Protesters against the military regime marched in Myanmar on Saturday, three months after a coup ended a democratic transition, with several small explosions shaking the commercial capital, Yangon.
The country has been in turmoil since the military ousted civil leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, putting an abrupt end to Myanmar’s short experience of democracy.
The seizure of power unleashed a massive revolt that the authorities tried to suppress with lethal force and live ammunition.
As Myanmar entered its fourth month under military rule on Saturday, protesters in the commercial center of Yangon, an epicenter of unrest with a strong security presence, made quick demonstrations, marching quickly through the streets to avoid confrontation with police and soldiers.
The rapid pace of the protests is “so that people have time to disappear when security forces come, they will either die or be arrested,” said student activist Min Han Htet.
In Yangon’s Insein municipality, a bomb exploded around 10 am near a local school, said a resident who was living nearby.
“Some security forces came to check the area of the explosion, but I only watched from a distance from my home because I was concerned that they would arrest me,” he told AFP.
In the afternoon, two more explosions occurred in Yankin, further south, according to residents of the leafy residential neighborhood.
“I thought it was thunder,” a resident told AFP, adding that the explosions made security forces nervous.
The state nightly news report said a woman was injured in the Yankee blasts, which she attributed to “instigators”.
No one has yet taken responsibility for the bombings that are occurring with increasing frequency in Yangon.
They made people live in fear ‘
The old capital has been completely transformed since the junta took power on February 1, with barricades erected at major protest points, security forces on patrol and residents reporting nightly arrests of suspected dissidents.
“They (the junta) made people live in fear and it is good to have them under control as well,” said the Yankee resident.
He also praised the lightning protesters for their ingenuity in escaping arrests and repressions.
“Any demonstration of challenge without being captured or killed is great for resistance.”
Across the country, nearly 760 civilians were killed in the anti-coup protests, according to a local monitoring group, although the junta recorded a much lower death toll.
But the democracy movement remains relentless, with protesters gathering on Saturday in downtown Monywa – a focus of violence – carrying signs that say “Monywa cannot be governed”.
In southern Dawei, protesters waved the red flags of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party and carried signs that said “We want democracy”.
Wanted posters by the leader of the junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, have also been pasted around the city, calling him a “power addict”.
He continually justified the coup as necessary to protect democracy, alleging fraud in the November election that Suu Kyi’s party won with an overwhelming victory.
UN calls for return to democracy
The UN Security Council on Friday demanded once again the restoration of democracy in Myanmar and the release of all detainees, including Suu Kyi, and calls strongly supported by the countries of Southeast Asia for an immediate cessation of violence and negotiations such as a first step towards a solution after the month of February 1 military coup.
The council’s press release followed information from the main UN envoy that the strong unified demand for democracy by the people of Myanmar, who have been protesting since the coup, has created “unexpected difficulties” for military leaders in consolidating of the power and risks of bringing the nation’s administration to a standstill.
Christine Schraner Burgener said in comments to the closed board meeting obtained by The Associated Press that her discussions in the region “heightened” her concern that the situation in Myanmar is deteriorating in all areas.
She pointed to a resurgence of fighting in ethnic areas, more poor people losing jobs, public officials refusing to work to protest the coup and a growing crisis in families in and around Yangon’s main city “pushed to the limit” by food, going into debt and trying to survive.
The incessant violence against the demonstrators has drawn the ire of some of Myanmar’s countless ethnic armies, many of whom have been fighting the military for decades in the border regions.
Several condemned the military and demonstrated in support of the anti-junta movement, offering shelter to fleeing activists in the territory they control.
Clashes between the military and the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the main rebel groups, have increased since the coup.
The KNU seized and destroyed military posts and the junta responded with repeated air strikes in the heart of Karen’s rebel state – the latest occurring just after midnight on Saturday.
The target area is very close to the province of Mae Hong Son in northern Thailand, and displaced residents have fled the Salween River, which marks the border.
“Myanmar soldiers used a fighter to launch an air strike operation, firing two rockets and artillery” at around 12:48 pm, said a statement released by Mae Hong Son governor, Sithichai Jindaluang.
He added that more than 2,300 citizens of Myanmar crossed the border into Thailand.
Local media and aid groups Karen have been denied access to refugees, with officials citing the spread of Covid-19 as a reason – stopping to check the temperatures of residents returning home.
Violence also increased in the state of Kachin, in northern Myanmar, between the Kachin Independence Army and the military, who launched air strikes in the municipality of Momauk on Friday.
On Saturday, new artillery shells hit two small towns, according to a humanitarian worker, who said residents feared the conflict would approach.