Myanmar Army Coup: Despite warnings, Protests Continue in Various forms
Two weeks after the Coup, the frustrated Army warned the anti coup protestors that they could face up to 20 years in prison besides fine if they obstruct the Armed Forces.
So far 500 Protestors have been arrested. The figure could be more as the Army is consistently raiding houses in the middle of the nights and taking away the civilians. Besides, the activists and the others, the other group targeted are those civil servants who have refused to return to their work as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Though Suu Kyi had left instructions to carry on civil disobedience movement and not mass demonstrations, protests so far have been a mix of both. You Tube videos show that the protests appear to be well organised and disciplined. The posters carried are well made and readable from a distance. Innovative code signs and words have been used to carry on the protests.
It is said that the Army Generals only factored opposition from NLD leaders and the workers and did not anticipate problems from the younger generation. The present younger generation unlike the 88 movement is resourceful, tech savy and innovative. And they have chosen to remain in the country and carry on the protests.
Internet has been going on and off and it is said that the Army having is no clue as to how to shut it completely. They had brought IT Engineers from Yunnan China to build an internet firewall. Though denied by the Chinese Ambassador as expected, the so called suspicious flights from China are officially said to be carrying “sea food” as if Myanmar is short of sea food and are therefore importing it from China to celebrate!
Huge crowds assemble before the Chinese Embassy every day to protest against China and calling its support to the Military Regime as a “shame.” It may be recalled that the Army Chief referred to by the Protestors as “TAH” had met the visiting Chinese Foreign Minister before the Coup and had discussed to the supposed voter fraud. Even the Russian Defence Minister who visited Myanmar on the eve of the coup is said to have had an inkling of the impending coup.
The Embassies have specially become Protest Sites. Those demonstrations before the Western Embassies are more for calling international intervention to get the Army back into the barracks. This is not going to happen soon!
The Army has started using live bullets in dealing with the unarmed protestors. This has been widely condemned by the international community and by the western embassies in Myanmar. On 9th Police fired at the demonstrators in Naypitaw. 20 were injured. Two were critically injured. Two others were killed on 21st Feb.
The funeral procession of the first causality of the coup- that of 19 year old girl Mya Thwe Thwe Khine took place at Nyapyitaw on 21st Feb. Over 100,000 people joined the procession – quite an impressive number considering the fact that the Naypyitaw is supposed to be completely a secure pro Tatmadaw centre!
Demonstrations have taken place in almost all the main cities of Myanmar. Hospitals are empty. Banks are closed and the trains are not running. The notorious 33 Light Infantry Division that made a mark in driving out the Rohingyas are back in action against the demonstrators! People still bang pots and pans at the appointed time. Traditionally, the Burmese bang pots and pans to drive out evil spirits in their houses and villages. No need to guess who the evil ones are in the present situation!
The ten major Ethnic Armed Groups that have signed the National Cease fire Agreement have come out in support of the Civil Disobedience Protest against the military Regime. There ends the peace process that the NLD Government had painfully built up during their tenure! The Army would be eager to get some support from the ethnic groups that have not signed the NCA and are close to the Chinese. It remains to be seen whether the Chinese would oblige.
Meantime, Suu Kyi has been slapped with another frivolous charge for ‘alleged violation’ of Natural Disaster Law. She is yet to be allowed to meet her lawyers for discussing the case. It will be a virtual trial- a sham trial that will be carried out to prevent her from contesting again.
A General Strike was organised throughout Myanmar on 22nd Feb. Thousands of protestors took to the streets in Myanmar. Businesses were closed. More roads were blocked and most of the shops were closed. It was an impressive display of solidarity, enthusiasm and discipline of the protestors.
A General Strike Committee (GSC) has been formed consisting of Representatives from 25 groups including Saffron Monks Network, NLD, New Society Democratic Party and the National Unity Congress. It also includes the All Burma Federation of Students Union, University Students etc.
The day of the strike has been called “five two” movement meaning that the massive rally took place on 22-2-2021 much like the 88 movement of 1988.
In the days to come, it looks that it will be a battle of wits between the demonstrators and the Security Forces.
The US Secretary of State has said that the US stands for the people of Burma and the restoration of their democratically elected Government. On the other hand, the Global Times of China has warned US and the Western Countries not to interfere in the internal matters of Myanmar. In one sense, it is an internal matter for China too as they are very eager to expedite their BRI projects and the Economic Corridor through Myanmar for their own strategic interests and could not care less on other issues.
By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan