TIn spite of warnings of possible violence by the security forces, tens of thousands of people again protested against the takeover of power by the military in Myanmar on Wednesday. The regime had previously blocked Internet access for the third night in a row. In the center of Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, a huge crowd gathered in the vicinity of the famous Sule Pagoda. Some demonstrators marched in construction workers’ helmets and signal vests. More monks also joined the protest movement.
The protest is creative. Some drivers simulated engine failure and parked their vehicles in the middle of the lane. They paralyzed the traffic and blocked the way for vehicles of the security forces. The military had brought armored vehicles and additional troops into the cities over the weekend.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s condition unknown
The protests on Wednesday were the largest since these threats began. People are demanding an end to military rule and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in the capital, Naypyidaw. The trial of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who led the civil government of Myanmar as a state councilor, surprisingly began on Tuesday and not on Wednesday as announced.
A second lawsuit has now been filed against the 75-year-old politician. According to her lawyer, she is now also being accused of violating the country’s civil protection law because she has not complied with the applicable regulations to contain the coronavirus pandemic. It is an allegation that had previously been made against President Win Myint, who was also arrested.
Aung San Suu Kyi is also charged with violating an import-export law. During a house search, handheld radios are said to have been found, which may not have been properly registered. Both politicians face up to three years imprisonment if convicted.
Nothing is known about their current condition. The State Councilor has not been able to communicate with the outside world since her arrest on February 1. A spokesman for the military only said she was healthy and well. Her attorney himself had learned of the Tuesday hearing at the last minute and was unable to represent her. In addition, he has not yet been allowed to meet his client personally. According to him, the next hearing in the proceedings is scheduled for March 1st.
The UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, warned of a possible escalation on Wednesday. He feared that the potential for violence is now greater than it has been since the takeover on February 1. He had received information that soldiers from the surrounding regions had been sent to Yangon. “In the past, such troop movements preceded killings, disappearances and large-scale arrests,” warned Andrews in a statement on Tuesday. He was very afraid that the mass protests and the gathering of troops would mean that the military could commit “even more serious crimes” against the people of Myanmar.
The special rapporteur supported the demonstration movement. “Many angry citizens of Myanmar will be in Yangon today to oppose the junta and their mock trial of Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint,” he wrote on Twitter. “The world marches with you today!” Wrote Andrews. In the past few days, the increasing arrests and nightly kidnappings of activists and politicians, as well as the crackdown on demonstrators with water cannons, rubber bullets and probably live ammunition, had aroused concerns that the military might violently suppress the protests.