(Yangon) Pro-democracy demonstrators marched under the banner of the “fighting peacock” on Saturday in Burma, ready to resist “to the end” the murderous repression of the junta, condemned by Western countries and Asian neighbors.
Almost 240 civilians have died since the military coup of 1er February that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi. The toll could be much heavier: hundreds of people arrested in recent weeks are missing.
Despite this, the mobilization continues.
“The pro-democracy movement keeps the junta unable to exercise political and administrative power,” notes the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Doctors, teachers, bank and railway workers are on strike, crippling part of the country’s fragile economy.
New gatherings were organized on Saturday.
In Thaketa, a district of the capital Yangon, the police opened fire on demonstrators who responded by throwing molotov cocktails at them. A resident, who asked to remain anonymous, assured that a teenager had been shot in the head.
According to a video shot in the neighborhood, and verified by AFP, the security forces were present in the neighborhood, shooting on sight and shouting insults at the demonstrators.
In Mandalay (center), protesters held up a banner: “the fighting peacock”, a symbol used during the popular uprising of 1988, then by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (LND).
About a hundred kilometers away, in the town of Monywa, hundreds of people marched and burned a copy of the constitution. Written in 2008, under the previous military regime, the text guarantees exorbitant powers to the army.
“Who said we have to give up because of (the junta’s) weapons? We were born for victory, ”tweeted Ei Thinzar Maung, one of the protest leaders.
“We will fight to the end,” wrote another protester. “We will bring down this dictatorship.”
In the city of Pakokku (center), a resident named Mar La Win was shot dead as she left her apartment building on Friday evening, her husband said. “I heard shots and she fell,” said Myint Swe, who managed to hide with their three children.
On Saturday morning, the police asked him to come to the morgue to identify his body.
But the crowds are generally smaller, with many Burmese staying in their homes for fear of reprisals.
One person was killed during the night by security forces in the mining town of Mogok (north) and two seriously injured, according to a rescuer.
“Shootings and looting”
In Yangon, the situation is very tense since two of the five million inhabitants of the economic capital are subject to martial law.
Some neighborhoods have fallen into chaos, with demonstrators throwing projectiles and Molotov cocktails at the security forces, who in turn fire live ammunition.
“The shootings are increasing day by day,” laments the AAPP. Military and police “loot and destroy public and private property”.
They also force residents to dismantle the makeshift barricades erected recently by the demonstrators.
“50 members of the security forces knocked insistently on the door of our apartment,” a 20-year-old girl told AFP. “They forced us and my mother to remove heavy bags of sand. They threatened us with their weapons which they also pointed at two young boys ”.
When asked, the army did not respond to AFP’s requests.
Many residents have left Yangon in recent days, piling their belongings in the backs of cars, tuk-tuks or two-wheelers to return to their region of origin. More Burmese have fled to India and Thailand is preparing to welcome an influx of refugees.
Burma is closing in more every day. Mobile internet connections remain cut and only state newspapers are available.
Arrests continue, especially among strikers, members of the NLD and journalists.
A Burmese correspondent for the local BBC service, Aung Thura, was arrested on Friday by unidentified men.
More than 30 journalists have been arrested since the putsch.
“The killing of peaceful protesters and arbitrary arrests, including journalists, are completely unacceptable,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres tweeted on Saturday. “A firm and unified international response is urgently needed.”
But the generals continue to turn a deaf ear to the many international condemnations.
The European Union is due to sanction 11 Burmese officers involved in the crackdown on Monday. Brussels is also finalizing coercive measures aimed at the economic interests of the members of the junta.
ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries – which usually do not interfere in the affairs of a member state – are also raising their voices.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo will ask the Sultanate of Brunei, which chairs ASEAN this year, to organize an emergency meeting.
“Indonesia urges that the use of violence cease […] The security and prosperity of the population must become the top priority, ”he noted.