Thousands of People Protest in Myanmar; Internet Banned
Updated: Feb 7, 2021
Tens of thousands of Myanmar's people in the nation’s largest city of Yangon continued their protests today against Monday's military coup that overthrew the elected civilian government and its leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner Do Aung San Suu Kyi. It was the biggest protest since the coup, according to Reuters.
General elections were held in Myanmar on 8 November 2020 and saw the ruling party, National League for Democracy, win a vast majority. As per the procedures, the NLD was due to form the new Parliament on 1st February 2021. The military, citing election and voter fraud, contested the result of the elections, even though the elections were conducted in front of independent international observers and members of the diplomatic corps.
The military delivered an ultimatum to the NLD to delay the formation of the new parliament which was refused. In the early morning of February 1st 2021, the Military raided the Presidential House and the State Councellor’s house and detained both leaders under house arrest. Subsequently, the military declared a nationwide state of emergency and transferred state powers from the temporary President U Myint Swe, who was originally the Vice President, to the Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
Unverified rumors suggested that the Military forced President U Win Myint himself to sign the transfer of state powers which the President firmly refused, forcing the military to look for an alternative. The transfer of powers from the Vice President, who was made Temporary President, to the Commander-in-Chief remains constitutionally controversial.
The military then announced the formation of the State Administration Council and a new cabinet. The people of Myanmar summarily united their voices against this military coup. Although they did not take to the streets immediately, they showed a rare restraint and control by resisting use of social media and by banging metal pots and pans at 8 pm ever night. The civil resistance movement was soon joined by doctors, nurses and medical staff working at public hospitals. They are leading what they have referred to as the Civil Disobedience Movement. They have stopped going to work altogether and have called for civil servants from other sectors to join the movement. Public servants from other ministries have started to answer when all internet services within the country were cut off in the morning of 6 February 2021.
On Saturday, the people, led by university students and workers, took to the streets. Hundreds of people gathered in Yangon peacefully and marched towards the City Centre. The protestors chanted “Democracy! Our Cause, Our Cause”, “Military Coup, Fail, Fail”, “Police, Police, People’s Police”. The police and military blocked off major roads in full riot gear. Some people were able to broadcast the protests live on Facebook by using SIM Cards from foreign providers. At the time of writing there have been no reported major clashes between the police and the people. In the coming days, the situation in Myanmar will almost certainly escalate. The military is not expected to back down no matter what the cost. The people also understand that if the coup is not defeated now, the country will be under military rule for decades to come, a situation which was the case in Myanmar before it’s surprising turn to democracy in 2010.
The military and the police have proved to be extremely brutal when dealing with protests and dissent of any kind. However, the people shall have no other choice, other than to keep on marching and holding on to the frail hope of victory. The people of Myanmar will look towards its democratic allies in the West for support and help.
This article was written with the valuable help of an anonymous citizen of Myanmar.