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Dublin: 13°C Tuesday 17 May 2022

Violence erupts in Myanmar as thousands gather to call for 'spring revolution' against military junta

Security forces ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a 1 February coup.

Anti-coup protestors in Yangon last week
Anti-coup protestors in Yangon last week
Image: AP/PA Images

THOUSANDS OF PROTESTORS marched in Myanmar today, calling for a “spring revolution” with the country in its fourth month under a military regime.

Reuters is reporting that at least seven civilians have died after security forces opened fire on crowds across the country.

Cities, rural areas, remote mountainous regions and even rebel-controlled border territories have been in an uproar since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a 1 February coup.

The junta has aimed to suppress dissent through a brutal crackdown involving mass arrests and an escalating death toll.

Demonstrations kicked off early today in commercial hub Yangon as activists called for a show of force and a “spring revolution”.

Local media reported that security forces were chasing protestors down and arresting them.

“They are arresting every young person they see,” a source in Yangon told AFP, adding that he was hiding at the time.

“Now I am trapped.”

Bomb blasts also went off across different parts of Yangon today. Explosions have been happening with increasing frequency in the former capital, and authorities have blamed them on “instigators”. 

Since the coup began in February, security forces have killed 759 civilians, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring group.

The junta — which has labelled the AAPP an unlawful organisation — says 258 protestors have been killed, along with 17 policemen and seven soldiers.

Local journalists

Violence erupted again today in Shan State’s Hsipaw Township, when security forces opened fire on protestors, killing at least one.

In northern Kachin state, security forces also fired on protestors, even flinging grenades into the crowd.

A 33-year-old man was shot in the head, a fellow demonstrator told AFP, adding that many others wounded in the attack were treated in a “hidden area”.

“They could not go to the hospital for treatment or they would have been arrested,” the protestor said.

Urban centres have become hotspots for unrest, especially in Yangon, where residents share videos of security forces beating up civilians on the streets.

As the junta throttles communications and information, local journalists have also been targeted and newsrooms have reacted by sending their staff into hiding.

The Myitkyina Journal — based in northern Kachin state — announced Sunday on Facebook it was ordered to shut down by the junta for publishing materials that were deemed “against national security, rule of law and stability”.

“We promise to come back… if we have a chance,” it said.

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Ethnic armies

The junta’s violence against civilians has drawn the ire of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic armies — many of whom have been battling the military for decades in the country’s border regions.

Among the most prominent opponents is the Karen National Union (KNU), which has offered shelter to fleeing activists in the territory it controls along Myanmar’s east.

Clashes have ramped up in Karen state between the KNU’s fighters and the military, which has responded with serious artillery power and air strikes in towns next to the Thai border.

Thai authorities announced that the Myanmar military fired rocket offensives from the air to a KNU base on Saturday, and gunfire could be heard from the kingdom’s bordering Mae Hong Son province.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has justified the putsch by saying it was done to defend democracy, alleging electoral fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.

The ongoing violence in Myanmar has raised alarm among the international community.

During his St Peter’s Square mass Sunday, Pope Francis prayed that Myanmar could “walk the path of meeting, reconciliation and peace”.

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