Freedom Memoirs – Day 18

Protests continue, today many ethnics displayed ethnic pride in resisting military dictatorship. Myanmar has a long history of both unity and conflict among its various ethnic groups and successive dictators have played on racial tensions. But for this struggle, people of many ethnic groups, religions and culture unite against the common threat of military dictatorship and we put that into display today. People of different races and religions uniting against them, it is truly a chilling sight for the dictators. In the midst of protests, there are also comical moments where drivers move super slowly, protesting masses crossing key junctions continuously and tying shoelaces on the roads, in order to block the roads. Despite the large crowd and historically being the place which received the brunt of violence crackdowns, Yangon residents are yet to see the violent crackdowns which has become commonplace in other parts of the country. 

Last night, Mandalay received such violent crackdowns. For successive days, the junta has been brutally subduing Mandalay, but this time, it was particularly inhuman considering Myanma Railway Staff Housing was attacked at night under a military campaign manner; extreme measures such as bullets, smoke bombs and setting houses on fire were deployed. Myanma Railway staffs join CDM overwhelmingly, to the extent of achieving a near-total stop to the train services. The junta also acknowledged that during an interview on 16th February. Is that a show of power (after acknowledging such dedicated CDM) or is there a genuine need to move trains from Mandalay remains debatable. However, regardless of intents, brutal crackdowns by the army and valiant resistance by the railway staffs were real and Mohinga Matters team join Myanmar public in commending railway staffs from Mandalay and across the country for their bravery and dedication. 

Another happening in Mandalay is sentencing of well-loved Chief Minister and Mayor, which led to massive protests in Mandalay today. Another person who deserves such love and respect is U Myo Thit, Minister of Environmental Conservation of Mandalay Region under democratic government. In the early days of CDM, he issued a letter claiming all government departments under public holidays, until democratically-elected administration is returned, and for that he was charged with sedition and put into custody starting today. We appreciate his role in accelerating CDM and proud to have such brave man under democratically-elected administration.

Today witness military building up their presence to a larger scale, particularly in Myitkyina. Myitkyina also faced vicious crackdown a few days back and with such increased presence, it might well escalate further, despite the public wish of avoiding violence.

The army unleashed another type of thugs from their arsenal, the type donning Buddhist monks’ robes. Since democratic transition begin in early 2010s, ultra-nationalistic Buddhist monks from Myanmar have become a common theme in international media. While Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and NLD got criticized for failure to contain them, international community at times lost sight of their handler, the army. These ultra-nationalistic thugs have taken every opportunity to undermine democratic values, and usually, most people are reluctant to openly criticize them as people do not want to escalate into religious conflicts, and army and thugs donning Buddhist monk’s robe take advantage of that. 

Today in Yangon, such thugs hit the cars at traffic light to stir up problems, damaging cars by breaking glasses, windshields, etc. Worse, upon pursuit, they fled inside nearby monastery. Members of nearby communities are seriously upset and demand their release, causing police to arrive and defend the thugs. Such thugs in religious garments have always proved a challenge, even during when we have a government willing to stop them. Now, with military rulers as their handlers, this will prove to be more difficult. Yangon is yet to face violent crackdown being faced by many other cities, but with entry of those thugs, we have entered to a new (and familiar) phase in our struggle against military dictatorship.

P.S It’s been four consecutive Internet shutdown since Sunday. The harder the junta tries to normalise it, the more people show up to the streets next days with good night’s sleep.

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