Socialist Worker

Protesters and strikers murdered by police in Myanmar

Issue No. 2744

Anti-military coup protesters in the middle of tear gas smoke

Anti-military coup protesters in the middle of tear gas smoke (Pic: PA)


Myanmar is in the grip of fierce fighting between the ruling army regime and pro-democracy campaigners.

Videos and pictures posted online last weekend show ­protesters making makeshift barricades as police fire volley after volley of tear gas and bullets.

Amid clouds of smoke, groups of young people try desperately to reach those injured or killed to drag them out of the firing zone.

They throw back canisters that hit their defences—and anything else that came to hand.

In the biggest single-day death toll among protesters at least 18 people were killed and 30 injured by armed forces in the country’s biggest city, Yangon, and the small southern city of Dawei.

Crackdown

Police fired tear gas and water cannons as well as live rounds.

The attacks are part of a ­crackdown on the movement demanding democracy after a coup in early February led the military back into power.

Myanmar’s murderous rulers took to state television during the ­fighting to announce that almost all trade unions are now banned.

The order came in the wake of a hugely successful general strike last week. Millions of people downed tools or walked out of offices to bring the country to a standstill.

Banking and civil service workers brought parts of the financial sector to a standstill.

And oil and gas workers followed the lead of overwhelmingly women garment workers and took to the streets.

Health workers too have been in the frontline of protests and are now being targeted by the regime, with even senior doctors being sacked by their hospitals.

Myanmar and the fight for democracy
Myanmar and the fight for democracy
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Now many of the strike leaders are on the run. Ma Moe Sandar Myint, head of the Federation of General Workers Myanmar, is in hiding. The authorities tried to arrest her for leading thousands of workers in protest.

A garment factory trade union leader in the Hlaingthaya Township area of Yangon said factory workers are playing cat and mouse as the police search for them.

She said the workers sleep in different places at night and protest every day.

The resilience of the protesters is all the more incredible given the army’s record of massacring those who opposed its rule in the ­movements of 1988 and 2007.

But if the movement is not to be crushed it must now fight to regain the initiative from the military.

A new, indefinite general strike could paralyse the entire economy and put the generals under increased pressure.

Until now, the democracy ­protesters have—with the past in mind—been determined to keep the struggle peaceful.

The movement must find ways to defend itself from the most hideous violence of the state.

Otherwise people will be driven from the streets and the army could well remain in power.


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