Tens of thousands of people, on Monday, took to the streets in several Burmese cities to denounce the military coup in defiance of warnings of the military who threatened to resort to force to eliminate “chaos.”
On Sunday, the military’s warning came at the end of a weekend that saw the killing of three demonstrators and the funeral ceremonies of a young woman who died on Friday of her wounds.
On Monday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, called on the Burmese army that overthrew the civilian government, headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, to “stop the repression immediately,” at a time when the Europeans indicated their willingness to impose sanctions on the military group.
Three weeks after the February 1 coup, the pro-democracy mobilization did not diminish with tens of thousands of demonstrators on Sunday and a campaign of civil disobedience affecting the work of state institutions and the economy.
“The demonstrators are inciting people, especially teenagers and enthusiastic youth, to take the path of confrontation on which they will die,” said a statement issued in Burmese and read on public television station “MRTV” with English subtitles on screen.
The statement warned the demonstrators against any attempt to incite people “into rebellion and chaos.”
The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Burma, Tom Andrews, expressed his deep concern about the threats. He wrote in a tweet: “A warning to the military: unlike in 1988 the practices of the security forces are registered and you will be responsible.”
In his annual speech to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Secretary-General said: “Today, I call on the Burmese army to immediately stop the repression. Free prisoners. An end to violence. Respect for human rights and the will of the people expressed in the last elections.”
– “Very angry” –
However, the warning did not discourage the demonstrators from taking to the streets of Rangoon, where thousands of people gathered in two areas.
In the district of Bahan, demonstrators sat on the road holding several banners in support of the arrested Aung San Suu Kyi, the state advisor, without access to any party since the coup.
“We are here today to participate in the demonstration and to fight until we achieve victory,” said Kiwa Kiowa, a 23-year-old student. “We are worried about the repression but we will continue. We are very angry.”
An increase in the security deployment was observed in Rangoon with the increase in military vehicles in the streets, while the security forces closed the streets near the embassy district.
“The army unfairly seized power from the elected civilian government,” said a 29-year-old protester, who declined to be named. “We will also fight until we get our freedom, democracy and justice.”
Thousands of people also demonstrated in the capital, Naypyidaw, which is also an army stronghold. The cities of Myitkyina (north) and Dawi (south) also witnessed demonstrations.
A number of markets and stores remained closed in Rangoon and other cities, after calls for a general strike in order to expand the civil disobedience movement.
On Sunday, Burmese participated in a funeral ceremony for the first victim of military repression, a young shopkeeper who has become a symbol of the group’s resistance.
The burial ceremony of Mia Thwati Thawati Kaeng, who was shot in the head and died on Friday after ten days in intensive care, took place in the suburb of Naypyidaw in the presence of thousands of people.
And Saturday, two people were killed in Mandalay, when police opened fire on crowds, and a 30-year-old man was killed in Rangoon.
– European Union meeting –
In response to the widespread demonstrations against the coup, the Burmese military gradually strengthened the deployment of security forces and increasingly resorted to force to disperse the demonstrators.
The security forces used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons, and sometimes used live bullets as well.
According to the Association for the Support of Political Prisoners, 640 people have been arrested since the coup. Among those targeted were state employees and bank employees who stopped working in solidarity with the opposition.
In Brussels, the foreign ministers of the 27 member states of the European Union who are holding a meeting declared that the Union is “ready to adopt” sanctions against the military responsible for the coup in Burma. They called for a “de-escalation” of the political crisis in this country.
The escalation of tension in Burma sparked new international condemnations, which were criticized by the Burmese Foreign Ministry on Sunday evening, saying that it is “flagrant interference” in the country’s internal affairs.
The ministry’s statement added: “Despite the illegal demonstration and incitement to stir up unrest and violence, the (Burmese) authorities show the utmost restraint while minimizing the use of force to confront unrest.”
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