Myanmar has descended into chaos as protestors show no signs of backing down against the Feb. 1 military coup that ousted the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy party head. The protestors have been met with brutal force.
A U.N. special envoy warned of an imminent “bloodbath” if the military doesn’t end its brutal crackdown, which has taken the lives of hundreds so far.
In the latest move, the military has shutdown broadband internet services, according to Reuters.
The military is killing peaceful protestors
Local reports from Myanmar, say protestors are getting slain in the major cities of Yangon and Mandalay, currently under martial law. May Wong, a journalist covering the crisis, posted a graphic video of the carnage.
On Sunday, more than 100 people died in the bloodiest day since the coup began. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the estimated death toll to date is 536, though the actual number is likely higher, AAPP said.
Violence against ethnic minorities has risen as well. The Karen National Union, a political organization in southeast Myanmar with an armed wing, claimed its Karen people were attacked by Myanmar army fighter jets in late-night airstrikes, according to Reuters. The attack breaches a 2015 cease-fire agreement.
Several ethnic minority groups are now teaming up to fight back against the country’s junta. Three forces in the country, including the Arakan Army have vowed to form an alliance and conduct a “spring revolution” if the violence doesn’t stop, Reuters reported.
“We have no other options left but to confront these serious threats posed by the illegitimate military junta’s army in order to defend our territory, our Karen peoples and their self-determination rights,” read a KNU statement from March 30.
The crisis started with a coup to overturn an election
On Feb. 1, the military ousted the seated government, detaining Suu Kyi and other NLD party members. Since then, Suu Kyi has been charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies and a natural disaster violation for breaching Covid-19 protocols.
Most recently, she was hit with an official secrets act charge, the most serious to date. If convicted, the prison sentence could be as much as 14 years. According to a Myanmar free expression website, the law “was created by the British colonial government in 1923 to criminalize the sharing of almost any kind of information held by the government.”
Local media reported more than 600 detainees were released after being charged with various alleged infractions in attempts to appease protestors. Suu Kyi and party members remain behind bars.
Myanmar is no stranger to military rule. The country was run by the totalitarian Burma Socialist Programme Party for much of the last century. The country is also known as Burma.
In 1988,a student-led revolution against the military became a nationwide movement with Suu Kyi emerging as its leader. In 1990, Suu Kyi’s NLD won the country’s general election, the first since 1960, but the military placed the elected officials under house arrest. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Suu Kyi remained in some form of detention for nearly 15 years. In 2015, in Myanmar’s first democratic elections in 25 years, she led her party to victory.
Her international reputation has suffered in recent years after she defended Myanmar military’s ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority. But she remains popular among the country’s Buddhist majority.
The U.S. and its allies have imposed sanctions
The U.S. and European Union have imposed sanctions on military officials connected to the junta. In addition, the U.S. and U.K. placed sanctions on local companies that provide resources to the military.
China has been largely neutral as itholds close ties with both the ousted NLD and the military junta. However, Chinese interests would be threatened by sanctions on Myanmar’s resources, mining and energy companies, according to the Institut Montaigne, a French nonprofit think tank.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin met with Myanmar Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw in an effort to strengthen ties with the military, according to Reuters. Fomin said Myanmar was a strategic partner and ally, despite clear human rights abuses.