Mandalay’s residents this morning woke up to an alarming increase in the military’s presence in the city, creating an atmosphere of increased uncertainty.
One citizen of Burma’s second most populous city told DVB that soldiers have overnight set up a number of new roadblocks, with patrols ambushing drivers who veer too close to military bases. There has, they said, also been a notable increase in raids and arrests over the past several days.
This morning, social media reports claimed to show two military helicopters landing in the city, as well as snipers lining the roofs of buildings—images reminiscent of those proliferating in the early months of the coup.
“The other day, I had to flee because of a search of our neighborhood. Recently, when soldiers came to check guest lists, they raided entire wards [100 households]. Roads were closed for two or three days to investigate every home,” she said. “If the army closes the roads, we have to avoid the alleys.”
If someone is believed to be a family member of a CDM participant, their homes are invaded and the victim would be beaten, she said. Often, youths are summarily arrested on suspicion of being involved with a PDF.
Generation Z Power, a Mandalay protest group, says that an increased military presence is making it harder for those performing CDM in the city.
“I heard, and have seen, that soldiers are cracking down on those participating in CDM. We are thinking now to do something for CDM, to protect them,” GZP’s spokesperson told DVB.
However, as soldiers close down evermore of Mandalay’s streets, those trying to subvert the authorities face a difficult balancing act.
“There are now checkpoints in almost every part of Mandalay, and [the military] has set up ambushes and plainclothes patrols. It is hard for us to move and operate. We’ll need to wait and watch the situation for the moment.”
He said that the last attack on the military came almost two weeks ago, on October 19, when a patrol truck ran into an IED at the famous Maha Aung Myay jade market.
The reasons for the military’s newest crackdown on Mandalay are still unclear. A theory being shared by netizens is that troops are rotating bases, whilst bolstering previous camps with newly deployed soldiers. Others say that a visit from junta leader Min Aung Hlaing is imminent, or that the reopening of schools has returned soldiers to prominent public places.
UPDATE (11/3/21, 22:00): State-owned Myawaddy TV has confirmed that Min Aung Hlaing today visited Mandalay to meet with the city’s regional government.