myanmar ward dnt
Myanmar military denies responsibility for child deaths and says elections could be pushed back
10:21 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: CNN was granted access to Myanmar by its military. The trip was coordinated through the military’s consultant, Ari Ben-Menashe. The military escorted the team and controlled its access and movements throughout. A journalist from the Southeast Asia Globe, who was also reporting for Al Jazeera, was on the trip along with CNN.

Yangon, Myanmar CNN  — 

Myanmar’s military junta wants you to believe that the situation is improving in the country, that security forces are exercising restraint and that the ongoing violence is due to a violent mob of anarchists that must be suppressed. It wants you to think that a political roadmap is in place and that free and fair elections will take place within two years.

But the veneer of these lies is paper thin, as a CNN team saw on a recent trip with the permission of the military, known as the Tatmadaw. We found a country exploding with anguish at the brutality of its illegitimate military leaders.

On February 1, army chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing seized control of the country in a coup, overturning a democratic election and detaining government officials including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party had won by a landslide in recent elections, giving it a second term in power.

In the past two months, junta security forces – made up of police, soldiers and elite counter-insurgency troops – have embarked on a systematic and coordinated crackdown against unarmed and peaceful protesters. More than 600 people have been killed, according to the advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Fearless local journalists and activists have risked everything to show the world what is happening, while outside access to the country has been blocked and cuts to wireless internet networks and broadband stifles communication from within.

Given the reality of what is happening in Myanmar, it should come as no surprise that the military tightly controlled our movements. On the first day of our visit, a convoy of six trucks of soldiers accompanied us around Yangon. In addition, there were cars full of minders, translators and plainclothes security officers who shadowed and recorded our every move, and even followed us to the bathroom.

Yet still, as we drove through Myanmar’s largest city, we could hear the banging of pots and pans in the distance. An ancient tradition to ward off evil spirits, it has become the signature sound of the resistance. On social media, we were inundated with messages from Myanmar citizens who knew we were there. “We know you can’t see us,” they wrote, “but we hope you can hear us.”

One afternoon, our military minders took us to visit Mingalardon market, in an area where many military families live. It was peppered with stalls selling military fatigues while trucks of soldiers parked on the nearby road. The minders wanted to show that the military has public support, too. We were approached by a couple of people who offered clearly rehearsed speeches about how “the violators” – the military’s pejorative term for the pro-democracy protesters – were to blame for the violence. They flashed two fingers, an apparent clumsy attempt to create their own version of the protest movement’s Hunger Games salute, which has become the symbol of defiance in this resistance.