Updated: March 04, 2021 10:27 AM GMT
Mourners carry the coffin of protester Lwin Lwin Oo at his funeral in Dawei on March 3 after he was shot dead on Feb. 28 while taking part in a demonstration. (Photo: Dawei Watch/AFP)
On March. 3, security forces used lethal force against anti-coup protesters across Myanmar who have been staging peaceful protests for a month in defiance of military rule.
Images and videos of the violent crackdown by police and soldiers were shared on social media in scenes that resembled a war zone as they used live munitions, tear gas and stun grenades with little warning.
At least 38 people were killed in cities including Yangon, Mandalay, Myingyan and Monywa on March. 3 as the death toll since the Feb. 1 coup rose to more than 50, according to the United Nations.
“Today was the bloodiest day since the coup happened,” UN special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener told a virtual press conference.
Bloody Wednesday came just three days after the Southeast Asian nation witnessed a crackdown that led to at least 18 people killed and scores wounded on Feb. 28.
Graphic images and footage showed bodies lying in the street surrounded by blood and some protesters trying to move the dead on March 3.
A video showed two police officers dragging two severely wounded people away in Monywa, where at least five people were killed.
Fortify Rights said on March 4 that the similar use of lethal force by security forces in towns and cities throughout the country demonstrates “coordination between units and an overarching national strategy.”
The horrific slaughter of unarmed civilians has shocked world leaders as the generals have continued to use excessive force against anti-coup protesters despite global calls for restraint.
“I urged members of the UN Security Council to view the photos/videos of the shocking violence being unleashed on peaceful protesters before meeting in Friday’s closed-door session,” said Tom Andrews, special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.
While the world is watching, a tragedy is unfolding in an impoverished nation with the killing of people and the arbitrary arrests of activists, protesters and journalists before charging them under repressive laws.
Furthermore, security forces were seen randomly shooting at residents inside their houses, beating emergency service personnel and indiscriminately shooting at people on the streets.
The military’s brutal crackdown has sent a message of threat and fear to the people of Myanmar as part of a strategy to quell the demonstrations.
The people of Myanmar feel anger, despair and helplessness. A young man from Yangon on Feb. 28 asked in a Facebook post: “How many dead bodies are needed for the UN to take action?” He was later shot dead.
Some people posted on Twitter that actions are needed rather than statements.
The Tatmadaw (armed forces) have a lengthy history of rights abuses in ethnic areas. The brutal crackdown against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state in 2007 led to more than 700,000 people fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh, where they remain in squalid camps.
In the Christian stronghold of Kachin state in northern Myanmar, Kachins have faced oppression, persecution, killings, arbitrary arrests and rape at the hands of the military. Hundreds of villages and churches were burned by the military in a state with 1.6 million Kachin Christians.
People in Bamar-majority regions have now witnessed the brutality of the Tatmadaw with their own eyes.
Myanmar people lived under military rule for more than five decades and the latest coup has made them feel like they have returned to the old days when health and education services were systematically destroyed.
Generation Z, who have tasted freedom of expression and used social media and advanced technology, are not prepared to accept military rule and have shown their bold defiance against the dictatorship through daily protests.
“If we fail this time, the people of Myanmar will become slaves to the military rulers, so we need to win our fight for democracy,” one young protester said.
The UN’s Schraner Burgener said that young people have social media, are well organized and very determined. “They don’t want to go back to a dictatorship and isolation.”
The old tactics and excessive force that the Tatmadaw used in the 1988 uprising and 2007 Saffron Revolution are being used again to quell the 2021 uprising, but time will tell whether their strategy will succeed.
A 19-year-old girl who was shot in the head by security forces in Mandalay on March 3 was wearing a T-shirt with the words: “Everything will be OK.”
A brave young girl has left a message to the people of Myanmar that there is hope if they stay united and strong: “Democracy will prevail, military rule will fail.” Then things will be OK.