Groups unite against military rule . . .
One week after Myanmar’s military seized power in a surgical coup d’état, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across the country to demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, and that power be handed back to elected officials. While many of those rallying against the military (also known as the tatmadaw) are veteran pro-democracy activists, they have been joined by students, teachers, medical workers, and even civil servants. An outpouring of solidarity has come from Myanmar’s diaspora communities, with angry protests in neighbouring countries and territories, notably, Thailand and Hong Kong.
Peaceful protests met with violence . . .
In a televised address on Monday, as protests and civil disobedience campaigns continued to grow, the leader of the coup, Min Aung Hlaing, repeated claims of election fraud to justify the military’s takeover. He also imposed a curfew in Myanmar’s two biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, and imposed a ban on gatherings of more than five people. It did not take long for Min Aung Hlaing’s threats of a crackdown to materialize. On Tuesday, police made hundreds of arrests, deployed water cannons to disperse crowds, and fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters in several cities.
Growing defiance and widespread condemnation . . .
The situation in Myanmar remains extremely volatile. Governments worldwide have widely condemned the coup and this week’s use of disproportionate force against protesters. New Zealand suspended political and military contact with Myanmar, while Indonesia and Malaysia called for a special ASEAN meeting to discuss the situation. Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights Council announced that it will hold a special session on February 11 regarding developments in Myanmar. It is unclear whether these measures will lead to concrete actions against the military generals. Despite the ever-present fear of repression, a sense of hope has also taken hold among the people of Myanmar, many of whom say that they will continue to fight against injustice.