Violence in the response of the security forces to the pro-democracy protests taking place in Myanmar (formerly Burma) for two months has become the norm. At least 82 people lost their lives due to the police and military crackdown on protesters in Bago, some 40 miles northeast of Yangon – the country’s commercial capital – between Thursday and Friday. An account that only came to light this Saturday due to internet cuts in the country, daily since the military carried out a coup on February 1. Burmese special ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, on Friday called on the international community to “act immediately” to stop the killings.
Details of what happened in Bago have taken more than a day to emerge due to the enormous difficulty in gathering information on what is happening in Myanmar. The Burmese military junta that took control of the country after the coup – deposing the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi, which has been detained since then – ordered telecommunications companies days ago to restrict access to the internet through mobile phones and via mobile phones. wifi networks. Witnesses to what happened in Bago, with some 250,000 inhabitants, assured AFP that the continuing violence in the city has forced many residents to flee to neighboring towns since Thursday.
According to the French news agency, which has had access to verified video images, the protesters had to hide behind barricades to escape attacks by the armed forces, while explosions were heard in the background. The uniformed officers used rifle grenades to disperse the protests, while preventing rescue teams from treating the victims. “They piled up all the dead bodies in Army trucks and took them away,” a witness told AFP. The Association for the Protection of Political Prisoners (AAPP) said today that at least 82 civilians died in Bago between Thursday and Friday, bringing the number of fatalities to 618 since the riot. Dozens of the deceased are minors.
The Military Junta, for its part, reduced the figure to 248, according to a spokesman for the generals on Friday at a press conference, in which it called the victims “violent terrorist people.” The coup d’état, which the military refuses to define as such and justifies as a response to alleged irregularities, not documented or supported by the institutions, in the November elections – in which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept away – , has received strong popular opposition. Since February, thousands of people have taken to the streets every day to demand the return of democracy.
The security forces have been increasingly cracking down on the demonstrations, which continue to take place across the country. In Yangon, the protests have taken on a more creative tone, with the streets stained in red paint as a denunciation of the bloodshed, while pamphlets with the message “They will not rule us” are distributed in different neighborhoods.
At least half of the twenty ethnic guerrillas operating in the country have also explicitly positioned themselves in favor of the civil disobedience movement, which has increased the old tensions between them and the Burmese Army – known as Tatmadaw – in various areas. In the northern state of Shan, an insurgent group, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) launched an attack in the early hours of Saturday on a police station, killing more than a dozen police officers, AFP said. The Tatmadaw responded with aerial bombardments.
Given the extreme instability in his country, Myanmar’s special ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, urged on Friday at a Security Council meeting to “act urgently.” The diplomat called for an arms embargo and more sanctions against the military to be imposed, in addition to creating a no-fly zone. For his part, analyst Richard Horsey, from the International Crisis Group analysis center, warned at the same meeting that the country “is on the verge of collapse.” “The Board’s actions can make the country ungovernable,” Horsey warned.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.