Monthly Overview: International Engagement with the Military Junta, Including United Nations Affiliates, Undermines the Pro-Democracy Movement 

September 4, 2023


While the human rights situation in Burma continues to deteriorate, civil society organizations, including the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM), remain committed to the success of the pro-democracy movement. Engagement with local communities, respected leaders and refugee-led organizations and committees are critical to ensuring the response to the humanitarian crisis is rooted in an approach of ‘do no harm.’ This effort can be strengthened with the international community’s support, which can allocate funds and resources to displaced people and conflict-affected refugees.

Further, the Commanders of the junta have repeatedly issued orders that threaten civilian safety. The situation has worsened in Mon State, Karen State, and the Tanintharyi region, where HURFOM fieldworkers report daily abuses. Indiscriminate firing displaces families and significantly undermines their survival and access to education and work. 

However, in the last two and half years since the attempted coup, the United Nations, in particular, has increased its engagement with the regime. This is deeply problematic because it also risks the regime’s legitimization on a global scale. Local organizations have advocated for more visibility of their causes as the situation worsens. The meetings with the junta do a sincere disservice to these efforts, which are done at severe risk to the lives. The Burma Army soldiers repeatedly target human rights defenders. 

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Among the cases documented this month, on August 13, U Zaw Min Oo, a social worker aged 40, was arrested at his home by the military junta, including the Special Branch forces. The victim was employed at the Chit Kyi Yay charity group. 

“He was working as a driver of a rental car. He drives both a passenger car and a charity ambulance. He used to bring food from the city with his car. It is unknown why he was arrested,” said a West Maw Ton village resident. It is not yet known where the two men, who are currently under arrest, are being held.

 Another worrying observation has been the military’s ongoing targeting of displaced communities across Southeastern Burma. On 7 August at noon, residents of Ya Nge village, Thayat Chaung Township, Dawei, who had been fleeing the fighting for the past two months, were beaten and arrested by the military soldiers when they attempted to return home. Soldiers tortured three local men and two women. The women were released. However, the men are still in military custody. In addition to arresting people, the military seized the motorbikes of residents and took them to the 403rd Light Infantry Battalion based in Thayat Chaung for their use. 

The ongoing targeting of internally displaced people (IDPs) prompted HURFOM to release a statement this month condemning the military junta’s deliberate attacks in Southeastern Burma. At least 200,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes and seek shelter in the jungle and other remote areas in Karen State, Mon State and Tanintharyi region since the attempted coup on 1 February 2021. In recent weeks, HURFOM has observed an increase in displaced civilians being abducted and tortured by various battalions of the Burma Army. The impacts have been devastating as the ongoing conflict threatens their survival. 

Even places of worship and religious practice are being targeted. Monasteries are among the most common safety areas as the monks often protect those fleeing junta-sponsored violence. Now, the military is reinforcing and mobilizing its presence in villages between the Ye and Thanbyuzayat Township, Mon State. Soldiers are currently stationed at the monasteries in the villages. This has eliminated a pathway for security and brought new fears for villagers. Due to the heavy presence of Burmese troops, they are also seriously concerned about the possibility of armed clashes. One local told HURFOM: “Our village has become a battlefield, and we are afraid.”

Soldiers also continue to abduct civilians to be used as human shields, which most recently occurred on 13 August in Wazun Taw, Yebyu Township, Dawei, where 28 civilians, including women, were forced from their homes to guide junta troops. Household items in Wazun Taw village were also burned.

Villagers taken as human shields by the military junta column in the Nabu Le area in Yebyu Township on August 8 have still not been released. At least three women are among those arbitrarily arrested. The villagers were abducted when they were fishing and looking for seasonable vegetables. The current situation has made access to food extremely challenging and has only been made worse with crippling inflation.  Due to the rapid increase in the price of essential goods and difficulty purchasing food, as the fleeing residents have no work, there is an urgent need for humanitarian aid, including food.

Indiscriminate firing has led to the rise of displaced communities. Artillery shells fired by the military junta struck Hton Bo Lay village, Thaton Township, Mon State, killing one civilian and injuring four, according to residents and the Karen National Union (KNU) based in Thaton district.

At around 5:00 a.m. on July 27, the clash between the two sides occurred after the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) attacked the military junta’s Wee Yaw camp based in Thaton Township. During the fighting, the junta troops fired at least 40 rounds of 80 mm and 60 mm artillery weapons into Hton Bo Lay and Htow Kaw Kyoe villages.

“The clash lasted only half an hour. As soon as the fighting ended, they started firing weapons into the village. A boy was hit in the head by the shell and died. Other villagers in some areas are already fleeing,” said a resident of Hton Bo Lay.

At the end of July, due to the junta troops entering Thaton Township, more than 1,000 residents of Mi Chaung Lake, Kha Lauk Inn and Ma Yan Gon villages fled their homes, according to the KNU Thaton district.

In addition, on July 26th, the military junta unit arrested two residents of Thaton Township as human shields, of which only U Wa So from Ma Yan Gon village was released, and local Saw Mya Laung was still detained.  Some people have fled their homes due to launching artillery weapons.

The junta perpetrated dozens of human rights violations between 25 July and 6 August. On August 14, 2023, the military junta troops that entered the KNU Brigade No.1 Administrative Areas shot and killed a civilian and forcibly took valuable materials from 36 houses owned by the villagers.

On July 26, the military junta troops on patrol shot and killed Saw Dawlar, who was returning to Shwe Yaung Pya village on a motorcycle. His body was found near the outside of the town on August 8.

“We have compiled a list of human rights violations by the military junta that entered the villages. The worst thing is to shoot civilians and raid public houses. They took all the belongings and destroyed the homes. Their column retreated on August 6,” said KNU Thaton district information officer.

Money was stolen from three houses owned by the villagers in Khalauk Inn village as well as taking phone bills and food also seized valuables things and the chickens, pigs, and goats that were raised from 33 houses in Shwe Yaung Pya village by the junta military during their column.

According to a statement from the Thaton district, Brigade 1 of KNU, at least ten civilians’ houses in Ma Yan Gon village were damaged due to artillery weapons fired by the military junta troops during the patrol.

“As of 14 August, no one has dared to return to the village. They are afraid of being confronted by the military patrol. Some have moved to villages close to the city. Most villagers are fleeing to safe places,” said a Shwe Yaung Pya local. 

When the military junta troops entered Thaton township, nearly 5,000 residents of ten villages, such as Shwe Yaung Pya, Ma Yan Gon, and Khalauk Inn, were forced to evacuate and could not return safely.

Karen National Union (KNU) Thaton Township residents were arrested as human shields during the military junta’s raid. Some people have fled their homes due to launching artillery weapons. Women and children are the victims who are struck while trying to escape the fighting in their areas.

In July 2023, the Mawlamyine-based Junta’s Southeast Regional Military Command launched more than 50 rounds of indiscriminate artillery weapons at civilians in Brigade #6 of the KNU, including airstrikes, which led to the deaths of local people.

In July 2023, the junta troops fired 53 rounds of artillery weapons into the villages where the people lived in Dupalaya District. As a result of these shootings, nine innocent civilians, including two children of 6 and 8 years of age, were injured, and one was killed. 

In addition, due to the deliberate firing of artillery shells by the military Junta, one monastery, six residential houses, and public property, including two cars and one motorcycle, were damaged, and 17 cows raised by the villagers were hit by the shells, according to reports from the ground.

“Seven people’s homes were damaged in Kyarinnsaikyi, and some were so destroyed that they could not be completely repaired. In addition, due to the heavy rains, there have been floods in some places. Food and shelter have become more difficult than ever,” a local from Kyarinnsaikyi told the news report network.

The airstrikes deployed by the military was the Mi-35p helicopter, which fired six times and damaged at least ten residential houses and many livestock, causing more than 3,000 people to flee. In addition, the KNU has reported that three innocent women and young people were injured when they stepped on landmines planted by the terrorist military Junta near roads used by the public and villages where people live.

Worse yet – the homes of IDPs forced to flee are routinely destroyed by the military junta. More than two hundred houses forcibly departed by IDPs in Yebyu Township were looted and destroyed, and crimes were being committed continuously by the military junta troops and the militia group under them, according to local sources.

On 22 August, three residents reported that the junta and the militia group brazenly broke into the houses and destroyed the remaining places, taking the valuables and belongings left behind after the local people fled the conflict.

The Light Infantry Batllion 406 and 407 and their Pyu Saw Htee soldiers, which have been reinforcing in the Nabu Lae area since the 8th of August,  stole and destroyed 23 houses in Wazun Taw village, more than 170 houses in Ayekani village, and 26 houses in Khamaung Chaung village.

When they left the villages, we recorded it as soon as they left. Their columns are still deployed around the area. According to the latest update by HURFOM, the junta continues to burn homes in the village, forcing dozens of families to flee together. 

“We don’t know how we will struggle to survive, let alone find a place to live. The people of Ayekani village next to the village also fled. Now, more than 400 people are fleeing the war here. We still have to evacuate. Some of them have already returned, and if we return, I think the houses will be destroyed and burned into ash,” said a man from Bagaw Soon village.

In the last two weeks of August, the military junta joint troops such as the Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 408 and 409, as well as the Artillery Battalion No.304, arrested more than fifty civilians as human shields and released them when they retreated. However, approximately ten residents were abducted and taken to the Yebyu police station.

As of the second week of August, fourteen homes in Ayekani village and two houses in Wazun Taw village Yebyu Township were burned down, and about 140 houses were also burgled, and many were destroyed.

“I don’t think rehabilitation will work for the rest of our lives. So far, the first thing I’ve been worried about is the need for children to eat at least one meal a day and to encourage them to overcome their fears as long as possible. My child cries daily, and we have less than a few pounds left of rice. On behalf of the IDPs, please support us as long as you can,” requested by an IDP male, over 50 years old, resident of Ayekani village, August 20, 2023.

This feeling of insecurity and uncertainty is not uncommon. Many people in Southeastern Burma and across the country share the same fears. The many challenges they have been forced to endure have made it difficult to plan for the future. It is not surprising that many young people are trying to leave Burma to pursue other opportunities abroad or in bordering countries such as Thailand. The threat of human trafficking and scam centers further challenges people to reach freedom, as many are tricked into non-existent jobs and are then exploited. 

The increasing presence of soldiers in civilian areas threatens their survival and further seeks to worsen their situation. Humanitarian assistance is urgently needed and must be delivered through cross-border aid where long-time, established, and trusted humanitarian responders can safely ensure it reaches those in need. To target displaced communities violates internationally binding agreements, laws and treaties. 

Further, international aid agencies and donors, including the UN affiliates, must not partner in any capacity with the junta, particularly in providing humanitarian aid to those affected by the protracted conflict. This effort should be channelled through established community-based organizations founded and led by former refugees as well as ethnic service providers, ethnic revolution organizations and long-time human rights defenders or departments operating within local governance structures or the National Unity Government. HURFOM calls for an immediate end to the violence and protection for those fleeing ongoing persecution. 

HURFOM remains concerned over the escalating human rights situation. Two and half years since the attempted coup have now passed, and the junta has failed to be held to account. Ethnic people have suffered for many years and endured a struggle of pain and discrimination rooted in policies stemming from Burmanization. It is long overdue that the international community and regional actors, including ASEAN, stand with the people of Burma, who remain steadfast in their unwavering commitment to peace and democracy. 

Karen State

In Karen State, the growing presence of soldiers threatens the people. Around noon on August 19, a local villager was killed, and some were injured because the military Light Infantry Battalion No.559, which was stationed near the bridge of Taung Kyar Inn, launched artillery weapons on Taung Kyar Inn village, Kyon Doe township, Kawkareik Township, Karen State according to the villagers.

As of August 22, the junta troops fired with artillery mortars upon nearby villages, including Taung Kyar Inn village, and more than 200 villagers are still fleeing to safety.

“The victim, 50-year-old Mann Myint Kyaw, was hit by the shell and died on the spot due to the military Junta’s artillery weapons launching into Taung Kyar Inn village, Kyon Do Township, Karen State. Three local homes were also damaged. As of August 23, the junta forces continued to fire into the village. Their planes were also flying very low,” according to a youth group providing food aid in the area.

On August 20, artillery weapons fired by the military exploded in Taung Talar village in Kyon Do Township and damaged four cattle belonging to Daw Moo Thunt Hlaing.

Many villages in Kyon Do Township have now become battlefields. Some of them are being attacked to the point where people can no longer live there, and many villagers are taking refuge inside the KNU’s control area.

Mon State

Abductions are also ongoing. In the afternoon of the 29th of July, two young men, one from Lamaing and another from Mawkanin village, Ye Township, Mon State, were arrested by the police at the entrance to Ye town, according to locals. The junta is attempting to defame them through a lawsuit through baseless evidence of supporting opposition groups. 

Those who have fled their homes from Hnit Ka Yin village are moving to towns with close relatives in Ye Township, Thanbyuzayt, Mudon and Mawlamyine, and guest houses and monasteries in those cities. Most of them require emergency assistance. The residents in the village are worried and gather together to sleep at night. Most families who have left their homes in the villages are concerned about their homes.

On 4 August, ten others were arrested on the same accusations in the village quarters of Bilin Township, Mon State. Junta forces allegedly accused those people of informing and connecting with the People’s Defense Forces (PDFs). They were abducted on charges of providing financial support for them and condemning the junta on social media. 

The arrested victims are private bank employees Ma Ei Phyu Sin, a teacher of the Civil Disobedience Movement, Daw Aye Aye Khaing, Ko Zaw Win Oo from Metta Gold Shop, about 10, including Ko Win Naing.

“They have been arresting people with various accusations since the third week of last month. Those who have money are extorted and freed. Those who cannot pay are jailed,” a local said.

Among those arrested by the military, the gold shop owner and two youths were released after paying the ransom, while the rest have been still detained at Bilin Police station.

Those suspected of being affiliated with opposition forces also face severe threats. A resident of Theinzayat was arrested and charged with alleged connections to the People’s Defense Forces.

Ko San Tun Oo, a resident of Ward No. 3, Theinzayat town, Kyaik Hto township, Mon State, was abducted and beaten on accusations that he was involved in the bomb attack in Theinzayat last July. After that, the military issued Articles 50(I) and 52(A) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, which can punish Ko San Tun Oo with life imprisonment. The case has been opened at Theinzayat Police Station, Mon State.

“The young man works at the car wash shop. He is not related to any organization. They allegedly arrested him when they could not find the real culprit of the bomb attack,” said a local of Theinzayat. Ko San Tun Oo was allegedly targeted for sharing the activities of the National Unity Government (NUG) and the People’s Defense Force (PDF) on the social network Facebook, which was discovered on his phone.

In the two-and-a-half-years since the failed coup in Burma, nearly 20,000 people have been arrested, and more than 7,000 have been sentenced to prison terms, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) announced on August 9.

The homes of activists are also increasingly being confiscated by the military. At 10 AM on August 17, members of the Northern Ward administration, including the military junta and police from Kyaik Hto, came and sealed off the family home of Ko Ye Thwe Nyi, actively participating in the Spring Revolution.

The military junta came to the home of Ko Ye Thwe Nyi’s parents four days ago and warned the family members to leave the house.

“Ko Ye Thwe Nyi was an ordinary civilian who lived peacefully at home, surviving and running Steel Structure Workshop before the military coup. He chose to seek shelter in the revolutionary area after being hunted down by the junta troops for protesting against the coup. Many youths like him from Kyaik Hto are standing according to their political convictions in the liberated area,” said a relative of the victim, a resident of Kyaik Hto town. Ko Ye Thwe Nyi’s wife is also a school teacher in the Civil Disobedience Movement.

“The information spread by the military junta is that the house Ko Ye Thwe Nyi used to live in was sealed off because he participated in attacks on the military, including the shooting at the Kyaik Htee Yoe mountain bus station,” said a resident.

According to the collected ground information records, at least 20 homes of National League for Democracy (NLD) MPs forces have been sealed off, and their properties confiscated during the coup in Kyaik Hto Township, Mon State.

The junta frequently arbitrarily arrests individuals at checkpoints and security tollgates. On 18 August, junta security force members shot and arrested two local men near the security tollgate station in Kadon Se ward, Paung City, Mon State, giving the doubtful reason that the young men refused to stop their motorcycles. The incident occurred while the joint forces of junta and police officials explored and inspected vehicles near the Tollgate station in Paung City, Mon State, in the late afternoon:

“We saw a motorcycle driving from Kywal Cham village to Paung town without knowing that the military junta was inspecting and stopping the passengers and was shot and arrested by joint forces,” said a local who added, “Normally, there is no check at the entrance gate; the tollgate is just for collecting wheel tax from the vehicles on other days. Unfortunately, they must have thought they were not checked and drove away. There were about ten shots; they were hit there.”

As a result of this indiscriminate attack, two people, including 37-year-old Ko San Min from Uttadar village and 19-year-old Saw Bo Bo Hein from Tet Hmu Chaung village, were wounded in their thighs and legs. The military sent the two victims arrested and shot to the Paung Township Public Hospital, where they were interrogated. 

In Paung township, the military junta forces shot at least four times at travellers’ cars and motorcycles with an excuse for security reasons, resulting in the deaths of civilians.

Tanintharyi Region

Pro-democracy activists have led a difficult life since being forced into exile in the early days of the failed coup. On June 19, the father of Ko Min Lwin Oo, a member of the strike committee of the Dawei District Democracy Movement, who was unjustly wanted, was reportedly abducted by the Terrorist Military Junta. A case was opened under Section 505 (a) on August 13 against U Aung Pe, who is 65 years old and was wrongfully arrested, according to a family member and a person close to him.

“After being arrested, he was never allowed to meet his family. After 56 days, they (the military) informed the family members. He got to meet his family members for the first time. The family members only learned about this charge when they met him,” said someone close to the family.

Due to the failure to arrest Ko Min Lwin Oo, a strike committee member of Longlon Township’s Pyin Htain village, his 65-year-old father, U Aung Pe, who is in poor health, was beaten and taken away by the military junta.

In addition, two phones and 800,000 Kyats in the home were illegally taken, and the mother was arrested last November 2021 before the father’s arrest. After an interrogation was conducted, he was released.

The strike committee of the Dawei District Administration Ko Min Lwin Oo was accused of working to cause the destabilization of the area, and a warrant has been issued stating that a reward of 30,000,000 kyats will be offered to anyone who can arrest him by the military junta.

Regarding this arrest, on June 21, the strike committee of Dawei District released the statement that because a person leading a non-violent public movement was not arrested, his father’s arrest as a hostage was only a cowardly terrorist act by the military junta.

While these arbitrary arrests are targeted often, they are also equally indiscriminate. At 4 PM on August 11, Ko Po Mye, 40 years old, and his wife Ma Mee Mee, 38 years old, of Boyork Street, Aye Tharyar ward, Mali Wan village, Kawthaung Township, Kawthaung district, were arrested in three military junta cars. Ma Mee Mee was released. 

In addition, at 6:00 pm on August 11, a 60-year-old U Wei from the same neighbourhood was beaten and arrested by the military junta in his home. Then, the next day, at 3:00 PM on August 12, a 25-year-old woman named Ma Hlaing Zarni Kyaw from Mali Wan village was abducted by military junta soldiers at her home. They were arrested at the Military Strategy Group of the Coastal Regional Military Headquarters in Kawthaung, and the reason for their arrest is not yet known.

In June 2023, more than 30 civilians from Kawthaung Township were arrested by the military junta, and none of them have been released until today, according to residents of Kawthaung.

When the junta enters a village, shots are fired to intimidate and bring fear into the people’s lives. On August 15, a monk and a young man were shot in Ayekani village, Yebyu Township. The day before, there were clashes in the morning with the opposition forces.  After attacking with artillery weapons and small arms, the military junta troops burned down the houses in the village.

Residents reported that U Ku Tala, a monk practicing meditation at the Ayekani west temple, and Ko Zin Maung, 26 years old, were shot and wounded by the military junta troops hiding near Payar Taung, east of Ayekani village.

“They shot them as they wanted. A bullet hit one on the monk’s neck and two on his arms. The young man was hit with two shots at his wrist. The monk was hospitalized,” a local witness said.

Only U Ku Tala can receive medical treatment because Ko Zin Maung has a mental illness, and it is challenging to hospitalize him, according to locals.

In addition, a 77-year-old woman and another 31-year-old woman were hit by the weapons fired by the military junta troops during the patrol; however, their lives were not in danger.

On the 11th and 14th of August, the junta troops burned more than 30 houses in Ayekani village and three houses in Wazun Taw village. They also broke into the houses in these villages and stole mobile phones, including gold and cash.

Since the military junta has been patrolling the Dawei Special Economic Zone area from August 8 until the 15th, approximately 8,000 residents of eight villages have been evacuated, and it is also known that some of the residents have already returned to their homes.

While the crime rate soars alongside escalating conflict, the junta is ransacking the homes of displaced villagers. More than two hundred houses forcibly departed by IDPs in Yebyu Township were looted and destroyed, and crimes were being committed continuously by the military junta troops and the militia group under them, according to local sources.

On 22 August, three residents reported that the junta and the militia group brazenly broke into the houses and destroyed the remaining places, taking the valuables and belongings left behind after the local people fled the conflict.

The Light Infantry Batllion 406 and 407 and their Pyu Saw Htee soldiers, which have been reinforcing in the Nabu Lae area since the 8th of August,  stole and destroyed 23 houses in Wazun Taw village, more than 170 houses in Ayekani village, and 26 houses in Khamaung Chaung village.

When they left the villages, we recorded it as soon as they left. Their columns are still deployed around the area. According to the latest update by HURFOM, the junta continues to burn homes in the village, forcing dozens of families to flee together. 

“We don’t know how we will struggle to survive, let alone find a place to live. The people of Ayekani village next to the village also fled. Now, more than 400 people are fleeing the war here. We still have to evacuate. Some of them have already returned, and if we return, I think the houses will be destroyed and burned into ash.” said a man from Bagaw Soon village.

On the morning of August 20, the military arrested a Ram Ma Zu villager and a Tha Ye Ngoat villager. Then, on August 21, they arrested a plantation worker from Wa Gone village.

Family members were worried as they did not know where they were taken.

“All the arrested villagers are plantation workers. It is believed the three were only released in the evening of August 23,” said a local man.

The villagers assumed those abducted were being used as porters to carry military equipment. Forced labour is part of a long-standing cycle of human rights violations in Burma, where the junta exploits local people, often threatening them with their lives if they do not cooperate. 

The military has more than 100 troops in the area conducting secret operations. Local people are worried, and some have fled to the forests. Due to the military presence in the area, villagers from Ram Ma Zu, Tha Ye Ngoat, Lake Kyel Pyaung, Tin Gan Tone, Wa Gone, and Ba Wa Bin villages have fled their homes.


The Human Rights Foundation of Monland immediately calls for the following:

  1. A referral of the situation on the ground in Burma is to be made immediately by the United Nations Security Council to the International Criminal Court.
  2. Concerted and coordinated action by global actors for an urgently mandated international arms embargo that would prevent the free flow of weapons into the hands of the murderous junta.
  3. Aviation fuel sanctions to put an effective end to the airstrikes in Burma, which have contributed to significant loss of life, particularly among innocent civilians.
  4. Targeted sanctions on military junta officials and their families and holds on their financial assets and possessions undercut their ability to conduct corrupt business dealings abroad.
  5. Strengthened and renewed protection mechanisms grant civilians who are vulnerable and at risk of assault a position where they can access justice referral and accountability pathways.
  6. Renewed and continued funding support for local organizations responding to the needs of their communities on the ground. Crossborder aid pathways must be accessed, and all humanitarian aid must be in the hands of local actors.
  7. Foreign investors in Burma must immediately cease their operations and withdraw their involvement from all development projects in the country, including but not limited to airports, seaports, and cement businesses.
  8. An abrupt and immediate halt to the use of torture by the military junta, and further, we call for investigations to probe the unlawful deaths of civilians in Burma who have been tortured to death, as well as those who have been forced to endure trauma and long-term injuries as a result.


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