Burma: more than 12,000 displaced after army air raids, rebel faction says

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More than 12,000 displaced people have fled airstrikes carried out by the Burmese army, according to one of the main rebel factions which are calling on the country’s multitude of ethnic minorities to unite against the regime’s murderous crackdown.

“More than 12,000 civilians have fled their villages causing a major humanitarian crisis,” said the Karen National Union (KNU).

Responding to the security forces’ bloodbath against opponents of the February 1 coup, the KNU seized a military base in south-eastern Karen state last week, killing ten soldiers.

The army responded with air raids targeting faction strongholds, a first for twenty years in this region.

“Many civilians died, including minors and students. Schools, houses and villages have been destroyed, ”the KNU noted.

“We urge all ethnic minorities in the country (which has more than 130, Editor’s note) to take strong action and take sanctions” against those responsible.

Burma: more than 12,000 displaced after army airstrikes, rebel faction says

Civil war?

Since Burma’s independence in 1948, many ethnic armed factions have been in conflict with the central government for more autonomy, access to numerous natural resources or a share of the lucrative drug trade.

As of 2015, the military had concluded a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with ten of them, including the powerful Karen National Union.

“We hope that the majority of KNU members will respect the ceasefire,” junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun told AFP on Saturday, assuring that the air raids had only lasted a day.

The 10 rebel factions that signed the ANC are holding a meeting this weekend.

Shortly after the coup, they had indicated that they would continue to apply the ceasefire, despite the passage in force of the generals.

But since then “hundreds of civilians, children, adolescents and women have been killed” by the security forces, they wrote in a statement on Saturday. “We will re-evaluate” our position during the meeting.

Other armed groups have already provided support for democratic mobilization and threatened to take up arms against the junta.

And the UN envoy for Burma, Christine Schraner Burgener, this week warned of an “unprecedented” risk of “civil war”.

Burma: more than 12,000 displaced after army air raids, rebel faction says

More than 550 dead

The junta continues its murderous repression.

More than 550 civilians have been shot by security forces in the past two months, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP).

The toll could be much heavier: some 2,700 people have been arrested. Held incommunicado, without access to their loved one or to a lawyer, many are missing.

The junta also blocked internet access for a large majority of the population, cutting off mobile data and wireless connections.

Radio frequencies, SMS, applications that work without connection: the pro-democracy movement is trying to find other alternatives to organize itself.

In Dawei, in the south of the country, young people marched on Saturday, waving red flags in the colors of the National League for Democracy (NLD) of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Other rallies were held across the country and at least three people were killed and several injured, witnesses told AFP.

“The junta is now using grenades … machine guns and other weapons of war against the Burmese people. This madness must stop, ”tweeted UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews, urging the implementation of an arms embargo.

But the UN Security Council remains divided.

China and Russia are categorically opposed to the idea of ​​United Nations sanctions, unlike the United States and the United Kingdom which have already imposed them on their sides.

The generals are also tightening their legal grip on Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, accused of corruption and violating a colonial-era state secrets law.

If she is found guilty, the former leader, detained incommunicado, but “in good health” according to her lawyers, risks being banned from political life and faces long years in prison.