While there have been some public demonstrations since Myanmar’s military coup on February 1, the country’s citizens have found ways to take action from home, by organizing acts of civil disobedience and online resistance to protest the takeover. The army seized power in an incredibly agile coup. Since then, the government of Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected leaders have detained, declared a state of emergency and introduced a partial blackout on the Internet.
The coup came on the day a new parliamentary session was called to approve the National League for Democracy (NLD) government, which won re-election in November, led by Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi. She and other leaders of the NLD, including President Win Myint, were arrested during early morning raids and detained in undiscovered places. The military announced that 24 ministers and deputies had been removed, with 11 deputies appointed in ministries including finance, health, foreign affairs and defense.
A woman hizo her aerobics class without darse account of what is standing from the golf course of Estado in Myanmar. And then you can go to the parliament as the military convoy. pic.twitter.com/fmFUzhawRe
– Angel Marrades (@VonKoutli) February 1, 2021
This Twitter video on February 1 shows training instructor Khing Hnin Wai dancing in front of Myanmar’s parliament in the capital Naypyidaw, apparently unaware that a military coup has taken place behind her. On Facebook, she explained that she often films videos on this site. She also said she made the video before hearing the news of the coup that morning.
France 24’s English channel spoke to “Brenda” (not her real name), an activist in Myanmar, about her experience of the coup and the resistance movement that developed on the ground.
“Not everyone realized that a coup had taken place” Monday morning [February 1, 2021]everything seemed normal outside – not everyone realized that a coup had taken place. But the military stopped telecommunications at 6 o’clock, so we could not communicate with anyone. I think they’re trying to do [the coup] as normalized as possible … but we are all afraid of what will happen next because we have already experienced it before [Editor’s note: The military seized power in 1962, leading to 26 years of military rule] – they turn off electricity and arrest people at night. That night I could not even sleep.
The next day, Brenda and other Myanmar residents began mobilizing in opposition to the junta. She provided details in an interview with the France 24 Observers team.
We respond with a civil disobedience movement. Since yesterday (Tuesday, February 2), we run a campaign to turn on pots and pans every night at 8 pm and we play our national anthem. According to our tradition, beating on pots and pans with evil spirits, and we are considering [the military] to be evil. Some people have also lit candles in front of their houses. Cars have even joined the protest by honking their horns at the same time.
We plan to do this until we regain power for the people. It will remind us not to normalize the military coup in our daily lives.
A Twitter video from February 2 shows residents of Yangon, Myanmar hitting metal pots from their windows in protest of the coup.
A Twitter video from February 3 shows Yangon, Myanmar residents holding candles and singing a revolutionary song called “Ka Bar Ma Kyay Buu (We Will Not Forgive Until the End of the World)”. You can also hear pots beating in the background.
The second video shows cars on the street honking in protest of the coup when residents hit pots and pans.
“The number of people in the civil disobedience movement is increasing”
Apart from this audible form of night protest, citizens are also mobilizing online, as public officials leave their jobs in civil disobedience and internet users form online groups to support them.
The number of people in the civil disobedience movement is also increasing. Public servants refuse to go to work and join the military. Some doctors participate in civil disobedience and have stopped working in state hospitals, instead working in private clinics / hospitals or online.
We do crowdfunding for these people to give them a salary. Some private hospitals also help patients from state hospitals free of charge. Everyone is trying to participate as much as they can right now.
Screengrab from a Facebook post on February 3 of a crowdfunding initiative commissioned by civil engineers, backed by four Myanmar companies that say they will provide engineers’ salaries for three months if they choose not to work in protest against the junta. The picture reads: “We are here with all civil servants in civil disobedience.” Our Observer “Brenda” says that similar crowdfunding initiatives also exist for other public employees. © Facebook Screengrab from another Facebook group, “We Support Heroes,” organized by Burmese singer Lin Lin to help provide food and protection for protesting public officials in need. © Facebook
We also use Facebook and social media to embarrass officers and ministers who have joined the new military cabinet.
A screenshot of a Facebook post shared in early February 2021 about Dr. Kan Zaw, a rector from Yangon University of Economics who was appointed head of the Union Auditor during the junta. The post says that Dr. Zaw is no longer welcome on the university campus. © Facebook One of the photos shown in the Facebook post above. It shows the sign of a road named after Dr. Kan Zaw, with the word “maggot” (used to call someone a traitor) graffiti in Burmese. © Facebook
On February 4, Myanmar’s Ministry of Communications said that access to Facebook would be blocked until Sunday, claiming that users “disrupt the country’s stability” and use the platform to spread fake news. Access to Instagram and WhatsApp has also been limited.
‘Waiting for a signal’
Public protests against the military coup have been rare, but Brenda says that may change.
Apart from the campaign for pots and pans, there is not much on the street … yet. But I think we have plans to take to the streets and protest. As Aung San Suu Kyi and the president are detained, we are still waiting for the signal from a leader.
The campaign is led purely by the people. It has only been three days, so we are still discussing the long-term strategy. If there is no signal or no leadership, [we the] people will lead by ourselves.
On February 4, the first anti-coup protest took place in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city. A group of about 20 protesters gathered in front of Mandalay Medical University with banners and chanted slogans against the coup.
This Twitter video on February 4 shows a group of protesters gathered in front of Mandalay Medical University in the first protest since the military coup on February 1. The protesters sing: “Release our leaders, the military regime can fail, gain democracy, fight for justice”.