A week after giving a coup against the civilian government, the Burmese military threatened to shoot protesters if the growing acts of resistance against the seizure of the country ceased or did not disperse.
The threat relates to the violent record of crackdown on protests organized by opponents – more than 3,000 unarmed protesters died during the 1988 uprising. However, General Min Aung Hlaing, head of the armed forces who now rule the country, said again promised a transition of power as soon as “fair and free elections” are organized.
According to the general, who had already tried to use accusations of fraud in the election to justify the coup, the military junta will form a “true and disciplined democracy”. On Monday (8), he added to the narrative the argument that the country’s electoral commission used the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to prevent a fair campaign.
Until now, Myanmars had organized civil disobedience campaigns marked by minor acts and strikes by health professionals, teachers and government officials before the coup.
Over the past weekend, however, the resistance movement gathered strength and took tens of thousands of people to the streets of major cities across the country to demand the return of democracy and the release of political prisoners.
One of the main demands is the freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi, a state councilor who in practice ruled the country. She was arrested on an obscure charge of violating trade rules – allegedly illegally importing six walkie-talkies – at least 150 political leaders have been arrested, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners.
In Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw, three rows of riot police officers were warned that they would use live ammunition if the protesters continued to advance.
Protesters chanted slogans and shouted at the police that they must serve the people, not the military. Several of them were hit by water cannons fired by security forces to disperse the acts.
Thousands more marched in Dawei and Kachin. The actions in these towns carry symbolic weight as a large part of the population in these areas is made up of ethnic minority groups, many of whom criticize the Suu Kyi government but, at the moment, are opposed to the military coup.
A group of saffron robed monks also marched through Rangoon, the country’s largest city. The monks have a history of mobilizing community action in Myanmar, whose population is predominantly Buddhist.
In 2007, the so-called “saffron revolution” led by the monks was one of the factors that contributed to the gradual withdrawal of the military from Burmese politics, after decades of regime repression that began in 1962 and s ‘was completed in 2011.
On Monday, the monks hoisted multicolored Buddhist flags alongside the red flags, the color of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party of Suu Kyi which won a landslide victory over the army-backed party in the November elections and who declared official support for the civil disobedience campaign.
On the posters of the demonstrators, phrases such as “free our leaders”, “respect our votes”, “reject the military coup” were read.
State media called the protest participants “outlaws”.
“We, all those who value justice, freedom, equality, peace and security, not only refuse to accept outlaws, but we also ask that they be stopped and suppressed through cooperation “, did he declare.
Although the statement was not attributed to any specific authority or group, the same text was later read on an army-owned broadcaster.
Myanmar’s democracy is still something new. The country, which was once called Burma, gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1948.
The LND, which has ruled the country since 2015, won 83% of the vote and won 396 of Myanmar’s 476 parliament seats in the November elections, but was barred from taking over when the coup was carried out on investiture day. of the new legislature.
The Military-backed Solidarity and Development Union Party won only 33 seats. The new regime says power will be transferred after “free and fair elections” are held, but the promise is viewed with skepticism, due to still very recent memories of decades under the military dictatorship.
The coup has been severely criticized by the international community. Political leaders of different nationalities have called for the restoration of the democratically elected government and the release of all civilian prisoners. On Sunday (7), Pope Francis expressed his solidarity with the Burmese people and called on the country’s leaders to seek “democratic harmony”.
The U.S. government determined last week that it viewed the Myanmar takeover as a coup, which in practice involves restrictions on the assistance the Americans offer the country. The United States is also studying sanctions against individuals and entities controlled by the military.
The Brazilian Foreign Ministry, for its part, did not mention the military coup or political prisoners in a note published on the subject.