Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

Two soldiers from Myanmar have publicly confessed to rape, executions and mass burials, in what United Nations officials say was a genocidal campaign against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority. One of the men, Pvt. Myo Win Tun, said he was ordered by his commanding officer: “Shoot all you see and all you hear.”

The soldiers’ video testimony, shared with international prosecutors, is the first time members of the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s military is known, have admitted to the brutal mass killings and erasures of entire villages, adding weight to pending International Criminal Court cases.

Our reporters said details in the soldiers’ testimonies aligned with satellite photos and accounts from witnesses and survivors. Taken as a whole, they show an orchestrated campaign to exterminate an ethnic minority group. Myanmar has repeatedly denied the allegations.

Step back: “There can be, after hearing 100 stories about a village being burned to the ground, a kind of sameness to the stories that detracts from the horror,” Hannah Beech, The Times’s Southeast Asia bureau chief, told us. “To now have the accounts of the people who did it, who were ordered to do it, I think it will make some people in the camps feel some kind of closure or justice.”

India leads the world in daily coronavirus cases and has the second-highest number of infections globally, surpassed only by the United States. In the northern Indian state of Punjab, where cases have surged, lockdowns have been imposed again.

The measures, economists say, are forcing millions of households into poverty and contributing to a long-running tragedy that predates the pandemic: farmer suicides.

Farm bankruptcies and stifling debt have been the source of misery in the country for decades, but experts say the suffering has reached new levels.

“We are left with no tears,” said Nirmal Singh, a farmer $20,000 in debt whose village has a suicide almost every month. “It has turned our hearts to stone.”

Details: India has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. In 2019, 10,281 farmers and farm laborers across the country killed themselves, according to statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau.

Here are the latest updates and maps.

In other virus developments:

  • Thousands of trainee doctors in South Korea returned to work on Tuesday, ending a two-and-a-half-week strike over the government’s plans to increase medical school enrollment to combat the virus.

  • President Xi Jinping of China said the country’s success in suppressing its outbreak was a vindication of Communist Party rule.

  • Japan approved a plan to spend more than $6 billion from its emergency budget reserves on coronavirus vaccines.

  • The director of the Tour de France tested positive for the coronavirus.

Tensions along the India-China border took an alarming turn on Tuesday after Chinese and Indian officials accused each other’s soldiers of firing warning shots, apparently the first time in decades.

Military activities along the unofficial border are difficult to verify. According to a statement from the Chinese military, Indian troops on Monday “took the outrageous step of firing warning shots” near a Chinese border patrol.

Indian officials denied that their soldiers had fired shots and said it was the Chinese who “fired a few rounds in the air in an attempt to intimidate” Indian troops.

One thing is clear: The dispute that has been building on the Himalayan border that separates the two nuclear-armed powers is only sharpening as their relationship steadily deteriorates.

Reminder: In June, a huge brawl broke out high in the mountains and Chinese troops beat to death 20 Indian soldiers. Chinese authorities have not confirmed casualties on their side, but Western intelligence officials estimated about 20 soldiers died.

When “Mulan” came out over the weekend, several social media users noticed that in the credits, Disney thanked government entities and police in Xinjiang, the region where up to one million Uighur Muslims have been detained in mass internment camps, and where parts of “Mulan” were filmed. Many are now calling for a boycott.

It was the latest outcry against the remake of Disney’s classic movie, about a Chinese folk heroine who disguises herself as a man to join the army. For some, it has became a symbol of the Chinese Communist Party’s nationalist policies.

China’s media crackdown: Two Australian journalists rushed out of China after a five-day diplomatic standoff that began when Chinese state security officers paid them unannounced visits, prompting fears they would be detained.

Belarus: A plan to expel Maria Kolesnikova, the opposition leader, was foiled when she tore up her passport at the country’s southern border with Ukraine, according to a Ukrainian official.

Snapshot: Above, the Village Vanguard, a New York City jazz club where legends like John Coltrane have played. The concert world as a whole is in crisis, but perhaps no genre is as vulnerable as jazz, which depends on a fragile ecosystem of performance venues.

What we’re reading: This New Yorker article about how a writer and her mother became pawns for Chinese propaganda. It’s a gripping, crushing story.

Read: Eugenia Cheng’s new book, “X+Y: A Mathematician’s Manifesto for Rethinking Gender,” introduces math to the gender debate.

Redecorate: With limited restaurant and travel options, some people are sprucing up their homes. Call it an “amplified nesting response.”

At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch, and do while staying safe at home.

Our reporters detailed the accounts of two soldiers who confessed to committing atrocities against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority. I spoke to Hannah Beech, Southeast Asia bureau chief, about what this means.

Why did these two soldiers confess?

They deserted from the Myanmar military earlier this year. They said they deserted because they were upset that the Tatmadaw persecutes ethnic minorities. Both of them are ethnic minorities in a country well known for persecuting not just the Rohingya, but many, many other ethnic groups.

What does this testimony mean for Myanmar moving forward?

I think it’s important not only to highlight what they did, but I think it’s also really important for the Rohingya themselves, who are living in horrible conditions in Bangladesh. They are living in this fiction that they will someday soon return and be repatriated to Myanmar — that’s not going to happen.

And to see that some of the perpetrators are actually confessing is really important, not just from a legal perspective but from a human perspective.

The government has repeatedly denied that genocide was taking place in the country, even with evidence to the contrary. Why?

It fits into a narrative of global Islamophobia. Back when we all celebrated Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who was fighting for democracy, we sort of assumed that if she and people connected to her were to come to power, that it wouldn’t be easy but they would promote human rights for all people living in the country. It quickly became clear that that was not the case.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at

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