Why did Peaceful protesters in Myanmar choose violence

2022-04-26 0 By

Myanmar’s military seized power in a stunning coup a year ago.There was little public reaction in the first few hours.Some of the anti-coup protesters improvised their own weapons during the protests and no one seemed to know how they should react, while Aung SAN Suu Kyi, the woman who has led the opposition to military rule for the past 30 years, was arrested.”The Internet and phone lines were cut that morning,” recalls Moe Sandar Myint, a prominent union leader in Hlaing Tharyar, an industrial district in Yangon.”At first we didn’t believe the news, but after we went out to buy a radio, we knew the coup was real.We were destroyed.It was a dark day for us.Myanmar is just beginning to develop.Figuring out how to counter the dictator is the most important thing for us.”But at the end of the day, Aung SAN Suu Kyi issued a message urging the Burmese people not to accept it.The message appeared to be in anticipation of a coup.At the same time, Win Htein, one of Ms. Suu Kyi’s most trusted advisers, invoked Mahatma Gandhi in calling for a campaign of civil disobedience in line with Ms. Suu Kyi’s longstanding strategy of nonviolent resistance.Thus was born the CDM(Civil disobedience movement), initially led by health workers and teachers who refused to go to work, and soon supported by unions, civil servants and activist music, film stars, LGBT+ communities and ethnic minorities.Not only do they support Aung SAN Suu Kyi’s non-violent beliefs — her face is plastered all over protest posters — they also call for the restoration of her democratically elected government.Four days after the coup, Moe Sandar Myint organized the first workers’ protest.They were part of a national movement against military rule that in its first month filled the streets with carnival-like rallies.”I was worried that my staff would get shot,” she said.”But when I saw the overwhelming participation of the people when we marched, my fear disappeared.”Today, Aung SAN Suu Kyi lives in exile in Thailand with her husband and three children.She made a harrowing flight from Rangoon, first to war-torn border areas controlled by ethnic rebels, then to cross at night.The turning point for Moe Sandar Myint, who fled Myanmar in agony and is now in exile in Thailand, came in March last year, when coup leaders ordered the army to crush the protests without restraint.For Moe Sandar Myint, the violence began on March 14.By then, she had stayed away from her home to avoid arrest.Hlaing Tharyar has a dense population of migrant workers and is considered a hostile neighborhood in Yangon, where residents have erected road blocks to try to keep the army out.”I work with other union leaders to plan our next steps.Suddenly we heard the army coming, so we scattered.They blocked all the roads in Hlaing Tharyar and opened fire on us.””Many people died, including some of my workers.””They shot from the middle first,” her husband, Ko Aung, recalled.Gao marched through the streets with protesters.”Then shots came from both sides and behind us.We tried to take cover, but no one could stop the bullets.”Myanmar Witness is an organization that uses satellite and other images to verify human rights violations.The group believes security forces massacred Hlaing Tharyar with indiscriminate gunfire and that as many as 80 people were killed.Video from that day shows police officers standing on a bridge watching Hlaing Tharyar, randomly shooting at people below.After they raided Moe Sandar Myint’s home, she knew she and her family would have to leave Yangon.”They have guns, but we have people” : Inside Burma’s Spring Revolution Many other participants in the happy first month of protests also fled, and some joined the desperate, unequal armed struggle against the junta.Since then, Aung SAN Suu Kyi has disappeared from public view, isolated from the behind-the-scenes struggles of the secret trials.Lawmakers and officials from her party formed a shadow National Unity government (NUG) in April last year to challenge the junta’s attempts to win international recognition and broaden the opposition’s leadership by including more ethnic minorities.But with its members scattered and deserting the army, the NLD has limited influence over the armed resistance groups that spread across Myanmar.These local militias, calling themselves the People’s Defence Forces (PDFs), use captured or homemade guns and improvised explosives to attack military convoys and assassinate officials working for the junta.They no longer talk about peaceful protest.In fact, some of them are critical of Ms. Suu Kyi’s authoritarian leadership and her past efforts to coexist with an overly powerful armed force.They say there can be no return to the status quo ante.George and Frank are two young men who took part in an anti-coup protest near their home in Rangoon.We can’t use their real names.George is a business executive;Frank is passionate about video games. He works for a cafe company.They are now all volunteer troops operating in rebel-held areas.In March, after seeing people gunned down at roadblocks, they realized there was no international help and decided non-violent tactics weren’t working.”It’s hard to know where our armed struggle begins,” George said.”We are ordinary people with no military training experience.”For activists in Yangon, the easiest option is to join an established rebel group in the east of the city that has been fighting the central government for decades.Some of these groups have stayed away from the anti-coup movement, but three, notably the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in the north and the Kroni National Defence Force (KNDF) on the Thai border, have offered shelter and training.The first problem for George and Frank, who joined KNLA, was how to win their trust.The group is wary of possible military infiltration and has long been suspicious of myanmar’s majority population, which until recently showed little sympathy for its ethnic minorities.Their second problem is weapons.They had to buy them on the black market.George spent the equivalent of $2,000 (£1,500) on a handgun.Frank sold his car and a plot of land to buy an American-made M4 rifle for $3,500.Ammunition is a perennial problem.Their owners at Karen Hope PDF volunteers are largely self-funded, but still operate under the command of KNLA officers.It’s a tough adjustment.”Before this, I was only interested in studying and playing games,” Frank said.”Living in the jungle, sleeping on the ground, sometimes I just want to give up.We ate what we were given – we ate banana stems more than we ate meat.I found it most difficult to get used to the toilet.”Many of those who took part in the initially peaceful protests say they no longer believe in the role of non-violence. In December, the army attacked an area where they believed the IDF leader and members of the DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo were hiding. Two were wounded in the fighting.They described a terrifying, chaotic encounter in which they were badly outgunned.They also complain that they don’t get any material support from NUG, to which THE PDF file is nominally loyal.The NLD is divided over how far it should continue to adhere to Aung SAN Suu Kyi’s principles of non-violence and how far it should turn to armed resistance.In September it declared a “revolution of popular self-defence”, supporting the people’s right to use force against the junta and publishing a code of conduct for various militias.It has raised a lot of money from the Burmese diaspora and set up a ministry of Defence, with which George says he communicates regularly and now commands his own small PDF battalion;But he says the wishes of his Karen protectors must take precedence.A year on, Myanmar’s revolt against military rule has changed beyond recognition from its tumultuous and colorful beginnings.Security forces have killed at least 1,500 people, some of them in horrific massacres, and destroyed hundreds of homes.The junta claims that hundreds of people on its side have been killed by bombs, assassinations and drive-by shootings.The economy is in a mess.More and more people are being deported.Author: Xiao Le