Myanmar activists stage flash mob protest

Military struggles to impose order more than 4 months after toppling Suu Kyi's elected govt in coup

Protesters making the three-finger salute during a demonstration in Yangon yesterday against the military coup in Myanmar.
Protesters making the three-finger salute during a demonstration in Yangon yesterday against the military coup in Myanmar. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

YANGON • Around 400 pro-democracy supporters took to the streets yesterday in one of the biggest recent demonstrations against military rule in Yangon, Myanmar's commercial hub and largest city.

Despite a crackdown by security forces, the military is still struggling to impose order more than four months after overthrowing Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government and arresting her and senior members of her party.

"We gathered at the protest today in order to show that we won't allow them to rule us," Mr Zayar Lwin, an activist and former political prisoner who attended the rally, told Reuters yesterday.

Demonstrators in urban areas have had to become more nimble to avoid security forces, often using flash mobs that quickly disperse, after big rallies in the first months after the Feb 1 coup were frequently met with troops or police firing live rounds.

Mr Zayar Lwin pledged that protests against the coup would continue, although he said it was now harder to organise them because of the heavy security presence in Yangon.

"The minimum risk is we could be arrested and the greatest danger is to be killed," said the activist, who added that only two people were arrested at yesterday's rally that lasted around five minutes.

Security forces have killed 842 people since the coup, according to figures from an activist group.

The junta said last month that the toll was about 300, including 47 police officers.

As well as in urban areas, the unrest has taken a heavy toll on the countryside, where clashes between Myanmar's well-equipped military and ethnic minority armies or newly formed People's Defence Forces have displaced tens of thousands of people.

In a bid to ensure more humanitarian access to conflict areas in Myanmar, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) met junta leader Min Aung Hlaing yesterday, Nikkei Asia reported.

The meeting with Mr Peter Maurer was the first in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw between the junta leader and such a senior international representative since the coup, and a request to resume ICRC prison visits was also made.

The junta chief was "non-committal" but did not refuse Mr Maurer's requests, Nikkei said, citing people familiar with the meeting.

"Maurer also urged an end to violence against civilians and respect for international law and medical workers during security operations by the junta's security forces," Nikkei said.

The ICRC office in Myanmar did not respond to a request for comment. Reuters was unable to contact a spokesman for the junta for comment.

More than 840 people have been killed by security forces since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.

The army has failed to assert control since the coup and faces daily protests, while strikes have paralysed the economy and many essential services.

The resurgence of fighting with some of the two dozen ethnic armies in Myanmar's borderlands has also led to food and supply shortages.

REUTERS

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 04, 2021, with the headline Myanmar activists stage flash mob protest. Subscribe