Easter eggs a symbol of defiance for Myanmar protesters
OPPONENTS of military rule in Myanmar inscribed messages of protest on Easter eggs yesterday while thousands of others were back on the streets, denouncing a February 1 coup and facing off with the security forces who shot and killed at least three men.
In the latest in a series of impromptu shows of defiance, messages including “Spring Revolution”, “We must win” and “Get out MAH” – referring to junta leader Min Aung Hlaing – were seen on eggs in photographs on social media.
“Easter is all about the future and the people of Myanmar have a great future in a federal democracy,” Dr Sasa, international envoy for the ousted civilian government, said in a statement.
Sasa, who uses only one name, is a member of a largely Christian ethnic minority in the predominantly Buddhist country.
The campaign against the ouster of the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has included protests, a civil disobedience campaign of strikes and quirky acts of rebellion that spread on social media.
Young people in the main city Yangon handed out eggs bearing the messages of protest, pictures in posts showed.
Crowds have come onto the streets day and night, despite a bloody crackdown and round-ups of activist leaders, to reject the return of military rule after a decade of tentative steps towards democracy.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an activist group monitoring casualties and arrests, said the toll of dead had risen to 557, as of late Saturday.
In the capital, Naypyitaw, two men were killed when police fired on protesters on motorbikes, the Irrawaddy news site reported. One man was killed earlier in the northern town of Bhamo, the Myanmar Now news outlet said.
Police and a spokesman for the junta did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.
Several thousand marched in the second city Mandalay and in other towns in the north and the south. A huge crowd, including many women in straw hats, streamed through the central town of Taze chanting slogans, pictures from DVB TV News showed.
The AAPP said 2,658 people were in detention, including four women and a man who spoke to a visiting CNN news crew in interviews on the streets of Yangon last week.
A spokesman for CNN said the network was aware of reports of detentions following the team’s visit and was “pressing the authorities for information”.
Struggling to end the protests, the junta has intensified a campaign to stifle criticism, ordering internet providers to cut wireless broadband which most people use for internet access.
It has also announced arrest warrants for nearly 60 celebrities known for opposition to the coup, including social media influencers, models and a hip-hop star, under a law against inciting dissent in the armed forces.
The charges, announced on state television news bulletins over the past three days, can carry a three-year prison term.
One of those charged, blogger Thurein Hlaing Win, told Reuters he was shocked to be branded a criminal and was in hiding.
“I didn’t do anything bad or evil. I stood on the side of truth,” he said by telephone. “If I get punished for that, my conscience is clear … Everyone knows the truth.”
The military ruled the former British colony with an iron fist after seizing power in 1962, until it began withdrawing from politics a decade ago, releasing Suu Kyi from house arrest and allowing an election that her party swept in 2015.
It says it had to oust Suu Kyi’s government because a November election, again won easily by her party, was rigged. The election commission says the voting was fair.
The military has promised a new election but not set a date.
Many in Myanmar, including younger people who have come of age in the past decade of opening up, cannot accept the return of rule by the generals.
Suu Kyi is in detention facing charges that could bring 14 years in prison. Her lawyer says the charges are trumped up.
Ethnic minority forces that have been battling for autonomy in frontier regions for decades have mostly thrown their support behind the pro-democracy movement, raising fears of growing conflict and chaos.
The Karen National Union, which signed a ceasefire in 2012, has seen the first military air strikes on its forces in more than 20 years, sending thousands of refugees into neighbouring Thailand. Fighting has also flared in the north between the army and ethnic Kachin insurgents.
Suu Kyi’s party has vowed to set up a federal democracy, the minority groups’ main demand.