Conflicts & War

Tired of demonstrations, Myanmar’s protesters take to arms

By Ramon Abarca

Bangkok, May 10 (EFE).- One hundred days after the coup that toppled Myanmar’s democratic government, the resistance against the military junta continues countrywide, where massive peaceful protests are giving way to a guerrilla spirit.

“I no longer participate in protests. I believe that the phase of the revolution (protest) has ended and now we are in the phase of armed resistance,” a 22-year-old medical student told EFE from Yangon.

A wave of peaceful protests swept across Myanmar in response to the military coup on Feb. 1, which ended the elected government of popular leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The discontent of the majority of the population triggered a brutal response from the military junta, which has arrested almost 5,000 people and killed at least 780 during the crackdown on the demonstrations.

Going out to the streets to demonstrate means exposing oneself to the shots of the police and the military, who shoot to kill, so the dynamics of the opposition against the junta have changed since April.

In large cities, mass demonstrations have given way to lightning protests: they are not organized on social media, rather participants join when they see them pass by and disperse after 10 or 15 minutes before security forces arrive.

“These lightning demonstrations are very important to maintain the morale of the people and let the board see that we have not given up,” a fifth-year medical student told EFE.

However, the young man said he does not believe the solution lies in the peaceful protests and is more interested in helping as a doctor or supporting the activity of armed groups.

“The biggest change in these three months has been the attitude of the people. At first most, including me, thought the United Nations would help us. Now we have understood that help will not come from outside and that we have to fight for our freedom ourselves,” he said.

Although much of the international community has condemned the actions of the military, the Security Council — the UN body that can impose sanctions or approve the use of force — has so far been neutral, with countries such as China and Russia reluctant to act against the coup generals.

“It is very difficult to carry out a revolution without violence. Although the anti-junta movement was peaceful, the truth is that there has always been violence against us,” another 22-year-old from the old capital told EFE through the Signal application.

The man, who left his job after the coup to protest in the streets, said some of his friends are receiving training with ethnic minority guerrillas in the states of Karen and Kachin.

It is estimated that hundreds of young people are doing it. Some join these armed groups to fight with them against the army, but most train to return to the cities and form urban guerrillas.

“I do not believe that the generals will surrender soon. It is also important to have armed forces that protect us,” said another man, who lives in Yangon.

The civil government, self-proclaimed as legitimate and made up of elected representatives deposed by the military, announced last week the formation of a militia to defend citizens from the repression of those in uniform.

On the other hand, various armed groups of ethnic minorities that for decades have been demanding more autonomy have shown their support for the civil disobedience movement against the military junta, which has intensified the confrontations with the army in border areas.

“They have already killed many soldiers. The guerrillas are fighting against the army and they are winning. This is good news,” said a 26-year-old LGTBi activist, who after a very active role in the protests now focuses his “fight” on social networks.

The economy, which had already deteriorated due to the impact of the pandemic, is nevertheless undermining the resilience of citizens.

“It is a balance between surviving and continuing to resist. It is time to find our lives and move on. We cannot just protest,” he said.

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