Military fails to quell civil disobedience campaign
In Myanmar, mass protests against the February 1 military coup took place on Sunday. The day before, the pro-democracy campaign had its bloodiest episode when security forces opened fire on protesters, killing two people.
The military failed to quell demonstrations and a civil disobedience campaign of strikes against the coup and the arrest of the country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and others, despite the promise of new elections and stern warnings to dissenters.
Tens of thousands gathered for a peaceful rally in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, where killings took place Saturday.
“They were aiming at the heads of unarmed civilians. They were aiming at our future,” a young demonstrator told the crowd.
Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry said that despite “illegal demonstrations, incitement to rioting and violence, the authorities are exercising maximum restraint through minimal use of force to deal with the unrest.” The office said the authorities maintain public security in accordance with domestic law and international practice.
In Yangon, thousands of people, mostly young people, gathered at various locations in the city, chanting slogans and singing songs.
“We young people have dreams, but this military coup has created many obstacles,” Kow Pei said in Yangon. – That’s why we are coming out to protest.”
In Myitkyina in the north, people laid flowers in memory of the dead demonstrators.
At Inle Lake, popular with tourists, people, including Buddhist monks, boarded boats carrying portraits of Aung San Suu Kyi and placards reading “Stop the military coup.”
Until Saturday, the protests were mostly peaceful.
“The number of people will increase. We will not stop,” said demonstrator Ying Nyein Hmway in Yangon.
Several Western countries that condemned the coup also condemned the violence against the demonstrators.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. was deeply concerned. France, Singapore, Britain and Germany also condemned the violence. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said the use of lethal force is unacceptable.
In a statement Sunday, the Myanmar Foreign Ministry reiterated the junta’s position that the seizure of power was constitutional and that statements by some embassies and foreign countries “amount to gross interference in Myanmar’s internal affairs.”
Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun did not respond to attempts by Reuters to reach him by telephone for comment.