Burma’s protests are seen from space. The satellite images of the technology company Maxar Technologies, to which CNN has had access, attest to this. For example, written in large on the asphalt of a large avenue in the city of Mandalay, you can read “We want democracy.” Also, at the train station, you can see the military trucks preventing the protesters from entering. In another city, Rangoon, satellite images show crowds huddled around the city hall, surrounded by vehicles equipped with police water cannons. Since 2007, such large protests have not been seen in Burma.
It has been 17 days since the military coup, when the Army took power, ending a decade in which a system very similar to that of a democracy reigned in this Southeast Asian country. Day after day, civil disobedience movements have been on the rise, concentrating more and more protesters in various cities of the country, calling on the coup generals to restore power to leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League. para la Democracia (LND), which claims its overwhelming victory in the last elections in November, with 83% of the votes. But the military, justifying itself in an alleged electoral fraud, does not give in to protests or international pressure.
CHALLENGE TO THE SECURITY FORCES
Concerns about the potential for violence in Burma are mounting as anti-coup protesters urge supporters to take to the streets in droves, defying security forces and combat-ready troops on the ground. A few hours ago, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, Tom Andrews, commented that he was “terrified” by what could happen if the massive protests planned these days and the military troops converge on the same point. Andrews said that hundreds of soldiers from the light infantry divisions, involved in the violent campaigns against the ethnic minorities of the country, have been transferred this week to the capital, Rangoon. “In the past, these troop movements preceded large-scale murders, disappearances, and arrests. We could be on the verge of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar (Burma),” the rapporteur told local media.
According to the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW), these divisions of the Burmese army, especially the 77th and 33rd command, elite forces trained to fight against armed rebel groups, were the ones that in 2007 put down the protests of Buddhist monks in the so-called Saffron Revolution, which called for a drop in prices to reduce increasing poverty rates. Hundreds of civilians died. These soldiers have also been accused of leading the violent campaign against the Rohingya ethnic community in Rakhine state. According to the evidence presented by UN investigators, these soldiers hunted, murdered, burned their houses, and expelled more than 700,000 Rohingya four years ago. They were then led by the Myanmar army chief commander, Min Aung Hlaing, who is leading the new military government. These commandos are deeply involved in many of the violent incidents, documented killings, and are actively involved in the violent suppression of demonstrations,” says a statement from HRW.
BARRICADES AGAINST THE MILITARY
This Wednesday, the day of protests began strongly in Yangon – now known as Yangon – and in Mandalay, where tens of thousands of people have blocked the main roads in the center of cities with barricades and buses to try to prevent the entry of police vehicles and military armor. Many more protesters have joined the marches through the downtown streets today after the military junta announced yesterday a new indictment against Suu Kyi, who has not been seen in public since the coup and is believed to remain on house arrest. Suu Kyi was already facing a charge of violating the Export and Import Law after the police, in the search of her house after the military coup on February 1, found communication devices – walkie-talkies – that had allegedly been imported illegally and were being used by the leader’s security team. Under Burmese law, these charges could carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
Now, the military regime has brought a second charge against her for allegedly violating a national disaster law by violating pandemic regulations during last year’s elections. Also, according to the UN rapporteur, Tom Andrews, after the new accusation, a “secret trial” against the leader would have begun, without the knowledge or presence of her lawyer.
While the new charges against Suu Kyi were known, the military junta held its first press conference since the coup. “Our goal is to hold elections and hand over power to the winning party,” said General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the new government, who denounced the protesters for “inciting violence and intimidating public officials.”
Several Western embassies, including the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and eleven other countries, issued a joint statement on Monday calling on security forces to “refrain from using violence against protesters and civilians, who are protesting against the overthrow of their legitimate government.
From the United States, the new Biden administration imposed sanctions last week on General Min Aung Hlaing, self-proclaimed interim president, and other officials. “We call on the Burmese military to immediately release all unjustly detained civil and political leaders, journalists and human rights activists and other members of civil society, as well as to restore the democratically elected government,” spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday. from the US State Department. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners of Burma (AAPPB), there have been at least 452 people arrested since the coup. “The police are behaving like terrorists in police uniforms,” said U Aung Myo Min, founder of another association, Equality Myanmar.