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Myanmar: More than 598 protesters have died and more than 2,800 people are detained.

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Mass protests have continually been taking place in Myanmar since the military Junta seized control of the country on 1 February 2021, claiming a widespread fraud in the voting during the November 2020 general election, which the National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide. The NLD is the party of the State counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently detained as well as President U Win Myint and many other NLD members. 

The coup has given rise to protests across the whole country of Myanmar. People are demanding the restoration of democracy and the release of the elected leaders. Myanmar was ruled by the Military for 70 years. It is clear that the people of Myanmar do not welcome the return to power of the military regime and, on the other hand, the military is not willing to give up their persistent crackdowns on the protesters across the country, which have killed so far more than 598 protesters including some children. Likewise, more than 2,800 people are detained. The military has imposed martial law, restrictions, and limits to gatherings in some towns. The internet connection has been cut, the media has been shut down and the banks have been closed. The protests across the country have continued up to now, in a variety of forms, well organized by Generation-Z, Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), the legitimate parliamentary-designated Committee Representing Pyidawgsu Hluttaw (CRPH), and the people all over the country. It is unfortunate that if the Movement continues in this way, the situation will head straight to civil war. At the moment, the country has a sort of Government in exile, which is not yet officially recognized, the so-called New Government (CRPH), fully supported by the people.  

In addition, the Country has more than ten ethnic armed groups that are getting ready to fight:

-  In Rakhine State, the country has Arakan Army (AA), a Rakhine armed group, which numbers an estimated 7,000 troops;

- In Kachin State, the northern state of Myanmar, the country has the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which has an estimated 10,000-12,000 troops;

- In Karen State, the country has Karen National Union (KNU), which has approximately 15,000 troops;

- In Shan State, the country has the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) and the Mong Tai Army (MTA). The Shan State Army-South has an estimated 20,000-35,000 troops; the Shan State Army-North has approximately 8,000 troops, while the Mong Tai Army has approximately 20,000 troops;

- In Kayah State, the country has the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), with approximately 1,500 troops;

- In Chin State, the country has the Chin National Army (CNA) which has 500 troops;

- Along the China–Myanmar border; India–Myanmar border, and Myanmar–Thailand border, the country has the All Burma Students' Democratic Front, which has an estimated 1,000 troops;

- Finally, in Wa State, the country has the United Wa State Army (UWSA), with an estimated 20,000–25,000 Wa soldiers.

There are still some more ethnic armed groups, in addition to all those mentioned here. Most of these armed groups have declared that they are with the people. The population, in turn, are hoping that they truly stand for the people while finding that the military is no longer protecting them. The fighting has already occurred in Karen State and Kachin State, which caused many civilians to flee from their native land. Airstrikes were used by the military to fight against the Karen National Union.

The situation is urging the military to back down with humility, something not likely to happen since it has given rise to all ethnic armed groups to agree to form a joint federal army, as proposed by CRPH. It is the right time and the right moment for the different ethnic armed groups to have the chance to gain the trust of the people of Myanmar, with the collaboration of CRPH.

People place their hope in the leadership movement of CRPH, established precisely to safeguard democracy, promote rule of law and protect human rights on behalf of the people. This movement encourages people to remain firm in their stand of protesting together with the Civil Disobedience Movement. These movements have given the Junta a hard time ruling the country. Everything has come to a standstill, the protesting continues across the country, and the military and security forces’ crackdown has not stopped, shooting and arresting the protesters. Certainly, it is not a successful overturned for the military.

People say “We don’t want to work under the rule of the military” and hope that the CRPH soon comes out with a new form of government. Several meetings have been held among CRPH members and some resolutions given to the people. So far, there is no negotiation between the CRPH and the Junta: this keeps the situation of the country in a bad shape.

In the past few years, we, the people of Myanmar, had enjoyed an incipient transition to democracy in the country. We had seen hope for the future of our country. We had experienced peace and growth of the country. But now we are back to another chapter of darkness. We need God’s help.

Myanmar is in bad shape; lets us pray for peace, for non-violence, and for the reinstatement of a democratic rule that brings the best to Myanmar!

Fr. Lawrence The Reh, OP.


Photos courtesy: Reuters.