Tens of thousands of anti-coup protesters gathered across several cities of Myanmar on Monday to demand the release of embattled political leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in direct defiance of the threat of lethal force by the junta that seized power earlier this month.
Though the military leadership has so far resisted the pressure to restore the democratically-elected National League for Democracy’s (NLD) government, the international voices against the 1 February coup is gaining momentum.
UK’s embassy in Myanmar expressed support for the protesters and said that they “stand in awe of the courage and determination shown by peaceful protesters across Myanmar today”.
“We condemn the coup and call for the immediate release of all those arbitrarily detained. The UK will continue to stand with the people of #Myanmar,” tweeted the UK embassy in Myanmar.
On Monday, as tens of thousands across Myanmar came out on the streets, the police tried to disperse protesters who used placards, the three-finger salute, and displayed “2222” to signify the date on Monday 22 February 2021, similar to the 8 August 1988, demonstrations when a previous generation staged anti-military protests which were bloodily suppressed.
The UN’s special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, noted that “unlike 1988, actions by security forces are being recorded and you will be held accountable.”
The protests in Myanmar were also mentioned in the meeting of the United Nations human rights council where UN’s secretary-general Antonio Guterres, in his keynote address, said “coups have no place in our modern world”.
“We see the undermining of democracy, the use of brutal force, arbitrary arrests, repression in all its manifestations. Restrictions of civic space. Attacks on civil society. Serious violations against minorities with no accountability, including what has rightly been called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population. The list goes on,” Mr Gutteres said.
He asked the military to stop the repression immediately, release the prisoners, end the violence and respect human rights, and the will of the people expressed in recent elections.
On the peaceful protests, Kristian Schmidt, who is the former ambassador of the European Union to Myanmar, tweeted: “Great admiration for people of all ethnic backgrounds, calling for a return to civilian rule in #Myanmar. Everyone on the streets today understand that they face a ruthless army.”
Facebook also took down the pages of state-run television on Monday, a day after the channel had warned anti-coup protesters stating that confrontation could put their lives at risk.
“In line with our global policies, we’ve removed the MRTV and MRTV Live Pages from Facebook for repeated violations of our Community Standards, including our violence and incitement policy,” said Rafael Frankel, Facebook’s director of public policy for Asia and Pacific regions.
The protesters in Myanmar were also joined by the country’s migrants in Thailand, where they gathered outside the UN headquarters in Bangkok to demand justice and international help to end the coup.
Since the takeover, there have been protests and civil disobedience across the country despite repeated warnings by the military establishment.
The military states that the NLD’s election victory was won through voters fraud and have promised to hold new elections and hand over power within a year. In the November 2020 elections, the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party won just 33 seats, while Ms Suu Kyi’s NLD won 396 out of the 476 available seats.
Additional reporting by agencies