Myanmar’s murderous military regime imposed martial law in parts of the country on Monday, wiping out the last vestiges of democracy.
The move came as the army and police unleashed the worst violence yet in its battle to put down the country’s opposition movement.
At least five people were killed in the city of Mandalay on Monday as police used live rounds to disperse a sit-in by teachers, health care workers, students and monks.
And 39 people were killed on Sunday as Chinese-owned garment factories were set ablaze. General Min Aung Hlaing’s security forces killed at least 22 protesters in the Hlaingthaya township west of the centre of Yangon.
There are close links between the Myanmar military regime and the Chinese state.
Even before the weekend Thomas Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur, noted that “there is extensive video evidence of security forces viciously beating protesters, medics, and bystanders.”
“There is video of soldiers and police systematically moving through neighbourhoods, destroying property, looting shops, arbitrarily arresting protesters and passers-by, and firing indiscriminately into people’s homes,” he said.
Militarised police raided railway workers’ houses in Yangon at dawn last Wednesday in an attempt to arrest union leaders. The swoop came days after several unions, including the railway workers’ union, issued a joint call for a nationwide stoppage. The unions said the strike would be part of a drive for “the full, extended shutdown of the Myanmar economy.”
The doctors’ and civil servants’ strikes have also provoked the regime.
One doctor spoke to the Frontier Myanmar news website, saying, “I don’t care if I face action for my decision. I’m ready to face the worst. The goal is to fight for the return of an elected government. We will continue with civil disobedience until that happens.”
After the early morning raid on the railway workers, cops and soldiers returned in the evening. They fired tear gas, stun grenades and live rounds in neighbourhoods where support for the movement is strongest.
Meanwhile, 400 students who were detained in mass arrests at the beginning of March are still behind bars in the notorious Insein prison.
But among the carnage are the first signs of cracks in the regime.
Last week a group of Myanmar police fled to Mizoram, in northern India, saying they had refused to comply with orders to shoot at protesters.
One officer told BBC news, “I was afraid that I would be forced to kill or harm innocent people who are protesting against the military.
“We feel that it was wrong for the military to overthrow an elected government.”
Myanmar’s workers have the power to increase the number of splits in the government if they can maintain and expand the strike in the face of brutality.