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Burmese Scholar: Military Junta Using Terror Against “Entire Population” to Keep Power After Coup

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In Burma, mass protests continue after at least 18 people were killed in anti-coup protests, marking the deadliest day since the February 1 military coup which deposed and detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Police fired live ammunition into crowds as Burmese forces steadily escalated their crackdown. One local group says 1,000 people were arrested, including journalists and medical professionals. “The coup group and the entire security sector … have essentially terrorized the entire population,” says Maung Zarni, a Burmese scholar, dissident and human rights activist. “I have seen absolutely nothing like what is happening.”

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StorySep 25, 2007Burmese Protesters Defy Military Warning to Continue Marches Against Ruling Junta
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We end today’s show in Burma, where mass protests continue today after at least 18 people were killed in anti-coup protests Sunday, the deadliest day since the February 1st military coup which deposed and detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Police fired live ammunition into the crowds as Burmese forces steadily escalate their crackdown. One local group says a thousand people were arrested Sunday, including journalists and medical professionals. Sunday’s bloodshed followed the firing of Burma’s ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, after he denounced the military coup before the U.N. General Assembly.

KYAW MOE TUN: We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people and to restore the democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we go to London, where we’re joined by Maung Zarni, Burmese scholar, dissident, human rights activist, co-founder of the Forces of Renewal for Southeast Asia, or FORSEA, a grassroots network of pro-democracy scholars and human rights activists across Southeast Asia.

Zarni, welcome back to Democracy Now! Describe what happened over the weekend.

MAUNG ZARNI: Well, the coup group and the entire security sector, including the hardcore light infantry divisions and the police force intelligence network, have essentially terrorized the entire population.

Amy, I think we need to redefine what is happening in Burma as a protest against the military coup by the new military dictatorship. I have lived under the first military dictatorship for 25 years, and I have seen nothing — despite all the repression that was going on around me and the whole society, I have seen absolutely nothing like what is happening. We have a situation where the military coup group has unleashed unprecedented terror, not simply against people protesting against the coup, but people inside homes, people just standing by, not getting involved in street protests.

So, today, something unprecedented happened. The elected body called committee representing peoples — sorry, people representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, or the parliament, declared the coup group terrorists. I have been pointing this terroristic aspect of the regime. And this committee, representing the entire body of elected MPs, not allowed to take their seats in the parliament on the 1st of February, calling this group terrorist. That followed another unprecedented act at the United Nations General Assembly briefing by the official representative declaring and characterizing the military as the existential threat to the country and the people. We have an extraordinary situation in Burma, not simply clashes between demonstrators and the armed forces.

AMY GOODMAN: We just also got word that Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel laureate, appeared in court today. She is one of those who was detained, very much lost a lot of that human rights — her world-renowned status as a human rights leader because of her stance on the Rohingya, standing against the Rohingya. But there she was in court. The significance of this?

MAUNG ZARNI: Well, Amy, I think, you know, Aung San Suu Kyi has remained an iconic and pivotal and indisputably the most widely popular Burmese politician within the country, within the majority society. I totally get the contradictions and, to a degree, like, you know, hypocritical element to defend Aung San Suu Kyi when she failed to defend the genocide victims, the Rohingya people. However, I think that what needs to happen with Aung San Suu Kyi, as well as the societies revolting against the entire security sector — the armed forces and police and all the rest — is we need to decouple whatever Aung San Suu Kyi’s criminal responsibility, culpability in international law with respect to the genocide against the Rohingya. As you know, there is a proceeding going on at the International Court of Justice, the Gambia suing or challenging the state of Myanmar for violating the terms of the genocide convention. We need to decouple Aung San Suu Kyi and her role in the genocide from the people’s popular democratic will, on the grounds that people have the democratic right to pick their own government and to revolt against tyrannical regime, which we have in Burma.

And secondly, we need to look at the external actors, beyond Suu Kyi and domestic politics, that are involved in enabling and protecting this regime the public have decided to call terrorist group. And at 3:00 in the morning in U.K., I woke up. That’s is like 9:30 in the morning. I saw Taliban-like situation, truckloads of infantry divisions firing randomly on the empty streets and people screaming inside their homes. And so, we need to look at particularly China’s support of this regime and also look at Singapore’s financing and investing. You know, there are a lot of things that need to be unpacked, the terror financing, China flying flights carrying what is believed to be special forces into a sovereign country next door. You know, the last two weeks, I would estimate between 5,000 to 10,000 Chinese special forces have been flown in, on unmarked aircraft carriers, from Kunming, the nearest province of China, into Burma, in anticipation, perhaps paranoid, on the part of the Burmese government or military, that the U.S. might militarily intervene. These are really, really relevant issues in international law.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think the U.S. should do?

MAUNG ZARNI: Well, President Joe Biden, I campaigned for it online, because what happens to the United States or in the United States matter around the world, and particularly matter for democratic struggles, you know, particularly Burma and other places that are unfolding — in Thailand, for instance.

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds, Zarni.

MAUNG ZARNI: Yeah. I think Biden should put his money where his mouth is. He said democracy needs to be defended, at the Munich Security Conference 10 days ago. And Burmese people, millions, are out risking their lives, and Biden needs to follow up with action.

AMY GOODMAN: Maung Zarni, I want to thank you for being with us, Burmese scholar and dissident, joining us from London.

That does it for the show. Democracy Now! produced with Renée Feltz, Mike Burke, Deena Guzder, Libby Rainey, Nermeen Shaikh, María Taracena, Carla Wills. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us. Stay safe. Wear a mask.

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