Myanmar anti-coup protests, crackdown go on as Saturday marks 3 months

Kyodo News

Posted at May 01 2021 09:23 PM | Updated as of May 01 2021 09:46 PM

Myanmar anti-coup protests, crackdown go on as Saturday marks 3 months 1
Demonstrators flash three-finger salute during a protest in Sanchaung, Yangon, Myanmar April 27, 2021 in this still image obtained from a social media video. Courtesy of News Ambassador, via Reuters

YANGON - Saturday marked three months since a military coup in Myanmar that ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi. People who call for democracy continued their protests against the coup in various forms including a so-called civil disobedience movement to boycott work.

While demonstrations were losing momentum in mid-April as the junta has enforced its reign of terror and killed over 750 peaceful protesters and others, people returned to the streets for flash protests recently, according to local media.

On Saturday, demonstrations took place at several locations in the country, including the largest city Yangon, the second-largest city Mandalay and Magway in central Myanmar.

Some of the rallies were held in smaller scales than before as the participants tried not to be arrested by the junta, according to local media.

The protests are continuing but many people are struggling for survival in the crisis-hit country amid no sign from the junta that it will stop using force, despite leaders of ASEAN countries making a statement on Myanmar a week ago that called for an immediate end to violence.

Since the coup, many sectors of society stopped functioning as people joined the civil disobedience movement.

Maung Thein, a 50-year-old local guide in Taunggyi, eastern Shan State, said the coup affected everyone in Myanmar.

"The situation is getting worse now. It is going downwards and poor people are suffering the worst," he said.

As of Friday, 759 people had been killed and 3,485 had been arrested, charged or sentenced by the junta, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group monitoring the situation in Myanmar.

The military's deadly response to protesters has drawn condemnation from the international community but sanctions on the junta imposed by the United States and other Western powers have brought no visible effect on helping to improve the situation.

ASEAN, which is comprised of 10 member nations including Myanmar, has also sought a peaceful resolution.

The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on April 24 met Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Myanmar's military leader, and the group issued its chairman's statement that laid out a consensus including a call for an immediate end to violence.

But the junta said Tuesday it will consider the consensus only after stability is restored in the country, meaning it will not stop the violent crackdown on those against its rule.

The majority of protesters were worn out by the military's deadly response, said a 22-year-old male resident in Yangon who wanted to remain anonymous.

"The crackdowns during the past months were very brutal and the violence committed during the arrests was shocking," he said. "So it is very difficult for the protesters to keep on joining anti-coup movements."

Amid the turmoil and the bloodshed for which no end is in sight, various forces in Myanmar are gradually getting united to fight against the military as some ethnic minority groups have joined the parallel government.

The National Unity Government, formed on April 16 by pro-democracy figures, is headed by Suu Kyi and Win Myint, the detained leaders of the ousted government, but also by Lashi La, an ethnic Kachin man.

While it is uncertain how the combined forces could find a way to return to democracy in the fight against the junta, the 22-year-old resident in Yangon said he and other people cannot give up their struggle.

"If we do so, we will be letting our future, as well as our next generations, go into the hands of military dictatorship once and for all. I strongly believe that this uprising by the people will eventually prevail," he said.