Even though street protests have died down in Myanmar since the February coup last year – with most sizzling into flash mobs – heavy fighting between the military and various local militia has intensified and many people have said they live in constant fear.
Villagers continue to flee from military air strikes and actively avoid being caught in the crossfire between the Myanmar army and local resistance forces.
There are also clear signs that the Myanmar army has reprised its hallmark tactic of destroying entire villages where there may be support for the opposition.
Security analysts say such acts force villagers to flee, thereby exposing any resistance fighters who may be hiding in their midst.
The Myanmar army has regularly denied committing such atrocities.
During their regular media briefings, the military would often pin the blame on resistance fighters or People’s Defence Force, formed by the pro-democratic National Unity Government (NUG), Myanmar’s de facto shadow government.
The Myanmar army, or Tatmadaw as it is known, often say its soldiers exercise maximum restraint and minimum force, but increasingly, the NUG is starting to hold online media events to shed light on these atrocities.
One of them details mass killings in Kayah State on Christmas Eve where about 35 people, including women and children were killed and burned in various vehicles.
Witnesses said some were even torched alive.
During that media event, the NUG lined up witnesses including doctors who did autopsies on the bodies as well as victims’ families to give their testimonies.
The NUG also aired a drone footage showing the extent of the damage in Kayah State – a group of burnt-out vehicles with completely charred corpses inside them.
Founding member of Special Advisory Council for Myanmar Chris Sidoti, an international human rights and law expert, said the situation in Myanmar is bad and getting worse.
“The Myanmar military really is a terrorist organisation and there’s no other way to describe it,” Mr. Sidoti said.
The NUG said it is currently collecting evidence of the Tatmadaw’s mass atrocities and to date, it has 400,000 photos and videos.
NUG’s spokesperson Dr. Sa Sa said with this pool of evidence, NUG will parcel them out to different legal channels to seek redress, including to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
However, Myanmar has not accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction thus far, until the NUG declared in September last year that it would do so.
The NUG is also banking on the universal jurisdiction process.
Currently, a court in Argentina is applying universal jurisdiction to hear cases of abuses against the Rohingya people.
“What it means is that any court in the world could try the commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing for the war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Mr. Chris Sidoti said.
ASEAN, the United Nations and other countries can meanwhile continue to rally calls for an end to violence. (Source: CNA)