Huge anti-coup rallies held in Myanmar after junta threat


Hundreds of thousands of anti-coup protesters rallied across Myanmar again Monday after a clear threat from the junta that it was prepared to use lethal force to crush what it branded as “anarchy”. The warning came after three demonstrators were shot dead over the weekend, and the funeral on Sunday for a young woman who died from bullet wounds at an earlier rally, reports AFP.

International alarm continued to build, with the United Nations chief on Monday condemning the military’s “brutal force”, and the European Union announcing it was ready to impose sanctions on the junta. Massive street demonstrations have taken place since Myanmar’s military staged a coup on February 1 and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, ending a decade-long experiment with democracy.

A civil disobedience campaign has also since choked many government operations, as well as businesses and banks, and the junta late Sunday gave its most ominous signal yet that its patience was wearing thin. “Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life,” said a statement on state-run broadcaster MRTV.

The statement, read out in Burmese with text of the English version on the screen, cautioned protesters against inciting “riot and anarchy”. But protesters on Monday were undeterred by the warning, with hundreds of thousands rallying in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city and commercial hub.

“We came out today to join in the protest, to fight until we win,” said KyawKyaw, a 23-year-old university student. “We are worried about the crackdown, but we will move forward. We are so

angry.” Residents had woken up Monday to a heavier security presence, including police and military trucks on the roads and an embassy district barricaded. Tens of thousands of professionals and public servants also rallied in Naypyidaw, the capital and a military stronghold. There were large protests in other cities, including Myitkyina and Dawei.

Myanmar’s generals had already responded to the uprising by gradually ratcheting up the use of force, and the number of political prisoners. Troops and police have used rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannon and some live rounds. On the weekend, two people were killed when security forces fired at protesters in the city of Mandalay, and a third man was shot dead in Yangon. 

A young woman also died on Friday after being shot in the head at a protest and spending almost a fortnight on life support.The woman, whose funeral was held on Sunday, was the first confirmed fatality of the protests, and she has emerged as a potent symbol of the anti- junta movement. Authorities have detained 640 people since the coup, according to the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.