By Myanmar Now and Reuters Staff, published by US News & World Report
ANTI-COUP protesters returned to the streets of downtown Yangon today (April 23) after a weeks-long absence following military-led massacres that have killed hundreds nationwide.
The rally, led by activists from the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU) and youths from several Yangon townships, marched along Anawrahta road and was not met with any violence by police or soldiers.
“What do we want? Democracy!” they shouted.
Amid indiscriminate killings aimed at crushing the uprising, the mass rallies that began in the city in February were reduced to deadly games of cat and mouse between a hard core of protesters and the regime’s forces.
Today’s march was aimed at breathing life back into the streets protests, said one organiser.
“We marched in the heart of the city so that protests in the urban areas regain momentum,” said the organiser, who asked not to be named for security reasons.
The marchers called for the abolishment of the “fascist” Myanmar military and the establishment of a federal union.
“The military will not retreat because it doesn’t want to abandon power. The crackdowns will happen again in the most brutal ways,” the organiser said.
But he added: “For young people like us, we are already dead… Our futures were executed on the day the military staged the coup.”
While protests in Yangon have been muted recently, residents in Mandalay, Monywa, Kalay and Myingyan have continued to stage daily demonstrations in defiance of the regime.
It has now been more than 80 days since military chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power, detaining top officials from the National League for Democracy government, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.
Today’s protest comes ahead of Min Aung Hlaing’s trip to Indonesia tomorrow to attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit.
More rallies are planned across Myanmar tomorrow to protest the bloc’s decision to allow the coup leader to attend. A key pillar of the movement against the regime involves depriving the military of legitimacy.
Myanmar’s National Unity Government, formed by MPs who were unable to take their seats because of the coup, has asked Interpol to work with Indonesian police to arrest Min Aung Hlaing when he arrives in Jakarta.
Meanwhile diplomats said that Southeast Asian leaders will try to persuade Myanmar’s junta to end violence and let in aid at tomorrow’s summit in the first concerted international effort to ease the crisis in the country, Reuters reported.
Leaders will meet behind closed doors at the Asean summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, in the hope of encouraging candid discussions, two diplomatic sources told Reuters.
Initiatives being considered by Asean include a pause in violence to allow medical and food supplies into Myanmar, and the appointment of a special envoy to encourage dialogue between the military regime and its opponents in the rival National Unity Government (NUG), the sources said.
No nations outside of Asean will be present at the talks, although some of the participating nations and the UN special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, will hold meetings on the sidelines of the event, they added.
A spokesman for the NUG, formed by ousted lawmakers and some ethnic groups opposed to the junta, told Reuters the group had “been in contact with Asean leaders”, but had not been officially invited to the summit.
Amnesty International urged Asean to investigate Min Aung Hlaing for crimes against humanity.
“As a state party to the UN Convention Against Torture, Indonesia has a legal obligation to prosecute or extradite a suspected perpetrator on its territory,” Amnesty said in a statement.
The junta said earlier this month protests against its rule were dwindling because people wanted peace.
Top: Demonstrators hold a banner that reads ‘What are we? We are Yangon people’ as they march in downtown Yangon today. April 23, 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE and published by Myanmar Now
Home Page: Protesters take cover behind barricades during a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, on March 21, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Stringer and published by US News & World Report