“It’s a civil war (…). The army has lost all the confidence of the population, ”summarizes analyst Khin Zaw Win.
On the morning of February 1, the Burmese generals overthrow the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, assigns the leader to residence and proclaims a state of emergency, brutally putting an end to a ten-year democratic parenthesis. A putsch that took place exactly 100 days ago.
Much of the country stranded
From towns to the most remote villages, the demonstrations remain almost daily, led by young people eager for freedom, great consumers of social networks and new technologies. And thousands of strikers still block a large part of the country, banks, hospitals, ports and administrations. Faced with this rebellious wind, the junta retaliated with arms.
Nearly 800 dead
In the past three months, at least 780 civilians have been killed, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP). The army, it reports a much less heavy toll, attributing the responsibility for the violence to “rioters” engaging in “acts of terrorism”.
People live in fear and feel hopeless
Arrests, day and night, are on the increase. And more than 3,800 people are detained, many in secret places, according to the AAPP which deplores violence against women, extrajudicial executions and torture as in the case of the poet Khet Thi, arrested on Saturday and dead in custody 24 hours later.
“People live in fear and feel hopeless (…). Some people think of suicide, ”says Sister Ann Rose Nu Twang.
This nun became a symbol of resistance when, during a bloody demonstration in early March, she knelt in front of the soldiers, arms outstretched, begging them “not to shoot”. Today, she works at a clinic in Kachin State treating wounded opponents who “sacrifice their lives for their future.”
“On the good side of history”
Despite the violence, the mobilization continues: “We want to be on the right side of history”, asserts a protestor.
To maintain the pressure on the junta while avoiding reprisals as much as possible, lightning demonstrations, with smaller crowds, are favored, a tactic that pays off since the repression has eased in recent days.
The resistance is also organized politically. Thousands of opponents thus took refuge in territories controlled by rebel factions, in the north and east of the country, and deposed deputies, who went underground, formed “a government of national unity”.
But the latter is struggling for the moment to exert a great influence. His wish to set up an anti-junta “federal army” bringing together dissidents and rebel fighters does not arouse enthusiasm among the country’s multiple ethnic factions. Many are wary of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (LND), dominated by the Bamars, the majority Buddhist ethnic group.
Intense air raids
Ulcerated by the bloodshed against civilians, the insurgents still took up arms. With several thousand troops in the east of the country, the Karen National Union (KNU) attacks military bases and the army retaliates with air strikes, the first in more than 20 years in this region. Clashes and air raids are also intense in Kachin State, where rebels shot down an army helicopter last week.
And, according to the UN, tens of thousands of civilians were displaced in this violence.
How long will the country, one of the poorest in Asia, last? Under the combined effect of the pandemic and the political crisis, half of the population could be below the poverty line by 2022, “a step backwards of 16 years”, warned the United Nations Development Program . And the World Bank expects the economy to contract 10% in 2021, after growing nearly 7% in 2019.
The economic and political chaos does not sway the generals, who ignore international condemnations and sanctions imposed by the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom.
More than 200 NGOs have asked the United Nations Security Council to impose an international embargo on arms sales, but China and Russia, traditional allies of the generals, categorically oppose such a hypothesis.
Aung San Suu Kyi cut off from the world
Behind the walls of her residence in Naypyidaw where she is assigned, Aung San Suu Kyi, indicted on multiple occasions by the junta, is, for its part, kept away from agitation and violence. Totally cut off from the outside world, she probably does not have “access to information”, according to her lawyers who have still not been authorized to meet her.
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