Myanmar’s military has issued a chilling warning to protesters who continued to throng the streets across the country holding demonstrations against the February 1, 2021 coup by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar’s military). Three people, including a woman and a child, are reported to have died during the protests so far.
A message broadcast on the State-run MRTV on Sunday evening said, “It is found that protesters have raised their incitement towards riot and anarchy mob on the day of 22 February. Protesters are now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life.”
On February 1, 2021, the Tatmadaw launched a coup d’état deposing Myanmar’s democratically elected government leaders. The coup took place just a day before the Parliament was to swear in the members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), the party that won the November 2020 elections. The Tatmadaw declared a year-long emergency during which period all power is to be vested in Min Aung Hlaing, who is the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services. President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were subsequently detained, along with other ministers. 400 elected members of Parliament were placed under house arrest.
According to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP – Burma), a human rights organization that is keeping track of arrests since the coup took place, as of February 22, as many as 684 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced.
Ever since the coup took place, protests have taken place not only in the capital city of Naypyidaw, but also in Yangon, Mandalay, Dawei, Pathein and Chin. The protests have remained peaceful, taking the hue of a civil disobedience movement, where people are demanding the release of elected leaders. The military has not only issued prohibitory orders, but also resorted to internet shutdowns in a bid to prevent mobilization of protesters.
On February 9, Mya Thweh Thweh Khine, a 20-year-old woman sustained a bullet wound to her head, while participating in protests in Naypyidaw. She succumbed to her injury on February 19, her death adding a renewed vigor to nationwide protests. Police opened fire on protesters in Mandalay on Saturday, killing two more people, including a 14-year-old. But this did not stop more people from taking to the streets, especially in Naypyidaw, where Khine’s funeral was held on Sunday.
On the opening day of a new UN Human Rights Council session on Monday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated his “full support to the people of Myanmar”, asserting, “Coups have no place in our modern world”.
“Today, I call on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately”, the UN chief said, adding, “Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights and the will of the people expressed in recent elections. I welcome the resolution of the Human Rights Council, pledge to implement your request, and express my full support to the people of Myanmar in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.”
UNICEF too released a statement condemning the killing of the 14-year-old. It said, “UNICEF is gravely concerned by reports of use of excessive and lethal force during ongoing protests in Myanmar, and by warnings from military representatives on Sunday of ‘loss of life’ in the event of confrontation. Violence by security forces in Mandalay on Saturday night reportedly resulted in two deaths, including the reported death of a child, and multiple serious injuries.” It further said, “UNICEF condemns the use of force against demonstrators, including the reported use of live ammunition. UNICEF calls on security forces to refrain from violence, to exercise maximum restraint and for differences to be resolved through constructive and peaceful means, prioritizing the protection and safety of children and young people.”
Demanding greater protection for children it said, “UNICEF calls for greater efforts to protect children and young people from all forms of violence, including as they express their opinions and engage in peaceful protests. No one should face any form of violence or intimidation because of their opinions.”
Reminding Myanmar of its obligations under international conventions, it said, “UNICEF once again reminds all parties of the obligation to uphold all children’s rights as enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), and the Myanmar Child Rights Law enacted in 2019, including their rights to protection, participation, peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.” Meanwhile, Facebook deleted the Tatmadaw’s page due to concerns over incitement of violence.
*Feature image by Ninjastriker via Wikimedia Commons: February 9, 2021 protests at Hpa-An, Kayin State, Myanmar