On Feb 1st, a coup by Myanmar’s military led them to take over control of the government. The National League for Democracy (NLD) won the country’s elections in 2015 and again in November 2020. However, their failure to promptly look into the military’s allegations of election fraud led to the coup.
Coincidentally, the military coup took place on the morning of the first parliament sitting.
Most of the Burmese citizens do not want the country to be under military rule again. There are daily protests by hundreds of thousands of citizens in the capital Naypyidaw as well as in major cities. These are the biggest protests in decades. During the nights, residents bang on pots and pans as a sign of protest.
Anti-coup protesters are urging supporters to come out on the streets. This is openly defying the military ruling that prohibits mass gatherings.
Protesters are calling for the release of Nobel laureate and President of the NLD, Madam Aung San Suu Kyi. They also call for the military to hand governmental power back to the NLD.
NLD leader faces two charges
Madam Suu Kyi is facing two charges. The first charge is for possessing 2 illegal walkie-talkie sets under the country’s import and export act. The new second charge is in relation to a national disaster law, according to her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw.
Reactions by NLD senior member
Kyi Toe is an NLD senior member who is not under arrest. He is encouraging the Burmese people to rise up and march en masse and show their force against the military. Kyi Toe also said the military government has destroyed both the future of the country and its youth.
UN extremely concerned on potential protester-army clashes
Another individual, Tom Andrews, is a UN special rapporteur on human rights based in Myanmar. Andrews is “terrified” of violent consequences if the military and mass protesters clash. He fears that Wednesday will have potential for more violence in the country. This is in comparison to what has been seen since the start of the coup on Feb 1st.
Military build-up in Yangon
There are reports of military presence building up in the former capital, Yangon. Soldiers are being transported there from other regions. Many soldiers are coming from the Myanmar military’s light infantry divisions (LIDs). The LIDs have a long history of human rights abuses.
Orders for the stationing of these elite soldiers come directly from Senior Commander-In-Chief Min Aung Hlaing. Hlaing and other senior army officials are currently facing human rights violations by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
According to Andrews, there were mass scale detentions, killings and disappearances with similar troop movements previously. He feels Burmese citizens and protesters could be on the brink of even greater crimes by the military.
The use of Infantry troops before was to fight ethnic rebels in the jungles and mountains. They will now be used to fight street protesters, which is a huge cause for worry for human rights groups.
History of the LID
The Light Infantry Division has a brutal history of suppressing protesters.
The 77th Light Infantry Division is currently under orders to station themselves in Yangon. From last year, their mission was to battle against the Arakan Army in the western Rakhine state. This LID was also part of 4 army units that cracked down on the Saffron Revolution. This was a monk-led uprising in 2007, where the 77th Division opened fire on people trying to flee and innocent bystanders.
Human Rights Watch researcher, Richard Weir, said the LIDs have a very nasty reputation. Weir feels the Burmese people have and will recognize what their presence means.
Weir concludes that an increase in military presence now is “clearly something that’s meant to demonstrate resolve, and to intimidate”. This is not something everyone saw during the first week since the military takeover.
17th February 2021 23:00
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