People opposed to the military raise their hands and signs in protest as pro-Myanmar military supporters march in Yangon on Feb. 25, 2021.
A large crowd in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, rang out in protest rallies on Thursday, Reuters reported. They brought textbooks praising the military government to the rally, intending to burn them in public as a sign of defiance against the military. A number of professionals and civil servants joined the civil disobedience movement.
To counteract the rally, Burmese police blocked the gates of several universities in advance, preventing students from leaving their schools to attend the rally.
At the same Time, about 1,000 “pro-military” people marched and rallied in central Yangon, at one point clashing with those opposing the military coup. Some pro-military activists threw stones or used slingshots to shoot miscellaneous objects at the protesters, and some were stabbed at the scene of the clashes.
According to Radio Free Asia, photos posted by netizens on social media platforms show that pro-military activists arrived at the rally in police vehicles and were wearing headphones. Netizens have questioned whether these so-called pro-military supporters were sent by the military to pose as civilians to cause trouble.
Myanmar’s military staged a coup on Feb. 1, arresting the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a group of senior officials from the democratically elected government, and provoking outrage among the Burmese people. Although the military has promised to hold new elections, no specific date has been given.
In the past few weeks, people have been taking to the streets to protest the military’s coup, and the military earlier used live ammunition, rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to forcefully disperse protesters. As of Wednesday, at least three protesters and one police officer had been killed in the demonstrations, and 728 people had been arrested, prosecuted or sentenced for participating in the demonstrations.
Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun argued at a news conference Tuesday that the military’s actions were within the constitution and supported by the majority, and accused protesters of inciting violence. But people and students involved in the protests told foreign media that security forces personnel openly shot unarmed civilians in the head in a bid to intimidate people with a bloody crackdown.
In addition, there was news earlier that Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi was scheduled to visit Myanmar on Thursday. The foreign ministry has criticized Retno as a disguised recognition of the legitimacy of the Burmese military government. However, according to the latest release from Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, Retno’s visit to Myanmar has been canceled.
According to Reuters, Indonesia is urging its Southeast Asian neighbors to agree on a plan of action on the situation in Myanmar, hoping to jointly demand that the military keep its promise to hold elections in a year’s time and allow international monitors to be present to ensure that the elections are held fairly and do not exclude any party.