On the eighth day in a row of protests against the coup in Myanmar, tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Saturday (13) to challenge the armed forces, who warned they were looking for seven activists accused of threatening the national stability for their comments on social networks.
Among those wanted is Min Ko Naing, who led the violently suppressed protests in 1988 and supported the current protests and the campaign of civil disobedience.
The army seized power on February 1 and arrested the country’s head of government and senior civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other officials of the National League for Democracy (LND), who had won the election.
The crisis in the Asian country ended the recent democratic transition after reigniting tensions between the civilian government and the armed forces – which ruled the country between 1962 and 2011 – and raising concerns about a return to the old era of repression.
According to the military junta on Saturday, people should inform the police if they see any of the seven wanted activists and will be punished if they protect them.
The cases are framed in an article of the penal code which has been frequently used by previous councils and which imposes sentences of up to two years in prison for words which could raise alarm or “threaten the peace”.
One of the respondents sought responded to the military on its Facebook page, where it has more than 1.6 million subscribers. “I am so proud to be wanted with Min Ko Naing. Stop me if you can, ”she wrote.
According to the United Nations, more than 350 people have been arrested in Myanmar since the military took power.
Journalist Shwe Yee Win, who was covering opposition to the coup, was taken by soldiers on Thursday (11), and her family has not heard from her. “She couldn’t even put her shoes on before taking him,” said her mother, Thein Thein, who was caring for her one-year-old grandson.
Myanmar’s government did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
To try to prevent the arrest of activists, the demonstrators have set up citizen monitoring committees, which contest the curfew, valid from 8 p.m., and take to the streets at the signal of police operations at the search for dissidents.
In Pathein (in the south of the country), hundreds of people marched at night towards the public hospital, some armies of sticks or iron bars, in an attempt to defend the head doctor of the hospital after learning that ‘he had been arrested by the army.
The doctor, who had joined the civil disobedience movement launched in the first hours after the coup, was arrested while treating a patient.
In Rangoon, doctors, students and private sector workers took one of the city’s main avenues, also disobeying the ban on assembling.
“We will not return to work until the civilian government of ‘Mother Suu’ Kyi is restored. The threats do not matter,” 24-year-old Dr Wai Yan Phyo told AFP before the crowd dispersed.
Since the coup, opponent Suu Kyi has not been seen in public. According to members of the LND, she is under house arrest, but “in good health”.
The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and activist remains extremely popular, despite the damage to her international reputation due to the situation of the Rohingya minority.
There were also demonstrations in other cities, with young people singing rap and dancing “anti-coup choreography”.
Most of the protests were peaceful, but the tension was palpable.
Security forces brutally dispersed a demonstration in the south of the country. Several people were slightly injured by rubber bullets and at least five others were arrested.
Chronology of Myanmar’s political history
1948: Former British colony, Myanmar becomes an independent country 1962: General Ne Win abolishes the Constitution of 1947 and establishes a military regime 1974: Beginning of the first post-independence constitution 1988: The violent repression of demonstrations against the military regime generates international criticism 1990: National League for Democracy (LND), in opposition to the regime, wins the first multiparty election in 30 years and is prevented from coming to power 1991: Aung San Suu Kyi, of the LND, wins the Nobel Prize in peace 1997: US and EU impose sanctions on Myanmar for human rights violations and disrespect for 2008 election results: Assembly approves new Constitution 2011: Thein Sein, retired general, is elected president and the military regime is dissolved 2015: The LND obtains the majority in both houses of Parliament 2016: Htin Kyaw is elected the first civilian president since 1962 coup and Suu Kyi assumes the post of State Councilor, equivalent to that of Prime Minister 2018: Kyaw resigns and Win Myi nt assumes the 2020 presidency: in the legislative elections, the LND receives 83% of the vote and defeats pro-military party 2021: army alleges election fraud, arrests LND leaders, seizes power with new coup