Will Myanmar see a new round of slaughter, or will regional talks last week lead to a period of relative calm?
That is the question that millions of civilians are asking after two apparently contradictory developments.
As of 23 April almost 800 people have been killed after joining democracy protests and thousands more have been detained.
Now sections of the military regime want to go on the offensive and smash the democracy movement in the way it did in 1988 and 2007. This then led to thousands being killed and tortured.
A memo, issued by the military government’s top commanders in the country’s capital Naypyitaw was recently discovered.
The memo made it clear that attacks on democracy protesters would continue and said, “You must annihilate them when you face them.
“Rioters have gone from peaceful demonstration to the level of armed conflict.”
The memo also stated that officers must follow instructions “strictly”.
On the other hand, the Asean conference of southeast Asian leaders last weekend was gravely worried about the impact of further killings.
The meeting, which included representatives from China and Myanmar, stopped short of condemning the military regime, but it did agree that the violence must stop.
Some leaders demanded the release of political prisoners. In large part that reflects a worry among the regional elite that the turmoil in Myanmar could spread to neighbouring countries—India, China and Thailand. And that instability could deter investments.
Already many global firms are worried about operating in Myanmar’s gas fields after workers’ strikes and demonstrations have been met by soldiers’ gunfire. And, China is concerned about the spate of arson attacks on factories it owns in the country.
The unrest extends beyond the democracy movement.
Nearly 100 Myanmar troops were killed by Kachin separatist rebels near the Chinese border earlier this month. And, there is fierce fighting with other ethnic groups in many parts of the state.
Some in Myanmar’s democracy movement are cheered by the weekend conference and hope the next stage will be that Asean will send observers to the country as a prelude to some sort of “humanitarian intervention”.
But it would be a grave mistake to put trust in the regional powers.
They are little concerned about the nature of Myanmar’s regime, and are instead solely focused on “stability”—even if that comes at the cost of democracy.
Meanwhile, the workers’ districts of many big cities remain barricaded, with people arming themselves with hunting rifles and other rudimentary weapons.
Most will hope for peace and the return of democracy, but history will doubtless tell them to prepare for more war.
Palestinians under occupation in Jerusalem celebrated on Sunday night as Israeli forces removed barriers intended to stop them from gathering, following days of protests.
Protesters had resisted Israel’s attempts to stop them gathering close to religious sites in Jerusalem’s Old City during Ramadan. They were attacked repeatedly by Israeli riot police with tear gas and water cannon.
News reports often present the protests as clashes between Muslims and Jews over rights to religious sites.
In fact, Palestinians are resisting Israeli occupation and a decades-long attempt to drive them from the city.
Israel invaded the eastern side of East Jerusalem in 1967 and wants to claim the city as its capital. It has kept Palestinians living there under violent repression ever since.
Israelis marched through East Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs” on Thursday of last week.
But Palestinian protests spread across the West Bank, which is also occupied by Israel.
Resistance groups in the Gaza Strip, which Israel has kept under siege for more than a decade, launched a few dozen rockets across the militarised border.
An Israeli police spokesperson said they had removed the barriers—having spent days meting out violence—“to ensure peace and security”.
Workers’ are fighting back for better pay and conditions
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