Chilling image reveals nation’s lie
An unsettling satellite image — alongside incredible pictures of tens of thousands of people packed onto the streets of Myanmar today — have exposed a barefaced lie in the nation’s new military government’s claim to power.
After a military coup and brutal crackdown that effectively saw the nation cut off from the world, pro-democracy advocates feared that the protests against the nation’s new leaders had been crushed and their message silenced.
However, today there was a colossal show of resistance on the troubled Southeast Asian nation’s streets.
Awe-inspiring pictures show protesters filling every corner of a major street running through the city of Yangon.
Residents of the city stopped their cars in the streets or at key junctions — their bonnets open in mass “breakdowns” — as a way of stopping any military advance.
“We have to fight until the end,” Nilar, a 21-year-old student who asked not to use her real name, told AFP.
“We need to show our unity and strength to end military rule. People need to come out on the streets.”
Amid the crackdown on dissent, satellite images from Maxar Technologies showed the incredible numbers of people turning out to protest — and a large “We Want Democracy” mural scrawled out onto a street for the world to see. Local reports on social media say the army moved in quickly to scrub the message away.
The images shatter the army’s claim that people backed its February 1 move to seize power from civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD).
The NLD was returned to government in a landslide in November’s elections, but the army said the polling was rigged.
Despite the resistance, there are grave concerns over what will happen now as the army shows no signs of relinquishing its control.
Tom Andrews, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said earlier he was “terrified” of an escalation in violence.
He had received reports of troop movements around the country and feared the protesters were facing real danger.
“I fear that Wednesday has the potential for violence on a greater scale in Myanmar than we have seen since the illegal takeover of the government on February 1,” Mr Andrews said in a statement.
“I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments — planned mass protests and troops converging — we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar.”
Rubber bullets, tear gas and even slingshots have been used against protesters so far, and one young woman remains in a critical condition in capital city Naypyidaw after being shot in the head last week.
Internet networks were slashed for the third night in a row today — after increasingly disturbing videos of the army opening fire on protesters emerged earlier in the week.
There are conflicting reports as to whether the army is using real or rubber bullets on demonstrators.
Myanmar’s military has a history of crushing its critics with brute strength before the nation transitioned to a democracy began 10 years ago.
Armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing, who led the coup two weeks ago, also led the 2017 crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya minority in the western state of Rakhine — which human rights groups say was carried out with “genocidal intent”.
“The security forces’ approach could take an even darker turn fast,” the International Crisis Group warned in a briefing released today.
“Soldiers and armoured vehicles have begun to reinforce the police lines and, should the generals become impatient with the status quo, could easily become the sharp end of a bloody crackdown, as has happened in the past.”
The group said the coup has undone a decade of political and economic liberalisation in the nation — and Myanmar’s people are furious about it.
And it said the army was unlikely to back down. “(The takeover) has prompted almost universal outrage from Myanmar’s people, who have taken to streets across the country to demand its reversal,” said the group. “The military is unlikely to back down, and the risk of deadly violence against protesters is high.”
Myanmar has seen coups before, in 1958, 1962, 1988, and in 1990, when the army refused to accept the result after the NLD — then a new party — won the nation’s elections.
It used force against protesters in 1988, and again in 2007, when a rise in fuel prices triggered mass demonstrations led by Buddhist monks.
Ms Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since the latest takeover — with the army saying she is currently under house-arrest.
More than 450 people have been arrested since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.
Western powers and the United Nations have repeatedly condemned the leaders of Myanmar’s new military administration, which insists it took power lawfully.
The army has said it will hold new elections without saying when the polls might take place.
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