Myanmar Anti-Coup Protesters Defy Ban, Take to Streets for Fifth Day

By The Irrawaddy 10 February 2021

YANGON—Throngs of anti-coup protesters again poured onto the streets across Myanmar on Wednesday, undeterred by the military regime’s assembly ban and speculation that more crackdowns were imminent after a number of incidents on Tuesday in which riot police violently confronted demonstrators.

In the country’s capital Naypyitaw, where protesters were gunned down with live and rubber bullets a day earlier, nearly 500 government employees from four ministries took to the streets to protest against military rule. Their participation added fuel to the country’s ongoing Civil Disobedience Movement, in which civil servants are refusing to work in order to express their opposition to the coup. Unlike Tuesday, protesters didn’t experience any resistance from the police on Wednesday. A 20-year-old woman who sustained a serious head injury when police opened fire during Tuesday’s crackdown had very little chance of surviving, according to her sister.

Anti-coup protesters in downtown Yangon on Wednesday. / The Irrawaddy

Residents of Loikaw in Kayah State in Myanmar’s southeast on Tuesday welcomed some new participants in their anti-coup protests. Still dressed in their uniforms, more than 20 young policemen and women joined the protest, raising the popular three-finger salute symbolizing defiance of the military regime. They held a large placard with the slogan “Say No to Military Dictatorship” spray-painted on it. However, the military regime said they were not full-time officers but had been hired on a temporary basis.

On Wednesday morning, a group of people held a protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in Yangon. They raised placards reading “Don’t Ignore Injustice” and “Stand Up for What Is Right!” Long known for its cozy relationship with the Myanmar military, China—along with Russia—has refused to condemn the takeover at the United Nations Security Council. There were also protests before the Japanese Embassy and the UNDP’s office in Yangon. Unlike the protest at the Chinese Embassy, these were aimed at raising international awareness of what is happening in the country.

A couple in wedding costumes join the protest in downtown Yangon on Wednesday. / The Irrawaddy

In Hledan, which has become ground zero for Yangon’s anti-coup demonstrations, columns of protesters began arriving in the morning, clogging the neighborhood as they have since Saturday. The whole area reverberated with chanted slogans like “Democracy, Our Cause!” and “Down with Military Dictatorship!” Placards emblazoned with “Free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi” were omnipresent.

Theint Myat Chel said she had been protesting for four days, simply because she couldn’t put up with the injustice of the military’s power seizure.

“We people voted freely and democratically. It is very evident who the winner was. They ignored the people’s desire and did what they liked. That’s why I have been coming out here—I can’t tolerate it,” said the 20-year-old University of Economics student.

An anti-coup protester in a spooky costume in downtown Yangon on Wednesday. / The Irrawaddy

The ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) won a landslide victory in November’s general election, while the military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party did very poorly. The military has insisted that the election was stolen, and attempted to justify its coup by saying the NLD government had ignored its complaints.

On their fifth day, the protests in downtown Yangon took on a performance-like atmosphere, with some demonstrators getting creative. Dressed in bridal costumes or cloaked in white from head to toe, they became centers of public attention and amusement. But while the costumes may have been diverse, there was unity in the sentiments expressed on their placards.

One couple was clad in traditional Burmese wedding attire. As they walked down the road, the man held high a sign saying: “We Both Hate You MHL [Min Aung Hlaing, the coup leader]. That’s Why We Are Perfect for Each Other”. The woman’s sign read: “Me[a]rry Someone Who Hate[s] Military Coup.”

An anti-coup protester wears an inflatable dinosaur suit in downtown Yangon on Wednesday. / The Irrawaddy

Clad entirely in white, a spooky group of figures was seen moving around the outside of the Sule Shangri-La Hotel—despite the broad daylight. Passersby who encountered the ghostly group were doubtless relieved to read their placards, which exhorted: “Shame on You MHL!”

At the entrance of Sule Square, a protester in an inflatable dinosaur suit held a sign reading: “Reject Military Coup.”

Riot police were almost entirely absent from the area on Wednesday, resulting in a strange calm. But no one who is old enough to have experienced the bloody crackdown on Myanmar’s popular uprising in 1988 took much comfort from that: To them, it feels like the calm before the storm.

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