Conflicts & War

Myanmar has tasted freedom, won’t return to ‘dark times’

Bangkok, May 30 (EFE).- Myanmar military has not been able to impose its force on civilian opposition after the Feb.1 coup that ended a decade of its fledgling democracy.

The Myanmarese “have tasted freedom, they do not want to go back to the dark times,” monk Ashin told EFE, referring to the successive military juntas that isolated the country from the rest of the world between 1962 and 2011.

From his monastery in Mandalay, one of the cities where the anti-coup resistance has been most forceful, the monk acknowledges that these 10 years of democracy make it “impossible” for the people to accept a return to the past.

After the initial days of confusion over the military coup, civil groups and officials established the civil disobedience movement, posing a challenge to military rulers.

“The junta’s administration is paralyzed, the movement has been a success. Banks are close to bankruptcy, the military forces teachers to open schools but students do not attend. Doctors do not cooperate. People do not pay for electricity,” Ashin tells EFE on the telephone.

However, after months of large-scale protests, suppressed by the security forces with firearms, many young people have chosen to put up armed resistance to the military.

They have joined ethnic guerrillas fighting the military for decades or the militia formed in April by the opposition politicians.

“There is no other option. People need to defend themselves,” Ashin says, alluding to numerous reports of torture of detainees, in some cases fatal.

At least 833 people have been killed in a brutal crackdown by security forces against peaceful anti-coup protests, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

More than 5,460 people have been arrested, the monitor said in its report.

The military, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, has also encountered strong opposition from various ethnic militias that have opened or revived fighting fronts across the country.

“I feel confident in the future, people are filled with a desire to restore democracy. Everyone alike. (They) are united against the military and for the future of Myanmar,” the monk remarks.

The Buddhist monk, who maintains that the top religious organizations are not cooperating with the military regime, assures that, once the military junta falls, the Rohingya, a persecuted mostly-Muslim ethnic group, “will get all their rights.”

More than 725,000 Rohingya settled in western Myanmar were forced to flee to Bangladesh, where they live in overcrowded refugee camps.

The exodus was due to a military operation that began on Aug. 25, 2017, described by the United Nations as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”

Since 2019, Min Aung Hlaing and other military commanders have been under investigation by the International Court of Justice for alleged genocide.

Ashin, who warns about the military’s lack of commitment to resolving crises peacefully, urges the international community to support democracy in Myanmar and once and for all “root out” the military’s influence on politics.

The military justifies the coup alleging fraud in November elections, in which ousted leader and Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s party repeated its resounding victory of 2015.

International observers have given a clean chit to the polls. EFE

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