JURIST EXCLUSIVE – A Friday on-the-ground update from another of our law student correspondents in Myanmar, filed before the military’s “daily” Internet shutdown that began at 1 AM MMT Saturday (1:30 PM EST Friday):
We don’t know when the internet cut off is anymore. They will just cut off whenever they want. Some say the 11 pm to 8 am pattern will start on 21 Feb. We have the right to access information 24/7 but the military juntas rob it.
Thanks to the EPC [Electric Power Corporation of Myanmar] staff who lock [the authorities] out of the compound and building so that we still get electricity. The petroleum and diesel will be enough just for another month. If this continues for several months, we might go starve. But hunger is better than living under military rule.
In Myitkyinarr, two teachers were arrested last night and just released this morning. They’ve been beating the teachers with batons. There are wounds in their arms and waist. One of them has broken fingers. Her fingers are for holding chalk to teach her pupils, not for the [police/military] to break. They made them sign a guarantee that they won’t gather more than 5 people on street again (section 144 of penal code) and they might be sentenced to 3 years imprisonment. When those two teachers were asked whether they’ll still go out and protest tomorrow and whether they’re scared, they say they’ll still go out and protest for justice, with tears in their eyes. What spirit we all have!
CDM [the Civil Disobedience Movement] is really striking the junta in their soft spot. The military call out staff gently in the newspaper and on the MWD TV channel. This means they’ll be using force in near future. We have to tell staff to move out from their current location and stay hidden. The disclosure of the location is one of the reasons why those two teachers from Myitkyinarr were caught. CDM supporters arrange cars for transportation of staffs (especially from Nay Pyi Taw).
[The story of] the junta taking donation money from pagodas is real. They don’t even take off their military boots while stealing the money box from Mahamyatmuni Pagoda. The juntas are really out of money. The reason why they want to oppress Myitkyinarr more may be to restart the Myit Sone Project (hydroelectric power dam, collaboration with China) and Kachin is the land of precious jades and jewels. They desperately need money right now. Then, why not Mandalay too? Mandalay is located in the center of the country, is their strong base and direct way to send off soldiers and weapons to Myitkyinarr.
Another possible reason why they’re targeting Myitkyinarr is that they want to stimulate KIA’s response. This is the Kachine Independence Party: a non-state armed group made of Kachin people. Myanmar politics is very complex. There are non-state armed groups in each state. They don’t threaten people with their guns. That’s only what the Myanmar military has been doing for decades. They hold guns to protect their people. Honestly, I didn’t fully understand why they want to be armed. We didn’t see that those states were oppressed and exploited by the military for so long. Now, at protesting spots in Myitkyinarr, KIA soldiers guard the safety of the people. What kind of country is this? Non-state armed groups are protecting people and the main military is the real villain. The military might want KIA to start shooting so they can add another lame reason to their nonsense operation.
Tonight in Mandalay, at the corner of 19th and 58th streets, there were a lot of military trucks and soldiers after 1 pm. That’s not even a very crowded protesting spot. I don’t know what they’re planning there. I guess we will find out tomorrow morning.
Almost every night around 1 am, about 14 military trucks drive around the city with a speaker telling us to stop gathering and protesting and shamelessly telling us they’re trying to protect us. Please, we’re trying to find protection from them.
They’re trying to use the religion card now (same old trick once again). Recently, fake monks broke the car windows on streets protesting in Yangon. Many car maintenance services volunteered to pay for all charges and repair. They could’ve gotten what they wanted in 1988 but not this time. Myanmar is a country of great diversity and we all value and respect each other. We all only have one belief right now. Belief in Democracy.
The more they oppress, the better we come out with creative and effective ways of protesting. We can feed all the mouths of CDM staff by helping each other within country and our brothers and sisters living overseas support us while the military juntas are barely managing to pay salary to its soldiers and police. Thanks to international community for cutting off dollars. Please keep supporting us till the end. Every word and action of our international friends mean a lot to us.
Tomorrow, I’ll be on the street with students from all universities in Mandalay.