July 25, 2021

In Burma, Rangoon’s trompe-l’oeil standardization

In Yangon, rue Pandomar, four restaurant-bars follow one another, doors closed, in the usually lively district of Sanchaung, in the heart of the city. Dust and sand fight over the sidewalks, silence dominates in what was a place of celebration and resistance: “It’s sad to see our old battlefield empty”, explains a former NGO employee today unemployed, who wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons, like all of our interlocutors.

During the month of March, the street was bristling with barricades held by young people armed with makeshift shields and construction helmets, proud to demand democracy. The barricades disappeared in April, the inhabitants sometimes forced to dismantle them themselves under the threat of the cannon of an officer. The fervor and energy of the Burmese demonstrators clashed with violence from the military, who automatic weapon fire: after more than 50 dead in the township of Hlaing Thar Yar, on the outskirts of Yangon, in mid-March, more than 80 civilians were killed in Bago on April 9, 70 kilometers further east , the most damaged of Burmese cities. There are 827 dead across the country.

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While a curfew is still in force in Rangoon, the bus shelters bear witness to the army’s takeover of the streets: the hundreds of tags and calls for freedom from the protest movements in February were covered with white paint and black. There are almost no more demonstrations, they are reduced to flashmobs, lightning mobilizations, like the hundred young people who marched, for only a few minutes, Monday, May 24 in Rangoon, before dispersing to escape the police. In front of the Shwedagon, the sacred pagoda covered with gold in the center of Rangoon, soldiers are now stationed. Inside the compound can be seen armed police officers, rifles in their hands, watching passers-by who accelerate their pace and keep their heads down.

“Now is the time we need help”

To the repression was added the need to revive the economy after more than three months of stoppage. Since May, companies have sought to reopen one by one in the economic capital, but face a liquidity crisis. Every day, hundreds of people line up in front of the few vending machines still supplied with banknotes. Withdrawing money has become a real obstacle course.

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