Myanmar’s uprising: a new generation takes to the streets

 

Myanmar’s uprising: a new generation takes to the streets

The generals who seized power in last month’s coup in Myanmar didn’t count on a response like this, said Su Min Naing in Frontier Myanmar (Yangon). In the weeks since the junta ousted Aung San Suu Kyi and her ruling National League for Democracy after a disputed election, millions of people have poured onto Myanmar’s streets for demonstrations, with civil servants, doctors and teachers all joining in mass strike action to show their defiance. The authorities’ response has been extraordinarily brutal. On Sunday, the deadliest day of unrest since the coup, police opened fire on protesters in Yangon and other cities: at least 18 people were killed; scores more were injured. Police have also used water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the unrest – but protesters have so far refused to give in.

The movement has been led by young people with little memory of Myanmar’s 50-year military rule, which ended in 2011, said Pei-Hua Yu in the South China Morning Post (Hong Kong). Many have tattoos of Suu Kyi to show support for the prodemocracy activist, who remains in jail on trumped-up charges; and their courage is inspiring older people to join their cause. The junta has tried to present a unified front during the unrest, said Arthur Swan Ye Tun in The Diplomat (Washington DC). But its leaders, who oversaw 2017’s Rohingya genocide, remain anxious about Suu Kyi’s “sky-high” popularity. Some police have defected to the protesters’ cause, and relatives of military personnel have been critical of the coup. The generals have much to lose, said Shankari Sundararaman in the New Indian Express (Chennai). Military conglomerates control great swathes of the Burmese economy, which has made some senior generals very rich.

The unrest is taking place as the US and China jostle for influence in the region, said Ruth Kirchner in Tagesschau (Hamburg). The US has imposed sanctions on the generals, but what will China do? Beijing is Myanmar’s biggest trading partner, arms supplier and investor. Its interests there include a major new port and a high-speed rail line linking the countries. Yet China is a lightning rod for anger among protesters, who hold daily rallies outside its embassy in Yangon calling for an end to Chinese interference. The generals are likely to continue using “brute force” to suppress the unrest, said Bertil Lintner in Asia Times (Hong Kong). But even if they succeed, they’ll find they are “ruling over a population that is vastly more defiant” than it was the last time they had control.

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