Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

Myanmar: It looks like a warzone, but only one side has guns

Yangon, Myanmar: When the military seized power on February 1, 2021, ending the brief 9-year period of representative democracy rule and plunging Myanmar into chaos, it triggered mass demonstrations against the coup.

The demonstrations began with picket signs and chants of slogans by small groups of protesters against the newly imposed military junta of General Min Aung Hlaing. As the regime violence escalated and the demonstrations intensified and multiplied in numbers, protesters began engaging in brief disruptions, like stopping traffic for a few minutes, raising their hands to form the three-finger salute of the Myanmar resistance, while shouting anti-dictatorship slogans, before scattering. Faced with civil disobedience, the frustrated military regime escalated its violence and began attacking people with flash-bang grenades, rubber bullets and baton beatings. But it only strengthened the will of the people and the small demonstrations grew into mass gatherings across the whole country.

But on February 28, everything changed. It was early in the morning of that day when during a peaceful protest in Yangon’s “Hledan” neighbourhood, police suddenly opened fire against the demonstrators with live ammunition, killing 2 people. Two others were killed elsewhere in the city. Witnesses testify that there was no warning and no violence from the side of the protesters. The police, who were under the military’s direct control even before the coup, were now increasingly joined by soldiers. At least 18 people were killed on that day all over the country, marking a major turning point.

Faced with lethal violence by the military regime, the protesters were forced to change and upscale their tactics. They now carry metal shields, helmets, gas masks, and the occasional bulletproof vest, behind barricades, using fireworks, molotov, giant slingshots and fire extinguishers to confuse snipers. They flee into houses and shops to evade arrest when the armed forces arrive, only to reassemble as soon as they leave the area. The protests in Yangon resemble warfare, but only one side has guns.

But the protesters’creativity keeps changing in the most amazing way, like the erection of street barricades with clotheslines of women’s clothes and used sanitary pads, taking advantage of the misogyny and superstition of the armed security forces: Many in the military believe that passing under the female garments will reduce their masculine energy and virility. The junta has responded by outlawing the practice, and security forces have been photographed removing the clotheslines and even burning the female sarongs, known as htamein.

As the protests evolve, so does the brutality of the military junta regime. As of today, March 19, 2021, at least 235 people have been killed in Myanmar since the 1 February coup, including 5 people in custody, according to a local monitoring group. 74 protesters were killed on Sunday 14 March and 20 more on the next day. This is the number documented and verified by AAPP, the actual number of casualties is likely much higher.

Myanmar was plunged into chaos on February 1, 2021, when the military seized power, ending the short nine-year period parliamentary democracy. The military previously controlled Myanmar, a former British colony, for decades, ie. from 1962 until 2011.

The military alleged that the result of the recent country’s elections was fraudulent, and detained elected government head Aung San Suu Kyi and her fellow party leaders.

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