No one quite knew why the soldiers wandered into Aye Myat Thu’s neighborhood of neat wooden houses, each painted a cheerful hue, sprays of bougainvillea adding more splashes of color.
Mr. Soe Oo took a coconut from the family palm tree and hacked at it carefully, lest the sweet water spill out. Sounds like the pop of firecrackers echoed in the hazy heat.
Aye Myat Thu grabbed her slice of coconut. The popping noises drew her down the path from her house. Past the trees, a camouflaged presence stalked, according to other neighborhood residents. No one in the family saw him.
The hole from the bullet was so small that Mr. Soe Oo said he couldn’t understand how it had extinguished the life of his daughter, another random victim of a trigger-happy military.
“She just fell down,” he said. “And she died.”
The funeral was the next day. Buddhist monks chanted, and mourners gathered around the coffin, raising their hands in the three-fingered salute from “The Hunger Games” that has become the protesters’ symbol of defiance. Garlands of jasmine framed the girl’s face, the bullet still lodged somewhere in her skull.
“I want to tear off the soldier’s skin as revenge,” said U Thein Nyunt, her uncle. “She was just an innocent child with a kind heart. She was our angel.”
Around her body, the family placed some of Aye Myat Thu’s favorite belongings: a set of crayons, a few dolls and a purple rabbit, some Fair and Lovely cream, a Monopoly board and a drawing of Hello Kitty she had sketched two days before she was killed. On the paper, next to the cartoon cat, Aye Myat Thu had written out her name in careful English letters.
“I feel empty,” said Ms. Toe Toe Lwin, her mother.
Right after the funeral, Aye Myat Thu was cremated, the flames burning her treasures with her. In other parts of the country, soldiers have stolen corpses of those they killed, perhaps to conceal the evidence of their brutality. In one case, they exhumed a child’s grave.
The family didn’t want the same for their little girl.
Ten days after seizing power in Myanmar, the generals issued their first command to journalists: Stop using the words “coup,” “regime” and “junta” to describe the military’s takeover of the government. Few reporters heeded the Orwellian directive, and the junta embraced a new goal — crushing all free expression.
Since then, the regime has arrested at least 56 journalists, outlawed online news outlets known for hard-edge reporting and crippled communications by cutting off mobile data service. Three photojournalists have been shot and wounded while taking photographs of the anti-coup demonstrations.
With professional journalists under pressure, many young people who came of age during a decade of social media and information sharing in Myanmar have jumped into the fray, calling themselves citizen journalists and risking their lives to help document the military’s brutality. They take photographs and videos with their phones and share them online when they get access. It is a role so common now they are known simply as “CJs.”
“They are targeting professional journalists so our country needs more CJs,” said Ma Thuzar Myat, one of the citizen journalists. “I know I might get killed at some point for taking a video record of what is happening. But I won’t step back.”
the Tatmadaw, as the military is known, stamped out a pro-democracy movement by massacring an estimated 3,000 people. She said she saw it as her duty to help capture evidence of today’s violence even though one soldier had already threatened to kill her if she didn’t stop.
The regime’s apparent goal is to turn back the clock to a time when the military ruled the country, the media was firmly in its grip and only the wealthiest people had access to cellphones and the internet. But the new generation of young people who grew up with the internet say they are not giving up their freedoms without a fight.
Facebook became the dominant online forum. A vibrant media sprouted online and newsstands overflowed with competing papers.
Since the Feb. 1 coup, protests have erupted almost daily — often with young people at the forefront — and a broad-based civil disobedience movement has brought the economy to a virtual halt. In response, soldiers and the police have killed at least 536 people.
At the United Nations on Wednesday, the special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, warned that “a blood bath is imminent.” The regime has arrested thousands, including the country’s civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. On Thursday, one of her lawyers said she had been charged with violating the official secrets act, adding to a list of alleged offenses.
While the military uses state-owned media to spread its propaganda and fire off warnings, attacks on journalists have increased drastically in recent weeks, as have arrests.
hop on his good leg as they lead him away.
Another photojournalist shot that day, U Si Thu, 36, was hit in his left hand as he was holding his camera to his face and photographing soldiers in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city. He said he believes the soldier who shot him was aiming for his head.
“I had two cameras,” he said,“so it was obvious that I am a photojournalist even though I had no press helmet or vest.”
“I’m sure that the military junta is targeting journalists because they know we are showing the world the reality on the ground and they want to stop us by arresting or killing us,” he added.
Of the 56 journalists arrested, half have been released, according to a group that is tracking arrests. Among those freed were reporters for The Associated Press and the BBC.
But 28 remain in custody, including at least 15 who face prison sentences of up to three years under an unusual law that prohibits the dissemination of information that might induce military officers to disregard or fail in their duties.
Ma Kay Zon Nway, 27, a reporter for Myanmar Now, live streamed her own arrest in late February as she was running from the police in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Her video shows the police firing in the air as protesters flee. The sound of her labored breathing is audible as the police catch up and take her away.
She is among those who have been charged under the vague and sweeping statute. She has been allowed to meet just once in person with her lawyer.
Mr. Swe Win, the Myanmar Now editor, himself served seven years in prison for protesting in 1998. “All these court proceedings are being done just for the sake of formality,” he said, adding, “We cannot expect any fair treatment.”
With mobile communications blocked, Facebook banned and nightly internet shutdowns, Myanmar’s mainstream media has come to rely on citizen journalists for videos and news tips, said Mr. Myint Kyaw, the former press council secretary.
One of them, Ko Aung Aung Kyaw, 26, was taking videos of the police arresting people in his Yangon neighborhood when an officer spotted him. The officer swore at him,aimed his rifle and fired, Mr. Aung Aung Kyaw’s video shows.
The bullet hit a wall in front of him.
“I know that recording these kinds of things is very risky and I might get shot to death or arrested,” he said. “But I believe I need to keep doing it for the sake of having a record of evidence to punish them.”
Capt. Tun Myat Aung leaned over the hot pavement in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, and picked up bullet casings. Nausea crept into his throat. The shells, he knew, meant that rifles had been used, real bullets fired at real people.
That night, in early March, he logged on to Facebook to discover that several civilians had been killed in Yangon by soldiers of the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s military is known. They were men in uniform, just like him.
Days later, the captain, of the 77th Light Infantry Division, notorious for its massacres of civilians across Myanmar, slipped off base and deserted. He is now in hiding.
“I love the military so much,” he said. “But the message I want to give my fellow soldiers is: If you are choosing between the country and the Tatmadaw, please choose the country.”
ousting Myanmar’s civilian leadership last month, setting off nationwide protests, it has only sharpened its savage reputation, killing more than 420 people and assaulting, detaining or torturing thousands of others, according to a monitoring group.
On Saturday, the deadliest day since the Feb. 1 coup, security forces killed more than 100 people, according to the United Nations. Among them were seven children, including two 13-year-old boys and a 5-year-old boy.
In-depth interviews with four officers, two of whom have deserted since the coup, paint a complex picture of an institution that has thoroughly dominated Myanmar for six decades. From the moment they enter boot camp, Tatmadaw troops are taught that they are guardians of a country — and a religion — that will crumble without them.
They occupy a privileged state within a state, in which soldiers live, work and socialize apart from the rest of society, imbibing an ideology that puts them far above the civilian population. The officers described being constantly monitored by their superiors, in barracks and on Facebook. A steady diet of propaganda feeds them notions of enemies at every corner, even on city streets.
The cumulative effect is a bunkered worldview, in which orders to kill unarmed civilians are to be followed without question. While the soldiers say there is some dissatisfaction with the coup, they regard a wholesale breaking of ranks as unlikely. That makes more bloodshed likely in the coming days and months.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the civilian leader deposed and locked up in last month’s coup. Her father, Gen. Aung San, founded the Tatmadaw.
Today, the Tatmadaw’s foes are again domestic, not foreign: the millions of people who have poured onto the streets for anti-coup rallies or taken part in strikes.
On Saturday, which was Armed Forces Day, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the commander in chief and instigator of the coup, gave a speech vowing to “protect people from all danger.” As tanks and goose-stepping soldiers paraded down the broad avenues of Naypyidaw, the bunker-filled capital built by an earlier junta, security forces shot protesters and bystanders alike, with more than 40 towns seeing violence.
intensity of opposition to the putsch. Officers trained in psychological warfare regularly plant conspiracy theories about democracy in Facebook groups favored by soldiers, according to social media experts and one of the officers who spoke with The Times.
In this paranoid world, the thumping that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy delivered to the military’s proxy party in last November’s elections was easily portrayed as electoral fraud.
A Muslim cabal, funded by oil-rich sheikhdoms, is accused of trying to destroy the Buddhist faith of Myanmar’s majority. Influential monks, who count army generals among those praying at their feet, preach that the Tatmadaw and Buddhist monkhood must unite to combat Islam.
In the Tatmadaw’s telling, a rapacious West could conquer Myanmar at any moment. Fear of invasion is thought to be one reason that military rulers moved the capital early in this century from Yangon, near the coast, to the landlocked plains of Naypyidaw.
subvert the country with piles of cash for activists and politicians. A military spokesman implied during a news conference that people protesting the coup, too, were foreign-funded.
Captain Tun Myat Aung said that in his first year at the Defense Services Academy, he was shown a film that portrayed democracy activists in 1988 as frenzied animals slicing off soldiers’ heads. In truth, thousands of protesters and others were killed by the Tatmadaw that year.
One of Captain Tun Myat Aung’s men was recently struck in the eye by a projectile from a protester’s slingshot, he said. But the captain acknowledged that the casualties were remarkably lopsided in the other direction.
Tatmadaw Facebook feeds may show soldiers besieged by violent protesters armed with homemade firebombs. But it is the security forces who have assaulted medics, killed children and forced bystanders to crawl in obeisance.
According to the soldiers who spoke with The Times, a suspension of mobile data access over the past two weeks was aimed as much at isolating troops who were beginning to question their orders as it was at cutting off the wider population.
most notoriously against Rohingya Muslims, but they have also targeted other ethnic groups, like the Karen, the Kachin and the Rakhine.
When the 77th Light Infantry Division was fighting in Shan State, in northeastern Myanmar, Captain Tun Myat Aung said he could feel the disgust of people from various ethnic groups. As a member of another ethnic minority, the Chin, he understood their fear of the Bamar majority.
Although he says he shot only to wound, not to kill, Captain Tun Myat Aung spent eight years on the front lines. He developed a rapport with just one group of ethnic minority villagers during that entire time, he said.
“People hate soldiers for what the soldiers did to them,” he said.
But the Tatmadaw also saved him. His mother died when he was 10. His father drank. He was sent to a boarding school for ethnic minority students, where he excelled. At the Defense Services Academy, he studied physics and English.
“The military became my family,” he said. “I was automatically happy when I saw my soldier’s uniform.”
On Feb. 1, in the pre-dawn torpor of Yangon, Captain Tun Myat Aung clambered onto a military truck, half asleep, strapping on his helmet. He didn’t know what was going on until a fellow soldier whispered about a coup.
“At that moment, I felt like I lost hope for Myanmar,” he said.
Days later, he saw his major holding a box of bullets — real ones, not rubber. He cried that night.
“I realized,” he said, “that most of the soldiers see the people as the enemy.”
At a military parade on Saturday, the general who led the overthrow of Myanmar’s civilian government last month said the army was determined “to protect people from all danger.”
Before the day was over, the security forces under his command had shot and killed a 5-year-old boy, two 13-year-old boys and a 14-year-old girl. A baby girl in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, was struck in the eye with a rubber bullet, although her parents said she was expected to live.
The slain children were among dozens of people killed on Saturday as the security forces cracked down on protests across Myanmar, in what appeared to be one of the deadliest days since the Feb. 1 coup led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, commander of the Tatmadaw, as the military is known. One news outlet, Myanmar Now, put Saturday’s death toll as high as 80.
“Today is a day of shame for the armed forces,” Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for a group of elected officials who say they represent Myanmar’s government, said in a statement.
a medal and a ceremonial sword.
Russia has been an important supplier of weapons to the Myanmar military, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council it can be counted on, along with China, to block any attempt by the international body to impose sanctions on Myanmar.
The United States said on Thursday that it was putting its own financial sanctions on two military-owned conglomerates that control a large segment of Myanmar’s economy.
shots had been fired at its cultural center in Yangon, the American Center, on Saturday. The embassy said that no one was hurt and that it was investigating.
the Karen National Union said on Facebook that it had overrun and seized a Tatmadaw camp. The group posted photos of weapons it said it had seized, including what appeared to be machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.
The Tatmadaw has fought for decades with various ethnic groups in Myanmar, including the Karen. Some opposition leaders hope that urban protesters, who are mainly from the majority Bamar ethnic group, can build a coalition with the ethnic groups to resist the Tatmadaw.
The widespread killings on Saturday came a day after military-run television threatened protesters with being “shot in the back and the back of the head” if they persisted in opposing military rule.
According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, which has tracked arrests and killings since the coup, about a quarter of those killed before Saturday were shot in the head.
The killings on Saturday took place in more than two dozen cities across the country. Many of the victims were bystanders.
In Meiktila, a city in central Myanmar, 14-year-old Ma Pan Ei Phyu was at home when the security forces began shooting randomly in the neighborhood, said her father, U Min Min Tun. The family did not hear a shot, and they didn’t realize that she had been killed until she fell to the floor. She had been hit in the chest.
In Yangon, 13-year-old Maung Wai Yan Tun was playing outside when the police and soldiers arrived. Scared, he ran away and was shot, his mother told the online news outlet Mizzima. The family went to recover his body, but finding it surrounded by security forces, they dared not approach.
One of the bloodiest incidents took place in Yangon’s Dala Township. On Friday afternoon, the police arrested two protesters at their home.
Soon after, neighbors gathered outside the police station and demanded their release. The police responded by firing rubber bullets and stun grenades at the crowd, one witness said.
The residents retreated but returned to the police station after midnight. This time, after a lengthy standoff, the security forces opened fire with live ammunition. At least 10 people were killed and 40 injured.
In a jungle in the borderlands of Myanmar, the troops sweated through basic training. They learned how to load a rifle, pull the pin of a hand grenade and assemble a firebomb.
These cadets are not members of Myanmar’s military, which seized power last month and quickly imposed a battlefield brutality on the country’s populace. Instead, they are an eclectic corps of students, activists and ordinary office workers who believe that fighting back is the only way to defeat one of the world’s most ruthless armed forces.
“I see the military as wild animals who can’t think and are brutal with their weapons,” said a woman from Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, who was now in the forest for a week of boot camp. Like others who have joined the armed struggle, she did not want her name published for fear that the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, would target her.
reign of terror. The Tatmadaw has cracked down on peaceful protesters and unarmed bystanders alike, killing at least 275 people since the coup, according to a monitoring group.
Other forms of resistance have continued in Myanmar. A mass civil disobedience campaign has idled the economy, with a nationwide strike on Wednesday leaving towns devoid of business activity. In creative acts of defiance, protesters have lined up rows of stuffed animals and origami cranes as stand-ins for demonstrators who could get shot.
But there is a growing recognition that such efforts may not be enough, that the Tatmadaw needs to be countered on its own terms. Last week, remnants of the ousted Parliament, who consider themselves the legitimate government, said that a “revolution” was needed to save the country. They have called for the formation of a federal army that respects various ethnic groups, not just the majority Bamar.
“If diplomacy fails, if the killings continue, the people of Myanmar will be forced to defend themselves,” said Dr. Sasa, a spokesman for the ousted Parliament who is on the run after having been charged with high treason.
ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims.
The country has trembled as the Tatmadaw has brought its war machine to the cities, imprisoning Myanmar’s civilian leaders last month and erasing a decade of political and economic reform.
Since then, dozens of young protesters have been killed by single gunshots to the head. Security forces have fired into homes at random, leaving families cowering in back rooms. On Tuesday, a 7-year-old girl sitting at home in her father’s lap was shot in the city of Mandalay, in what appeared to be a collateral death. (Hundreds of protesters were released on Wednesday after weeks of detention.)
The Tatmadaw is flouting the international rules of war. Security forces have fired at ambulances and tortured detainees. Given the brutality, members of Myanmar’s frontline of democracy say there is no choice but to take up arms.
Most days in the concrete conflict zones of Yangon, Ko Soe Win Naing, a 26-year-old sailor, prepares for war: a GoPro camera affixed to his helmet, a balaclava over his head, vials of tear gas in his vest pockets, a sheathed sword on his back and a gas mask at the ready. His weapon of choice is a firework fashioned into a sort of grenade.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign against the generals who locked her up for 15 years. (The award was tarnished by her defense of the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.)
But most struggles in Myanmar have involved guns and slingshots. In the mountainous periphery of the country, ethnic armed groups have been fighting for autonomy for decades. After soldiers gunned down hundreds of protesters in 1988, thousands of students and activists fled into the forests and formed armed groups that fought alongside ethnic insurgencies.
Of late, their tactics have extended to information warfare. On Wednesday, anti-coup protesters said they had launched hacking attacks on two military-linked banks.
For the new generation, the decision to fight is born of a desire to protect what the country has gained over the past decade. Myanmar was once one of the most isolated countries on Earth, as a xenophobic and economically inept junta cleaved the country from the international community. Then came tentative political reforms, an internet link to the world and chances at private-sector jobs.
The notion that Myanmar might return to a frightened past has galvanized some protesters. One young woman, who is about to start military training in the jungle, said she remembered huddling as a child with her family and listening secretly to BBC radio broadcasts, an act that once could have earned imprisonment.
“I decided to risk my life and fight back any possible way I can,” she said. “If we oppose nationwide in unison, we will make the military have sleepless nights and insecure lives, just as they have done to us.”
The security forces, she continued, are following orders and lack a greater purpose.
“We have our political faith, we have our dreams,” she said. “This is the fight in which we have to use our brains and our bodies.”
If any armed rebellion is to succeed, it will need the backing of the ethnic insurgencies that have long been at war with the Tatmadaw. Last week, the Kachin Independence Army, which represents the Kachin of northern Myanmar, launched a surprise strike against the Tatmadaw.
On Thursday, five Tatmadaw soldiers were killed by the Karen National Liberation Army, which fights for the Karen ethnicity. Last year, hundreds of Tatmadaw troops died while battling another ethnic insurgency in western Rakhine State.
“If ethnic armed groups launch offensives, it could help relieve pressure on the protesters in the cities,” said Padoh Saw Hser Bwe, a general secretary of the Karen National Union.
With the Tatmadaw’s most notorious brigades now stationed in the cities, focused on anti-coup protesters rather than ethnic civil war, the military’s killing continues unabated.
On Monday in Mandalay, Ko Tun Tun Aung, 14, wandered out of his home to grab a pot of water. A bullet pierced his chest, killing him instantly, according to his relatives. At least seven others were also shot dead in the same neighborhood that day. Two were rescue workers.
Ko Thet Aung, a 23-year-old frontline defender, is from the same Mandalay neighborhood where the killings occurred. For three weeks, he has been manning barricades and dodging gunfire.
“The more they crack down, the more we are motivated to fight back,” he said. “We are from Generation Z, but I would call ourselves Gen-P — Generation Protection. I will die protecting my country at the front lines.”
Bank tellers’ windows are gathering dust. Cargo at the port sits uncollected. And in grand government ministries in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar, stacks of documents are curling in the humidity. There are few people to process all the paperwork.
Since the military seized power in a coup last month, an entire nation has come to a standstill. From hospitals, railways and dockyards to schools, shops and trading houses, much of society has stopped showing up for work in an attempt to stymie the military regime and force it to return authority to a civilian government.
While demonstrators continue to brave bullets — at least 220 people have been killed since the Feb. 1 coup, according to a local group that monitors political imprisonments and deaths — the quiet persistence of this mass civil disobedience movement has grown into a potent weapon against the military. For all the planning that went into the putsch, the generals seem to have been utterly unprepared for the breadth and depth of resistance against them.
“They robbed the power of the people from our elected government,” said Daw Cho Cho Naing, a clerk at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who has refused to work along with most of her colleagues. “Our country’s democracy journey has just started, and we can’t lose it again.”
The effect of millions of people refusing to do their jobs has been dramatic, even if the military is built to withstand pressure. Up to 90 percent of national government activity has ceased, according to officials from four ministries. Factories are idled. In February, the national business registry recorded fewer than 190 new registrations, compared with nearly 1,300 the year before.
In a country where at least a third of the population was already living below the poverty line, civil disobedience is bringing tremendous self-imposed hardship to the people. But the striking class hopes that just a few more weeks or months of financial coercion will starve the military of the work force and resources it needs to run the country.
On Sunday, dozens were killed in factory districts in Yangon, the largest city in Myanmar, when security forces cracked down on striking protesters with lethal force. The area is now under martial law, but many workers have vowed not to give up.
“We might be poor in terms of money, but we are rich with the value of loving our country,” said Ma Thuzar Lwin, whose husband, Ko Chan Thar, a construction worker, was shot in the neck during a recent attack.
Early this week, as her husband struggled for his life, Ms. Thuzar Lwin voiced her aspirations for him. “I want him to see with his own eyes the day the junta steps down,” she said.
Mr. Chan Thar died on Wednesday.
The Myanmar military, which has ruled the country for most of the past 60 years, is adept at killing. It is less practiced in running an economy that began integrating into the global financial system during a decade of reform.
In raids following the coup, soldiers rounded up hundreds of officials considered faithful to the civilian government led by the National League for Democracy party. An Australian economic adviser to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the nation’s de facto civilian leader, was also locked up. More than 200 employees of the central bank, including five deputy directors, have been fired for their civil disobedience.
As a result, taxes aren’t being collected in Myanmar. The bulk of licenses for imports, exports and much else are no longer being granted. With employees of private banks joining the strike, most money flows in and out of the country have stopped. Many companies have been unable to pay employees. Military banks have limited withdrawals for fear of runs on cash.
Last week, the military ordered private banks to transfer funds deposited by agricultural traders to state or military banks so the money could be withdrawn for the upcoming harvest. The order has gone unheeded.
“They are the king now, but we are not their servants,” said Daw Phyu Phyu Cho, a loan officer for a private bank who has joined the strike. “If we all unite, they can’t do anything.”
Myanmar is now short of many things at once: gasoline for cars, imported grains and legumes, foreign toothpaste. In the Yangon area, retail prices for palm oil have increased 20 percent since the coup, according to the World Food Program.
People have gotten used to long lines, for A.T.M. withdrawals, for pension collection, for handouts of rice and curry. Striking factory workers are having to choose between clamping on hard hats and goggles to join a protest or waiting in the hot sun for whatever basic necessity might be on offer that day.
For now, informal financing networks are helping to ease some of the pain of lost wages. In Mandalay, the second-largest city in Myanmar, a single Facebook group run by ordinary citizens has raised funds to support nearly 5,000 people who are participating in the civil disobedience movement, which is known by the abbreviation C.D.M.
“Myanmar people are so generous in their donations to people in need,” said U Aung Htay Myint, one of the organizers of the Mandalay effort.
Myanmar’s economy, one of the least developed in Asia after decades of military mismanagement, was already reeling from the coronavirus, which hit the garment and tourism industries particularly hard. With the coup, foreign investors are feeling skittish. Toyota has delayed plans for a factory opening. The World Bank has paused disbursements in the country.
Sanctions by Western governments on military officers and companies have piled up. Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department banned American dealings with, among other businesses, a gym and a restaurant owned by the children of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the military chief who led the coup. The United States government has frozen about $1 billion in assets held by Myanmar in an American financial institution.
But the military still has plenty of income streams, most notably the country’s oil and gas fields. U Ye Kyaw Thu worked as an offshore platform technician for the Shwe gas project for a decade. Most of his colleagues are foreigners, and he knows that other Myanmar workers will be brought in to replace him. Still, Mr. Ye Kyaw Thu said participating in the strike was the right choice for him
“It’s all I can do,” he said.
A group of legislators that says it represents the ousted Parliament has written to foreign oil and gas companies requesting that they cease payments to the regime lest it “sustain the current military junta’s violent rule and enrich its leaders.”
But extraction of Shwe natural gas, which is sent to China, hasn’t decreased since the coup. Such oil and gas earnings add up to $90 million a month to the regime’s coffers, according to estimates from the disbanded Parliament.
Beyond oil and gas, the military and its vast business holdings profit from the illegal collection of natural resources, such as jade and timber, which brings in income rivaling the country’s official revenues.
“So many of their funds come from black markets,” said Dr. Sasa, a special envoy to the United Nations for the ousted civilian authority.
The civil disobedience movement won’t halt such illicit activity. In some cases, as with the production of methamphetamine and other drugs, production may boom in the shadowy spaces of political conflict.
In the meantime, Myanmar’s citizens are paying the greatest price. A township administrator in Shan State, who asked not to have his name published because of the danger of speaking out, described how he was hauled in for interrogation after participating in the civil servant strike. After escaping through the jungle, he is now in hiding.
In Yangon, Ko Soe Naing, a garment factory worker, said he recently watched as a fellow striking worker was shot in the head and killed. Mr. Soe Naing earned about $115 per month for his job, barely a living wage.
“We have nothing to lose,” he said. “As a basic laborer, we only have one choice. It’s to fight back against the junta.”
Last week, before dawn, soldiers descended on a housing complex for railway staff in Yangon. According to eyewitnesses, the soldiers demanded that strikers who had shut down the country’s rail system leave their homes immediately. All 700 or so residents left, grabbing armfuls of possessions at gunpoint.
U Ko Ko Zaw, one of the residents, scrambled out of his house with all that he owned: a suitcase of personal effects, a jug of cooking oil and a live chicken. Later that day, he sold the bird for money.
“It’s OK to die of hunger under military rule, it’s OK if they fire me,” Mr. Ko Ko Zaw said. “I will keep joining the C.D.M. because I believe it can bring down their economy.”
Soldiers and police officers shot and killed at least 18 people in Myanmar over the weekend, as they pressed their campaign of attrition against protesters who have defied them in cities and towns across the country.
Despite weeks of killings by the security forces, a nationwide civil-disobedience movement — which has paralyzed much of the economy as well as the government’s operations — shows no sign of waning, a month and a half after the Feb. 1 military coup that ousted the civilian leadership.
“The world is upside down in Myanmar,” said U Tin Tun, who said he saw military personnel in the city of Mandalay commandeer an ambulance and drive off with a woman who had been shot in the head by a fellow soldier.
“We must fight until we win,” said Mr. Tin Tun, 46. “The regime must step down. There is no place for any dictator here in Myanmar.”
known as the Tatmadaw, has run the country for most of the past 60 years. For the majority of that time, it has battled rebel armies made up of members of ethnic minorities, who inhabit areas rich in jade, timber and other resources.
the Nobel laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, it continued to operate without civilian oversight. In 2017, it waged an internationally condemned campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Muslim Rohingya in western Myanmar, killing thousands and forcing more than 700,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.
Now, the military has brought similar tactics — and some of the same military units — to cities and towns around the country. Soldiers and police officers, who are also under the authority of the army’s top commander, have fired into homes and crowds of protesters, beaten demonstrators in the streets and arrested many hundreds of people, some whom were later tortured, victims and witnesses have said.
the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, using Myanmar’s former name. He said its citizens would be eligible to stay in the United States for 18 months.
The weekend’s wave of killings began just before midnight on Friday, when a crowd of people gathered outside a police station in Yangon seeking the release of three brothers who had been seized from their home. The police opened fire, killing two men, relatives of the victims said.
On Saturday, the killing continued with four more victims in Yangon, three in the town of Pyay and one in the town of Chauk. Both towns sit on the Irrawaddy River north of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.
In Mandalay, the second-largest city, where the first major street protests against the coup were held on Feb. 4, four protesters were shot and killed by the security forces on Saturday, according to doctors who tried to treat the victims. A fifth death was confirmed by a relative of the victim.
On Sunday, three protesters in Yangon were shot and killed, according to the clinic where their bodies were taken.
In Mandalay on Saturday, after police officers began shooting at protesters, about two dozen students who had been demonstrating fled and took refuge in the nearby home of Daw Pyone, 49.
Police officers and soldiers followed them there and confronted Ms. Pyone, said her daughter, Ma Tin Nilar San, who hid with the students under blankets and mosquito nets. When Ms. Pyone refused to give them up, Ms. Tin Nilar San said, a soldier shot her in the head from a few feet away.
“I was crying in hiding and I was shaking because I was so afraid,” said Ms. Tin Nilar San, 28. “My mother gave birth to me by risking her life. But I could not save my mom’s life when she was in need and calling my name.”
The soldiers began firing randomly inside the house, and most of the students came out of hiding, she said. Eighteen were arrested.
After the police and soldiers left, Ms. Tin Nilar San said she and the remaining students carried her mother, who was still alive, to a nearby Buddhist monastery, where volunteer medics were treating wounded protesters.
They put her in an ambulance. But before it could be driven away, about 20 soldiers and police officers arrived, said Mr. Tin Tun, who was coordinating emergency care at the monastery. They broke down the door of the monastery, and everyone fled or hid, he said.
Mr. Tin Tun said he found a place to hide near the ambulance. He said he heard the soldiers say that Ms. Pyone appeared to have died, and that they should take her to a cemetery to be cremated.
The soldiers then drove off in the ambulance, he said. Ms. Pyone has not been seen since. Family members, hoping she might have survived, have looked for her at a prison and at police and military hospitals, without success.
“I cannot sleep, I cannot eat anything,” Ms. Tin Nilar San said. “I want my mother back. She is such a nice woman with a kind heart. She risked her life to save all the students hiding in our house.”
Until Thursday, Myaing, a small town in central Myanmar, was best known for its production of thanaka, a bark that is ground for use as a cooling cosmetic.
But in the late morning of March 11, the town, which can be traversed in 10 minutes, became synonymous with the brutality of the military that seized power last month. Myaing’s rain-slicked streets were mottled with blood as police officers shot into a cluster of unarmed civilians, killing at least eight people and injuring more than 20, according to witnesses and hospital officials.
U Myint Zaw Win was among the crowd that scattered with the bursts of live ammunition in the late morning, outside Myaing’s police station. When he looked back, he saw a body with half its head blown apart, on a street that he has walked all his life. He did not know whose body it was, but he said a mason and a bus driver were among the dead.
“They were shooting people like shooting birds,” Mr. Myint Zaw Win said of the police officers, some of whom he said he knows personally because Myaing is a small town where almost everyone knows each other.
70 people in Myanmar have been killed by security forces since the army staged its Feb. 1 coup, ousting a civilian leadership and returning the country to the nightmare of full military rule.
While the bulk of the deaths have been in big cities like Yangon and Mandalay, security forces have shot and killed people in at least 17 different towns across the country: Taungdwingyi, Myingyan, Salin, Kalay, Htee Lin and Pyapon, among others.
After analyzing more than 50 videos of such killings, Amnesty International concluded in a report published Thursday that the security forces were using battlefield weaponry on protesters. In some cases, commanders ordered extrajudicial killings, Amnesty International said, while in other instances bullets were sprayed indiscriminately.
worst attacks have been reserved for ethnic minorities, such as Rohingya Muslims whose persecution is being tried as genocide in international courts.
populace accustomed to massacres by the military. On Thursday, three people were shot dead in the cities of Yangon, Mandalay and Bago. Another person who had been shot on March 3 in the town of Myinchan succumbed to his injuries on Thursday as well.
Before the gunfire turned downtown Myaing into a battlefield on Thursday, residents had gathered daily, in hard hats and motorcycle helmets, to march against the military’s seizure of power last month. Its residents were just as determined as those in larger metropolises to speak out against the coup, during which dozens of elected politicians, including the civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, were detained.
On Thursday, a military spokesman accused Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi of having illicitly received 25 pounds of gold and about $600,000. Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi heads the National League for Democracy, which won the last two elections by landslides. She has been charged with various other crimes that could see her imprisoned for years, including the obscure infraction of possessing foreign walkie-talkies without proper import licenses.
Two days after the putsch, Myaing’s residents began marching down its half-paved streets, demanding that Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and other elected officials be returned to office. They have carried on every day since. On Thursday, at least two youth from a local monastery were arrested and a crowd gathered at the police station to find out why. They sat in quiet protest.
There was no warning that live ammunition was to come, witnesses said. The police refused to comment.
Around the same time, in Yangon, the nation’s largest city, security forces fired on a crowd in North Dagon township, striking Ko Chit Min Thu, a 25-year-old collector of recycled materials, in the head. He died almost immediately, his relatives and other protesters said.
Worried that security forces would seize the body — as has happened in recent days and in Mandalay on Thursday — other protesters carried Mr. Chit Min Thu away from the shooting zone.
By early afternoon, his body was back at home with mourners gathered around. A bandage obscured his fatal head wound. His widow, Ma Aye Chan Myint, keened, their two-year-old son by her side. She is pregnant, in her first trimester.
“Why didn’t they just shoot at the legs, why did they shoot at the head?” she asked. There was no answer.
Ms. Aye Chan Myint reached out to touch the feet and face of her husband, who went to protest each day with hopes that a surge of civilian strength could somehow dislodge the military from power.
“You said I should be proud,” she told her husband’s body. “I’m proud of you, my love.”
The soldiers from Myanmar’s army knocked on U Thein Aung’s door one morning last April as he was having tea with friends, and demanded that all of them accompany the platoon to another village.
When they reached a dangerous stretch in the mountains of Rakhine State, the men were ordered to walk 100 feet ahead. One stepped on a land mine and was blown to pieces. Metal fragments struck Mr. Thein Aung in his arm and his left eye.
“They threatened to kill us if we refused to go with them,” said Mr. Thein Aung, 65, who lost the eye. “It is very clear that they used us as human land mine detectors.”
The military and its brutal practices are an omnipresent fear in Myanmar, one that has intensified since the generals seized full power in a coup last month. As security forces gun down peaceful protesters on city streets, the violence that is commonplace in the countryside serves as a grisly reminder of the military’s long legacy of atrocities.
an ethnic cleansing campaign that a United Nations panel has described as genocidal. Soldiers have battled rebel ethnic armies with the same ruthlessness, using men and boys as human shields on the battlefield and raping women and girls in their homes.
The generals are now fully back in charge, and the Tatmadaw, as the military is known, has turned its guns on the masses, who have mounted a nationwide civil disobedience movement.
The crackdown widened on Monday in the face of a general strike, with security forces seizing control of universities and hospitals and annulling press licenses of five media organizations. At least three protesters were shot dead.
Tatmadaw. It came to power in a 1962 coup, saying that it had to safeguard national unity. For decades, it has fought to control parts of the country, inhabited by ethnic minority groups, that are rich in jade, timber and other natural resources.
During the last three years, the Tatmadaw has waged war intermittently against ethnic rebel armies in three states, Rakhine, Shan and Kachin. The most intense fighting has been in Rakhine, where the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine force, is seeking greater autonomy.
Civilians are often casualties in these long-running conflicts, as 15 victims, family members or witnesses in these three states attested in interviews with The New York Times.
was systematic and widespread during the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, Human Rights Watch found. The same fate befalls women of other ethnic groups in conflict areas.
“The Myanmar military is violating human rights in many ways,” said Zaw Zaw Min, founder of the Rakhine Human Rights Group. “Women are raped, villages are burned down, property is taken and people are taken as porters.”
In June, when soldiers arrived in U Gar village in Rakhine State, Daw Oo Htay Win, 37, said she hid in her house with her four children and newborn granddaughter. That night, the infant’s cries betrayed their presence to four soldiers, who entered the house. They gave her a choice: have sex with them or die. For the next two hours, three soldiers raped her while the fourth stood guard.
Ms. Oo Htay Win, her daughters and the baby slipped out the back door in the morning and took refuge in the city of Sittwe, where she now lives. She said her husband, who had been away, abandoned her after learning of the rape.
Though most victims of rape by soldiers stay silent, she brought criminal charges. After the soldiers confessed, they were tried, found guilty and sentenced to 20 years.
“I hate these three soldiers for destroying my life,” she said. “I have lost everything because of them.”
The convictions were a rare victory in a country where the military is seldom held accountable by civilians. And few victims receive compensation, even when they suffer permanent injuries and large financial losses. If they do, it’s minimal.
In the western part of Rakhine State, where traveling by river is common, the Tatmadaw often commandeers private boats to ferry troops and supplies. In March of 2019, U Maung Phyu Hla, 43, a boat owner from Mrauk-U Township, said soldiers forced him to take troops up the Lay Myo River to fight Arakan Army forces.
On the seventh trip upriver, they came under heavy fire. Shot in the thigh, Mr. Maung Phyu Hla said he slipped into the water and swam to a nearby village, where residents rescued him. An officer later gave him a token payment of about $350, a fraction of his losses and medical expenses.
“Who dares to complain?” he asked. “The answer is no one.”
Some villagers try to escape the conflicts, only to get caught up in violence anyway.
In March 2018, U Phoe Shan’s family and other villagers were fleeing from fighting in Kachin State in northern Myanmar. They were headed to a camp for displaced people when they encountered Tatmadaw forces on the road.
Mr. Phoe Shan, 48, said the soldiers ordered him to walk at the head of a group of about 50 troops through a forested area. Fifteen minutes into the woods, he said, he stepped on a mine. He was hospitalized for three weeks with wounds to his legs.
“If we protest, we may be shot dead,” he said. “It’s better to walk through a minefield.”
For the victims of these atrocities, life rarely returns to normal. Loved ones who have been taken never return home. Those who suffer crippling injuries find it difficult to work.
In Shan State in eastern Myanmar, U Thar Pu Ngwe, 46, who had been pressed into service, was struck in the leg by shrapnel when a soldier stepped on a mine.
He now walks with difficulty, and it takes him three times as long to go anywhere, he said. He has had to reduce the amount of land he farms, cutting his income by more than half.
“That incident changed my life,” he said. “I was a happy man but not anymore after that.”
He urged the Tatmadaw to stop using civilians in battle. “If you want to fight,” he said, “just do it on your own.”
Workplaces across Myanmar were shuttered on Monday, part of a general strike aimed at strangling the power of military rulers who toppled an elected government last month. But if manufacturing and commerce were idled, anger at the brutality of the military flared further, despite the increased presence of security forces in urban centers and a tougher clampdown on the press.
At least two participants in a mass protest movement were shot dead on Monday in Myitkyina, a city in northern Myanmar, where Roman Catholic nuns dropped to their knees to plead for soldiers to stop the killing. Another protester was fatally shot in the abdomen in Pyapon, a town not far from Yangon, Myanmar’s commercial capital. The deaths were reported by medical workers and relatives.
And in Yangon itself, hundreds of people were trapped in a security force cordon on Monday night, fearing arrest or worse. “Help,” wrote one of the people who said he was stuck. “The military troops have blocked every single way out.”
More than 60 people have been killed since a Feb. 1 coup ousted Myanmar’s civilian leaders, returning the country to full military rule. About 1,800 others have been detained, according to a local group that monitors political prisoners.
On Monday evening, the restrictions tightened even more when state television, which is now controlled by the military, announced that licenses had been revoked for five independent media organizations, a severe blow to what had been the nation’s vibrant free press. Dozens of reporters have been detained since the putsch. The stripping of the media licenses could now make their very act of reporting illegal.
Back when a military junta fully ruled Myanmar for nearly five decades, censorship committees regularly excised news from the country’s newspapers, leaving rumors to flourish amid the information blackout.
On Sunday, security forces descended on universities, hospital compounds and Buddhist pagoda complexes, where they established makeshift operations centers.
“It’s totally unacceptable to allow the military to base itself in the hospital,” said Dr. Kyaw Swar, a medical officer at Yangon General Hospital, where soldiers set up camp. “Hospitals are not the place for them. They have been insolent. But they have guns.”
In the city of Mandalay, in central Myanmar, military trucks stormed university campuses, including Mandalay Technological University, where a convoy of four vehicles arrived amid tear gas and rubber bullets, according to witnesses.
Ko Kyaw Thu, a security guard at Mandalay Technological University, sustained a rubber bullet wound below his left eye, which required surgery.
“They are terrorists,” he said, of the military. “I think they are trying to prepare for a brutal war against the people.”
At the Mahamuni Buddha Temple in Mandalay, U Kesara Viwunsa, the abbot, said that soldiers had taken over the pagoda’s grounds for a month.
“No one comes to worship here anymore because people are afraid of them,” he said.
The Global New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper that acts as a loudspeaker for the military rulers, said on Monday that such spaces were being occupied because members of the public had requested that the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is known, “control the public universities and hospitals and to take action effectively for the benefit of the people.”
The publication also warned that even working “indirectly” with a group of lawmakers who have set themselves up as a kind of government in exile would be considered a crime.
For days now, people in Myanmar have been discussing “R2P,” shorthand for the United Nations’ “responsibility to protect” policy, which allows for intervention by the international community “should peaceful means be inadequate and national authorities manifestly fail to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
The principle was used to help justify foreign military intervention in Libya in 2011 and came into being after the United Nations admitted it had failed to stop atrocities from being committed in the Balkans and Rwanda. In Myanmar, the hashtag #R2P has trended on Twitter, and people have written giant signs on streets asking for foreign militaries to please invade.
The international community has verbally condemned the Tatmadaw’s takeover of power, with some countries tightening targeted sanctions on military officers and military companies. But Myanmar’s most important foreign investors, such as Singapore and China, have not taken significant steps to financially punish the military.
When the generals seized power last month, they announced they had been compelled to take action because of what they called massive voter fraud in elections last November, which were resoundingly won by the National League for Democracy. The generals said they would hold elections in a year. But the timetable for future polls has already shifted to one-to-two years, according to pronouncements in the state media.
The last time the military annulled the results of an election, in 1990, it took a quarter-century for full and fair general elections to be held again.