What is my zip code for Yangon

Myanmar: How far does the junta dare to go?


Read on one side

The brutality with which the military regime in Myanmar attacks its own citizens has taken on a new dimension. In Yangon alone, the largest city in the country, several dozen fatalities were counted last Sunday following operations by the security forces. They were concentrated in densely populated industrial districts to the west and north of the city. After arson attacks on Chinese companies, martial law was imposed there; it is still unclear who is responsible for such attacks. The permanent intimidation of the population by the army threatens to provoke violent reactions, for which, some see it, the military is only waiting in order to be able to proceed even tougher.

It is an eerie change of mood compared to the first days after the coup in which the Myanmar army overthrew the National League for Democracy (NLD) government under State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint in early February. After a few days of shock, widespread protests began.

Anna Blume *

The author works for a European institution in Yangon. * She writes under a pseudonym.

At first I experienced it as if from a space station: after entering the country, in the midst of a two-day nationwide internet lock, in the mandatory "institutional quarantine" in the high-rise building of a hotel in downtown Yangon. Every day, increasingly larger protest marches formed, of which very little could be seen down in the street canyons, but a lot could be heard. The sound of chants, chants and horn concerts rang up to me all day. At eight in the evening, the sound of thousands of beaten saucepans and other objects suitable for percussion came along, with which the residents of the city, standing behind their windows or on their balconies, tried to symbolically drive away the evil spirits of the military. They still do that to this day, for a quarter of an hour punctually every evening at eight.

The Chinese firewall is still a rumor

My quarantine ended. The actually prescribed Covid-19 tests could no longer take place because the responsible employees of the health department were meanwhile also on strike of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against the military regime and simply no longer showed up in the hotel. Outdoor protests peaked in late February, with hundreds of thousands on the streets across the country.

In those days, if you cycled along Pyay Road, one of Yangon's six-lane north-south axes, you met large, well-organized groups of mostly young demonstrators along the route, but especially under the bridges of the large flyovers with chants and singing. One of the centers of the protest was Hledan Junction, a central junction with five junctions immediately opposite the university campus: thousands of people; the pillars and walls of the urban transport infrastructure littered with graffiti against the military chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Improvised music events on the street went live via Facebook to the neighborhood and all over the world.

The attempt by the military regime to block access to social media failed because people quickly and en masse began to install virtual private networks. Rumors that the government is installing a large firewall based on the Chinese model have not come true to this day. Instead, for many weeks, the regime has simply switched off the network from one at night to around nine in the morning - no one is really able to explain the exact timing of the shutdown.

On the basis of the posters that were shown at the mass demonstrations, it was possible to draw up an opinion: What was it about the people? In the first place - perhaps on two-thirds of all posters - there were pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi or slogans calling for "Let our leaders go free" or something similar.