© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Myanmar Security Forces Kill More Than A Dozen Protesters


Myanmar over the weekend saw its most violent day since the coup on February 1. That's the day when the military, which is always powerful, deposed the country's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi. The United Nations says that at least 18 people were killed throughout the country on Sunday. Police opened fire on protesters, who've taken to the streets multiple times since the coup. Hundreds of people were also detained over the weekend. Reporter Michael Sullivan has been following events in Myanmar, and he's now on the line from nearby Thailand. Hey there, Michael.


INSKEEP: What kind of news is coming out of Myanmar today?

SULLIVAN: Today, things seem to be a lot more quiet than they were yesterday. The protesters are back, but they're back in smaller numbers, though the police are still out in force. So far, there have been no reports of serious violence, unlike yesterday, which was really grim. I mean, we saw videos coming out pretty early in the morning of the police and, in some cases, soldiers coming after the protesters hard not just in Yangon but in the second city, Mandalay, and many other cities and towns all over the country. And the message was clear. We've been restrained up until now, but that's over.

INSKEEP: And just, of course, we're working on fragmentary evidence here. It's what you see in a video rather than being an eyewitness account necessarily. But based on those videos, what do these protests look like? Are these large crowds of people? Were they confronted by overwhelming numbers of police? What did it look like on the streets based on those videos?

SULLIVAN: There are huge numbers of people on the streets, but the protesters really aren't very well-prepared to meet a very well-armed and well-protected riot police, right? And that's basically what happens. You see a sea of protesters. Then you see the police wade into that sea with tear gas, with rubber bullets and with live ammunition.

INSKEEP: Well, what can the - what, if anything, could restrain the military at this point, which has now held power once again for about a month?

SULLIVAN: Honestly, I'd say very little. In the absence of any concerted, coordinated effort by the international community, the military will probably do what it's done before when confronted with widespread civil unrest in 1988 and 2007. And that's kill people until the problem goes away. The Biden administration has imposed targeted sanctions on the military leaders. And after yesterday's violence, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said there would be additional actions to impose further costs on those responsible for yesterday's violence and the coup. But unless the U.S. can get its regional allies on board - and Japan and Singapore are two that come to mind, some of the biggest investors in Myanmar, yeah? - that complicates things. Until that happens or unless that happens, Myanmar's military isn't going anywhere. It hasn't been afraid of sanctions in the past. I think it's highly unlikely they will be now.

INSKEEP: Do the protesters seem in any way intimidated by the show of force yesterday?

SULLIVAN: They might have been a little shocked by the show of force yesterday, but I think they're not going to let up. And that's part of the problem - yeah? - in terms of a peaceful resolution because there doesn't seem to be any room for compromise. The military isn't going to suddenly cave in and say, right, our bad. Here's your government back. And the protesters say they'll accept nothing less. There's a foreign ministers meeting tomorrow of the Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ph), or ASEAN, to discuss it. Maybe they can come up with something. But I think that's a big ask.

INSKEEP: Very briefly, where's Aung San Suu Kyi?

SULLIVAN: She was seen in court in a video link today. She was brought up on a third charge. The first two came last week and the week before. So it's clear that the military is trying to figure out ways it can convict her of something, Steve, so she can't run again for public office if and when this thing gets sorted.

INSKEEP: Reporter Michael Sullivan, thanks for the update.

SULLIVAN: You're welcome, Steve.


Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.