Two weeks after the coup in Myanmar, tensions between army and protesters are still rising. Today again thousands of people went out to the streets, on which the army deployed armored vehicles. Connoisseurs fear chaos: the people seem to be preparing for a long period of protest, while the army does not seem to be afraid of violence.
“ It seems as if the army itself does not know how to proceed,” says former Ambassador Laetitia van den Assum. “If they are now broadly committed to heavy violence against the population, there is no going back.”
Previous major protests against military domination were lulled by the drafting of a constitution in 2008. “But now the army actually wants to reverse something that was set in motion,” says correspondent Annemarie Kas. “This makes it particularly difficult for the people to accept that the freedoms they received at that time are now taken away.”
According to Van den Assum, the army underestimated how difficult it would be to suppress a popular uprising. “Young people in particular now have greater openness. They do not want to go back to a situation where the army is in power.”
Even today thousands of Burmese young people went out to the streets:
Civil disobedience continues to increase: after last weeks first strikes, more and more professions are leaving their work. “A lot of government officials have left their positions, and care staff and teachers have also stopped. At some point, the country stops functioning.”
In addition to the people, the army has to deal with the many ethnic minorities known to Myanmar. Many of them also have their own armies, some of whom have already said that they do not accept the coup. “The danger is that a civil war can arise here,” says Van den Assum. More and more of these armies are standing behind the people, and are drawing a hard line in the use of force against civilians.
According to Van den Assum, it is precisely this violence against civilians that has been increasingly lurking in recent days. Initially, it was mainly the police who acted against protesters, but now army battalions are also deployed. “Including a notorious brigade that has previously brutally held down against the Rohingya.”
In the Western world, the coup is strongly rejected. For example, the US has declared sanctions. “But the international community is not unambiguous about this,” says Kas. “Countries in the region prefer not to interfere with the internal affairs of their neighbours.”
If international pressure is to be effective, it should come from countries investing in Myanmar: China, Japan, India and Singapore. “They should move together like a block, but I dont see that happening,” says Kas. Russia, as the largest arms supplier, also has influence in the country, although according to Van den Assum, Moscow interferes little in the countrys internal policy.
The army itself would mainly look at Thailand: according to Thai media, the military leader asked for advice from the Thai Prime Minister, who also came to power with a coup in 2014. “But the situation in Thailand was very different at the time,” says Van den Assum. “There, the army could play two populations against each other. In Myanmar, the people are very united: the vast majority of the population want the little democracy they have retained.”