Myanmar’s Bloody Sunday

Protest against military coup (9 Feb 2021, Hpa-An, Kayin State, Myanmar)

Ninjastrikers, Wikimedia Commons

Mass demonstrations have continued and escalated since the Myanmar armed forces (known as the Tatmadaw) seized power in a coup d’état on February 1. Protestors have maintained admirable discipline in their steadfast commitment to nonviolent civil resistance and enormous courage in the face of intensified military repression. “The anti-junta protests have been going on continually for the past month,” reports the New York Times. “By day, people march by the thousands through city streets, undeterred by a ban on public gatherings of more than four people, and by night they bang in defiance on pots and pans.”

Yesterday was the nation’s “Bloody Sunday:” military police and Tatmadaw forces opened fire on nonviolent demonstrators with live ammunition in Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago and Pakokku, killing at least 18 people and wounding many others. “The police approached and got their guns ready. We didn’t think that they would actually shoot,” one participant told the Guardian. “The protest had been peaceful, he said, with crowds singing songs and clapping. ‘That’s all we did. And then they started shooting.’”

As reported by the New York Times:

Videos and photographs captured images of bodies in the street and people running from the police as tear gas and smoke filled the air. The sheer ferocity of Sunday’s crackdown — soldiers appeared to shoot at unarmed people at random and rounded up groups of demonstrators before marches could begin — drew sharp rebukes internationally.

In a statement responding to Sunday’s killings, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres issued a strong condemnation of what he calls “the violent crackdown” in Myanmar: “The use of lethal force against peaceful protestors and arbitrary arrests are unacceptable. The Secretary-General urges the international community to come together and send a clear signal to the military that it must respect the will of the people of Myanmar as expressed through the election and stop the repression.”

Since the junta seized power, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), “the police and security forces have targeted an ever-increasing number of opposition voices and demonstrators by arresting political officials, activists, civil society members, journalists and medical professionals. Over 1,000 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in the last month – some of whom remain unaccounted for – mostly without any form of due process, simply for exercising their human rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly.”

Gladys Perez