The military rulers have resorted to brutal suppression after appearing to severely underestimate public hostility towards their takeover

At first, sheets of paper featuring the face of Min Aung Hlaing were fixed on to the streets with sticky tape, ready to be stamped on by angry protesters in Myanmars main city, Yangon. Troops promptly removed the pages, only for resourceful demonstrators to return with stencils to paint the junta leaders image on to the concrete.
The protest tactic offered some protection against charging soldiers, who were apparently forbidden from treading on an image of their commander-in-chief. It was also a chance for the public to express their deep disdain for the man who stole their democracy.
The decision by Min Aung Hlaing to seize power on 1 February brought an abrupt end to Myanmars transition, after decades of military rule, to a more democratic system, and prompted fury across the country. It also presented the military with one of the biggest challenges in its 80-year history, as protesters poured on to the streets of cities, towns and villages while vast numbers went on strike, bringing trade, banks and transport systems to a standstill.
It was a massive strategic miscalculation on their part, said Richard Horsey, an independent political analyst, who added that the military appeared to have severely underestimated the level of public opposition. But I think they still believe they can win this.
Faced with opposition across society, the military has been unleashing a campaign of terror and chaos. Protesters are being detained, brutally beaten and, increasingly, shot dead. After dark, trucks of troops swarm through residential areas, firing indiscriminately and setting off stun grenades. Every night homes are raided, with officers going door to door arresting protesters and anyone deemed to be sheltering them. About 1,800 people have been taken, although this is probably an underestimate.
The level of violence and intimidation that theyre having to mete out is creating a wellspring of hatred and opposition that is unifying much of the country, added Horsey. They will be able to deploy the violence thats necessary to impose their will, but then what?
The military will be left presiding over a country with deep, multiple crises, he added, with far less domestic or international support.
Protesters barricade a Yangon road with womens longyi. Photograph: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA
Min Aung Hlaing appeared to have thought protests would be more easily suppressed, and that he could win support from people frustrated with the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, who came to power in the 2015 elections, the first free vote in decades. Both assumptions have so far proved wrong.
I think the state administration council [the junta] probably calculated that there would be demonstrations, but they probably underestimated how sustained and creative these would be, said Moe Thuzar, a co-coordinator of the Myanmar studies programme at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. They also underestimated the potential impact of the protesters civil disobedience movement, she added, in which huge numbers of people have walked out of their jobs, paralysing the country. Faced with such widespread opposition, the junta is resorting to the authoritarian playbook of the past.
The militarys brutal use of violence means far fewer people are now protesting. Many are still refusing to go to work, however, increasingly because they are too afraid to do so when the military is out on the streets.
Min Aung Hlaing took over as commander-in-chief in 2011 as Myanmar began the transition to democracy, under a constitution that granted the military significant powers. He was due to retire soon and it was widely known he aspired to be president, a position Aung San Suu Kyis National League for Democracy (NLD) refused to grant him.
In an interview with Russia Today last June, a presenter praised his leadership qualities before adding that she hoped he would be able to perform duties with higher authorities in the interest of the country, the world and world peace. He replied: I always have such desires.
When the militarys proxy party was humiliatingly trounced in Novembers elections, and it became clear Min Aung Hlaings ambitions would not be realised at the ballot box, the military accused the NLD, without evidence, of election fraud claims it used to justify the coup.
Min Aung Hlaings relationship with Aung San Suu Kyi was strained, and there was reportedly almost no face-to-face communication, with both apparently fearing what their counterpart was plotting. Analysts believe there was anger over what the generals considered Aung San Suu Kyis arrogant refusal to consider their concerns regarding last years election, which only added to the militarys fear that they had become sidelined since agreeing to share power.
In fact, the military had retained huge powers, including autonomy over defence, and received a greater share of the national budget than health and education combined, as well as retaining its lucrative business networks.
Since the coup, some western governments have tried to target the armys financial interests to pressure the regime to act with restraint although the strike movement is inflicting far greater damage than potential sanctions could hope to do.
Thuzar said the number of people participating varied across ministries, but in the ministry for natural resources and environment, 56% were refusing to work, according to one estimate.
Even if only half the people in customs at a border trade post, the people who are supposed to process goods coming in, are participating, that slows things down. It affects the supply chain, she said. One of the most brutal crackdown on protesters was against shipyard workers who had refused to work, apparently bringing trade to a standstill.
The current situation is testing the unity of the military in a way it has probably never been tested before, Horsey said.
There is no indication that the generals may turn against Min Aung Hlaing, although splits are not impossible. Most analysts agree that the military is so opaque that there is no way of knowing if there is disunity. The only thing that is predictable is that the military does have the power to increase the violence and try to stamp this out, said David Mathieson, an independent Myanmar analyst. But at what cost?