Protesters against military rule marched in Myanmar on Saturday three months after a coup ended a democratic transition, with several small explosions shaking the commercial capital, Yangon.
The country has been in turmoil since the military fired civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, ending Myanmar’s short-lived experiment with democracy.
The seizure of power triggered a massive uprising that the authorities have tried to quell with deadly force and live ammunition.
As Myanmar entered its fourth month of military rule on Saturday, protesters in the commercial hub Yangon, an epicenter of unrest with a large security presence, demonstrated rapid demonstrations and marched quickly through the streets to avoid confrontation with police and soldiers.
The lightning-fast protest is “so that people have time to disappear when the security forces arrive, otherwise they would die or be arrested”, says student activist Min Han Htet.
In Yangon’s township Insein, a bomb went off near 10 a.m. near a local school, said a resident who lives nearby.
“Some security forces came to control the blast area, but I only saw from a distance from my home because I was worried that they would arrest me,” he told AFP.
In the afternoon, two more explosions took place in Yankin, further south, according to residents of the leafy residential area.
“I thought it was thunder,” a resident told AFP, adding that the explosions left security forces nervous.
The state-run evening news said a woman was injured in the Yankin bombings, which she blamed on “instigators”.
No one has yet taken responsibility for the ongoing bombings in Yangon.
They made people live in fear ‘
The former capital has been completely transformed since the junta took power on February 1, with barricades erected in key protest hotspots, security forces on patrol and residents reporting nightly arrests of suspected dissidents.
“They (the junta) have made people live in fear and it’s good to have them on the edge too,” said the Yankin resident.
He also praised the flash protesters for their ingenuity in avoiding arrest and assault.
“Any display of defiance without being captured or killed is good for the resistance.”
Across the country, nearly 760 civilians have been killed in the coup, according to a local monitoring group, although the junta has registered a significantly lower death toll.
But the democracy movement remains unharmed, with protesters gathering on Saturday in central Monywa city – a hotspot for violence – with signs saying “Monywa can not be controlled”.
In southern Dawei, protesters waved the signature red flags of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party and carried signs saying “We want democracy”.
Desired posters by junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing were also pasted around the city, calling him an “abuser of power”.
He has continuously justified the coup as necessary to protect democracy, and claims fraud in the November election that Suu Kyi’s party won in landslides.
The UN calls for a return to democracy
On Friday, the UN Security Council again called for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar and the release of all detainees, including Suu Kyi, and strongly urged Southeast Asian countries to end violence and talks immediately as a first step towards a post-February solution. 1 military coup.
The Council’s press release followed a summary of the UN’s highest envoy that the strong, united demand for democracy from the people of Myanmar who have protested since the coup has created “unexpected difficulties” for military leaders to consolidate power and risk bringing the nation to a standstill.
Christine Schraner Burgener said in comments to the closed council meeting that the Associated Press received that her discussions in the region “reinforced” her concern that the situation in Myanmar is deteriorating in all areas.
She pointed to a resurgence of ethnic fighting, more poor people losing jobs, officials refusing to work to protest the coup and a brewing crisis for families in and around the capital Yangon “pushed to the brink” for food, going into debt and trying to survive.
Rebels are fighting
The incessant violence against protesters has angered some of Myanmar’s countless ethnic armies, many of whom have been fighting the military for decades in border regions.
Several have condemned the military and come out in support of the anti-junta movement, offering protection to refugee activists in the territory they control.
Conflicts between the military and the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the leading rebel groups, have escalated since the coup.
KNU has seized and leveled military posts and the junta has responded with repeated airstrikes in the rebels’ Karen state – the latest taking place shortly after midnight on Saturday.
The targeted area is right next to Thailand’s northern Mae Hong Son province, and displaced people have fled across the Salween River, which borders it.
“Myanmar soldiers used a fighter jet to launch an air strike operation and fired two rockets and artillery” around 1 p.m. 12:48, says a statement released by Mae Hong Son Governor Sithichai Jindaluang.
He added that more than 2,300 citizens of Myanmar have crossed Thailand.
Media and local Karen aid groups blocked access to the refugees, with authorities citing the spread of Covid-19 as a reason – stopped controlling the temperature of locals returning home.
Violence has also flared up in Myanmar’s northern Kachin state between Kachin’s independence army and the military, which launched airstrikes in Momauk township on Friday.
On Saturday, fresh artillery shelling saw two small towns, according to a humanitarian worker, who said residents were afraid the fighting was approaching.
( Jowharwith AFP, AP and REUTERS)