Tuesday marked the fourth day of street protests in Myanmar, heralding a fifth one on Wednesday, with a movement that has grown in time and space beyond all expectations, in every corner of the country.
But there is also a tragic toll. A woman was killed by a bullet that hit her in the head, while another protester was shot in the chest and is in serious condition. They are among the seven people hit by bullets (apparently war ammunition) fired at human height. These were shots to kill. For now, the news has not been fully confirmed.
The incidents happened in Naypyidaw, named the political capital by the generals years ago, one of the epicenters of the protests, together with Yangon and Mandalay, under the spotlight due to a movement that is beginning to scare those who plotted the coup on February 1. They have responded to Tuesday’s rallies (perhaps a little smaller in numbers than those of the previous day, but more widespread in the suburbs) by sending the police ahead of time, backed by an army in a state of alert. There were water cannons, tear gas, shots fired in the air to disperse the crowd, but then some more zealous agents must have aimed their weapons lower and shot at people.
It was an isolated episode, but one that painted an ominous picture and that has been accompanied by beatings and arrests of dozens and dozens of protesters, including public figures who still hadn’t been put in handcuffs: for example, U Ye Lwin, mayor of Mandalay, the second largest city in the country, was arrested for having written strong words against the coup on social media, while many departments of the municipality closed their doors to allow employees to participate in the protest.
The protest was so widespread that it also involved the police force: the best known photo shows an officer on the roof of a car in solidarity with the protesters, and there are stories in Myanmar of entire squads who lined up with the demonstrators. These episodes are rare and unimportant in terms of raw numbers, but significant nonetheless.
While the Internet is down, communication with Myanmar is possible only via VPN. In one of these conversations, we got confirmation of the first death, after many rumors had swirled during the day that there had been a number of victims of police brutality.
All in all, however, witnesses said that the day ended on a more positive note than expected after the previous day’s decision about the crackdown.
Meanwhile, pressure from the international community continues to grow, and, according to local sources, the Americans have been refused a request to see Aung San Suu Kyi, who is due to appear in court on February 15. While this is yet another snub against the Americans, there are those who think that even the Chinese, who have finally toned down their opposition to the UN’s condemnation of the coup, are not too happy with the way things are going.
The upheaval has already made some entrepreneurs leave the country, including a Singaporean company that had contracts with a conglomerate in the hands of the military. A bad sign for the purported saviors of the homeland and defenders of development.
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