Myanmar: Ongoing Updates

A topic to capture ongoing updates re the February 2021 military coup in Myanmar and what is occurring in its wake.

As of today (2/7/2021):

  • Internet is turned back on. Footage of ongoing events is being shared with great care for fear of reprisals against whoever originally recorded these. I am reluctant to post footage from those close to me whose voices and neighborhoods are part of the recording.

  • The student leaders largely responsible for the 1988 uprising that led to elections in 1990 (“88 Generation”) are still influential, amplifying the call for mass civil disobedience and considering their next moves.

  • There are mass rallies in the big cities and in Bagan which is the site of 900+ pagodas and a strong tourist draw.

  • Bagan it is not only a place to visit abandoned ruins. It is also a place where people of Myanmar live their lives surrounded by still active temples following the same Buddhist practices going back several hundred years. One can see, with the sun shining off its gold spire atop a mountain across the great Irrawaddy river from Bagan (and itself within Myanmar too), a temple called Tan Kyi Taung. It is where the elephant carrying the Buddha’s remains stopped to rest. Each place they stopped was declared a holy site.

  • The Burmese have noticed certain people more eager to turn these rallies violent against the police (see below) and they suspect these are infiltrator/agitators. To talk a bit about the violence vs. non-violence: The perception going back decades is that the broader movements have rejected violence entirely, but that is a bit of a mixed bag. Many students of the 1988 uprising fled to the Thai-Burma border and founded a student-run militia to fight alongside the independence-seeking ethnic armies, especially around Karen State. Others who remained in the cities, to give an idea of the scales of power and futility of this path, converted bicycle spokes into darts and arrows to shoot at the military.

  • Police are local and not necessarily “of the military.” They have been notoriously corrupt and also very slow to act on any matter of actual justice because they are (many of them) afraid of the people AND of the national government. So, when they do enforce something it is widely perceived that they only do that when there is a self interest at stake. Example, the buses are nearly always overloaded with passengers. There was citizen video in the 2000’s shot from a balcony of a pair of traffic cops waving down every passing bus, boarding the bus, exiting with no one being kicked off the bus, then waving it along - they were taking bribe money and not making anything safer.

  • Australian Economist Sean Turnell is being detained. Yes he was Aung San Suu Kyi’s advisor. He has called out unwise economic decisions going back decades before he took that role. Their detaining him may be with an intent to cause a chilling effect among many from outside who would stand up and help at this time.

  • In another thread @Les_Pane brought up the “hunger games” style three finger solute. A little bit of back story here (Tl;dr - originated with Thai protestors flashing it while queueing in the movie line in Thailand to protest the 2014 military coup there, authorities worried, detained people, and Streisand Effect, then it moved to the uprising in Hong Kong and has now come to Myanmar):
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Heya, thanks for the info, and the update thread here.

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Something for those rightfully unhappy with Aung San Suu Kyi’s failure to protect Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims and who may not be sad she’s been deposed is that the man she failed to protect them from is the one who deposed her.

Under the Defence Services Act he would have been forced to retire on his 65th birthday in July.

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Update 2/8/2021:

  • The memes are happening. This one critical of the notoriously unreliable state owned media:


    The result of state media control under dictatorship, especially going back to when they were successfully jamming signals of any outside broadcasts (e.g., VOA, BBC and a brilliant group of exiles who were broadcasting from Norway as “Democratic Voice of Burma”) is similar to what has transpired within the QAnon/Trump cult: a rumor mill, a constant effort to decode what may be written between the lines, difficulty in determining truth from fiction and lots of misinformation or what may be an established truth elsewhere taking on a weird form as it goes through the “operator” game. For decades in Burma, people were reliant on word of mouth and smuggled tape recordings and accessed the accessible state run broadcasts and newspapers with a grain of salt. Like in North Korea, those were filled articles about ministers visiting their government enterprises. But the educated class never forgot and worked hard to educate their own families. Booksellers would keep the publications by and about Aung San Suu Kyi tucked under the counter, pulling them out only if asked for them.

  • I saw a small discussion about the widespread symbolism of the NLD, whose symbol is a gold/yellow fighting peacock on a red background, which was asking people to consider wearing black instead of red, in order to convey that it isn’t really about one political party but about a military regime invalidating the results of a fair multi-party election, which threatens people of all beliefs. Again, this is in a small circle so I don’t know if it will gain any traction.

  • The best backgrounder I’ve found on why doctors and nurses are finding it necessary to walk off the job is this FB video put together by the medical professionals themselves. In a country whose educational system has had to rebuild numerous times after shutdowns (literally every 2-5 years since 1988 and every 5 to 8 years from 1962-1988), doctors are regarded as some of the most educated people in the country. They are leveraging their reputations to tell everyone in every other profession that the gears must grind to an absolute halt to generate an overthrow of the regime. So, red ribbons are all fine and dandy but if you’re wearing those to work, you’re not doing enough.

  • Just days ago I believed people would mostly just protest by banging pots and pans at night from their own balconies and honking their horns when military vehicles were nearby. That has not held. The people are not showing fear. They are now protesting in the streets en masse.

  • Many who have returned to the country after living in asylum abroad are making sure that current generation knows that they cannot rely in any way whatsoever on the international community to help. So while there are generic “please support us” messages going out, most of the energy is going internally.

  • The chants at the protests invoke some old ones (“Democracy, Duoh-Yeh!” = It is our duty) with a phrase I haven’t caught enough of to transliterate but loosely “We oppose the military for our future and demand a return to Democracy.” That’s a video from a protest on Insein Road in Yangon (which leads to the eponymous prison where many generations of protestors have been held and tortured). Heads up. You’ll hear a ton of instant message pings - it’s not your devices, it’s the video.

  • Facebook being re-enabled is huge. While FB was rightly criticized for becoming a tool for fomenting hate speech, the current situation is more like its role in Arab Spring. It doesn’t mean that Facebook -did- anything. Just know that it is used more than Google as both a messaging platform and the replacement of the country’s yellow pages. (Yelp etc. are for foreigners)

  • Monks seen joining the demonstrations today. If they do what they did in 2008 (which was termed “the saffron revolution” for the color of their robes) it will be very significant. Will say more about this in the future.

  • Seeing images of the dictator with a red X through his face. Note to self: talk about the dogs.

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Update 2/9/2021 (edited re shooting):

  • Heavy military/police crackdown has begun with water cannon trucks blasting seas of umbrella-wielding demonstrators. Crowds seen hurling projectiles - not all but not merely “instigators” IMO.

  • At least one crew is doing traveling demonstrations on scooters. Scooters are immensely popular in Myanmar and are widely used by women as a relatively affordable, independent means of transport.

  • I mentioned the above after seeing a short video last night. Here’s a diverse array of photos of people of all walks, religions and career paths demonstrating with their professional identities on display all over the country. Yes, this includes Muslims.

  • EDIT: A woman who was standing in a small group was shot and critically injured from a distance by military and/or police in the capital city of NayPyiDaw. I wish that video hadn’t been shared with me. It appears she had a helmet on. I’d said they weren’t doing anything but on review of lengthier footage there were people behind her hurling things. Story here where you can decide whether to watch the twitter clip: Woman, 20, in critical condition after Myanmar police fired live rounds on unarmed protesters - Mothership.SG - News from Singapore, Asia and around the world

  • If the people posed a mortal threat to the authorities, would their trigger men be dressed like this?

  • There have also been shots fired in Mandalay, the largest city near the government capital (Mandalay was the ancient royal capital).

  • Now nighttime in the more recent former capital of Yangon (Rangoon), military trucks are pouring into the city and they expect an extremely violent response to demonstrations tomorrow. I expect mass arrests and hope for minimal shooting.

  • Being asked to urge our government to do something. It is my belief that no US administration is going to send troops into Southeast Asia to confront a government, however illegitimate, on its own soil. I’m not sure I’d support that either. But there may be other measures. I can speak more to the history of US sanctions at a later date.

  • Note on timezones. Myanmar is one of the only places (or maybe the only one?) that splices its time zone by a half hour. So it is now about 1pm Pacific and 3:30am Myanmar time.

  • Almost forgot, about the dogs. When I wrote that I was simply going to relay this story. Like some other third world nations, Myanmar has an endemic population of stray dogs. It is very strange as a westerner to encounter them, as we are accustomed to dogs seeking some kind of interaction (either for reward or to threaten) with humans. In Yangon, they almost seem to have no soul as they completely ignore and do not acknowledge the presence of a human. Residents view stray dogs in the same light. In the US, I once set out a water bowl for a dog that had shown up and was just hanging out at this house. The Burmese refused to touch the bowl after that and it was thrown away. About 15 years ago after General Than Shwe had risen to the top of the regime, people in Yangon began to affix placards featuring his image around the necks of all the stray dogs. The military conducted a massive roundup and they were euthanized. The people are at it again though.

  • And pray for the geese.

Afternoon addition:

  • If you see a gofundme with the words “Civil Disobedience Movement Myanmar” purporting to be based in Washington, DC, the long time US activists presently urge caution as they have yet to identify who they are and it may be a scam.

Evening:
Tl;dr “I’ll step down in a year” = bullshit.

I’ll explain why I’m not going to be saying much about anything the new non-democratic government wants to tell the world. It is not worth analyzing for any subtleties because it is 99.9% unreliable. Yeah, the new dictator did a press conference yesterday further emphasizing democratic transition in a year.

Here’s what happened in 1990: The same National League for Democracy party with same leader Aung San Suu Kyi won the election and number of seats in parliament by a landslide. Not a wimpy American electoral “landslide” but a massive (like 84% of the seats) landslide. They did the exact same thing: detention for DASSK, detention and imprisonment for the generation 88 students, while at the same time assuring the country and the world that they were going to promptly hold new elections.

Then, they said the elections didn’t really count because the country needed a new constitution. This was a trick to permanently install military rule (they must have the voting majority) but also a stall tactic. They had annual “constitutional convention” that lasted maybe a week and then delayed every year until they had a “complete constitution” to propose for a countrywide vote. To repeat, this was to repair problems they saw with an election in 1990. Constitution was released for public review on April 9, 2008, giving the entire country a month before a vote on May 10.

What else was happening on May 10? Cyclone Nargis. The military had spent the month intimidating village heads and everyone else to vote “yes.” There were no constitutional options to vote for because multiple proposals were never on the table. They refused to delay the vote while the nation has massive devastation from Nargis.

The measure passed. It gave the appearance of a peoples’ mandate so the eager-to-invest Western countries could claim democratic victory but it was hardly a democratic document. It did leave a little bit of room for participation of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD (though she was lawfully banned from assuming the Presidency for having children with a foreigner).

Incidentally, the coup was called early and they promised there were no such plans under way on January 30th, 2021. (Myanmar military denies coup threats over vote fraud claims). Coup started early a.m. of Feb 1.

So yeah, when he -says- one year, he’s -thinking- 2037.

  • Tomorrow I’ll have some "What You Can Do"s.
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Update 2/10/2021:

A little less of a deep dive today. I’ve asked how it went and haven’t heard of mass roundups but haven’t done much digging this morning. Will update possibly.

  • Put together wording for local govts. There was a federal proposal to ensure everything in the US’s power under a “coup designation” is carried out. Initially Biden had not called it a coup but later that same day he did. It made me really curious about something: there were dozens of city-based bans or punishments on potential contractors and vendors who were also doing business in Burma. It was a long time ago and my memory of what transpired is not crystal clear but it had resulted in a massive pushback funded by the energy sector (Unocal, Texaco and ARCO each had formed exploration partnerships, with Unocal (now Chevron)) in the most lucrative one for themselves and the regime. This resulted in something at the federal level which took the bite out of the local sanctions. I do know quite a bit about the sanctions and that’s going to be a rant so, not today. In short, federal sanctions ruined the human rights movement and resulted in weakened influence abroad. It would be interesting perhaps to see if there were elements of those local ordinances that can be dusted off and re-applied.

  • Lots of ideas are resurfacing from the movement there on what can be done from here including military action. (I have my own opinions and expect there is no shortage of them from all of you on whether the US should or ever will militarily intervene in SE Asia).

  • They expect more internet blackouts as well as monitoring and I’ll say “cybermonkeying” in general because of China. Burmese are extremely resentful of China which has helped keep the previous regimes afloat and likely financed much of its mysterious new capital city of Naypyidaw. China’s influence in the region also became a sticking point against US sanctions.

This is from a few days ago - Yangon (Rangoon) University.


I was on that campus 7-8 years ago while school was out, before they removed the walls that had been built to contain students on what had been designed as an open Roman style courtyard. I’ll have to dig around for the pictures and actually a video of an 88 generation student describing what had gone on there. When we drove onto campus I had to hide the camera, but (gov’t) security didn’t have line of sight to the courtyard.

What You Can Do:

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Striving to make these shorter. 2/11/2021

  • No major update from inside the country. I suspect they are blocking FB during certain hours because I’ll notice everyone offline on FB messenger at the same time.

  • There’s a thing called “The Midnight Knock” - that’s when they show up to arrest people. Often the arresting “officers” are not in uniform. Last night they began arresting teachers and fortunetellers.

  • Okay, fortune tellers are a whole other thing. They play a significant role in the culture and politics. Luc Besson REALLY did his homework for the 2011-12 film “The Lady” and it includes a true story about this. It was on advice of a fortune teller that the previous military regime abandoned Yangon as the capital and built Nay Pyi Daw from nothing into the city whose ultra-wide highway is seen in that workout dance video. So you may correctly infer that fortune tellers have the potential to advise the democracy movement on what will bring down the regime and are being detained as a security measure against this. It’s not that some people stupidly believe them and everyone else mocks it… everyone believes the reputable fortune tellers and you’d disbelieve at your own peril.

  • My ancient subscription to US Dept. of Treasury sanctions emails has reawakened after about a decade. In its entirety:

The President has issued a new Executive Order “Blocking Property With Respect To The Situation In Burma.”
In addition, OFAC has updated its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List. Information on today’s list update may be found here.
For additional information on this specific action and others like it, please visit our Recent Actions page.

  • I noticed a wonderful line in the sanctions order which will go into a future commentary.

Sec. 7. For those persons whose property and interests
in property are blocked pursuant to this order who might have
a constitutional presence in the United States, I find that
because of the ability to transfer funds or other assets
instantaneously, prior notice to such persons of measures to
be taken pursuant to this order would render those measures
ineffectual. I therefore determine that for these measures to
be effective in addressing the national emergency declared in
this order, there need be no prior notice of a listing or
determination made pursuant to section 1 of this order.

Suffice to say not all historic sanctions on the country were handled this way. It is saying that Biden is already fed up and not leaving any maneuvering room. I’m feeling very emotional about this.

  • There’s a saying in Myanmar that you have three sons. One son you give to the military. One goes to the monkhood. The third one takes over the family business. This is to say:
  1. Many/most of the same families who are out protesting in the streets have family who are or have been in the military.
  1. Monks, especially the ten or so head monks, can significantly influence the society, and as such they actually do not (often) activate at that level to get involved in politics.

I’ll say more about the monks’ role in recent history another time.

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2/12/2021

  • A young contact in Yangon texted me: “Myanmar Military & polices have been conducting illegal arrest with armed force without warrent every late nights & now it has been over 220 political activists, elected governments, Union Election Committee members, civil servents such as teachers, doctors who are doing civil disobedient movements etc.” Arrest can mean they’ll release them after things simmer down, or there will be a kangaroo court and they’ll go to jail/prison. I know hundreds of former guests of the regime. It’s never good, or arrived at through a process that remotely resembles justice.

  • Re my earlier comment about the difference between police and the military. The democracy movement is trying to win over the police. Across Myanmar, police set their fears aside to show solidarity with fellow citizens | Myanmar NOW

  • Biden’s sanctions especially target the gem industry and its less scrupulous traders. I once caught a major importer red-handed and only have resentment over how that was handled. But not every gem dealer or jewelry maker is a bad guy. There are a number of stands at Bogyoke Aung San Market which represent both the trade and the skills of local artisans, and jewels and gold are a big part of Burmese culture. Look up “Shwe Burma” or “Shwe Myanmar” and you’ll get a million results I’m sure. One such vendor is the breadwinner for the family of the core-'88 Generation student leader Htay Kywe who has put his life on the line every time the military has cracked down in his lifetime. Great family.

  • I mention the mining related sector because Myanmar Copper Miners Join Anti-Coup Strike.

  • Tomorrow (Saturday) 11 a.m. - 1 p.m., expats plan to gather outside L.A. City Hall, already contacted LAPD and have committed to follow CDC guidelines on public gatherings. Not sited to demand against the city (who have been great, actually Mayor Garcetti entered politics at the urging of one of the country’s democracy heroines, and a council office is looking into what else the City can do). It’s seen as a good spot to make a statement.

  • Almost missed this one. There are still multiple armed pro-independence ethnic groups in the states and ethnic regions along Myanmar’s extremely lengthy border. One such group secured release for their anti-coup demonstrators. Kayah anti-coup protesters released after armed group intervenes | Myanmar NOW

  • Further making the case that the Myanmar phys ed teacher/“coup dancer” was not celebrating anything or a tool for the regime or any other craziness about that, a memory she shared from last year:

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2/13/2021

  • About to head out for the DTLA event.
  • Last minute but there’s also one at UN Plaza in San Francisco:

Join concerned people of the San Francisco Bay Area this Saturday to show our support for the people of Myanmar (Burma).

Protest against the Military Coup in Myanmar
Saturday, February 13, 2021
1-3 pm at UN PLAZA
355 McAllister St, San Francisco, CA 9410
Keep social distancing at all times!!!

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2/14/2021

Turns out those warrantless midnight raids and holding people without charge violate the very constitution the regime had pushed and succeeded in passing a dozen years ago. So they are trying to do some legal acrobatics to get back to their old oppressive selves.

Optimism for the US movement follows but I need to update here - things are looking really bad for Myanmar. Tanks in the cities. Warrants out for the arrest of friends - those '88 generation student leaders who have almost no money, no property, nothing but their iron will and the tremendous influence they still can wield against military rule just by their words. Plans to kill the internet tonight (which has probably transpired since I started writing the rest of this post below). Reports of a lot more shots fired, unclear if bullets or rubber bullets as it’s not in a main city. Okay, turning from that for a second…

Great turnout in DTLA yesterday, >300 people from multiple groups including Shan Muslims, a group I was not super familiar with. They are chasing this issue along the lines @GulliverFoyle described. Shan State is on the opposite side of the country from traditional Rohingya territory.

And the event itself was not 100% focused on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. A recurring chant referring to their President, former speaker of parliament and before that a political prisoner, U Win Myint. Bullhorn: “Who is our president?” Crowd: “U Win Myint!” He has also been detained since the day of the coup.

In addition to the deliberate psychological warfare that is the “midnight knock at the door,” Myanmar Military Intelligence is actively doing psy ops on FB to sow distrust and scare people (“we know who all of you are and where you live… we know about [vague description of plans to gather which could be anything]”).

Most of the time the government appears (to many) to be run by bumbling idiots. While their newly built capitol looks all fancy, the rest of the country is in shambles - new buildings are going up with foreign financing, but 5 feet from their entrance you can literally fall into a pit…power is unreliable even while the Chevron/Total gas pipeline pumps the country’s resource to a plant in Thailand where powers at least a fifth of Thailand’s energy.

This appearance of their not having it together is pronounced for any of the young people who have traveled to other countries. So the young people are (in my opinion) a little less in tune with the specific ways in which the same entity is actually very sophisticated: gathering intelligence, suppressing revolts, and planning their next moves. That is to say, they are sharing these psy ops fear mongering messages which is precisely the operations’ intent. Psy ops feed off of the national madness of chasing the actual truth that I described earlier.

The group in Los Angeles is very impressive though. They’ve been gathering every Saturday, shifting locations and selecting them wisely - outside the consulate office in K-Town, one of the federal buildings, city hall yesterday, and they plan to hold a rally diplomatically urging China to support their aspirations. Yes, I know, “good luck with that,” in terms of China standing up for a democratic vote, but it is a good step and smart that they aren’t thinking of it as a “demonstration against China.”

Myanmar has a wide variety of traditions in the arts & entertainment with original music, a wide array of instruments, shadow puppets, full body costumes and marionette puppet theatre, unique forms of comedy and it is all not so isolated.

The revolutionary song which was probably played five or six times yesterday is a Burmese rewording of “Dust In The Wind” going back to 1988, the key line of which is “Kabar Makyay Bu” — or “We Won’t Be Satisfied Until the End of the World.” The writer now sings it on his porch every night. He had this to say:

Democracy is the most difficult system to administer… citizens should be educated about democracy, and all voters should be clever and act with consideration.

This reporter explains it better than I am able:

I’m unable to edit from several days ago but the group raising funds via GoFundMe did get back to one of the more established/reputable groups and appeared to have good intentions.

Update: It appears two of the top generals are out. This was translated as General Myat Htun Oo and I’m sure it’s Mya Tun Oo who has served as chief of Bureau of Special Operations 6 which oversaw military operations in the major muslim Rohingya zones, and General Ye Aung who was the “minister for border affairs.” They are two of the generals who had just been specially designated for sanctions by President Biden. This is the only info I received, not by primary English speakers and I may be misinterpreting their words (it happens).

Burmese are celebrating it, but may simply be power consolidation by General Min Aung Hlaing who I am going to start referring to as “the dictator.” The generals are always jockeying for position like in Game of Thrones and this may have been done to eliminate competition, though there is the slight possibility that it will be leveraged to signal the international community of a house cleaning (by getting rid of the heads of the ethnic cleansing campaigns), to buy more time free of international repercussions. The UN has just put out a toothless statement of outrage and the China delegation is keeping their distance from that.

I’m told the source of these departure notices was an announcement by a third member of the new sanctions list, General Sein Win, Minister of Defense (not to be confused with Aung San Suu Kyi’s first cousin Dr. Sein Win who had been President of the non-ruling democratic government in exile after 1990).

Another update: I’d neglected to mention perhaps the most bizarre chapter (of many to come): Reports the regime has release 20,000 prisoners, not prisoners of conscience but hardened criminals, who are drugged up, wreaking havok, committing arsons etc. There’s also video of an incendiary device that appears launched or dropped from the sky - certainly a government source, not the kind of thing a citizen would have access too IMO. Possibly it’s the dictator making space in the jails for an inevitable mass roundup of demonstrators.

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Special update 2/14/2021:
I was shared this, either an assault or a full scale gun battle, that occurred last night in the northern china-bordering industrial zone of Myitkina (home of the Kachin ethnic group). You can hear both the gunshots and the banging of pots and pans. I am not a weapons expert so I can’t tell what weapons are in use. Video is on FB. I think too large to post here. This is one of the main areas where the criminals were released and is where the fires were being set. Everyone is staying up all night to guard their homes and businesses. Think of the phrase “un-rest” and this is it. The regime released the prisoners and ordered them to do all this mayhem. It gives them deniability.

South of there, military trucks were again in Mandalay last night, shooting at a house drive-by style because the people are filming them. Internet is now “off” in the country. Families in Mandalay still bear great resentment toward the military regime which forced their families in the mid 1990s to either pay a fee or be forced into labor over the hottest days of the year to clear out mud from the drained moat surrounding Mandalay Palace to prepare it for “Visit Myanmar Year.” This included young child laborers for families whose elders were too old to work. So if you’re to ask them, regarding this sit that is today beautiful point of historic pride and significant tourist draw (whose income goes to the govt): “we never go there.” Instead they will take you at sunset to an historic Kuthodaw Pagoda that overlooks the palace and the city.

I really tried to give a heads up above about how when the information starts to get controlled you get all kinds of rumors. This one’s a doozy (so also please take with a grain of salt): the dictator has fled to Kunming, Yunnan, China.

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Update 2/15/2021:
Ambassadors speaking up. Will the UN be sent in? (That’s what the protesters want to know).

Regarding the release of prisoners and how so often the thugs and even the people conducting the arrests are not in uniform, a Burmese leader describes it this way:

The usual trick of using the prisoners and thugs (recently more than 23K prisoners were let go) to get them merged with peaceful public and causing/inciting riots, lotting, killings, fires, and all kind of destructions to put an ugly face to the peaceful protests are no longer having a major impact as the public has learned from the 1988 uprising. Now they are pulling their last card, arms.

Remember Tank Man in Tiananmen Square? Here’s a Tank Monk.

Behind him, Yangon City Hall. The monk is next to Sule Pagoda (below) which exists on a round traffic island.

Afternoon update:

L.A. China consulate rally scheduled for Wednesday Feb 17 from 11am-12:45pm.

Rumor next: DASSK will be set free in the near future. This is Burmese underground kinda rumor but the person who said it may be in a better position than many others to know or have overheard that. Agree with some who replied they’ll believe it when they see it. The military regime, while they remained tight-lipped in public, told Unocal reps months before releasing Aung San Suu Kyi back in the 90s.

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Update 2/16/2021 (doing this the night “before” but it’s the date in Myanmar):

Bear in mind with today’s comments, the goal announced several days ago by those medical professionals, who were among the first to walk off the job, was to immobilize the entire nation, the entire national economy and bring all the gears of a nation to a grinding halt.

  • Banking sector workers in Naypyidaw joined the shutdown, and were tossed into paddy wagons but they still had their phones and filmed it. For the moment they didn’t appear to be maltreated other than being detained for refusing to work.
  • Engineers protesting in Naypyidaw en masse on scooters.
  • Massive demonstration shut down the railway. Mawlamyine Station 16-2-2021 9 am 45 am:
  • I’m hearing so much more about shots fired and sounds from the videos as well but I think by and large they are not firing live rounds into the crowds or we’d hear a lot more about it. However… slingshots:

  • Myanmar coup: Protesters face up to 20 years in prison under new law - BBC News
    Worrisome if the regime holds on.

  • Some years ago I’d also posted online about one of the core 88 generation students named Jimmy who had disappeared. When one disappears, it is either because they were taken somewhere and may be close to death at the hands of the military (they almost killed Htay Kywe (roughly, “Tay Chway”) during the Saffron Revolution) or because they knew they were being hunted and went into hiding. If hiding, they do not always tell their families, who will inevitably be visited and interviewed by military intelligence. This makes for a worrisome home life. In fact, many students who had been prisoners of conscience, on release, were not welcomed back in their families’ homes. It was too much pressure. Other families that had the space and were already neck deep against the regime welcomed many of them. It was in one such house, five years later, where I was introduced to this nice older woman who’d come over for tea. “This is the mother of Jimmy.” It was such a flash back. I felt I’d dropped the ball on her son. I just blurted out “WHERE’S JIMMY???” After she left, he appeared within 45 minutes. “Nice to meet you.” Yeah, man. Didn’t mean to interrupt your day. Glad you’re alive.

The statement accused them of “using their popularity to incite the people with their writing and speeches through social media and social networks to destroy the state’s law and order.”

  • Those last words hearken back to the actual uprising of 1988 and the brutality that followed. What started it all was an argument at a tea shop. I’ve talked about the massacres elsewhere on BB. But ultimately this was a broad call, led by the students, for the end of the dictatorship of General Ne Win (self-named “The Sun”), that first general who destroyed the fledgling democracy in a coup in 1962. Following closely in Ne Win’s footsteps, the generals in 1988 formed a “council” you may have heard of called SLORC: State Law and Order Restoration Council. Ne Win is widely believed to have continued to wield the most influence.

  • Seeking to avoid further sanctions, they were eventually persuaded by a spineless American K Street firm they’d hired that “SLORC” has a very bad ring to it in the rest of the world. They were rebranded as the State Peace & Development Council (SPDC - see? not half as bad). They also stiffed the K Street firm (sound familiar?). Obviously the same old generals are still very big on any talk about “the state’s law and order.”

  • Hundreds marching in DC took over one direction of a street. Spoiler alert: no tear gas.
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Update 2/16 - 2/17/2021

  • Regime is starting to freak out about the well organized unions striking. They have tried to force the workers at hydro plants to sign an oath not to strike. The workers refused. They bashed them up and then ordered them not to get medical attention (to prevent documented cases of abuse). For the ones they gave severe head injuries, they ordered the workers to stitch their wounds. Teeth were bashed in as well. Employees cut off from communications with family, all of their phones taken and after the police beatings, 40 people arrested for seeking medical treatment.

  • Generator power only goes so far. The people in the cities are accustomed to power outages. Those in the lustrous 15 year old capital, maybe not so much.

  • A mentally challenged boy with obviously limited motor skills couldn’t flee under police orders, and was beaten right on the steps of a buddhist site. This will turn more monks against the regime. I have never ever seen nor heard a Burmese person show anything but compassion for someone with disabilities.

  • @GagHalfrunt’s Guardian story links above include one about the night patrols. The pots and pans are regularly banged at 8 pm to protest the regime. When authorities drive up in neighborhoods to serve a warrant (typically 11pm to the wee hours), everyone is coming outside to bang pots and pans, warn the person and help them get away. Although it is a nation the size of Texas with a population of 50 million, everybody knows everybody especially when it comes to this stuff. They know what house is being targeted and the person they are going after. It’s why for example you could mention a guy named “Jimmy” to almost any of those 50 million and they’d know who you were talking about. There will be between 3,000 and 10,000 individuals they regard as a significant threat merely for what they might say on social media. That number is growing.

  • Protest in Orlando Fl.

  • Adding 2/16 evening: That railway station protest? Those were railway employees shutting it down.

  • China becoming more of a conversation. Is the crackdown a win for China and in their interest to contribute to it? Two very different Op Eds for perspective:
    Time Magazine
    and
    Christian Science Monitor

  • Often as I think I said, the Burmese regimes are much more calculating than they may appear. I’m told that in this case, the man is a very poor planner. It was his very last chance to prolong his power. I understand he may not have expected to win, but he didn’t expect that the military would be completely trounced as they were.

  • Internet is cut every morning from 1 a.m. to 8 a.m. (was 9 a.m.) It is widely believed that China is helping to actively intervene, monitor and interfere. When they text for access in Burmese, the answer comes in Chinese. When they say Hello in English, they get an English prompt to “enter your password.” Photos are circulating of Chinese soldiers in Tatmadaw uniforms. There are many people of Chinese descent living in Burma, but I’m being told there are 10,000 in Tatmadaw uniform along the Myanmar/China border now.

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Great catch!

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From Wednesday:

Demonstrators in Myanmar have staged their biggest protest yet against the military’s seizure of power.

Hundreds of thousands of people rallied in Yangon and in towns and cities across the country in defiance of threats from the military.

Channel 4 News has spent a day with a young pro-democracy activist in Yangon, who, despite having been born into an army family herself, adamantly rejects the military takeover and is demanding the army gets out of politics for good.

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Yes I read this, and in particular their feathers are ruffled when it is referred to as the “coup government.” I’m urging the use of that phrase on all official communications. I have stopped updating for now as Twitter is doing it better under hashtags such as #SaveMyanmar and #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar.

Example, it appears Anonymous is getting into it. If anyone has contacts please message me, or convey to them that one big task they are interested in is to obtain proof that China is managing the firewalls and blocking individuals.

DASSK reportedly on trial in a closed process with no transparency. I have checked Sean Turnell’s feed and don’t see that he’s been released. He is a professor at Macquarie University.

Australians should be outraged.

So, I’m quite sure the poster is saying these are government thugs in training. This is at the pagoda I mentioned in the monk/tank picture.

Great piece you posted of Shinzar Shunlei Yi in front of the UN office in Yangon. While the capital has moved to hide the generals in Naypyidaw, almost no one internationally has followed and Embassy Row remains in Yangon. She describes the army’s mentality to a tee, as well as the sense of terror with which all the minority ethnic groups view them. Perfect indication of the two groups behind the Civil Disobedience Movement: One simply wants DASSK restored to power to follow the admittedly flawed process that is already constitutionally laid out. One is younger, recognizes that the handling of the Rohingya has brought shame on the country and that there’s an obstinate element to DASSK herself that has both served her courage and shut her off from the bigger picture, and also that this is an unworkable solution that doesn’t break up the Tatmadaw.

This’ll be strongly opinionated but it matches recent conversations I’ve had with others. I see a bit of irony here. Through the bullhorn the young woman is saying it’s the UN’s responsibility. Aung San Suu Kyi had the same mentality I think with respect to her house arrest etc. The international community rallied hard. That’s what did it, not only their reps at the UN. College kids working around the world to bring pressure. When DASSK did her victory lap world tour, she only wanted to meet with other Burmese. She did not ask the critical question: who did great things for Burma/Myanmar and what is the best way to thank them and build international relationships?

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