From a New York Times, I'm Michael Barbaro. This is The Daily. Two months ago, during a predawn raid, the military in Myanmar cut off Internet and phone networks and with tanks, helicopters and soldiers carried out a coup, putting the country's elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, under house arrest and ending a five year long experiment in democratic rule. Today, my colleague, Hannah Beech has been reporting on what has happened since. It's Monday, April 5th.
And the last time we spoke with you, the civilian leader of Myanmar had just been deposed by the country's military and this democratic experiment underway there had come to a very swift end. And you described a very uneasy standoff between the people of Myanmar and the military. So how has that progressed, starting with the civilian population?
What has happened essentially is that five years of democratic reform have been utterly replaced by a military regime, a resumption of the bad old days in which the military raped and killed and assaulted. And people are scared to death that this might happen again.
And so with the February 1st coup, people react by coming out to protest and they are protesting by the millions. You know, right now there are peaceful marches there. These street parties in which people in ballgowns, the transgender community, doctors and engineers and lawyers, they're all on the street peacefully marching to say that we want our country to resume some form of democracy and we want the military regime out of the country. At the same time, this great civil disobedience movement begins and it starts with some doctors in the largest city in Myanmar, and all of a sudden we look on Facebook and we see this photograph of doctors in their blue scrubs and they're all holding up their hands with the three fingered salute from The Hunger Games.
And this is a symbol that's come to me now in Myanmar in particular, but sort of all over the world, this kind of secret code of defiance against an autocracy or military regime, just as in The Hunger Games. Exactly.
So this photograph of the doctors holding up their three fingers in The Hunger Games salute goes viral. 70 hospitals and medical departments across Myanmar stopped work to protest against the coup over a matter of hours.
And then on days and two weeks, government employees and professionals alike all joined in an attempt to paralyze the country.
Different professions join in joining trade unions and groups of workers already taking part in the movement.
Some police officers in Kaiya State broke ranks and joined the protesters, its railroad workers, its port workers, bank employees, factory workers, food delivery guys. You know, the bartenders.
Among their tactics, railway workers have used their bodies to block trains, disrupting transportation.
We're talking about millions of people. And this isn't a country of 53 million people. It is an enormous chunk of the country that has decided that they are going to stop showing up for work will not be easy, but it is possible.
This is the one and only solution to end of the. And Hannah, what exactly is the goal of this civil disobedience? What are people hoping to accomplish by not showing up to work? I think they're hoping that they will bring the Burmese economy to its knees. I mean, the country has really ground to a halt. Money is not coming in. Money is not going out. There's cargo piled up at the ports. Stuff isn't being imported. Stuff isn't being exported.
People are hoping that it will have an incredible impact on the military regime and that will force the military regime to either enter negotiations with the rightful rulers of the country, the elected government, or that they will bring down the military regime wholesale. And on some level, it sounds like these strikes are having their intended effect. And so how is the military reacting?
You know, for a while there was this hope that maybe the military wouldn't go back to the way it has always done things.
Unfortunately, it did not. 2069 was one of countless thousands in Myanmar who came out to challenge the military seizure of power. So on February 9th, a woman who was protesting in Naypyidaw, the capital, she was actually at a bus station getting ready to leave and suddenly she was shot in the head.
Well, it's the first death among opponents of the military coup since they began protesting two weeks ago.
The military said, oh, no, we we didn't use live ammunition, but there was a bullet in her head. And it was pretty clear that they did use live ammunition. She was in a coma. She died about 10 days later, scenes of grief which must inflame public fury against the military junta. That reminds them two of the cost of resisting that. And then by the time that we hit March, a month after the coup, it was this drumbeat of death and more death and more death, and we had unarmed protesters being shot on the street.
There were politicians from the ruling party who were dragged from their homes in the middle of the night, and then they turned up dead the next day with signs of torture. And the military would say, oh, no, they weren't tortured. They just kind of fell from somewhere and and and somehow ended up dead with signs of torture. Hmm. And now there have been more than 540 people have been confirmed killed by the security forces since the coup.
And there probably a bunch more whose deaths haven't been confirmed and thousands have been arrested. If you decide to go protest, you're really taking your life into your own hands. And a lot of the protesters who before they go out each day or write a message on Facebook or a handwritten letter, are saying, you know, if I don't come back today, please, you know, here are the instructions for my death. And these are these are students and they're young people.
These are people who should have their futures ahead of them who are making this kind of existential decision to go out on the streets. But what has also happened is that there has been this campaign of randomized terror. And so somebody is sitting in their house and suddenly maybe a protester is running away from the security forces and comes into your neighborhood and you go out to look what's happening and you get shot in the head or you're sitting in your living room and you're kind of cowering because, you know, that bad stuff is happening and a bullet comes through the window.
And this campaign of terror is such that nobody is safe and it creates this tremendous sense of insecurity among among everyone. We had kids in their houses being shot in their homes with kids in their houses being shot in their homes by the military, by the military.
Yeah, there are at least 40 children who have been killed. And these kids were one of them was sitting in her father's lap. One of them was serving tea and one of them was going outside to get a pot of water. And I reported one story about a little girl, a 10 year old girl in southeastern Myanmar. It was the afternoon and the father has five girls and he wants to call down his kids. And so he goes to his coconut palm tree.
He gets a coconut, he's cracking it open with the machete. And the first little girl to get a slice of coconut was the fourth of his five children. And she takes the coconut and she hears these noises just outside of her house that sound like the pop of firecrackers. And so she goes toward the trees and her father looks up and he sees that she's maybe stumbled. Something has happened to her and she's kind of on her stomach. And so you think so?
You know, she must have done something. So he puts down his machete, puts down his coconut, and he runs over and then scoops her up. And, you know, he wants to tell her it's it's OK, I'll get you another piece of coconut. And then he discovers that his hands are bloody and that there's blood everywhere and he can't figure out where the blood is coming from. And this happened at around five thirty in the afternoon and within three quarters of an hour, it was dark and and she was dead.
Wow, she had been shot by the military. She had been shot by the military. And, you know, this was not a neighborhood where protests were going on just beyond the trees that were the perimeter of their house. There was a camouflaged presence. Nobody saw him, but he was shooting and one of the shots entered her head. And, you know, from a military perspective, a single shot to the head is an execution. It is a deliberate attack.
And it seems very unlikely that it would have been a mistake to do that. Mm hmm. And I think what this has done more than anything is to harden the resolve of people in Myanmar to fight the military regime because a group of soldiers and a group of policemen that do this, that are given orders to execute children is something they cannot stand.
So how do you how does anyone make sense of the fact that soldiers in Myanmar are so wantonly taking the lives of their own people, people who are protesting in a non-violent manner, people who in some cases are not protesting at all? I mean, how is it that the military can take the lives of their own neighbors, their own countrymen, women, children? Yeah, Michael.
I mean, this is a question that those of us who are covering Myanmar have been asking, and this comes to the heart of what Myanmar is. You know, we know who the victims of the military's terror campaign are, the girl with her coconut. We don't know much about this faceless rank of people who make up the Myanmar military. And what we've discovered is that this is a deeply insular, secretive culture that is unlike any other military in the world.
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So, Anna, what have you found about the military culture in Myanmar, and has it helped you answer the question of how soldiers can carry out the murder of their own civilian population?
So the Myanmar military is called the Tatmadaw and it says that it has a standing force of up to half a million men. Again, this is a country of 53 million people. So it's that's a lot of people. It's often portrayed as this kind of robotic rank of warriors who are bred to kill. And that's certainly true from the beginning. When they're in boot camp, they're the troops from the Tatmadaw are taught one lesson above all, which is that they are the guardians of the country and a religion, Buddhism, that will crumble without them.
And why would it crumble without them?
So Myanmar was founded as the country of Burma in 1948. And since that very moment of Myanmar's founding, the Tatmadaw has been fighting something which is unusual for a military force, which is it is not fighting outside forces, it's not fighting outside countries. It's fighting its own people. And the people that they've been fighting have been ethnic armed groups, communist guerrilla groups, even student democracy activists who took to the jungle after previous crackdowns. So the military, instead of being a force that protects the people of Myanmar, has since its very moment of inception been focused on fighting its own people.
And that's what makes it pretty unique in the world.
So it's trained to see the people of Myanmar as potential enemies at all times. What is the internal culture of the Myanmar military?
Occupy a parallel privileged state within a state so soldiers live apart from the rest of society. They work apart from the rest of society. They socialize from the rest of society, and they have an entire ecosystem that's dedicated just to them. And that means that they are isolated from the very people who they should be designed to protect.
I mean, when you say isolated, just walk me through that.
So the military, the Tatmadaw has its own banks, hospitals, schools, universities, insurance agencies, mobile network operators, stock options for good little soldiers and even vegetable farms. The military runs its own television stations that has its own publishing houses, film industry and this entire ecosystem includes the Internet. And so the Tatmadaw, even on social media, is cloistered as well. There are officers who are trained in psychological warfare who in Facebook chat groups will plant these conspiracy theories about democracy or about the political opposition.
And people tend to believe it because they think that they're connecting to the outside world, but they're actually inhabiting these relatively narrow digital silos. It's fascinating. And in many cases, the children of military officers marry the children of other military officers or they marry the progeny of business tycoons or cronies of the military. And so the family trees of the military are incredibly connected. And it gets to the point where the military has this kind of unspoken rule that if one of your comrades is killed in battle, then the soldiers will draw lots and the widow of that fallen comrade will marry one of the other members of the battalion.
So it's this entire world unto itself that has very little intersection with the rest of Myanmar.
Right. A kind of country within a country in which there's really no way to get an outside perspective if a soldier isn't marrying a civilian. And getting a perspective of that civilian or going on the real Internet, how are they possibly going to see a perspective beyond the military?
Yeah, and I think because they're sequestered from the rest of society, they don't see the protesters as as humans, as as fellow Burmese. They see them as the enemy. You know, they're being fed a steady diet of propaganda in which anybody who questions the military is fraying the unity of the country. And so to be a protester, to be out on the streets and calling for a resumption of democracy is to be an enemy from from the military's perspective.
But, you know, we have found some soldiers who are tired of following unjust orders. And I think that the post coup atmosphere in which these orders day in and day out to kill unarmed civilians, to kill children, have propelled them to a breaking point where they just they just can't do it any longer.
And tell me about one of your soldiers.
So one of the soldiers who we've been focusing on is he's a captain. His name is Captain Dünya on in many ways, he is kind of a prototypical soldier. He was born in a small village in an ethnic minority area in Myanmar, and his mother died when he was 10 years old. His father became an alcoholic and he was essentially an orphan and got sent to a boarding school in Yangon and then took the entrance examination for the Defense Service Academy, which is kind of like the West Point of Myanmar, did very well, studied English.
And as a kind of quasi orphan, the military became his family. But what's interesting about Captain Tubac on is that even though he's really part and parcel of the Tatmadaw, he finds a way out, at least in his mind and online. And he breaks out of the digital silos of the Tatmadaw and is meeting people online who aren't soldiers, and because he speaks English, he accesses a whole world out there, which is not bound by the rules and regulations and unjust orders of the military.
And he starts realizing that the top man does prescriptions, which is that you're defending the Tatmadaw before the country, are not really what he believes in. So by the time that the coup happens, he realizes, you know, my God, this institution that I have loved is turning against its own country.
Hmm. And then one day in early March, he is asked by his superior to carry out a duty that fills him with ultimate dread, he is asked to pick up bullet casings on the street. And as he's picking up these shells, he's got sort of nausea in his throat. He feels like he's about to throw up. He says, you know, I know that these shells mean that the rifles, that real rifles have been used on real people.
And that night he logs on to Facebook again and he discovers that several civilians have been killed in Yangon by soldiers of the Tatmadaw who are men in uniform just like him. And it's at that moment he decides that he's had enough that he's going to desert. And one day he just slips off base and he decides that he's never going to return. He's he's now actually in hiding. And he said, I love the military so much, but the message I want to give my fellow soldiers is if you're choosing between the country and the Tatmadaw, please choose the country.
And did he say whether there are other soldiers, perhaps soldiers he's talked to who share his frustration and his anger and who are willing to leave the military in this moment?
Yeah, what was really interesting in talking with him and also with three other soldiers, two of whom are still on active duty, is that they said there actually is a lot of kind of individual private unhappiness with the coup. But to take the decision that he made to desert is is really, really difficult. And one of the reasons that that kept them too long, frankly, was able to desert was because he's single. And for anybody who's married, if they were to leave their family members, their wives, their children could be targeted, could be arrested, could be tortured.
And so to expect mass desertions within the Myanmar military I think is just not realistic. It's too is too scary for people to do. So just to bring this full circle in Myanmar, you now have a civilian population that believes it has nothing left to lose and is willing to give up work, food, shelter in order to protest. And you have a military that feels it has everything to lose and is willing to murder civilians in order to hold on to power and.
Given those two realities, it seems. You have the makings not just of a standoff, but of something much worse and darker than that.
Yeah, I think what you've described are these two immovable forces within Myanmar society.
On the one hand, you have these protesters who have all the right ideals on their side, right? They have democracy. They have the moral high ground. They're protecting political and economic reforms and opening to the world, which hadn't happened for six decades. Then on the other side, you have a military that has been conditioned to believe that they are in the right, that they have enemies at every corner. And the enemies in this case are the civilian population who are protesting and pushing back against their coup.
And so as we see this unfolding over the next days and weeks and months, I mean, the kind of sad and horrible reality is that we are probably going to see more killing. We're going to see refugee outflows to Thailand and to India. You know, the economy is going to continue to shrink and shrink and shrink. There's not going to be the economic opportunity for a young generation. And ultimately, you're going to have a country that really could be a failed state.
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Better help outcomes. Slash the daily. Better l.P dotcom. Slash the daily. Here's what else you need to know today. Over the weekend, the U.S. reached a new milestone in its vaccination efforts, administering an average of more than three million doses a day. On Saturday alone, the U.S. administered more than four million doses so far, with states expanding vaccine sites and capacity. About 60 million people have been fully vaccinated. And law enforcement officials have identified the suspect in Friday's deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol as 25 year old Noah Green, a vocal follower of the Nation of Islam, a black nationalist movement who had posted online about his personal struggles in recent months.
Green is accused of ramming a car into a barrier manned by two Capitol Police officers, killing one of them and then lunging at another with a knife before he was shot dead. The attack does not appear to be linked to the January 6th riot at the Capitol. But taken together, the two incidents are raising questions about how close the public should be allowed to get to the U.S. Capitol. Today's episode was produced by Diana with Austin Mitchell, Annie Brown, Michael Simon Johnson and Luke VanDerBeek.
It was edited by MJ Davis. Let Page Kowit and Lisa Tobin engineered by Marion Lozano and contains original music by Marion Lozano and Rachelle Banjar.
That's it for The Daily, I'm Michael Barbaro. See you tomorrow. According to the Federal Reserve, the average net worth of white families is nearly 700 percent higher than black families. MassMutual, a proud sponsor of black history, continued believes that racial inequality is driven by a disparity of economic opportunity and that we can all help end it with a growing list of programs that support minority business and fund black education. MassMutual is working to close the gap and help people in all communities secure their futures and protect their loved ones.
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