A power and internet blackout from that began at 1am and lasted until 9am Monday morning in Myanmar stirred fears of a return to violent instability. Military coup leaders succeeded only to aggravate those fears as troops descended on neighborhoods in cities throughout the country to reinforce local police against protesters. Since the February 1 coup protests are continuing to mount in Myanmar as government, civil service workers ignored the military leadership’s calls to project stability and continue to work, instead they walked out from their jobs to join the dissent. The military junta extended the ousted President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention for at least two more days as the coup leaders struggle to contain civil unrest. The move only served to further anger the public. In the early hours there were unconfirmed reports of light armored vehicles and tanks taking positions throughout the night to block the steadily growing number protester as morning approached. The reports came from what little texting, phone calls and social media posts that were able to make it through the blackout. The stories filtering out of Myanmar today are eerily similar to many the struggling nation has faced for over the last seven decades. In the wake a military pardon of up to 23,000 criminals from jails in recent weeks, the communities of Yangon, Mandalay, and Myitkyina have seen an upsurge in crime including theft, violence, and arson. The criminals are believed to have been released to make space for the mass arrests of protesters by the military junta. At the same time many residents say these released criminals are the same marauding gangs of thugs, that are drugged-up and endorsed by the junta to fuel unrest in their communities. Encouraging conflict is a decades-old tactic used by predecessor regimes as an excuse to clamp down on citizens fighting for change, rights and democracy. A Mandalay-based journalist Ko San Yu Kyaw told The Irrawaddy that it is a method of instilling fear in the residents employed decades ago after the 1988 coup. The junta used fear to breed violence between vigilante-residents and the criminal misfits enlisted by the military, creating an excuse for the junta to crackdown on the public ‘in the interest of peace.’ “They (the regime) are trying to push the situation to what happened in 1988. So, the leaders of vigilantes should be smart,” Kyan said. He believes they are doing so, citing that in recent days vigilante-residents are guarding their neighborhoods using makeshift posts and simply turning over suspected provocateurs to local police. Still a repeat of coups, juntas gone by now seems to be upon the people of Myanmar once again. Since February 1st journalists, NGO’s, human rights organizations and Burmese citizens have called upon international leaders to act decisively as the stories and images of violent crackdowns have flooded the internet. Despite confirmed media reporting on the disturbing state of affairs in Myanmar the international community has done little as the situation continues on a disturbing downward spiral.
An exclusive report by: Todd W. John