Wednesday, March 31, 2021
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“The junta will stop at nothing to achieve its ends”

Dozens of dead, including children. According to the UN, the army violently cracked down on pro-democracy protests in several towns in Burma on Saturday (March 27). According to the international organization, the provisional death toll stands at at least 89 dead. The country has been going through a serious crisis since civilian head of government Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted from power in a military coup on February 1. Despite significant mobilization, especially by the country’s youth, the ruling junta seems determined to repress demonstrations more and more violently. A movement that could be further amplified, according to Sophie Boisseau du Rocher, an Asian specialist and researcher at the French Institute of International Relations.

Franceinfo: Are you surprised by the violence of the repression of the pro-democracy movement?

Sophie Boisseau du Rocher: I am very shocked, but nevertheless not surprised, when you know how the army is used to behave. Just remember that the general Min Aung Hlaing is the one who led the repression against the Rohyngas in 2017. We know the dramatic result and we imagine that he will stop at nothing, no tools, no repression, to achieve his ends. We are in a terrible situation, where the law is completely trampled on by force.

Why is the army showing so much violence?

The army’s strategy is simple: to demonstrate force and crush the pro-democracy movement. She did not expect the magnitude of the resistance. We soon reach the end of the two months, which is symbolic, since the resistance in 1988 [année durant laquelle la répression de manifestations pacifiques s’étaient soldées par près de 8 000 morts] had lasted more than two months. We’re probably headed for a real bloodbath.

The Burmese are used to the actions of the army. This seeks to calm the situation because for the moment, the country is absolutely unmanageable, the military cannot conduct their affairs as they wish. We are in a state of flux which puts the military in a very uncomfortable situation and can push them to become potentially very violent.

“The situation is serious for the Burmese, because they are faced with the inconceivable choice of their life or democracy. And they are not even sure that if they make the sacrifice of their life, they will achieve democracy. “

Sophie Boisseau du Rocher

to franceinfo

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Does the pro-democracy movement risk weakening in the face of the army’s response?

We really have a resistance that is being organized and that is a new phenomenon. There is the Committee of Deputies and Senators of the dissolved Parliament, the CRPH, which acts in a sovereign way and which is a real hope.

“This committee is the only legitimate representation for the demonstrators. For them, it is this committee which must represent Burma on the international scene.”

Sophie Boisseau du Rocher

to franceinfo

The real difficulty is that the telecommunications are under control, so it is very difficult to transmit orders. One could fear that this committee will gradually evaporate while it structures these actions and acts as much as possible to find a negotiated solution.

Will the Burmese youth, very mobilized, continue to participate in this pro-democracy movement?

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This mobilization of youth is new and very important, since 25% of the population is between 15 and 30 years old. They seem very motivated, even if we feel that the support of the older generations is weakening.

“The older generations know the violent actions of the army because they have lived them. They know that the army can harm this youth, which still represents a promise for the future.”

Sophie Boisseau du Rocher

to franceinfo

We are in a very specific situation where young people want to expose themselves but are a little more isolated from the general social body. However, today there is awareness in the whole of society. A community of Sangha monks [de Mandalay] made a statement last week that she did not support the military’s actions and called for a strike. It is a symbolic gesture that could restore confidence in young people.

The European Union and the United Kingdom condemned the actions of the military junta. The United States has already imposed sanctions on the country. Does this scare the army?

We know that the declarations or the sanctions have no impact on the Burmese army. It has only one desire: to continue to capture the country’s resources, whether political or economic. It does not care about the sanctions which do it a very relative harm, since, with the strength of its experience, it has placed its financial resources elsewhere than in Western countries.

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