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Myanmar protesters march despite military crackdown

February 11, 2021

The military junta continues to arrest senior government figures, despite ongoing protests. Protesters say they will continue until the junta ends.

Demonstrators with pictures of Gen. Aung San, father of ousted Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi shout slogans against the military coup during a protest in Mandalay, Myanmar on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021.
Over the past six days, tens of thousands of people have protested against the coupImage: AP Photo/picture alliance

Protesters gathered across Myanmar on Thursday for the sixth straight day of anti-coup demonstrations.

In capital Naypyitaw, hundreds of people came to support the civil disobedience movement. They carried placards supporting ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and chanted anti-junta slogans. Despite previous clashes, Thursday's early marches were peaceful.

Protesters also gathered in the cities of Dawei and Mandalay, as well as the commercial hub of Yangon, where they urged employees of Myanmar's central bank not to go to work.

"We aren't doing this for a week or a month — we are determined to do this until the end when [Suu Kyi] and President U Win Myint are released," one bank employee who had joined the protest told news agency Agence France-Presse.

Junta arrests more government aides

Pro-junta forces arrested the deputy speaker of the parliament's lower house and a key aide to Suu Kyi, Kyaw Tint Swe, according to monitor Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. More than 200 people have been arrested since the coup, the group said.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party, said five people linked to the toppled government were grabbed from their homes overnight, and that the top leadership of the former electoral commission had all been arrested.

Why are people protesting?

Senior military figures seized power last week, claiming widespread voter fraud in November's elections, where the NLD won a landslide victory.

They arrested elected officials and quickly stacked political offices and the court system with loyalists.

The military originally seized power in 1962 and strictly governed the country until democratic elections in 2010. Under civilian rule, the country was embroiled in ethnic tensions and rights abuses, however Suu Kyi and her party enjoyed widespread domestic popularity.

Since the coup, people have protested in the tens of thousands and established a civil disobedience campaign. This was met with military violence, with harsh crackdowns and widespread arrests.

More international sanctions

Western nations have condemned the coup and its subsequent crackdown, with the US announcing further sanctions on Wednesday.

"I again call on the Burmese military to immediately release democratic political leaders and activists," US President Joe Biden said, as he announced sanctions. "The military must relinquish power."

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell also warned of possible sanctions. 

United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, warned that all military members engaged in human rights abuses risked prosecution.

 aw/rs (AFP, Reuters, AP)