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Teachers on the run: striking public sector workers hunted by Myanmar’s military | Myanmar coup

When hundreds of thousands of workers across the country walked out of their jobs in protest at the military’s seizure of power in Myanmar on 1 February 2021, Grace* was among the first to join.

Although she was seven months pregnant, the middle-school teacher from Chin state was determined to resist the military by refusing to work under its administration. Joining her was her husband, also a government employee.

What they didn’t then know was that nearly a year later, their hands, once accustomed to holding chalk and pens, would instead be holding hoes and shovels, calloused and blistered from farming under the scorching sun. Nor did they ever imagine that they would be living in hiding, on the run from soldiers and police.

“My husband and I decided to strike soon after the coup was staged. For fear of being arrested by the police, we haven’t been able to return home for nine months,” says Grace, talking to the Guardian from an undisclosed location.


What is the Reporting Myanmar series?


In February 2021, Myanmar’s progress towards democracy was brutally stalled when the military seized power and took control of the country.  

In the year since, the country has been plunged into violence, poverty and mass displacement as the military attempts to crush widespread resistance to its rule. 

Internet blackouts, arbitrary arrests, a ruthless curtailing of freedom of speech and escalating military attacks on civilian areas have silenced the voices of people from Myanmar.  

For this special series, the Guardian’s Rights and freedom project has partnered with a diverse group of journalists from Myanmar, many working in secret, to bring their reporting on life under military rule to a global audience.

Journalists in Myanmar are working in dangerous and difficult circumstances, as the military government attacks the free press and shuts down local media outlets. Many reporters still inside the country fear arrest, with others forced to leave their homes and go into hiding in areas increasingly under attack from military forces. 

All the reporting in this series will be carried out by journalists from Myanmar, with support from the editors on the Rights and freedom project.

These are the stories that journalists from Myanmar want to tell about what is happening to their country at this critical moment.

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“Two of my family members were arrested because of me. Our houses were raided. We have no regular source of income and have to struggle every day to make a living. But never have I ever regretted joining the civil disobedience movement, not even once. We are part of the revolution against the military dictatorship.”

In the year since the coup, Myanmar has been plunged into chaos and a spiralling economic crisis as the military responds to the widespread civilian defiance to its rule with deadly violence and mass arrests.


Some of its main targets are the hundreds of thousands of public sector workers, including teachers, nurses and doctors participating in a campaign of civil disobedience and refusing the serve the regime.

Public hospitals are barely functioning, and when state schools opened in June, more than half the teachers were absent. Private and public bank workers have also been striking en masse, and even withdrawing cash is now near-impossible.

In an effort to crush the movement and make people return to their jobs, military forces have started hunting down striking public sector workers across the country and raiding their homes.

Since the strikes began in February, at least 140 people have been arrested for their participation, of whom 107 remain in detention, the Guardian was told by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Myanmar-focused rights monitoring group.

The AAPP says at least eight of those taking part in the civil disobedience movement have died in military interrogation centres, and seven of the bodies showed signs of torture.

Families have also been targeted. Since the coup, 46 people have been taken as hostages in an attempt to force their family members participating in civil disobedience to turn themselves in; 39 of these hostages are still in custody, according to the AAPP.

Grace went into labour shortly after she left her home. With family members being targeted by police raids, she was so scared of being arrested she registered at the hospital under a fake name. Her husband did not dare accompany her.

The military has also attempted to force those who are taking part in the strikes to return to work by making it harder for them to survive. It has evicted thousands from worker housing, and stopped paying salaries. Last May, more than 125,000 striking teachers had their contracts suspended in an attempt to try and force them back into the classroom.

The Guardian spoke with seven teachers in Chin state who are still on strike. They all said their only financial support was community donations, which were irregular and amounted to less than half of their former income.

For Grace and her family this is not enough to survive. In June, the couple began farming corn. On weekends, they sell fried snacks to make ends meet. They still face the constant risk of arrest.

As violence and military attacks escalate across the country, many teachers and other public sector workers who have gone on strike are now also living under the shadow of war. Since May, fighting has dramatically increased. The military has sought to quell armed resistance by attacking entire civilian populations, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that more than 400,000 people have been displaced from their homes.

Fires in Thantlang in Chin State, where more than 160 buildings have been destroyed caused by shelling from Junta military troops.
Fires in Thantlang in Chin State, where more than 160 buildings have been destroyed caused by shelling from Junta military troops. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Intensifying military attacks caused Ling Kee*, a high school headteacher who joined the civil disobedience movement and went on strike last year, to leave the town of Thantlang in August with his three adult daughters, also strikers, and his wife.

Map of displaced people in Myanmar

They took shelter with relatives in Hakha township, but a month later had to flee again upon hearing that soldiers were going door to door hunting down strikers. With nothing but the nightclothes they were wearing, they drove motorbikes through the night along mountain roads until they crossed the border into India. .

Unable to work there, they are relying on their savings to survive.

Students have also joined taken action against military-run services. After weeks of protests over a military “slave education system” in May, only 10% of the country’s nearly 10 million people of school age registered this year, according to the Myanmar Teachers’ Federation.

When state schools opened across the country in June, many of them guarded by armed soldiers, classrooms were empty.

To ensure that youth do not miss out on their education, churches, civil society organisations and striking teachers have established multiple grassroots education channels, supported by community donations. But funds are limited, and teachers also worry that their classes could get caught in the crossfire of the ongoing fighting, a teacher from Kanpetlet township told the Guardian.

Biak* had just one year of high school left when the coup happened.

Now living in a refugee camp in Mizoram, India, after her home was destroyed in a military attack, she is unable to study because there are no education facilities. “Currently, my family doesn’t have a house to live in, and I have no chance to study. All of my dreams were reduced to ashes, just like the homes in Thantlang, including mine,” she says.

* Pseudonyms have been used for security reasons

Sui Meng Par is an independent researcher from Chin State, Myanmar and writes about current issues in Chin State. She holds a master’s degree from Chiang Mai University.

Additional editing by Emily Fishbein

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Kyiv investigates allegations Russian forces shot surrendering Ukrainian soldiers | International

Ukrainian officials on Sunday launched an investigation into allegations that Russian forces killed surrendering Ukrainian soldiers — a war crime if confirmed — after grainy footage on social media appeared to show two uniformed men being shot at close range after emerging from a dugout.

The video shows the servicemen, one of them with his hands up, walking out at gunpoint and lying down on the ground before a group of Russian troops appears to open fire. It was not immediately possible to verify the video’s authenticity or the circumstances in which it was filmed, and it was unclear when the incident took place.

The Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s office on Sunday launched a criminal investigation, hours after the Ukrainian military’s press office said in an online statement that the footage is genuine.

“The video shows a group in Russian uniforms shooting, at point-blank range, two unarmed servicemen in the uniform of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who were surrendering,” the prosecutor’s office said in a Telegram update on Sunday.

The Russian defense ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. As of Sunday evening, there were no public statements from the Russian government or military on the video.

Kyiv, its Western allies and international human rights organizations have repeatedly accused Moscow of breaching international humanitarian law since it launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The Kremlin denies these allegations.

The video first appeared Saturday on DeepState, a popular Ukrainian Telegram channel covering the war. The post claimed the footage came from the front lines near Avdiivka, a Ukrainian holdout in the country’s part-occupied east, where there has been fierce fighting in recent weeks.

The General Prosecutor’s Office on Sunday said that the alleged killing took place in the Pokrovsk district, which includes Avdiivka and surrounding areas.

“It’s clear from the video that the Ukrainian servicemen are taking the necessary steps that show they are surrendering,” Ukraine’s human rights chief, Dmytro Lubinets, said hours after the footage emerged on Saturday.

In a statement posted to Telegram, Lubinets described the incident as “yet another glaring example of Russia’s violations of international humanitarian law.”

Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian military grouping that is fighting near Avdiivka, was cited by Ukrainian media as saying the video was “glaring confirmation” of Moscow’s disrespect for the laws of war.

In March, footage of a man exclaiming “Glory to Ukraine” before being gunned down in a wooded area sparked national outcry in Ukraine, as senior officials alleged that he was an unarmed prisoner of war killed by Russian soldiers.

Last summer, Kyiv and Moscow also traded blame for a shelling attack on a prison in occupied eastern Ukraine that killed dozens of Ukrainian POWs. Both sides claimed the assault on the facility in Olenivka was aimed at covering up atrocities, with Ukrainian officials charging captive soldiers had been tortured and executed there.

The U.N.’s human rights chief in July rejected Moscow’s claim that a rocket strike had caused the blast.

Also on Sunday, Ukraine’s energy ministry reported that close to 1,000 towns and villages suffered power outages that day, with hundreds of settlements in the west battered by wintry weather and others affected by ongoing fighting.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, late on Saturday assessed that military operations have slowed down all along the frontline in Ukraine due to poor weather, with mud bogging down tracked vehicles and making it hard for lighter equipment and infantry to advance.

Even so, Shtupun, of Ukraine’s Tavria military command that oversees the stretch of frontline near Avdiivka, said in a separate statement Sunday that Russian infantry attacks had intensified in the area over the past day. In a Telegram post, he insisted Ukrainian troops were “holding firm” in Avdiivka and another nearby town.

In the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, at least two people died and seven more were wounded after Russian forces on Sunday shelled a high-rise apartment block and other civilian buildings, the head of the city’s military administration said in a series of Telegram posts.

One of the updates by Roman Mrochko featured a blurred photo of what he said was the body of a deceased civilian, apparently lying on a dirt road or in a yard outside the high-rise. The photo’s authenticity could not be independently verified.

Regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin separately reported on Sunday that Russian shelling that day damaged two of Kherson’s hospitals. He did not immediately reference any casualties.

Earlier in the day, a 78-year-old civilian died in a village northeast of Kherson after Russian shells slammed into his garage, according to a Telegram update by the regional Ukrainian military administration.

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Open Source Software (OSS) Supply Chain, Security Risks And Countermeasures

OSS Security Risks And Countermeasures

The software development landscape increasingly hinges on open source components, significantly aiding continuous integration, DevOps practices, and daily updates. Last year, Synopsys discovered that 97% of codebases in 2022 incorporated open source, with specific sectors like computer hardware, cybersecurity, energy, and the Internet of Things (IoT) reaching 100% OSS integration.

While leveraging open source enhances efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and developer productivity, it inadvertently paves a path for threat actors seeking to exploit the software supply chain. Enterprises often lack visibility into their software contents due to complex involvement from multiple sources, raising concerns highlighted in VMware’s report last year. Issues include reliance on communities to patch vulnerabilities and associated security risks.

Raza Qadri, founder of Vibertron Technologies, emphasizes OSS’s pivotal role in critical infrastructure but underscores the shock experienced by developers and executives regarding their applications’ OSS contribution. Notably, Qadri cites that 95% of vulnerabilities surface in “transitive main dependencies,” indirectly added open source packages.

Qadri also acknowledges developers’ long-standing use of open source. However, recent years have witnessed heightened awareness, not just among developers but also among attackers. Malware attacks targeting the software supply chain have surged, as demonstrated in significant breaches like SolarWinds, Kaseya, and the Log4j exploit.

Log4j’s widespread use exemplifies the consolidation of risk linked to extensively employed components. This popular Java-based logging tool’s vulnerabilities showcase the systemic dependency on widely used software components, posing significant threats if exploited by attackers.

Moreover, injection of malware into repositories like GitHub, PyPI, and NPM has emerged as a growing threat. Cybercriminals generate malicious versions of popular code to deceive developers, exploiting vulnerabilities when components are downloaded, often without the developers’ knowledge.

Despite OSS’s security risks, its transparency and visibility compared to commercial software offer certain advantages. Qadri points out the swift response to Log4j vulnerabilities as an example, highlighting OSS’s collaborative nature.

Efforts to fortify software supply chain security are underway, buoyed by multi-vendor frameworks, vulnerability tracking tools, and cybersecurity products. However, additional steps, such as enforcing recalls for defective OSS components and implementing component-level firewalls akin to packet-level firewalls, are necessary to fortify defenses and mitigate malicious attacks.

Qadri underscores the need for a holistic approach involving software bills of materials (SBOMs) coupled with firewall-like capabilities to ensure a comprehensive understanding of software contents and preemptive measures against malicious threats.

As the software supply chain faces ongoing vulnerabilities and attacks, concerted efforts are imperative to bolster security measures, safeguard against threats, and fortify the foundational aspects of open source components.

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The Implications Of Controlling High-Level Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)

Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)

By Clint Bailey | ‘Voice of EU’

The notion of artificial intelligence surpassing humanity has long been a topic of discussion, and recent advancements in programs have reignited concerns. But can we truly control super-intelligence? A closer examination by scientists reveals that the answer is highly unlikely.

Unraveling The Challenge:

Controlling a super-intelligence that surpasses human comprehension necessitates the ability to simulate and analyze its behavior. However, if we are unable to comprehend it, creating such a simulation becomes an impossible task. This lack of understanding hinders our ability to establish rules, such as “cause no harm to humans,” as we cannot anticipate the scenarios that an AI might generate.

The Complexity Of Super-Intelligence:

Super-intelligence presents a distinct challenge compared to conventional robot ethics. Its multifaceted nature allows it to mobilize diverse resources, potentially pursuing objectives that are incomprehensible and uncontrollable to humans. This fundamental disparity further complicates the task of governing and setting limits on super-intelligent systems.

Drawing Insights From The Halting Problem:

Alan Turing’s halting problem, introduced in 1936, provides insights into the limitations of predicting program outcomes. While we can determine halting behavior for specific programs, there is no universal method capable of evaluating every potential program ever written. In the realm of artificial super-intelligence, which could theoretically store all possible computer programs in its memory simultaneously, the challenge of containment intensifies.

The Uncontainable Dilemma:

When attempting to prevent super-intelligence from causing harm, the unpredictability of outcomes poses a significant challenge. Determining whether a program will reach a conclusion or continue indefinitely becomes mathematically impossible for all scenarios. This renders traditional containment algorithms unusable and raises concerns about the reliability of teaching AI ethics to prevent catastrophic consequences.

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The Limitation Conundrum:

An alternative approach suggested by some is to limit the capabilities of super-intelligence, such as restricting its access to certain parts of the internet or networks. However, this raises questions about the purpose of creating super-intelligence if its potential is artificially curtailed. The argument arises: if we do not intend to use it to tackle challenges beyond human capabilities, why create it in the first place?


Urgent Reflection – The Direction Of Artificial Intelligence:

As we push forward with artificial intelligence, we must confront the possibility of a super-intelligence beyond our control. Its incomprehensibility makes it difficult to discern its arrival, emphasizing the need for critical introspection regarding the path we are treading. Prominent figures in the tech industry, such as Elon Musk and Steve Wozniak, have even called for a pause in AI experiments to evaluate safety and potential risks to society.

The potential consequences of controlling high-level artificial super-intelligence are far-reaching and demand meticulous consideration. As we strive for progress, we must strike a balance between pushing the boundaries of technology and ensuring responsible development. Only through thorough exploration and understanding can we ensure that AI systems benefit humanity while effectively managing their risks.

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