Myanmar protesters paint Yangon red, call for boycott of Water Festival
(Reuters) – Myanmar’s pro-democracy protesters sprayed red paint on roads in Yangon on Tuesday in a reminder to the junta that it had blood on its hands as the crisis created by a military coup in the Southeast Asian nation dragged on with no end in sight.
Several groups called for a boycott of next week’s Thingyan Water Festival, which marks the Buddhist new year. Leaflets calling for the ban, distributed in Yangon, said it would be a sign of compassion for the families of those killed.
About 570 people have been killed during two months of unrest since the Feb. 1 coup, and security forces have arrested close to 3,500 people, with about four-fifths of them still in detention, advocacy group the Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said on Tuesday.
Demonstrators woke early in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, to spray and splash pavements, roads and bus shelters with red paint in protest at a sweeping crackdown by security forces that has caused weeks of international outrage.
“The blood has not dried,” said one message in red.
Another daubed across a bus shelter implored rank-and-file soldiers not to be exploited by kleptocratic generals clinging onto power.
“Don’t kill people just for a small salary as low as the cost of dog food,” it said in a message that went onto accuse junta leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, of stealing from people.
Anger has swept Myanmar in the past two months over the return of a military government and an abrupt end to a brief era of democratic and economic reform and international integration that was absent under the military’s oppressive 1962-2011 rule.
Some protesters have called their movement a “spring revolution”, characterised by street marches, quirky acts of non-violent rebellion and civil disobedience campaigns aimed at crippling the government apparatus.
Another protest scheduled for Wednesday has called for the burning of Chinese-made goods. Many protesters are opposed to China because it is seen as supporting the junta.
“The state of people now is that it doesn’t matter who called for what kind of protest, people are always ready to follow,” Khin Sandar, an activist and a protest organiser, told Reuters by phone.
But the ability to organise protests may have been hampered in recent days by the military’s restriction of broadband wireless internet, adding to a weeks-long blockage of mobile data services that had been the main channel for spreading word of what was happening in the country during the crackdown.
Those able to access social media, including some journalists, on Tuesday shared pictures of striking workers marching for a second day in the city of Mandalay, some wearing gas masks and giving the three-finger salute that has become a symbol of resistance to army rule.
Authorities have issued arrest warrants for dozens of celebrities, models and influencers, and on Tuesday a popular comedian was arrested in Yangon, the Mizzima news site reported.
Sithu Aung Myint, a prominent journalist, was on the wanted list. Writing on Facebook, he said he was proud to be considered a threat.
“When the coup council who have been committing crimes announces you as a lawbreaker together with the whole country, you will be more than happy because you are recognised as a hero in this revolution,” he wrote.
“Your next generation will be proud of you.”
Protesters and workers have come out daily against the military takeover, which followed several years of awkward power-sharing between generals and Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government under a democratic system created by the army.
Suu Kyi’s party won an election by landslide in November, and had pledged to change the constitution to reduce the military’s political clout.
Despite the election commission saying the vote was fair, the military justified its coup by alleging that the ballot was fraudulent, and has promised to hold a new election at an unspecified time.
Western countries have called for a restoration of Suu Kyi’s government, a position echoed by only a handful of Myanmar’s regional neighbours.
Brunei, the chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Monday agreed to a meeting of its leaders over the crisis in Myanmar, though no date was set.
ASEAN operates by consensus but the divergent views of its 10 members on how to respond to the army’s use of lethal force against civilians and the group’s policy of non-interference has limited its ability to act.
Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Martin Petty and Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore
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