In the face of repression in Burma, demonstrators storm with creativity

Protesters block a bridge with their cars during a demonstration against the military coup, in Yangon, Burma on February 17, 2021.
Protesters block a bridge with their cars during a demonstration against the military coup, in Yangon, Myanmar on February 17, 2021 (SAI AUNG MAIN / AFP)

The mobilization in the streets in Burma on Wednesday, February 17, took place with a simple and terribly effective slogan for the demonstrations: “Park your broken down car”. The slogan has been circulating in recent days. As a result, on Wednesday morning in Rangoon, the largest city in the country, thousands of people blocked the traffic routes by stopping their cars, vans, heavy goods vehicles, in the middle of the road. Hoods open, and the sign: “Sorry broken down”. The aim was to prevent military vehicles and police vans from moving to disperse the protesters.

Apparently it has worked, although information is hardly reaching us from this country of 54 million people. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people were able to gather in the center of Rangoon to once again demand the return of civil power. Rallies were also held in other cities across the country, such as the capital Naypidaw, despite bans on demonstrations. Calls for civil disobedience continue to spread, particularly within certain professions called upon to stop work to paralyze the country: teachers, doctors, railway workers or air traffic controllers.

Mobilization also goes through social networks, in particular with music videos. For example, a song made famous during the 1988 uprising that was suppressed in blood. Her name is Kabar Ma Kyay Bu, which means : “We will not forget until the end of the world”. It just came out on YouTube, with nearly a million views.

This is just one example. There are others, like a clip called Revolution. Or the video of a flash mob, of a hip hop choreography in full demonstration to the music of They don’t care about us (“They don’t give a damn about us”), by Michael Jackson. The songs of revolt, the thangyat, are a tradition in Burma. But they take on a new dimension with the Internet, which has grown considerably during these ten years of civilian rule and modernization. Young people are all equipped with cell phones and do not hesitate to circumvent internet censorship by purchasing VPN systems. And they use all the social networks available: Tik Tok, Instagram, Discord, Facebook, etc.

The putschist generals probably did not really foresee this, but they are still determined to repress. Troop movements in the direction of Rangoon have been spotted. This is not a very good sign. There is little doubt that the military will seek to increase repression. Nearly 500 people have already been arrested. Nocturnal arrests are increasing. A new cybersecurity law is about to be adopted. The generals, who hold all the levers of power in the country, and who enjoy indirect support from China, are not going to give in easily.

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