Ariel Go Jr
Hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets throughout Myanmar following a military coup that saw the country’s democratically-elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi removed from office and arrested. After seizing control of the government in Myanmar on February 1, the military, led by commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlain, has announced a year-long state of emergency. Citizens of Myanmar have expressed displeasure and disappointment over the coup, which ended Myanmar’s decade-long transition into democracy. According to BBC News, the protests against the coup have been the largest in the country since the Saffron Revolution in 2007, when monks demonstrated against the military regime that ended in 2008. Protesters, including teachers, lawyers, students, and government workers have rallied every day for over two weeks, signaling to Myanmar’s military that resistance to its seizure will not end any time soon.
Thousands continue to fill the streets of Myanmar’s largest cities, denouncing the arrest of Suu Kyi, whom the military claimed had committed widespread fraud after her victory in the November 2020 general election. Masked protesters have held signs condemning military rule and appealing for the release of all the people who have been detained. As reported by NPR, the military took more than 350 people into custody, with a substantial majority of them being held without a specified charge. Citizens have also participated in acts of resistance, such as lying across train tracks at a station in Myanmar’s second-largest city, Mandalay, and not returning to work, which is threatening Myanmar’s economy. In response to these protests, the military has suspended several laws aimed at protecting the privacy and security of the country’s citizens, giving them authority to detain people and search private property with a court order.
Since the beginning of the protests, at least three people have died in confrontations with the police, according to the Associated Press. Of the three reported victims, two protesters were killed in Mandalay, where police fired rubber bullets at a crowd of striking workers. The first protester killed was a 20-year-old woman named Mya Thwate Khaing, whose death has stimulated the movement. The shooting of Khaing has roused anger throughout the nation and gathered support for the anti-coup movement, many of whose members are of the ‘Generation Z’ and who refuse to allow another generation to experience military rule.
Despite recent threats from the military that mass resistance would lead to “a confrontation path where people will suffer the loss of life,” another nationwide demonstration, referred to as the “22222 uprising” took place on Feb. 22, according to the Wall Street Journal. Stores, fast food chains, and banks all shut down in solidarity with protesters, who once again rallied in the streets of Myanmar’s major cities. Authorities set barricades up and stationed armored vehicles in strategic urban locations as a means to try to thwart the mass gatherings. However, as fleets of vehicles patrolled and snipers took to their positions on rooftops, the protesters remained undiscouraged. While the demonstrations were mostly peaceful, there were a few reports of violence and arrests, especially in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar.
As stated in the New York Times, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights organization based in Thailand, reports that 684 people have been sentenced, charged, or arrested since the coup took place in early February. Additionally, 637 people are still being detained or facing outstanding warrants.