Democracy defenders sacrificing lives

The weekend body-count climbed to 44 in Myanmar yesterday as the military junta intensified repression against democracy defenders who continued their street demonstrations seeking release of the country’s elected leaders.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/03/2021 (559 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The weekend body-count climbed to 44 in Myanmar yesterday as the military junta intensified repression against democracy defenders who continued their street demonstrations seeking release of the country’s elected leaders.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a monitoring group, added six more deaths on Monday to the overnight toll of 38. This showed a sharp increase in use of lethal force by police and the army.

The protesters, meanwhile, turned their fury against Chinese-owned companies. Fires broke out at two Chinese-owned textile plants and a fertilizer plant, drawing angry reactions from the Chinese embassy. Myanmar’s democracy movement evidently believes that China is propping up the military rulers. A democracy movement spokesman said the movement does not hate Chinese people but it wants China’s government to stop supporting the generals.

China contends that it is seeking a peaceful resolution of the Myanmar conflict. If that is true, China’s efforts have achieved nothing: both the junta and the democracy movement have escalated the violence in the streets.

Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy and head of the civilian government, won Myanmar’s Nov. 8 elections in which parties supporting the armed forces suffered a humiliating rejection. The armed forces on Feb. 1 declared those elections invalid and imprisoned Ms. Suu Kyi along with other leaders of the NLD. Her supporters have demonstrated in Myanmar’s main cities every weekend since then, demanding her release and restoration to power.

The generals should recognize by now that their people hate them. If that was not plain in the November election results, it is abundantly clear in the huge popular demonstrations that have continued every week since the Feb. 1 coup in the face of increasing brutality by the police.

It is clear in the courage and determination the democracy supporters are showing despite increasing deaths and injuries inflicted by the police.

Myanmar’s generals, however, have never been schooled in the art of politics. The country, formerly known as Burma, has been ruled as a military dictatorship for most of the years since it won independence from Britain in 1948. The only ways the generals have ever learned to deal with opposition are to lock it up or shoot it.

Poster shows deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a street march in Yangon, Myanmar. (AP Photo)

The Communist rulers of China, who can be equally brutal in suppressing opposition, are unlikely to show the Myanmar generals a better way. The burning of Chinese-owned businesses should warn China of the legacy of hatred that is accumulating in Myanmar. If the generals do not quickly stand aside and let Ms. Suu Kyi occupy the seat of power to which she was elected, Myanmar’s people are likely to remember that, when they needed a friend, China proved to be their enemy.

Canada and the western democracies have even less influence than China over the Myanmar generals.

For what it may be worth, Canada should join in any effort to encourage Myanmar’s armed forces to step back from the self-destruction they are inflicting on their country.

Government with the consent of the governed really is a better system than violence, brutality and imprisonment. Ms. Suu Kyi has a popular mandate to rule. The generals have none. Canada and like-minded democracies should encourage the generals to negotiate with her. She may be able to steer them out of the blind alley into which they have blundered.

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