Civilians first took to the streets in Myanmar three months ago, after the Tatmadaw, as the country’s armed forces are known, seized power from the democratically elected National League for Democracy (NLD) on February 1. The military arrested the NLD’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi; initially charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies, she now faces charges on six accounts. Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since her arrest.
While civilians from all walks of life—students, monks, bank officers and factory workers among them—take to the streets in protest, local resistance groups have emerged, as in the the remote town of Kalay in the Sagaing region. Armed with muzzle-loading hunting rifles, they have successfully ambushed Tatmadaw troops. At the same time, battle-hardened ethnic rebel groups have seized back strategic terrain from the Tatmadaw along border areas.
At this point, the anti-coup movement in Myanmar shows no sign of losing momentum—far from it—even as close to 800 civilians have been gunned down, execution-style, by police and the Tatmadaw. In fact, the actions of the military junta, led by General Min Aung Hlaing, may prove to be the catalyst which binds together for the first time all of the people of Myanmar into a coherent force, united against the corrupt and brutal military rule.
The only certainties at this point are that the junta’s killings will continue and that the collective trauma wrought on the people of this country by a handful of uniformed men will have to be carried by generations to come.
All the while, brave Burmese photographers bring us images of these disturbing times unfolding across the country. They risk their lives and those of their families each time they go out into the streets. Here is the work of four photographers across various neighborhoods in the city of Yangon, all of whom
are credited with an alias to protect their identities.
Philip Blenkinsop is an emeritus photographer with the VII Photo agency. He has worked extensively throughout Southeast Asia since 1989.