BANGKOK. Throughout Buddhist Myanmar, Thingyan New Year’s Day is being celebrated these days and traditionally the Eight Precepts of the Religion should be respected including those not to kill, steal and tell lies. But even today, as happened yesterday and Tuesday with the death of at least three civilians in Myitnge and other cities in the Mandalay region, the soldiers resumed shooting, this time at the white-coated marches of medical university students and operators. health workers who have been on strike for weeks against the military junta, which returned to power with the coup of 1 February.
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It happened in the center of Mandalay that together with Yangon and the ancient capital Mon di Bago – where 80 people died in a single day – left the most serious toll of blood during the protests against the dictatorship of the civil disobedience movement or CDM, with over 700 victims and thousands of arrests from north to south.
For some time, the health sector was heavily affected by the anti-coup strikes that began in some hospitals and then extended to other sectors and public services, including banks and ministries. The army forced most of the rebel workers to return to their posts and carried out reprisals and punishments against those who refused.
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But in Mandalay the fire of the revolt, with doctors and nurses still in the front row together with railway workers, ferrymen and citizens, has never been extinguished despite the dozens of victims, indeed it continues more heated in their name. When the troops came running to disperse the white coats in the procession, without any warning they immediately opened fire forcing them to flee to the side streets and disperse, even though many ended up under arrest. There is no official news of victims, but the local media Khit Thit writes that not too far from the street where the white march passed a man was killed near a mosque complex. “The soldiers appeared to be looking for someone,” said one resident who witnessed gunshots being fired at protesters.
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Myanmar Now also publishes photos of a 28-year-old mechanic, the father of a 5-year-old boy, shot and killed while sleeping in a mosque in Maha Aungmyay township where he spent the night for Ramadan prayers. In the police raid that wounded two other faithful, children aged 11 and 16 were also arrested, who in turn had remained in the mosque for the night.
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These are the facts that preceded the descent in procession of the white coats and the streets of Mandalay were littered with broken signs and power lines knocked down by the heavy rains and winds of the night before. To make the city climate even more bleak for the second consecutive year – the first time was at the beginning of the pandemic – the expected Thingyan has been suspended for security reasons and no one wants to celebrate, with the mourning of the martyrs and an economic crisis that is beginning to be felt heavily among large sections of the Burmese and ethnic population.
But the CDM has said he will be a “revolutionary Thingyan”, meaning the demonstrations against the despots led by General Min Aung Hlaing will continue whatever the cost. “This year we will mark Thingyan only with songs of revolt,” said the poet Kyaw Gy of Mandalay, much loved and well known among his fellow citizens. But the creative wing of the movement still added a classic touch to the tone of the protest, and many of the protesters – including young girls dressed in white – were carrying traditional terracotta pots with auspicious plants, painted with lettering and pro-democracy slogans such as “Never give up!”, calls for the formation of a National Union government and its new Federal Army, made up of armed minority groups.
Last Tuesday, already in full swing, in Myitnge, Sintgaing and then in Yakine in the same region of Mandalay the military had opened fire for two consecutive days against the demonstrators, killing at least three. But once again, in defiance of Buddhist New Year precepts, they have even seized – stolen – the donations made by ordinary people to striking railroad workers. The same was reported in Thazin, a suburb of Myitnge where the military – after a bloody shooting – allegedly searched a mosque and took away the donations of the faithful destined for families in difficulty and without wages during these months of protests.
In the same area, the volunteers who were trying to rescue one of the three victims yesterday, a young man shot in Sintgaing, had enormous difficulties in collecting his body and those of the numerous wounded due to threats and intimidation by the military. People willing to risk their lives for this humanitarian work are in fact fewer and fewer, reading the posts on the movement’s social networks, messages that are increasingly difficult to make public due to the restrictions on access to the Internet.
The program of the “revolutionary Thingyan”, which began with the “day of blood” which saw many streets painted with red paint in memory of the “fallen stars” for the ideal of a free country, will see another day of silence tomorrow. in their memory and finally, on Saturday, the prayer ceremonies, also dedicated to all the victims including more than 40 children and minors.
Among the arrests of these days of tragic celebration stands that of Wai Moe Naing, a young and very popular leader of the Muslim faith movement, the engine of the incessant protests in his city of Monywa in the Sagaing region. They attacked and kidnapped him this morning along with a companion while he was leading a motorcade parade in a column with CDM flags. But the regime’s prison cells continue to be crowded with many other known rebels – such as actors and musicians – and less well known, all determined not to give in. In the uncertainty about the movement’s next moves and the risks of seeing Myanmar transformed into a new Syria – as UN officials have warned – the reactions of the international community have so far been strong in words and ineffective in fact. “700 victims in 70 days – said one of the sarcastic signs raised by the CDM – Take your UN time. We still have millions left ”.
It is in this climate that the regime continues to count on the support of allied countries such as China and Russia, while the leader of the coup leaders went so far as to defend the coup by claiming that the junta “did not take power”, but only “measures to strengthen the multi-party democratic system”.