Health workers who founded the civil disobedience movement against military rule stopped employing government medical facilities. Many civil servants did not come to work, along with employees of state and private banks. Universities have become a hotbed of resistance, and in recent weeks primary and secondary education has begun to decline as teachers, students and parents boycott public schools.
One hundred days after taking power, the ruling Myanmar generals retain only apparent control. The illusion is sustained largely by its partially successful efforts to shut down the independent medium and keep the streets from being under large demonstrations by the use of deadly force. According to detailed independent data, security forces have killed more than 750 protesters and passers-by, and there have been numerous arrests and human rights violations.
“The junta might like people to think things are back to normal because they don’t kill as many people as before and there weren’t as many people on the streets as before, but … the feeling we get from talking to people on the ground is that resistance is still not subsided, ”said Thin Lei Win, a Rome-based journalist who helped found the 2015 Myanmar Now online news.
He says the main change is that the disagreement is no longer as visible as in the first days of the protest – before security forces began using live ammunition – when marches and rallies in major cities could attract tens of thousands of people.
At the same time, said David Mathieson, an independent analyst who has been working on Myanmar issues for more than 20 years, “Because of the very violent calming of these protests, many people are willing to become more violent.”
“We are already beginning to see signs of that. And with the right training, the right leadership, and the right resources, what Myanmar could experience is an incredibly nasty destructive, internal armed conflict in multiple locations in urban areas. “
The junta also faces an increasing military challenge in the ever-troubled border regions where ethnic minority groups exercise political power and maintain a guerrilla army. Two more resilient in the group’s fighting, Kachin in the north and Karen in the east, said they supported the protest movement and intensified the fighting, despite a government army known as Tatmadaw retaliating with stronger firepower, including air strikes.
Even a month ago, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet described the situation as bleak, saying Myanmar “economy, education and health infrastructure have been brought to the brink of collapse, leaving millions of Myanmar residents without livelihoods, basic services and, increasingly and food safety. “
Not surprisingly, The Economist labeled Myanmar as the “next failed Asian state” in its April headline and concluded it was heading in the direction of Afghanistan.
The UN Bachelet made a different comparison.
“Syria’s echoes in 2011 are clear,” she said. “And there we saw peaceful protests that encountered unnecessary and obviously disproportionate force. Brutal, persistent repression of their own people has led to some individuals taking up arms, followed by a downward spiral of violence across the rapidly expanding country. “
One hundred days after his takeover, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres renewed his call on the Myanmar military on Tuesday “to respect the will of the people and act in the greater interest of peace and stability in the country,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Guterres also encouraged the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes Myanmar, to swiftly implement its commitments, including calling for an immediate end to the violence and the start of a dialogue mediated by the ASEAN Special Envoy. He called on the international community “to support regional efforts to stop the repression by the military,” Dujarric said.
Bill Richardson, a former US ambassador to the United Nations with many years of experience working with Myanmar, said: “The most immediate step is for the government and the opposition to start a dialogue to stop the violence and bloodshed. Negotiations on a humanitarian approach must be conducted to prevent the collapse of the economy and … the health system. “
The head of Junte, the senior generation of Min Aung Hlaing, has so far shunned all proposals for talks by the United Nations as well as ASEAN.
He attended a specially convened ASEAN summit in Indonesia in April, where leaders adopted a “five-point consensus.” But days after his return, Hlaing’s junta rejected the initiative. He said Myanmar would “carefully consider constructive ASEAN proposals.” Leaders when the situation returns to stability in the country, because currently the priorities were maintaining order and peace and restoring peace and tranquility in the community. “
The Myanmar resistance movement, meanwhile, was organized widely and rapidly underground.
A few days after the junta was taken over, elected parliamentarians who were denied a seat convened their own self-proclaimed Parliament. Its members formed the Shadow Government of National Unity with guidelines for an interim constitution, and last week the People’s Defense Forces as the forerunner of the Federal Army. Many cities, towns, and even neighborhoods have already formed local defense groups that will theoretically now become part of the People’s Defense Forces.
In addition to boosting morale, these actions also have a strategic purpose by endorsing the federal style of government, for which ethnic minorities have for decades sought to give them autonomous powers in the border areas where they predominate.
Promoting federalism, in which the center shares power with the regions, aligns the interests of the anti-war pro-democracy movement with the goals of ethnic minorities. In theory, this could add a real military component to a movement whose armaments are generally no more deadly than Molotov cocktails and air rifles – although domestic bombs have been added to its arsenals in recent weeks.
In practice, at least for now, the guerrilla armies of Kacin in the north and Karen in the east will fight, as always, to protect their territory. They can hold military training for thousands of activists who are said to have fled cities to their zones, but government forces still outnumber them. But on their ground, they have an advantage over what their population considers an occupying army. That might be enough.
“The only thing the military really threatens is when all these different voices and communities across the country actually start working against it, not as a single monolith, but all working against military interests,” analyst Mathieson said. “And I think that’s the best we can hope for, that we can move forward, that people recognize that all efforts must be against the army. And if that means fighting in the hills and peaceful protests and other forms of retaliation by the army in the cities, so be it. “
It is difficult to measure if the military has a turning point.
Mathieson said he saw no signs that the junta was willing to negotiate or cede anything. Tatmadaw is “extremely resilient. And they recognize that this is an almost existential threat to their survival. “
Associated Press reporter Jerry Harmer contributed to this report.