Myanmar protesters arm themselves with homemade weapons


Every day, when Ku Win Kyaw comes out to demonstrate against Myanmar ArmyHe carries his slingshot and a stock of rocks as ammunition. It helps a little in the face of the army’s tremendous firepower, but he says it gives him confidence and a way to respond.

He said, “I know that I cannot defend myself with the slingshot, because I confront people with guns.” “When they shoot, I run.”

Mr. Win Kyaw, 36, is one of many pro-democracy protesters who are starting to arm themselves with primitive weapons as they defy The military regime in Myanmar. What began as peaceful protests after the February 1 coup quickly turned into a resistance movement, with citizens defending themselves with slingshots, homemade air rifles, old hunting rifles and petrol bombs.

In a statement released this week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said, Michelle BacheletHe said that the brutal military repression in the Southeast Asian country “led to some individuals taking up arms,” ​​warning that the situation had “repercussions for Syria in 2011” and that it was “heading towards a comprehensive conflict.”

For many in Myanmar, the turning point came on March 27, when security forces killed at least 150 people. It was The most violent crackdown since the coupAccording to a human rights group tracking the killings. More than 728 people were killed, and at least 3,000 people were arrested.

In the severely affected town of Thakita in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, a protester said he and his friends formed a team of about 20 people after the massacre on March 27. “We were peaceful protesters after the coup,” Ku Thi Ha said. , 26. “But when they killed so many people, we couldn’t move forward with a peaceful movement. We needed to respond.”

Protesters often turn to YouTube to learn to build simple weapons, drawing on easy-to-find resources. For air rifles, a plastic tube for the barrel is used, and a butane lighter switch acts as a trigger. Ball bearings taken from bicycle wheels are the most common ammunition, but the protesters also shoot marble balls and plastic pellets. Homemade smoke bombs are usually made with gunpowder or potassium nitrate, which is an ingredient in fertilizers.

Both air cannons and smoke bombs are more defensive than offensive. The air rifle is not lethal, but it can hit a target 100 feet away. Protesters use it to prevent soldiers from advancing too quickly. When protesters need to flee, they use smoke bombs to protect themselves from sight as they retreat with hats and goggles.

Besides improvised weapons, code words appeared to describe the various maneuvers used on the front lines. “Cooking biryani”, a popular rice dish, means making weapons. “Giving the biryani to the guests” is shooting at the soldiers. The “kebir biryani” is an arson attack.

This month in Kalai, a town about 150 miles northwest of Yangon, a division used its air rifles and single-shot hunting rifles when the army launched an offensive. The resistance fighters, who called themselves the Kalay Civil Army, launched sandbags on the outskirts of the city and prepared their crude weapons.

When the soldiers arrived at dawn and ordered the town to dismantle the roadblocks, the Kalay Civil Army refused. The soldiers returned at ten in the morning and opened fire with their machine guns and RPGs. At least 11 townspeople were killed, and 18 were arrested. Before they removed their prisoners, the soldiers lined up to take a grim picture with the seized weapons.

The defeat of the Kalai Civilian Army sent a clear message from the army that those who would bear arms and organize such tactics would be crushed. About a month before the Kalay Civil Army was organized, a group of elected leaders who formed an alternative government in hiding declared that the people had the legal right to defend themselves against the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar Army is known. Officials said fighting the military council was not a crime.

In addition to Kalay, the army targeted other pockets of resistance as residents armed themselves with improvised weapons. And in the town of Bajo this month, the security forces rose up A similar group attacked With rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, killing at least 82 people.

The state-owned media blamed the ousted elected leaders and “anarchist mobs” for the upsurge in violence in Myanmar. In other countries where pro-democracy movements have taken hold in recent years, the authorities have also justified the intensification of the crackdown by pointing to protesters with weapons.

In Yangon this month, there were several arson attacks on police stations and government offices, as well as small explosions that caused minimal damage and no injuries. Some experts in the Tatmadaw fear severe reprisals if the protesters succeed in purchasing lethal weapons on a large scale.

Anthony Davis, a Bangkok-based analyst who writes for the Jane Group for Military Publications, said the generals saw themselves as acting with restraint and responded proportionally to the mounting protests.

“People talk about the brutality of the Tatmadaw, which is undeniable,” he said. But we’re talking about 500 dead in two months, not 5000. It could have been more than that easily. According to their twisted standards, there is no doubt that they are trying to calibrate the escalation of violence. ”

Among the demonstrators’ homemade weapons, the incendiary bomb was the most lethal.

“As soon as you see firearms and grenades on the side of the protesters, you will take off the Tatmadaw gloves,” added Mr. Davis. At this point, they will not hesitate to demolish homes. The reaction of the Tatmadaw would be fierce and immediate. “

While the army was equipped with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns and Chinese-made reconnaissance aircraftThe slingshot became the weapon of choice for many of the protesters. They are inexpensive, easy to conceal, and can be launched quickly from hiding. For ammunition, some buy glass balls or sepals that have been collected for this purpose. When you run out of ammo, there is usually a lot of rocks around.

Until recently, the slingshot was more common in rural areas, where cowboys often used it to prod their livestock. A skilled archer can pick a mango from a raised branch.

After the protests began, the slingshot appeared for the first time in the hands of the police. Videos captured by residents showed groups of officers wandering the streets at night, randomly shooting people, homes and windows. As the demonstrations escalated, the police replaced their slingshot with rifles while the demonstrators took them in droves.

Last month, when Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin visited Myanmar, the leader of the junta, General Min Aung Hling, showed him an exhibition of items confiscated from protesters. A video clip of the meeting with the general shows Mr. Fomin how the slingshot works.

He said, “He withdrew to shoot.”

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