As we watch Gaza being bombed again by Israeli forces, another equally devastating conflict is taking place in Myanmar, where the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar army, has unleashed a hell of oppression on its people, since taking power by a coup d’Etat.
By Adhiraj Bose – Mazdoor Inquilab from Kolkata India
In February of 2021, Myanmar woke up to a military coup. The moment was captured in what would become one of history’s most ironic and iconic videos, where a fitness instructor inadvertently recorded military vehicles on the way to seizing power in the nation’s new capital Naypyidaw. The reaction to the coup was expected and immediate, after the initial shock waned, within days protesters filled the streets of Yangon (formerly Rangoon), in opposition to the military junta, demanding general Min Aung Hlaing, the current dictator of Myanmar, step down from power and honour the results of the general elections, which gave a thumping majority to Aung San Suu Kyi’s party the NLD.
The protests united people from every section of Myanmar’s society. There were banners of trade unions, banners from the LGBTQIA+ community, protesters from Buddhist orders, Youth groups, Christian and Hindu groups, Muslim organizations, ethnic minority organizations, doctors, transport workers, and women’s groups. No one in Myanmar accepted the military coup, everyone had voted for one party or the other in the previous elections, the vast majority had given Aung San Suu Kyi a clear majority, and they wanted this mandate respected.
Needless to say, the Myanmar army, which is the largest and most well-equipped land army in South East Asia, would not take this popular challenge lying down. The junta resorted to violence to suppress the protests. Distressing reports began to emerge that the army was deliberately targeting children so as to dissuade protesters from coming out on the streets. Military police and paramilitaries were going from door to door in neighbourhoods, sometimes randomly spraying streets with bullets to instil fear into the public. Even then, the brave people of Myanmar stood their ground and came out to the streets. Pitched battles began to take place between protesters and the military, one side was equipped with tanks and assault rifles, armoured jackets and helmets, the other side had anything and everything they could salvage from their homes and neighbourhoods, including sticks and barrels.
Despite all the provocations, suppression, and violence, the protests could not be silenced. Myanmar remained on the boil. The protests spread from the main urban regions of the Bamar dominated South, to the restive northern provinces of Karen, and Shan states. Here, the dynamic of opposition was necessarily more violent, as these regions had been waging an insurgency against the state since 1948! That war has now flared up again. The Shan states and Kachin region is a war zone, to mention nothing of the Rakhine State where the Rohingya have been fighting for their rights.
At present, activists have stated that over 800 citizens have been killed by the army, these numbers may not even reflect the true scale of the carnage, because the military government has imposed strict censorship of the internet, the primary means for reporting news from the ground. Outside the main urban centre of Yangon (formerly Rangoon), the protests have taken a different character, as citizens have left peaceful mobilizations in the face of organized and systematic violence by the army. They turn instead to the numerous ethnic secessionist armies in Burma’s North and West, in the Shan states, the Rakhine state, and the Kachin region. Here the resistance against the coup is taking place through armed means. The army has responded with utter brutality, sending the air force to bombard villages and the army to conduct devastating clearing operations. Towns like Mindat in the state of Chinland in Western Burma, have been put to siege since May, while entire villages have been wiped out by the army, like that of Kinma village near Pauk township, where a thousand people lived.
While the Tatmadaw has unleashed an outright war on the people in the northern hinterlands, closer home in the urban sphere, systematic repression and restrictions have ensured that mass protests would not be held, not like it was in the weeks immediately after the coup. The people’s energies began to wane in the face of mass repression. While no organized rallies are taking place, the people have not stopped protesting, the tactics have changed. Instead of organized rallies which could fill entire avenues, the youth have taken to organizing flash protests in the urban centres. Here repression is more restrained because the world’s sights are focused on it.
The military’s resort to brute force has now put the country on the brink of civil war with the ethnic conflicts in the North, West and North East, flaring up again. At the same time, they have also resorted to strategies to demoralise the protesters, the show trial of Aung San Suu Kyi, for trumped-up charges of corruption are aimed at doing just that. While many even in Myanmar were opposed to Aung San’s leadership, everyone is clear, and for very good reason, that the military represents the worst alternative.
While the army continues to ravage the countryside, imprison dissidents by the hundreds, and destroy entire settlements, the major powers of the world only give tepid verbal condemnations or make useless overtures at trying to bring peace, such as the case with the ASEAN’s approach to Myanmar today. Other regional hegemonic powers like India, China and Russia have decided to give their approval to the junta, each of their leaders or representatives, attended the armed forces day, celebrated quite shamelessly, while the protests against the coup were still ongoing. Nothing can be expected from the so-called international community, it is up to the working class, and every revolutionary force in the world to rally international opinion against the Myanmar junta and force the UN to take action. The struggling people of Myanmar need our help! They cannot fight against the tyrannical behemoth of the Tatmadaw alone.
Down With Min Aung Hlaing! Down With The Tatmadaw!
Restore Democratic Rights Now!
Further reading :
For updates from the ground in Myanmar follow: https://www.instagram.com/thethtar_thet/?hl=en