'Mandalay was a massacre': Security forces fire at protests

Myanmar has "all the hallmarks of a civil war... but only one side is armed", says Jonathan Head.

Video Transcript

JONATHAN HEAD: Well, we've now got a total of eight dead-- three overnight, in different parts of Yangon, five in Mandalay, with a lot of people very seriously injured. And you could argue that the circumstances are the same at nighttime. Obviously, it's a lot more chaotic.

You've got big rallies today in Mandalay. It's a stronghold of anti-coup feeling and sentiment. They had a general strike, and were going most of the day, and then towards the end of the protest, suddenly you heard this whiplash of high velocity bullets being fired into the crowd. And they're still basically assessing how many people have died, and how many may will die later, because of the severity of their injuries.

Essentially, the pattern is that wherever there's a confrontation with the security forces, without really any warning, at some point, the security forces will fire directly into the crowds, using battlefield weapons. These are absolutely lethal. That was the pattern last night.

In one case, the residents had gone down to the police station to ask for them to release three people they detained. And the police just opened fire on them. Another man was manning a barricade at night as a sort of volunteer night guard, because the army and the police are going into these neighborhoods at night and terrorizing the population. So now they're trying to keep them out so that people can have some kind of sleep. Again, somebody opened fire from the security forces side, killed this man.

You know, Mandalay was a massacre. But we've seen Mandalay-- there's the reports of people being killed in Pyay, which is another town, today. You never know where it's going to be. Or, you know, there are protests in multiple cities almost every day. And in those cities the police and army, who work together on this, either decides they will rest at using tear gas and rubber bullets, or they decide they're going to shoot into the crowd and kill a few people.

There's no particular, obvious objective to it except to terrorize people and one presumes the strategy is the hope that the site of these dreadful, dreadful injuries of people hit by these bullets will eventually put them off. But it hasn't yet. People are very angry. And that anger is nationwide. This has all the hallmarks of a Civil War. But it's not really a Civil War, because only one side is armed.