The slaughter of democracy protesters in Myanmar ramped up again last weekend—just days after the regime pledged itself to more “peaceful” methods of repression.
Soldiers, armed police and plain clothed shooters were out in force to chase down protesters marking the third month of military rule.
The killing spree came after last week’s Asean conference of southeast Asian leaders. It had sought to bring stability to Myanmar in the hope that protests and fighting wouldn’t spread beyond its borders into neighbouring China and Thailand.
But the Myanmar military’s apparent acquiescence was clearly just for show.
People in Yangon, a centre of opposition to the military regime, posted videos of un-uniformed police bundling dozens of young protesters into unmarked cars.
Some pictures also showed officers dressed as protesters—but carrying high powered rifles—taking up shooting positions on the fringes of demonstrations.
Cops in the northern Shan state killed U Win Naing in Nawnghkio as they fired indiscriminately into the crowded streets. A 60 year old man also died from police gunshot wounds.
Muslim protester Ko Phoe Lone was killed after being shot in the head by regime forces after soldiers threatened to fire on any civilians who left their homes.
But the regime is not having it all its own way.
It is facing renewed pressure from many of the armed ethnic organisations that have been warring with the government for decades. The Kachin Independence Army said on Monday that it had shot down a military helicopter that was conducting airstrikes in its region.
Days before, the group launched an artillery attack on Bhamo airport, which military aircraft use as a base.
The fighting is most fierce on the Chinese border—making the Chinese state nervous.
And fighters from the Karen ethnic group in the south of the country have recently also hit the military hard on the border with Thailand. Many armed ethnic groups have declared in support of the democracy movement. Their efforts so far have mostly been to draw troops away from the cities into fighting in rural areas.
But now the Irrawaddy news site reports that thousands of young democracy activists from the cities have fled to the Kachin and Karen states.
There they receive military training in the hope of going back home to fight against the regime. The pressure on the movement to develop an armed response to the hateful regime is immense and understandable.
But a great strength of the democracy movement is that it has mobilised millions of ordinary people using mass tactics of strikes and protests.
Armed resistance to state slaughter is entirely justified. But it carries the danger of marginalising popular protest in favour of a minority who have access to good weapons and training. That outcome would suit the regime entirely.