Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets on Wednesday (17) in Myanmar to protest again against the military coup, rejecting the army’s claim that the population supported the overthrow of the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Most of the protests, among the largest since the protests began on February 6, have been peaceful. Still, security forces fired shots in the town of Mandalay, 270 km from the capital, Naypyidaw, where tens of thousands of people took to the streets.
Soldiers clashed with strikers in the railway sector, according to residents’ reports. There are videos of soldiers throwing stones and using catapults. A local volunteer was hit in the leg, apparently by a rubber bullet.
The military and police have not commented on the incident, but the Armed Forces Facebook page said they were providing security across the country to “make sure people are sleeping well.”
Thousands of people also marched in the capital and hundreds in the southern town of Mawlamyine. There were clashes at both locations last week.
Opponents of the February 1 coup are extremely skeptical of the military junta’s promises that there will be fair elections and a transfer of power. At the same time, however, Suu Kyi received another indictment, this time for an alleged violation of protocols to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
“We love democracy and we hate the junta,” the party of Suu Kyi, a politician from the National League for Democracy (NLD), Sithu Maung, told tens of thousands of people gathered in downtown Rangoon, the largest city in the country. “We must be the last generation to experience a coup.”
Also in Rangoon, drivers joined the “broken car campaign”, which has spread on social networks. They stopped their cars, hoods up, in the streets and bridges to block the passage of military vehicles.
The main demand for the daily protests which are spreading in the main cities of the country, although in smaller numbers after the army sends troops to suppress them, is the end of the regime and the release of more than 400 political prisoners , in particular Suu Kyi, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
At a press conference on Tuesday (16), the first since the overthrow of the civilian government, General Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the military council that now rules the country, denied that Burmese civilian leader and president Win Myint , who was arrested on February 1, are being held. Min Tun also said the two were at home for their own safety as “the law unfolds.”
Apart from the promise of elections, the spokesperson also said that 40 million Myanmars, out of a population of 53 million, supported the coup. This statement was the main trigger for Wednesday’s protests.
In Rangoon, Sithu Maung did little and said that “we are showing here that we are not in those 40 million”.
The acts of protest also include a massive campaign of civil disobedience that started among medical professionals and spread to several other categories, such as teachers, university students and other officials of the ousted government.
The unrest in the streets has rekindled memories of the violent history of reactions to protests in Myanmar. During the 1988 uprising, more than 3,000 protesters were killed by the country’s security forces in acts against the military regime – the country lived under a dictatorship from 1962 to 2011.
Although violence was limited this time around, the country’s security forces used rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas pumps to disperse the acts.
Last week, a woman was shot in the head in Naypyitaw during what witnesses reported as the use of lethal ammunition by police officers. She remains hospitalized in serious condition and must not survive, doctors say.
During the press conference, Zaw Min Tun tried to establish some sort of equivalence by claiming that a policeman died from injuries sustained during the crackdown on protests – some protesters responded to security forces in throwing sticks, stones and other objects at troops.
For the general, participants in acts of opposition are responsible for the violence, and the campaign of civil disobedience represents the unlawful intimidation of public officials.
The military has given itself sweeping search and detention powers and amended the country’s penal code to crack down on dissent with harsh prison terms.
Myanmar’s last parliamentary elections were held in November last year. The big winner was the National League for Democracy (LND), Suu Kyi’s party.
The legend, who has ruled the country since 2015, won 83% of the vote and won 396 of the 476 seats in parliament in the November elections, but was unable to assume when the coup was implemented on the day of the inauguration of the new legislative body. The Military-backed Solidarity and Development Union Party won only 33 seats. We are a family business.
The military attempted to use alleged charges of election fraud to justify the coup. The military also added to the narrative the argument that the country’s electoral commission used the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to prevent a fair campaign.
The coup has been severely criticized by the international community. Political leaders of different nationalities have called for the restoration of the democratically elected government and the release of all civilian prisoners.
US President Joe Biden, whose government views Myanmar’s takeover as a coup, announced a series of sanctions against the military last week, including the freezing of $ 1 billion in assets from the government of Myanmar (5.3 billion reais).
China, as Myanmar’s main regional partner, has taken a more lenient approach, without openly condemning the coup. On Tuesday, however, he joined with other member countries of the UN Security Council in calling for Suu Kyi’s release.
Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai said the current situation in the country “is absolutely not what China wants” and called rumors of Beijing’s involvement in the coup as “completely meaningless”.
Still, protests took place outside the Chinese embassy on Wednesday.
In an interview posted on the embassy’s Facebook page, Chen also said that China had friendly relations with the military and the previous government and had not been “informed in advance of the political change. “.
The Brazilian Foreign Ministry, for its part, did not mention the military coup or political prisoners in a note published on the subject and only said that it expects “a rapid return of the country to democratic normality and the preservation of the rule of law “.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE POLITICAL HISTORY OF MYANMAR
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 critics 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