Myanmar’s junta ignored condemnation of its rule in 2022

The military regime ruled with impunity this year and showed little interest in heeding criticism.
By Soe San Aung for RFA Burmese
2022.12.30
Myanmar’s junta ignored condemnation of its rule in 2022 In this Feb.15, 2021 photo, a protester displays a poster featuring Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar
Credit: AFP

The people of Myanmar suffered as the anti-junta armed resistance took on the military in 2022. It was a year in which not only democracy and human rights eroded in the aftermath of the February 2021 coup, but also one that saw an acute loss of civilian lives and destruction of private property. But widespread condemnation of the junta’s policies largely fell on deaf ears, as the military regime continued to rule with impunity. These were some of the most significant political developments in Myanmar this year:

Ko Jimmy and Phyo Zayar Thaw

At the beginning of 2022, the military junta arrested and imprisoned the 88th Generation student leader, Ko Jimmy. The prominent activist was sentenced to death, as were National League for Democracy member of parliament Phyo Zayar Thaw, and democracy activists Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw. Despite domestic and international pressure, the military executed all four by hanging in the middle of the year. Prior to the executions, only three people had been executed in Myanmar in the past 50 years.

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In this Dec. 8, 2022 photo, The Houses of Parliament are lit up with an image of prominent activist Ko Jimmy, to mark World Human Rights Day in London, England. (Nicky J Sims/Getty Images)

NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi and Naypyidaw Prison

In 2022, the junta indicted Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of the deposed National League for Democracy, in eight more cases. The new charges brought the number of cases against her to 19, for which she has been sentenced to a total of 33 years. The junta transferred Suu Kyi to Naypyidaw Prison, despite widespread condemnation of the move, and refused requests by the United Nations Special Representative for Myanmar and the ASEAN Special Representative to meet with her.

NUG and international recognition

The shadow National Unity Government, which was formed 2 1/2 months after the military coup, continued to seek international recognition this year. Although no country has yet officially recognized the NUG as the government of Myanmar, eight governments have granted it permission to open representative offices in their countries, including the U.S., U.K., Australia,  France, the Czech Republic and South Korea. 

Both the NUG and the junta applied for recognition at the United Nations, but the world body only granted Kyaw Moe Tun, the envoy of the shadow government, the right to represent Myanmar. Within ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member state, only Malaysia has officially met and talked with NUG officials.

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In this Feb.1, 2022, photo, Myanmar democracy protesters mark the one-year anniversary of the army's seizure of power, with masks, flags and placards in Parliament Square, London, England. (Alastair Grant/AP)

The Five-Point Consensus

Military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was banned from attending ASEAN conferences in 2022 after the junta repeatedly failed to honor its commitments to the Five-Point Consensus – an agreement to end violence in Myanmar reached at an emergency meeting of the bloc in April the previous year. While ASEAN continues to work towards the consensus, member states agreed in November to set a timeframe for its implementation.

Junta diplomacy

No country recognized the junta as the legitimate government of Myanmar in 2022 beyond Russia and China, which maintained ties with the military regime in the aftermath of the coup. The U.K., Australia, and U.S. reduced diplomatic ties with the junta. The junta drew significantly closer to Russia this year to make up for its lack of support from the rest of the international community.

Military airstrikes

This year, the junta drastically increased its use of airstrikes against the armed opposition, deploying fighter jets and helicopters in addition to its regular arsenal of heavy artillery and small arms. Dozens of civilians were killed in targeted aerial attacks. 

In October, an airstrike in Kachin state killed at least 66 attendees of a concert to celebrate the anniversary of the Kachin Independence Organization and is thought to have resulted in the single-most casualties from an air attack since the coup. Attack helicopters were part of a September strike on a village school in Sagaing that killed at least seven students between 7 and 16 years of age. Despite international condemnation, the junta has shown no indication that it plans to end its use of airstrikes.

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In this Sept. 7, 2022, photo, anti-coup fighters escort protesters during a demonstration against the military coup in Sagaing, Myanmar (Photo by AFP)

Civilian deaths and arson

According to Data For Myanmar, an independent research group that monitors the impact of conflict on societies, more than 36,000 homes have been burned this year at the hands of junta soldiers. While residents have shared images and video footage of civilian homes being burned across the country, the military has always denied responsibility. Political analysts say the junta is carrying out a scorched-earth offensive in enemy-controlled areas.

More than 2,600 people have been killed since the coup, 1,200 of them in 2022 alone, according to Thailand’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma). 

Military atrocities

This year, RFA documented several actions by junta troops classified as atrocities and crimes against humanity by rights groups and the international community. In June, RFA obtained the photos and videos of a massacre by junta troops in Sagaing region’s Mon Taing Pin village from a phone left behind by a soldier who took part. According to RFA investigations, 29 villagers were killed in the incident.

Spreading conflict

According to the ISP-Myanmar Research Group, there have been about 8,000 armed clashes across the country since last year’s coup.

About 23% of the country is said to be contested between the military and local defense groups. The National Unity Government has vowed to make 2023 a turning point in its fight against the military, with analysts warning that the conflict is likely to intensify.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Written in English by Josh Lipes. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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