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Myanmar: A Month after the Military Coup- Protests continue despite brutal crackdown

Paper No. 6762                             Dated 4-Mar-2021
By Dr. S. Chandrasekharan
After a month of a mixed civil disobedience movement and demonstrations, it looks that the Myanmar Army Tatmadaw underestimated the social forces that have come together to resist the Coup. The young generation Gen Z, has despite the brutal crackdown has not wilted and has continued with the protests with their innovative and technical skills.  Updated versions of the demonstrations can be seen regularly in the You Tube and open to all. 
 
The Army had counted that its fight is against the NLD only and that all non NLD forces that have lost the elections would rally round them for fresh elections.  This has not happened.  International opinion including that of ASEAN has not been favourable so far. Public resentment against the brutality of the security forces against the innocent unarmed young generation has grown and has also outraged the international community.
 
Due to the civil disobedience movement, financial transactions have slowed down to a trickle.  Due to limited staff, the Banks are able to provide only small amounts of money.  There are already signs of the economy breaking down.  Managing the pandemic is no longer a priority.
 
The Army Junta has no clue whatsoever as to how to tackle the silent protests.  They are unable to comprehend no security issues relating to Health and Education.  Many medical staff have abstained from work and despite selective arrests, absenteeism continues.
 
The protests have been well organised and disciplined.  The protestors are mostly young people who chose to remain in their cities and not run away as they did in the 1988 movement.
 
Saturday the 27th February was the day of infamy.  The Securities forces without provocation charged against the unarmed protestors using teargas and live bullets.  Over 18 people were killed and scores were injured.  The BBC Correspondent described one scene where two of the youngsters were killed and taken into an ambulance.  The crowd did not disperse but assembled in the same place despite the danger of being shot.
 
The crackdown continued the next day too in many towns in Myanmar including Yangon, Dawei and Mandalay.  Hundreds were arrested.  Mid night arrests have become common with people fearing the Police and the midnight knocks. The Security forces deliberately chose to kill  innocent protestors.  Of the fifteen killed on the 27th, six were shot in the head, six in the chest and one of all places, in the throat!
 
The Police forces have been brutal to say the least.  Eyewitness accounts said of indiscriminate arrests.  One girl was slapped before being pushed in the police vehicle and another was kicked before being taken to the van.  
 
Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s Ambassador to the United Nations called on the international community to take “strongest possible action” to end the miliary rule. In a voice that cracked with emotion he called for intervention to end the military coup, to stop the oppression of innocent people, return the State Power to the people and restore democracy.  He was promptly dismissed by the Junta and the Deputy Ambassador U Tin Maung who was appointed to replace him also resigned causing further embarrassment.  Over a hundred Staff members have been recalled from Foreign missions.
 
Suu Kyi and the former President Win Myint have been slapped with further charges.  It is not clear from reports whether Suu Kyi has been allowed to meet her lawyers.
 
The Group of 13 Parliamentarians who refused to accept the dissolution of the Parliament have formed a Committee to represent the Parliament and is likely to function as a parallel entity to the Junta appointed officials.  More Ministers including a foreign Minister and a Minister to handle international entities have been appointed.  This group includes those from NLD, Kayak State Democratic Party and Ta’ang national Party.  More are expected to join and eventually this parallel Governing Committee may prove to be an embarrassment to the Ruling Junta.
 
On 1st March, the ASEAN finally came out with a brief statement calling for the immediate release of Suu Kyi and also to desist from use of lethal force.  It also urged all parties to engage in discussions!  On what and with whom is not clear as the Army has arbitrarily arrested the President and the Counsellor and then slapped flimsy charges against them.
 
The Foreign Ministers of the ASEAN met the next day and differences surfaced in trying to reach a common position.  The Indonesian Foreign Minister wanted to visit Myanmar and talk with the Junta leaders, but gave up when protestors assembled before the embassy in Myanmar demanding the cancellation of the intended visit.  A visit at this juncture  would indicate legitimising the unlawful grabbing of power of the Military.
 
Singapore expressed “concern” on the situation in Myanmar and called on all parties to refrain from initiating further violence and all sides to exercise their utmost restraint.  A pious statement indeed.  Thailand’s reaction was different.  For them the issue was “ their matter” to be solved by themselves. 
 
Perhaps Indonesia took the most balanced position.  The Foreign Minister said that while adhering to the basic principle of ASEAN of non interference, they have a duty to respect the values of democracy, human rights, good governance, rule of law and Constitutional Government.
 
And the big elephant in the room- China is yet to state its position clearly though its inclinations are well known.  Their proxies- the ten armed groups who have not signed the National Cease fire agreement have also not indicated their position.  The Indian position continues to be one of showing concern!
 
For the present what is clear is that the protests will continue in a sustained and sophisticated manner.  The Generation ‘Z’ as the youngsters are called, have described the protests as Spring Revolution. There may be fewer members in the demonstrations but the civil disobedience movement may continue with greater vigour.
 
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