Saturday was the worst day since the Myanmar military regained power on February 1st. On “Military Day”, the army celebrated itself by shooting civilians. This day was previously called “Resistance Day” because it marked the beginning of the resistance against the Japanese occupation in 1945, led by the father of the now imprisoned de facto head of government Aung San Suu Kyi.
The exact number of deaths on Saturday is still unknown because the peaceful protest by the Myanmarians has spread to the smaller cities and provinces. It can be assumed that at least 114 people were killed, reports the news portal Myanmar Now. The military-controlled state television issued a warning on Friday that protesters would be shot “in the head and in the back”.
General Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the junta, gave a speech in which he affirmed that the military wanted to protect the people and seek democracy. While the parade was going on in the capital Naypyidaw, the Tatmadaw, as the army is called in Myanmar, stormed entire neighborhoods and houses in many cities. The soldiers not only shot demonstrators, but whoever they found. The youngest victim was a five year old in Mandalay.
On a video from a surveillance camera that ran on social media and messenger services on Saturday, and that too Süddeutsche Zeitung was sent from various sources, soldiers can be seen shooting from the back of a pick-up truck at three young men who are approaching them on a scooter. You meet a man and drag him away. He is now apparently in a military hospital.
China and Russia are preventing tougher sanctions in the UN Security Council
The scene shows that the military apparatus of power has been unleashed in such a way that it is no longer just the people who joke, but the barbarism of war is part of everyday life for the Myanmarians. Just as we knew it from the Second World War or the Vietnam War, where there were completely arbitrary acts of brutality. But in this case the victims are the citizens of their own country, whose protection is proclaimed by the supreme commander.
“This is just the latest example of how determined the military leaders are to get their way out of nationwide opposition to their coup,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s regional director. “These horrific murders show once again the generals’ brazen ignorance of the measures that have so far been used by the international community.”
The fact that the world community cannot bring itself to impose harsh sanctions against the junta is growing into a political problem. Amnesty International has been trying for weeks to obtain stronger sanctions from the UN, but fails because of the veto of states such as China and Russia. Beijing in particular continues to back the junta and at most admonishes the generals to uphold human rights. “The price for this international inaction is that we can only count the dead,” said Ming Yu Hah. More than 400 Myanmarians have died in the peaceful protests so far.
In addition to envoys from China and Russia, military attachés from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos came to visit Naypyidaw on “Military Day”. The Reuters news agency reported on Friday that Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin had met with General Min Aung Hlaing in Myanmar’s capital. According to Russian state media, Russia’s military wants to strengthen ties with the Tatmadav, while almost all Western nations unanimously condemned the murders of hundreds of civilians.
The UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, described the actions of the military junta as “mass murder”. So far, a large part of the world community has been terrified, but relatively inactive, as the Myanmar civilian population is abducted, intimidated and killed by the military.
Some of the surrounding governments, on the other hand, are apparently ready to recognize the rule of the junta; including the giant states of China and India, whose governments are currently not in agreement on anything else.
Meanwhile, desperation is also growing in the “Civil Disobedience Movement” (CDM), the movement that coordinated the peaceful protest and the general strike in Myanmar and called for a “Silent Strike” last Wednesday. The streets of Yangon remained eerily empty. They wanted to show the world that you can’t keep sending targets for trigger-happy soldiers onto the streets forever.
Over the weekend, the CDM used Twitter to apologize to those following the protests on social media because they were inundated with pictures and clips of those who were murdered. Since these channels are the only ones through which information can leak out, the posts become more and more desperate and drastic, parallel to the killing campaigns of the soldiers.
In the north of the country, on the other hand, armed resistance is now also forming. The “Ethnic Armed Forces”, the armed ethnic troops in the province of Kachin, the so-called Kachin State, had already terminated their ceasefire with the Tatmadaw.
While the parade was being held in the capital, the Karen National Union (KNU) arrested Tatmadaw soldiers and overran a military base, killing ten soldiers. The KNU, which also controls parts of the southeast, reported on Saturday evening that Tatmadaw fighter pilots flew an attack on Day Pu Nom, a village on the border with Thailand, around 8 p.m.
Myanmarians have been seeking protection in the resistance in regions controlled by the KNU for weeks. And when enough of them have fled to join the armed resistance, the peaceful protests that the world community has been watching for so long will in all likelihood turn into civil war.