China border and has a history of links to drug trafficking.
These companies levelled mountains, dug enormous trenches and dumped waste with impunity.
Hundreds of thousands of migrants flocked to the area, dreaming of digging their way to prosperity but found themselves scavenging through company waste heaps; if they found a big stone, it was confiscated by soldiers.
The natural environment was destroyed, landslides and mining accidents claimed hundreds of lives, and drug abuse skyrocketed – all while the Tatmadaw pocketed handsome profits.
Shortly after winning elections in 2015, the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi pledged to reform the industry and in August 2016, suspended the renewal of mining licences and the issuance of new ones.
But companies bypassed the suspensions with impunity, and the NLD government was widely criticised by rights groups for failing to bring meaningful changes to the jade industry. In July 2020, more than 170 people were buried in a landslide in a Hpakant jade mine.
“The government and military have never respected natural resources,” said Ah Shawng,* a land and Indigenous rights activist in Hpakant. “They extract resources as they wish and only for themselves. .. Our natural resources are all disappearing and being destroyed.”
But since the coup, resistance to centralised policies and the exploitation of ethnic people and the land and resources in their states appears to be rising.
The 2008 military-drafted constitution, which centralised land and resource management at the union level and entrenched Tatmadaw power, was abolished on March 31 by officials forced out by the military. In its place, they put forward an interim Federal Democracy Charter.
Mainstream support for armed resistance to military rule has also increased, as the Tatmadaw arrests thousands and indiscriminately shoots civilians. Some 739 people have been killed, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which is tracking the violence.
With ethnic armed groups, including the KIO, in a position to offer protection and help fight back against the generals, ethnic minorities’ struggles for self-determination under a federal system, which were once largely ignored by the majority Bamar public, are now increasingly popular. Pro-KIA demonstrations have been held across Kachin State and even in central Myanmar, while the number of recruits is rising.
Although the KIA and Tatmadaw have been at war since the ceasefire collapsed in 2011, fighting had slowed since 2018.
But since the coup conflict has escalated.
Clashes have been taking place nearly every day. The KIA, so far, appears to have the upper hand – it has taken several Tatmadaw bases and claims to have obliterated entire battalions, killing hundreds of soldiers.
Some of the most intense fighting has occurred in and around Hpakant, where Ah Shawng, the local rights activist who also prefers to use a pseudonym for her security, says most locals support the KIA.
“Now, when [junta] forces harm people, the KIA protects and stands with us,” she said, adding that the KIA had been successful in driving out some security forces from the area.
On March 28, the KIA killed about 30 policemen who had raided a jade mining site operated by the Taut Pa Kyal mining company, according to Kachin State-based media reports.
The company, according to a BBC Burmese article, is backed by the Kyaw Naing company, which has 64 licenced mining sites and failed to disclose a military crony among its beneficial owners in 2020. Days later, a photo circulated on social media of a police station, allegedly at another company jade mining site in Hpakant, bearing a white flag of surrender to the KIA. Al Jazeera contacted the KIO to verify the incidents but they declined to comment on matters related to Hpakant.
The KIA may be fighting to gain control of other areas as well – including some areas beyond Kachin State.
Local news agency Myanmar Now reported on April 15 that the KIA and Tatmadaw had clashed in Mogok, a city in Mandalay region hundreds of miles from Kachin State.
Mogok’s mines possess the world’s most valuable rubies, as well as other lucrative gemstones. On April 16, a group of youth in Mogok staged a pro-KIA march and drew a large “Welcome KIA” banner on the street. The next day, the military forces gunned down at least two people in the city.
Sanctions, import bans
The United States has already imposed sanctions on Myanmar Gems Enterprise, as well as on two military holding companies, Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation Limited (MEC). This week, the European Union also added MEHL and MEC to its sanctions list.
Dietz of Global Witness told Al Jazeera that while the sanctions were “hugely important,” they were likely to have only a limited effect on the jade sector without the support of China, which serves as the primary market for Myanmar’s jade, a highly prized luminous green stone.
“Global Witness encourages the international community to place import bans on all jade and coloured gemstones coming from Myanmar,” he said.
He also expressed concern that as the Tatmadaw finds itself squeezed of funds, it might try sell off resource concessions in exchange for fast cash.
“The international community should make it clear to commodity trading firms and other investors in natural resources that now is not the time to be making large new resource deals in Myanmar – the military regime is not a legitimate government, and should not be allowed to sell away Myanmar’s remaining mineral wealth to sustain itself,” he said.
Tu Hkawng the Minister of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation under the newly-formed interim National Unity Government running in parallel to the generals’ administration, told Al Jazeera that it was time to bring natural resource management back into the hands of the local people.
Appointed on April 16, he has already begun engaging with local stakeholders to reform natural resource management policy through the lens of Indigenous rights.
“We are trying to build a collective leadership … to engage more with the grassroots-level community and solve the problems together,” he said. “This is a bottom-up approach. In order to achieve it, we have to build a network with every stakeholder and collaborate.”
He hopes that by addressing natural resource governance, the civil wars that have plagued the country for the past 70 years can finally be brought to an end.
“Every ethnic group has the right to manage and benefit from the natural resources on its own land. Right now we don’t have that,” he said. “If everyone gets to govern their own land, we won’t have to fight any more.”
*Names have been changed to protect the security of those interviewed, at their request.
In his first comment on the military coup in Myanmar, Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane on Wednesday asserted that India wants a “stable” Myanmar.
During a virtual conference on the role of the Indian Army in dealing with the contemporary national security challenges, Naravane said that Myanmar is the bridge between India and the rest of South Asian countries.
“Myanmar plays a key role in India’s foreign policy. It is the bridge between India and the rest of South Asia and therefore we want a stable neighbour and a stable Myanmar. I think the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has already stated the country’s position in this regard that – we support the process for transition to democracy and that is what we should be looking forward to,” he said.
The Army Chief also recalled the Myanmar Army’s role in the fight against insurgency along Indian borders in north-east states.
“As far military to military level interaction is concerned, we share a good repo especially on the border, where we conversate quite often. Over the last two years, we had a number of co-ordinated operations in border areas along Nagaland and Manipur. Myanmar Army has carried out operations in flushing out various Indian insurgent groups, who were taking temporary shelters across the borders. As a result of that, a large number of insurgent groups surrender took place,” he said.
On February 1, Myanmar’s military overthrew the government and declared a year-long state of emergency hours before the newly-elected parliament was due to convene. State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, along with other top officials accused of election fraud, have been placed under house arrest.
KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian court has allowed a temporary stay of deportation of 1,200 Myanmar nationals scheduled to be sent back to their strife-torn homeland on Tuesday, after rights groups said the plan could endanger their lives.
The 1,200 detainees were set to leave on Tuesday afternoon in three navy ships sent by Myanmar’s military, which seized power in a Feb. 1 coup, sparking weeks of protests from pro-democracy activists.
Just before the court issued its order, the migrants were bussed in from across the country to the naval base at Lumut in western Malaysia where the Myanmar ships are docked.
Refugee groups say asylum seekers from the minority Chin, Kachin and non-Rohingya Muslim communities fleeing conflict and persecution at home are among those being deported.
Amnesty International, which with Asylum Access had asked the courts to stop the deportation, said the high court granted a stay until 10 a.m. on Wednesday, when it will hear the groups’ application for judicial review to suspend the deportation.
“It’s important to note that the stay of execution granted by the court does not mean the 1,200 are safe from being deported,” said Katrina Maliamauv, Amnesty Malaysia director.
“We urge the government to reconsider its plans to send this group of vulnerable people back to Myanmar, where human rights violations are currently dangerously high,” she said.
Amnesty has said among the deportees were three people registered with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and 17 minors who have at least one parent in Malaysia.
Spokespeople for Malaysia’s immigration department and foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment on the court order.
Malaysia has said it would not deport Rohingya Muslims or refugees registered with UNHCR. But the UN refugee agency has said there are at least six people registered with it that are also set to be deported and that there could be more. It has not been allowed access to the deportees.
Malaysia has not responded publicly to critics or Reuters queries over the deportation of the asylum seekers and those registered with UNHCR.
Concerns over deportation of unregistered asylum-seekers persist, as UNHCR has not been allowed to interview detainees for over a year to verify their status. The Southeast Asian nation is home to more than 154,000 asylum-seekers from Myanmar.
The United States and other Western missions have been trying to dissuade Malaysia from proceeding with the deportation and urged the government to allow UNHCR to interview the detainees. They also say Malaysia is legitimising the military government by cooperating with the junta.
Myanmar’s military leadership has been warned it faces European Union sanctions after replacing the government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The EU also announced additional measures against Russia in response to the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.
The bloc’s foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels on Monday to discuss a packed agenda including a videoconference with the new U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Shortly after starting, the group issued a statement on Myanmar, saying: “The EU stands ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible.”
The military has steadily escalated efforts to quell an uprising against their seizure of power two weeks ago, which saw civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained along with hundreds of other members of her democratically elected government.
Myanmar’s junta cut the nation’s internet and deployed extra troops around the country on Monday as fears built of a widespread crackdown on anti-coup protests, but defiant demonstrators again took to the streets.
The military has steadily escalated efforts to quell an uprising against their seizure of power two weeks ago, which saw civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained along with hundreds of other members of her democratically elected government.
With protesters refusing to back down, the generals imposed an internet shutdown on Monday morning and ratcheted up the military’s presence across the country.
Extra troops were seen in key locations of Yangon, the nation’s commercial hub and biggest city, including armoured personnel carriers near the central bank.
Live-stream images shared on social media platforms before the internet blackout showed more military vehicles and soldiers moving through others parts of the country.
However fresh protests again flared in Yangon on Monday morning, including near the central bank.
Hundreds of engineering and technology students protested in a northern district of Yangon, according to an AFP journalist.
Monitoring group NetBlocks initially said the “state-ordered information blackout” had taken Myanmar almost entirely offline.
However some internet services in Yangon resumed at the start of the working day, according to an AFP reporter in the city.
Deepening fears the military was going to impose a far harsher crackdown, troops in the northern city of Myitkyina fired tear gas then shot at a crowd on Sunday night.
A journalist at the scene said it was unclear whether police had used rubber bullets or live rounds.
Local media outlets said at least five journalists monitoring the protest had been detained and published pictures of some people wounded in the incident.
A joint statement from the US, British and European Union ambassadors urged security forces not to harm civilians.
“We call on security forces to refrain from violence against demonstrators, who are protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government,” they said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres echoed that call, pushing authorities to “ensure the right of peaceful assembly is fully respected and demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals”.
Through his spokesman, Guterres also asked the military to “urgently” allow Swiss diplomat Christine Schraner Burgener to visit Myanmar “to assess the situation first hand”.
The US embassy advised American citizens to shelter in place and not risk defying an overnight curfew imposed by the regime.
NAY PYI TAW, Jan. 11 — China will stand firm with Myanmar to jointly fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, push for economic recovery and build the China-Myanmar community with a shared future, visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here Monday.
Wang made the remarks during a meeting with Myanmar President U Win Myint.
Noting that he is the first foreign minister to visit Myanmar after the Southeast Asian country’s general elections, Wang said his visit is aimed at demonstrating China’s anticipation and support for the successful formation of Myanmar’s new government as well as Myanmar’s efforts to realize prosperity and long-term stability.
Through close consultations, China and Myanmar have agreed in principle on the action plan of building the China-Myanmar community with a shared future following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s historic state visit to Myanmar last year, Wang noted.
China decided to provide an emergency aid of COVID-19 vaccines to Myanmar to support its fight against the pandemic, and is willing to carry out further vaccine cooperation with Myanmar, said Wang.
Wang believed that the “Paukphaw” (fraternal) friendship between the two countries will be further carried forward and the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership will be further deepened after the testing of the pandemic.
Wang said China supports Myanmar’s new government in revitalizing its economy, improving people’s well-being, and accelerating industrialization, hoping that the two sides would effectively implement the agreement on the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor with a concerted effort.
Wang said the two countries can extend activities of the China-Myanmar Year of Culture and Tourism to 2021 and promote people-to-people exchanges between the two sides.
China supports the Myanmar government’s efforts in pursuing national reconciliation and will continue to provide assistance within its capacity, he said.
Wang noted that this year Myanmar will assume the roles of the country coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, co-chair of Lancang-Mekong Cooperation and co-chair of consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.
Wang said China would like to enhance coordination and cooperation with Myanmar to upgrade China-ASEAN relations, accelerate the development of the Lancang-Mekong economic zone, push for the early implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
For his part, President U Win Myint said the Chinese foreign minister was the first to visit Myanmar soon after the new government led by the National League for Democracy was formed in 2016 and took the lead to visit Myanmar again this time during the pandemic, showing China attaches great importance to the relations with Myanmar.
He said Myanmar is committed to working with China to jointly build the Myanmar-China community with a shared future sharing weal and woe, expressing appreciation to China for its support in combating the pandemic and pushing forward the national reconciliation in Myanmar.
The president said Myanmar firmly adheres to the one-China principle and will continue to support China’s position on issues related to Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang, adding that Myanmar is willing to play an active role in advancing China-ASEAN relations and Lancang-Mekong Cooperation.
Myanmar has ordered 30 million coronavirus vaccines from India that are expected to be delivered by the end of February.
Zaw Htay, the President Office director-general said that Myanmar chose the vaccine because it can be stored in a temperature between 2 to 8 degrees centigrade that is suitable as per the country’s temperature.
Earlier, Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi had announced that her country will get the COVID-19 vaccine from India and that a contract has been signed regarding it.
Myanmar has reported 129,483 coronavirus cases with a death toll of 2,812. The country’s government has been communicating with neighbouring countries to acquire COVID-19 vaccines.
Last year the Indian foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and Army Chief MM Naravane had jointly visited the country. The visit saw high-level assurances from India that Myanmar will be a priority when it comes to the vaccine.
India gifted 3000 vials of Anti Covid Remdesivir to State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi as a “symbol” of India‘s commitment to helping Myanmar mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Myanmar has signed MoU with the Serum Institute of India for Covishield. Over the weekend, India’s drug regulator gave approval for its use.