Since February 1, when a military coup began with the arrest of civilian government officials, a reported total of more than 100 people have now died at the hands of the country’s military in deadly protests; hundreds have been arrested in night raids. At least 38 civilians were killed March 3 and last weekend the country saw its bloodiest days since the military takeover with at least 51 civilian protesters killed by security forces. The military has also changed Myanmar’s penal code, giving them the ability to arrest people without warrants and throw people in prison for 20 years if it’s found they are acting against the State.
Our partners in the country tell Open Doors that protests are increasing, and the military is brutally cracking down on the protestors using force, teargas, rubber bullets and live rounds. Many of the protestors are protesting out of a collective memory of the history of Myanmar—the country (No. 18 on the 2021 World Watch List) was ruled by a military junta from 1962 until 2011..
Brother Lwin, one of our on-the-ground partners, describes the political and economic situation as “very unstable and volatile right now.”
With the growing violence, believers continue to be caught in between the military and civic protesters. “We are concerned for their safety,” says Open Doors communications director for Asia, Jan Vermeer.
Because Myanmar’s military supports Buddhism as the one and only religion in the country, Christians in the country are fearful. Weeks after the coup, Buddhist hardliner group Ma Ba Tha expressed its support for the military government.
“There’s a very strong Buddhist nationalism [movement in Myanmar],” Brother Lwin explains. “The military is also very much a part of that. They are there to protect Buddhism in every area. If you look at the military and the Buddhist leaders from the believers’ side, they are no different from the government; they are one.”