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Poets in Myanmar Are Killed After the Coup

On March 4, his sister received a police summons to the Monywa mortuary. She identified her brother’s body, Ms. Khin Sandar Win said. A bullet hole punctured his left temple. A long slash ran down his torso.

The family wondered whether the gash signaled that his internal organs had been removed, a desecration increasingly found among those killed by the military in Myanmar. But Mr. Chan Thar Swe was cremated before his relatives could find out more.

His mother now spends her days looking at photographs of him, her oldest child, on Facebook. Along with his ashes, it is all she has of him.

“My brother did not support us financially because he was a poet, but he protected us whenever we needed,” Ms. Khin Sandar Win said.

At Mr. Chan Thar Swe’s funeral, another poet, Ko Khet Thi, recited a poem he had written for those killed by the security forces, many with a single bullet to the head and some when they were not even protesting.

They began to burn the poets

When the smoke of burned books could

No longer choke the lungs heavy with dissent.

Weeks after the funeral, Mr. Khet Thi, a onetime engineer, was hauled into detention and later turned up dead, according to his family. His corpse also had an unexplained incision down his torso, the family said.

“I am also afraid that I will get arrested and killed, but I will keep fighting,” said Ko Kyi Zaw Aye, yet another poet from Monywa who was close to both men.

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Aung San Suu Kyi Makes First Court Appearance Since Coup

For the first time since Myanmar’s military locked her up in a pre-dawn raid as part of its coup on Feb. 1, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s ousted civilian government, was seen in person on Monday when she sat briefly at a court hearing.

The short appearance at a special court in Naypyidaw, the Southeast Asian country’s capital, was also the first time that most of her legal team had caught a glimpse of their famous client. They have been defending her against a raft of criminal charges that the United Nations and foreign governments say are clearly politically motivated. Most of the country’s elected leadership has been jailed.

In a 30-minute meeting with her lawyers before the hearing, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who had previously appeared by video link, seemed healthy and resolute, if unclear about just how Myanmar had changed since the coup, a member of her legal team said. Since the putsch, the military has imposed a reign of terror, isolating the country once more from the international community.

Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was determined to defend the integrity of her political party, the National League for Democracy, or N.L.D., her lawyers said.

importing walkie-talkies, breaching coronavirus regulations and contravening the Official Secrets Act, among other crimes. Military-linked forces have also accused her of accepting bags of cash and 25 pounds of gold, although she has not been formally charged on those counts.

If she is found guilty of the charges — and Myanmar’s courts have a record of delivering guilty verdicts in political cases — Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, could be imprisoned for the rest of her life.

Although Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was initially held at her villa in Naypyidaw, she was moved to an undisclosed location a week later, blindfolded while in transit, her lawyer said.

“She doesn’t know where she is living now,” Ms. Min Min Soe said. “She doesn’t know anything about what is happening outside.”

internet blackouts imposed by the junta. With Covid-19 restrictions in place, some of the hearings were supposed to occur by video link.

Her next scheduled court date is June 7.

trounced the military’s proxy political party in nationwide elections. The lopsided result seemed to blindside some members of the military, even though the league had done the same five years before when it began sharing power with the army.

When the military, known as the Tatmadaw, staged its coup in February, it promised to hold elections within a year. The timetable was then extended to two years. Now, the country is facing the prospect of an election at an indeterminate point in the future without the party that won the most votes from citizens.

The military says that the elections last year were fraudulent, a charge dismissed by international observers and by a national election commission that was disbanded after the coup.

“The N.L.D. cannot be dissolved by force and orders because it is already the party in the hearts of the people,” said U Aung Kyi Nyunt, a spokesman for the party. “Abolition through illegal power will not succeed. The N.L.D. will survive and remain strong in Myanmar’s political history.”

ethnic armed groups claimed that they had killed dozens of Tatmadaw soldiers in offensives, even as the army’s shelling claimed lives of civilians sheltering in a church in eastern Myanmar. In the big cities, including Yangon and Mandalay, protesters organized flash mobs of dissent, scattering quickly as security forces drew near.

More than 800 people have been killed by security forces since the coup, according to a monitoring group, many shot in the head while peacefully protesting. More than 4,200 have been detained.

Among them is U Thein Hlaing Tun, a lawyer representing another of Myanmar’s jailed elected leaders. He was arrested on Monday as he tried to meet with his client at the same special court in Naypyidaw where Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi appeared.

Mr. Thein Hlaing Tun was charged with violating a section of the penal code criminalizing perceived slights against the Tatmadaw.

“That’s all we know about his arrest,” Ms. Min Min Soe said.

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Miss Universe Myanmar Arrives in Florida With a Message for the Junta

As a girl, Ma Thuzar Wint Lwin would watch the Miss Universe pageant and wish that she could be the one onstage representing her country, Myanmar. She entered her first two contests last year, nervous and excited about what to expect. But she ultimately walked away crowned Miss Universe Myanmar, and this week is competing at the global pageant in Florida.

But now representing her country has new meaning. With the military seizing power in a Feb. 1 coup and killing hundreds of protesters, she hopes to use her platform to call attention to Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement and to appeal for international help in freeing elected leaders who have been detained.

“They are killing our people like animals,” she said in an interview before leaving Myanmar for the competition. “Where is the humanity? Please help us. We are helpless here.”

In a dramatic moment on Thursday during the pageant’s national costume show, she walked to the front of the stage and held up a sign saying, “Pray for Myanmar.” The final competition will be held on Sunday.

responded with a brutal crackdown, killing more than 780 people and detaining more than 3,900, according to a rights group that tracks political prisoners.

In the early weeks of the protest movement, Ms. Thuzar Wint Lwin, 22, joined the demonstrations, where she held signs with slogans such as “We do not want military government,” and called for the release of the country’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest since the coup.

black-and-white photos of herself blindfolded, with tape over her mouth and her hands bound.

The military’s onslaught has left the country living in fear, she said.

“The soldiers patrol the city every day and sometimes they set up roadblocks to harass the people coming through,” said Ms. Thuzar Wint Lwin, who also goes by the name Candy. “In some cases, they fire without hesitation. We are scared of our own soldiers. Whenever we see one, all we feel is anger and fear.”

giving up his dream of going to the Olympics and would not compete under the Myanmar flag until the regime’s leader, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, was removed from power. And the mixed martial arts fighter U Aung La Nsang, an American citizen and one of Myanmar’s most famous athletes, has urged President Biden to help end the suffering of Myanmar’s people.

Ms. Thuzar Wint Lwin says she believes that it will not be safe for her to return to Myanmar after speaking out against the regime; she does not know where she will go after the pageant ends.

An English major at East Yangon University, her path to the pro-democracy movement can perhaps be traced back to her childhood. She grew up in a middle-class household. Like many parents, her father, a businessman, and her mother, a housewife, dared not discuss the military government that was then in power.

One of her early memories was walking with her mother near Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon in 2007, when monks led nationwide protests against military rule. She was 7. As they neared the pagoda, soldiers broke up the protest by shooting their guns in the air. People started running. She and her mother ran, too.

began sharing power with civilian leaders and opening the country, allowing cellphones and affordable internet access to flood in.

Ms. Thuzar Wint Lwin is part of the first generation in Myanmar to grow up fully connected to the outside world, and for whom a free society seemed normal. In 2015, the country seated democratically elected officials for the first time in more than half a century. “We have been living in freedom for five years,” she said. “Do not take us back. We know all about the world. We have the internet.”

November was the first time she was old enough to vote, and she cast her ballot for the National League for Democracy, the party of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, which won in a landslide only to have the military overturn the results by seizing power.

Before the coup, Ms. Thuzar Wint Lwin’s biggest ordeal came when she was 19 and had surgery to remove precancerous tumors from each breast, leaving permanent scars. She decided against having laser treatment to improve their appearance as a reminder of her success in preventing cancer.

“It’s just a scar and I’m still me,” she wrote in a recent post with photographs of the scars. “I met self-acceptance realizing nothing changed who I am and the values I set for myself. Now, when I see those scars, I feel empowered.”

autobiographical video on Facebook that would be unusual for any beauty pageant contestant: It shows her wearing formal gowns mixed with scenes of people fleeing tear gas and a soldier shooting a man who rode by on a motorbike.

“Myanmar deserves democracy,” she says in the video. “We will keep fighting and I also hope that international communities will give us help that we desperately need.”

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Three Months After Coup, Myanmar Returns to the ‘Bad Old Days’

Every night at 8, the stern-faced newscaster on Myanmar military T.V. announces the day’s hunted. The mug shots of those charged with political crimes appear onscreen. Among them are doctors, students, beauty queens, actors, reporters, even a pair of makeup bloggers.

Some of the faces look puffy and bruised, the likely result of interrogations. They are a warning not to oppose the military junta that seized power in a Feb. 1 coup and imprisoned the country’s civilian leaders.

As the midnight insects trill, the hunt intensifies. Military censors sever the internet across most of Myanmar, matching the darkness outside with an information blackout. Soldiers sweep through the cities, arresting, abducting and assaulting with slingshots and rifles.

The nightly banging on doors, as arbitrary as it is dreaded, galvanizes a frenzy of self-preservation. Residents delete their Facebook accounts, destroy incriminating mobile phone cards and erase traces of support for Myanmar’s elected government. As sleep proves elusive, it’s as if much of the nation is suffering a collective insomnia.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or an unregistered cellphone or a single note of foreign currency — could mean a prison sentence. Some of the military’s Orwellian diktats rivaled those of North Korea.

among them dozens of children.

rule by fear, it is also holding hostage a changed country. The groundswell of opposition to the coup, which has sustained protests in hundreds of cities and towns, was surely not in the military’s game plan, making its crackdown all the riskier. Neither the outcome of the putsch nor the fate of the resistance is preordained.

Myanmar’s full emergence from isolation — economic, political and social — only came five years ago when the military began sharing power with an elected government headed by Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. A population that barely had any connection to the internet quickly made up for lost time. Today, its citizenry is well versed in social media and the power of protests tethered to global movements. They know how to spot a good political meme on the internet.

Their resistance to the coup has included a national strike and a civil disobedience movement, which have paralyzed the economy and roiled the government. Banks and hospitals are all but shut. Although the United Nations has warned that half the country could be living in poverty by next year because of the pandemic and the political crisis, the democratic opposition’s resolve shows no sign of weakening.

National Unity Government, a civilian authority set up after the elected leadership was expelled by the military. A popular tactic is to affix an image of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the coup leader, on the sole of a shoe, smashing his face into the ground with each step. During spot checks, the police now demand that people show their soles.

Ms. Thuzar Nwe says she wears her hair down to cover her tattoo, hoping the police won’t be too inquisitive.

“In Myanmar culture, if a woman has a tattoo, she’s a bad girl,” she said. “I broke the rules of culture. This revolution is a rare chance to eradicate dictatorship from the country.”

But the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, has built an entire infrastructure dedicated to one purpose: perpetuating its power for power’s sake.

Its bureaucracy of oppression is formidable. An army of informers, known as “dalan,” has reappeared, monitoring whispers and neighbors’ movements.

The blandly named General Administration Department, a vast apparatus that remained under military control even after the army had started sharing authority with the civilian government, is once again pressuring administrators to keep tabs on everyone’s political views. And local officials have taken to banging on doors and peering in homes, as a dreaded system of household registration is reintroduced.

revoked the publishing licenses of major private newspapers. Democracy will return soon, the military’s headlines insist. Banking services are running “as usual.” Health care with “modern machinery” is available. Government ministries are enjoying English-proficiency courses. Soft-shell crab cultivation is “thriving” and penetrating the foreign market.

acquiring Chinese-made weapons and Russian fighter jets. But its propaganda is stuck in a time warp from back when few challenged its narrative. There is no mention in its media of the military’s killing spree, the broken economy or the growing armed resistance. On Wednesday, the State Administration Council, as the junta calls itself, banned satellite T.V.

For all the fear percolating in Myanmar, the resistance has only hardened. On Wednesday, the National Unity Government said it was forming a “people’s defense force” to counter the Tatmadaw. Two days before, ethnic insurgents fighting in the borderlands shot down a Tatmadaw helicopter.

convince the military ranks that the coup was necessary, Tatmadaw insiders said. Sequestered in military compounds without good internet access, soldiers have little ability to tap into the outrage of fellow citizens. Their information diet is composed of military T.V., military newspapers and the echo chambers of military-dominated Facebook on the rare occasions they can get online.

Still, news does filter in, and some officers have broken rank. In recent weeks, about 80 Myanmar Air Force officers have deserted and are now in hiding, according to fellow military personnel.

“Politics are not the business of soldiers,” said an air force captain who is now in hiding and does not want his name used because his family might be punished for his desertion. “Now the Tatmadaw have become the terrorists, and I don’t want to be part of it.”

In the cities, almost everyone seems to know someone who has been arrested or beaten or forced to pay a bribe to the security forces in exchange for freedom.

Last month, Ma May Thaw Zin, a 19-year-old law student, joined a flash mob protest in Yangon, the country’s biggest city. The police, she said, detained several young women and crammed them into an interrogation center cell so small they barely had room to sit on the floor.

For a whole day, there was no food. Ms. May Thaw Zin said she resorted to drinking from the toilet. The interrogations were just her and a clutch of men. They rubbed against her and kicked her breasts and face with their boots, she said. On the fourth day, after men shoved the barrel of a pistol against the black hood over her head, she was released. The bruises remain.

Since she returned home, some family members have refused to have anything to do with her because she was caught protesting, Ms. May Thaw Zin said. Even if they hate the coup, even if they know their futures have been blunted, the instincts of survival have kicked in.

“They are afraid,” she said, but “I can’t accept that my country will go back to the old dark age.”

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‘Now We Are United’: Myanmar’s Ethnic Divisions Soften After Coup

The Myanmar military’s disinformation was crude but effective.

Army propagandists claimed an ethnic group called the Rohingya was burning down its own villages and wanted to swamp Buddhist-majority Myanmar with Islamic hordes. The Rohingya were spinning tall tales, the military said in 2017, about soldiers committing mass rape and murder.

The truth — that troops were waging genocidal operations against Myanmar’s ethnic minorities — was perhaps too shocking for some members of the country’s Bamar ethnic majority to contemplate.

But as Myanmar’s military seized power this year and killed more than 750 civilians, Daw Sandar Myo, an elementary-school teacher, realized that the decades of persecution suffered by the Rohingya and other minorities was real, after all.

“After the coup, I saw soldiers and police killing and torturing people in the cities,” she said. “Then I started to feel empathy for Rohingya and ethnic people who have been suffering worse than us for many years.”

mass protests, civil disobedience, worker strikes and even the tentative beginnings of an armed struggle.

But another transformation is quietly underway: a growing acceptance of the nation’s ethnic diversity, something that was notably absent during an earlier political transition. With the military’s violence unleashed once again, some are acknowledging that democracy cannot flourish without respecting the ethnic minorities who have endured decades of persecution.

More than a third of Myanmar’s population is composed of ethnic minorities, who inhabit a vast frontier where the country’s natural resources are concentrated. Their insurgencies against the Myanmar military, which has ruled the country for most of the past six decades, rank among the world’s most enduring civil conflicts.

Tatmadaw, as the military is known. And they say they know better than the Bamar just how unstable Myanmar can be when its armed forces act as an occupying force rather than the people’s protector.

landslide re-election in November, more than a million members of ethnic minorities were disenfranchised during the vote.

During their five years of power-sharing with the Tatmadaw, the N.L.D.’s civilian leaders defended the military’s continuing atrocities against ethnic minorities. Decades ago, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her nonviolent struggle for democracy. Yet she called the 2017 forced exodus of three-quarters of a million Rohingya the byproduct of “clearance operations” against a terrorist insurgency. The Rohingya were, in fact, victims of a well-documented ethnic cleansing campaign.

But the military’s seizure of power has led to soul-searching.

“The blood that has been shed in the aftermath of the coup has brought about a sea change in public views on federalism and inclusion,” said U Khin Zaw Win, a political analyst and former political prisoner who has long pushed for the rights of ethnic groups in Myanmar.

“While the N.L.D. does remain popular, the country has moved on” since the coup, he added. “It isn’t about an N.L.D. restoration any longer.”

So far, the new unity government is little more than a compendium of policy statements sent by encrypted apps. It has no army or international recognition.

an armed resistance to the Tatmadaw. Recent explosions at urban government offices and military-linked businesses signal their intent.

Joining forces with ethnic minorities involves other tactical considerations. Around the time of the coup, many of Myanmar’s most fearsome infantry divisions were transferred from remote bases to cities. Since then, security forces have killed dozens of children with single gunshots. Pro-democracy figures have turned up dead, some with signs of torture.

With the Tatmadaw preoccupied in the cities, ethnic armed groups have launched their own coordinated offensives in the borderlands. Scores of Tatmadaw soldiers were killed in recent fighting when insurgents overran their outposts, according to the ethnic armed organizations and local residents.

The hope is that with ethnic militias pushing in the borderlands and an armed resistance rising in the cities, the Tatmadaw will be forced to battle on multiple fronts.

“If the ethnic armed organizations fight together against the Myanmar military, then it will have better results for the country,” said Colonel Mai Aik Kyaw of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

But unity is fleeting among the ethnic armed groups, some of which have reserved as much firepower for each other as they have for the Tatmadaw. Many of the major ethnic groups, such as the Shan and Karen, have more than one armed organization purporting to represent them. Control of these borderlands means access to lucrative mines, forests and illicit drugmaking facilities.

Myanmar is a crossroads culture, squeezed between India and China. Even the notion of Bamar purity is contested. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is part Karen. Other Bamar have Indian or Chinese ancestry. The British, who colonized what was then known as Burma, called the country “a zone of racial instability,” according to Thant Myint-U, a historian and author of “The Hidden Histories of Burma.”

“Myanmar was never a place of neatly packaged racial and ethnic categories,” he said. “Ending Bamar political domination of minority communities may be helped by a more decentralized system of government. But what’s equally important is a radical program to end discrimination in all forms and a reimagining of the country as a place that’s always been home to many different peoples.”

This week, soldiers from the Karen National Liberation Army overran a Tatmadaw outpost across the river from Thailand. Karen forces captured another base in eastern Myanmar last month, prompting the military’s first airstrikes against Karen villages in 20 years. Tatmadaw reprisals in areas populated by ethnic minorities have killed dozens.

As fighting intensifies, tens of thousands have been displaced nationwide, particularly in Karen territory and in the north, where the Kachin Independence Army is making inroads against the Tatmadaw.

For the first time, the Karen National Union has received donations from Bamar people for civilian victims of the Tatmadaw, said Padoh Saw Man Man, a spokesman for the group. “Now we are united with the Bamar people, and I strongly believe that we will win when we fight together against the Tatmadaw,” he said.

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Myanmar Coup Leader Arrives in Indonesia for Asean Summit

The army general who has ruled Myanmar since leading the overthrow of its civilian government arrived on Saturday in Indonesia for a meeting with leaders of other Southeast Asian nations, after some of them expressed concern about the army’s killing of hundreds of pro-democracy protesters.

It was the first time since the Feb. 1 coup that the army’s commander in chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, had ventured outside Myanmar. Critics feared that his presence with heads of state at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting would give him the appearance of legitimacy.

Myanmar politicians who have formed what they call a National Unity Government called on Interpol and the Indonesian police this week to arrest the general upon arrival in Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, for crimes against humanity, including the ethnic cleansing campaign that drove more than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country in 2017.

The National Unity Government, which asserts that it is the legitimate government of Myanmar, also urged the 10-nation regional association, known as Asean, to give it a seat at the summit meeting and refuse to meet with General Min Aung Hlaing until he halts the killing of civilians.

targeted sanctions on regime leaders and military-owned businesses, but diplomatic efforts to stop the killing have been unsuccessful. The United Nations Security Council, where China and Russia can be counted on to support the Myanmar regime, has taken no action.

Asean, which has a policy of noninterference in the affairs of member nations, issued a statement in March calling on “all parties to refrain from instigating further violence,” seemingly ignoring the one-sided nature of the killings.

Among those expected to attend Saturday’s summit were the leaders of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Brunei. The Philippines, Thailand and Laos were expected to send representatives.

The governments of Indonesia and Malaysia have separately expressed concern about the coup, and Indonesia played a leading role in convening the meeting.

Some members of Asean, including Singapore and Thailand, have close business ties with Myanmar and its military, known as the Tatmadaw, which owns two of the country’s largest conglomerates.

Three Asean members, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos, sent representatives to the Tatmadaw’s Armed Forces Day celebration on March 27. On that day, soldiers and the police killed at least 160 protesters in its largest single-day killing spree since the coup.

slaughter of thousands in its war on drugs and Vietnam’s practice of giving long prison sentences to dissidents.

Asean stood by in 2017 as the Tatmadaw waged a ruthless campaign of murder, rape and ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims, who fled in large numbers across the border into Bangladesh, which is not an Asean member. Nearly all the Rohingya refugees are still there, living in squalid, overcrowded camps.

As the Tatmadaw’s commander in chief, General Min Aung Hlaing oversaw the military operations against the Rohingya.

International human rights groups urged Asean not to meet with the general. Rather, they said, the group should impose sanctions on the junta’s leaders, press for the release of detainees and seek an end to the killings.

“Min Aung Hlaing, who faces international sanctions for his role in military atrocities and the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, should not be welcomed at an intergovernmental gathering to address a crisis he created,” said Brad Adams, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

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Idriss Déby Dies at 68; Poor Herder’s Son Became Chad’s Longtime Autocrat

NAIROBI, Kenya — It was a point of pride for Idriss Déby, the leader of Chad, a vast African country at the crossroads of numerous conflicts, that he was willing to throw himself to the front line of the many battles he fought.

Mr. Déby, a poor herder’s son who rose through the Chadian military to become one of Africa’s most enduring and feared leaders, was killed as he commanded his troops during what the military said was one such battle. His death, at age 68, was announced on Tuesday.

He first distinguished himself more than three decades ago by commanding soldiers to victory against Libyan-backed rebels in the Tibesti Mountains, in the far north of Chad. After seizing power in 1990, he faced down regular uprisings in an impoverished country that often seemed to boil with revolt.

And he embraced elections that he held every five years, always winning — even if those victories were strengthened by his tight grip on Chad’s repressive security forces and its considerable oil revenue.

going to the polls for a presidential election. By last weekend, as fighting intensified, Mr. Déby had flown to northern Chad to command his forces, the army said.

On Tuesday, the army announced that the president had been killed on the battlefield, and that his 37-year-old son, Mahamat, was taking over as the interim head of state. Just a day before, provisional election results showed that Mr. Déby had won almost 80 percent of the vote.

In the capital, Ndjamena, residents scrambled for the safety of their homes, gripped by uncertainty over what might come after the abrupt departure of the man who had led them for three decades.

Mr. Déby was born in 1952, the son of a herder who scraped a living from the harsh deserts of northern Chad. After enrolling in the military, he left in the 1970s for training in France, where he qualified as a pilot, and returned to Chad in 1979 to find the country torn between rival warlords.

Mr. Déby allied with one of them, Hissène Habré, who in 1982 became president and appointed him as his army chief.

an attempted coup in 2006.

Mr. Déby had testy relations with his neighbor, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan — another wily autocrat whom Mr. Déby accused of having fomented unrest inside Chad. Mr. Déby allowed journalists and aid workers to pass through Chad into the Sudanese region of Darfur, where they documented abuses that later led the International Criminal Court to indict Mr. Bashir for war crimes including genocide.

Mr. Déby’s rule might have been one of prosperity for Chadians. The country’s vast deserts cover untapped reserves of uranium, as well as oil that is currently pumped at a rate of 130,000 barrels a day, generating much of Chad’s revenue.

But under Mr. Déby, Chad frequently featured prominently in lists of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries. The adult literacy rate is 31.8 percent; life expectancy is 54 years; and critics accused Mr. Déby of squandering the oil wealth by pouring it into the military, which he has used to repress his critics.

In 2017 the U.S. Justice Department accused Mr. Déby of having accepted a $2 million bribe from a Chinese company in exchange for oil rights in Chad.

Still, such failings were largely overlooked by Western countries that embraced Mr. Déby as an indispensable ally in a dangerous part of the world. Mr. Déby supported a French military operation against Islamist militants in neighboring Mali in 2013, and a year later he helped to end violent turmoil in the Central African Republic.

His army is one of the best trained and equipped in the semi-arid belt of Africa known as the Sahel, and it has played host to military exercises conducted by the United States.

In an email, Col. Christopher Karns, a spokesman for the Pentagon’s Africa Command, said Chad was a major partner in an effort involving several countries in the Lake Chad basin to fight Boko Haram.

France, for its part, did its utmost to protect Mr. Déby himself, deploying troops to Chad in 2008 and 2019 to defeat rebels who tried to unseat him.

After three decades in power, Mr. Déby was aiming for a fourth. In 2018, Chad’s parliament revised the Constitution to allow him to stay in office until 2033. Analysts say his sudden death will likely throw Chad’s politics into disarray.

Some were skeptical that his son Mahamat could hold on for long in the face of challenges from rivals in the security establishment or disaffected members of his own Zaghawa ethnic group, where some had bristled at the rise of Mr. Déby’s family.

“The prospects of more splits within the military is significant,” said Judd Devermont, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Others speculated that France would struggle to find a new partner in a country that French leaders long considered their African backyard.

“The French have been so associated with Déby — not just propping him up but also eliminating his enemies on his behalf — that they will have a hard time establishing any credibility with a successor regime that doesn’t have the last name Déby and isn’t a Zaghawa,” said Cameron Hudson, an Africa expert at the Atlantic Council.

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.

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Myanmar Protesters Arm Themselves With Homemade Weapons



Every day, when Ko Win Kyaw goes out to demonstrate against the Myanmar military, he carries his slingshot and a supply of rocks as ammunition. It is little help against the army’s overwhelming firepower, but he says it gives him confidence and a way to strike back.

“I know I can’t defend myself with a slingshot, because I’m facing people with guns,” he said. “When they shoot, I run.”

Mr. Win Kyaw, 36, is one of many pro-democracy protesters who have started arming themselves with rudimentary weapons as they defy the military regime in Myanmar. What began as peaceful protests after the Feb. 1 coup rapidly grew into a resistance movement, with citizens defending themselves using slingshots, homemade air guns, old hunting rifles and firebombs.

In a statement this week, the United Nations High Commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, said the military’s brutal crackdown in the Southeast Asian nation had “led to some individuals taking up arms,” warning that the situation had “echoes of Syria in 2011” and was “heading toward a full-blown conflict.”

deadliest crackdown since the coup, according to a human rights group tracking the killings. More than 728 people have been killed, and at least 3,000 have been detained.

In the hard-hit Tharketa township of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, one protester said he and his friends had formed a team of about 20 people after the slaughter on March 27. “We were peaceful protesters after the coup,” said Ko Thi Ha, 26. “But when they killed so many people, we couldn’t go further with a peaceful movement. We needed to fight back.”

attacked a similar group with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, killing at least 82.

State-owned news outlets have blamed the ousted elected leaders and “anarchic mobs” for the rising violence in Myanmar. In other countries where pro-democracy movements have taken hold in recent years, the authorities have also justified intensifying crackdowns by pointing to protesters with weapons.

In Yangon this month, there were several arson attacks on police stations and government offices, as well as small explosions that caused little damage and no injuries. Some experts on the Tatmadaw fear strong retaliation if protesters were to succeed in procuring deadly weapons on a large scale.

Chinese-made surveillance drones, the slingshot has become the weapon of choice for many protesters. They are cheap and easy to conceal, and can be fired quickly from hiding. For ammunition, some buy glass marbles or smooth stones that have been collected for the purpose. When ammunition runs short, there are usually plenty of rocks around.

Until recently, the slingshot was most common in rural areas, where cowboys often use it to prod their cattle. A skilled marksman can pick off a mango from a high branch.

After the protests began, the slingshot first appeared in the hands of the police. Videos taken by residents showed groups of officers roaming the streets at night, firing randomly at people, homes and windows. As the demonstrations escalated, the police traded their slingshots for rifles while the protesters took them up in large numbers.

Last month, when Alexander Fomin, the Russian deputy defense minister, visited Myanmar, the junta leader, Sr. General Min Aung Hlaing, showed him an exhibit of items confiscated from protesters. A video of the encounter shows the general demonstrating for Mr. Fomin how a slingshot works.

“Pull back to shoot,” he said.

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Myanmar Coup Puts the Seal on Autocracy’s Rise in Southeast Asia

Late last month, foreign officials in army regalia toasted their hosts in Naypyidaw, the bunkered capital built by Myanmar’s military. Ice clinked in frosted glasses. A lavish spread had been laid out for the foreign dignitaries in honor of Myanmar’s Armed Forces Day.

That very day, the military, which had seized power on Feb. 1, gunned down more than 100 of its own citizens. Far from publicly condemning the brutality, the military representatives from neighboring countries — India, China, Thailand and Vietnam among them — posed grinning with the generals, legitimizing their putsch.

The coup in Myanmar feels like a relic of a Southeast Asian past, when men in uniform roamed a vast dictators’ playground. But it also brings home how a region once celebrated for its transformative “people power” revolutions — against Suharto of Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines — has been sliding back into autocracy.

From Cambodia and the Philippines to Malaysia and Thailand, democracy is languishing. Electoral politics and civil liberties have eroded. Obedient judiciaries have hobbled opposition forces. Entire political classes are in exile or in prison. Independent media are being silenced by leaders who want only one voice heard: their own.

alliance of democracies.” With China and Russia involved, the United Nations Security Council has done nothing to punish Myanmar’s generals.

Covid-19 with them.

A scheduled special meeting on Myanmar by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations offers little hope of action. That consensus-driven group avoids delving into members’ internal affairs. Earlier negotiations among regional foreign ministers didn’t result in a single policy that would deter Myanmar’s coup-makers.

Besides, many of the region’s leaders have no wish to uphold democratic ideals. They have used the courts to silence their critics and met protest movements with force.

But if authoritarians are looking out for one another, so, too, are protesters. In Thailand, students have stood up to a government born of a coup, using a three-fingered salute from the “Hunger Games” films to express defiance. The same gesture was adopted after the putsch in Myanmar, the leitmotif of a protest movement millions strong.

its first commoner president, and Malaysia would shunt aside a governing party bloated by decades of graft and patronage. Thailand’s generals had managed to go years without a coup. Even in Vietnam, the Communist leadership was pushing forward with liberalization.

The most significant transformation seemed to be in Myanmar. The military had led the country since a 1962 coup, driving it into penury. In 2015, the generals struck a power-sharing agreement with a civilian leadership fronted by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate who spent 15 years under house arrest. President Barack Obama went to Myanmar to sanctify the start of a peaceful political transition.

Now Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is again locked in her villa, facing possible life imprisonment. Her supporters have been arrested and tormented. Soldiers picked up one of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s followers and burned a tattoo of her face off his arm.

Much of the rest of Southeast Asia is in full-fledged democratic retreat. The leader of Thailand’s last coup, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is still the prime minister. His government has charged dozens of student protesters, some in their teens, with obscure crimes that can carry long sentences. Thai dissidents in exile have turned up dead.

After a brief interlude out of government, Malaysia’s old establishment is back in power, including people associated with one of the largest heists of state funds the world has seen in a generation. Vietnam’s crackdown on dissent is in high gear. In Cambodia, Hun Sen, Asia’s longest-ruling leader, has dismantled all opposition and set in place the makings of a family political dynasty.

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines may enjoy enduring popularity, but he has presided over thousands of extrajudicial killings. He has also cozied up to China, presenting it as a more constant friend than the United States, which once colonized the Philippines.

Protesters in Thailand, who gathered by the hundreds of thousands last year, have resumed their rallies, even though most of their young leaders are now in prison.

As the riot police fired rubber bullets near the Grand Palace in Bangkok last month, Thip Tarranitikul said she wanted to erase the military from politics.

army chief, appears to have underestimated the people’s commitment to democratic change. Millions have marched against him. Millions have also joined nationwide strikes meant to stop his government from functioning.

There is little reason to believe the military will back down, given its decades in power. Over the past two months, it has killed more than 700 civilians, according to a monitoring group. Thousands have been arrested, including medics, reporters, a model, a comedian and a beauty blogger.

But the resistance has demographics on its side.

Southeast Asia may be ruled by old men, but more than half its population is under 30. Myanmar’s reforms over the past decade benefited young people who eagerly connected to the world. In Thailand, this same cohort is confronting the old hierarchies of military and monarchy.

Regional defenders of democracy, including the besieged dissidents of nearby Hong Kong, have formed what they call the Milk Tea Alliance online, referring to a shared affinity for the sweet brew. (Twitter recently gave the movement its own emoji.) On encrypted apps, they trade tips for protecting themselves from tear gas and bullets. They have also bonded over the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on young workers, in countries where income inequality is growing wider.

“The youth of Southeast Asia, these young digital natives, they inherently despise authoritarianism because it doesn’t jibe with their democratic lifestyle. They aren’t going to give up fighting back,” said Mr. Thitinan of Chulalongkorn University. “That’s why, as bad as things may seem now, authoritarianism in the region is not a permanent condition.”

In Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, protesters have faced the military’s rifles with a sense of an existential mission.

“I’m not afraid to die,” said Ko Nay Myo Htet, a high school student manning one of the barricades built to defend neighborhoods. “I want a better life for the future generation.”

Muktita Suhartono contributed reporting.

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