The Burmese military stepped up its crackdown on protests against a military coup on Saturday (Feb. 27), with police in Yangon and Mandalay, the two largest cities, continuing to arrest opposition figures and a woman shot dead. Myanmar’s representative to the United Nations spoke at the General Assembly and called on the world to pressure the Burmese military to restore a democratically elected government.
In Yangon, Burma’s largest city, local police began arresting protesters on Saturday morning from the Hledan business center in the center of the city, then chased crowds dispersing in all directions and into residential areas to continue arrests.
One protester said, “I heard them saying they could shoot,” according to the Guardian UK. They are trying to show that they can control the situation. But that’s a lie. The whole country is in a state of chaos.”
Another protester said, “They are not soldiers, they are not police. They are terrorists.”
The Guardian said a group of demonstrators gathered in a street in the center of the city and people honked their car horns and applauded and cheered them. Police then attacked them, some were twisted by police, others were dispersed and then gathered again in a cat-and-mouse show. Police used flashbangs and fired warning shots.
Security forces in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, were doing their best to try to thwart the protests. Roadblocks were set up at major traffic intersections and police were stationed at major rally sites.
In Monywa, a town near Mandalay, local media said police shot and killed a woman. Photos of the woman who was killed were posted on social media. The Associated Press said that while the news has not been confirmed by independent sources, the photo and identity of the dead man suggest that the news is credible. Dozens of protesters were also arrested by police in Monywa.
Buddhist monks also took part in Saturday’s protest demonstration. Their appearance was eye-catching and added moral support to the popular disobedience movement.
It is unclear how many arrests were made by Burmese police on Saturday. But as of Friday, Burmese police had arrested a total of 771 people for protesting demonstrations.
Burma’s military staged a coup on Feb. 1 that toppled the democratically elected government led by senior state minister Aung San Suu Kyi and reversed the country’s slow progress toward democratization. The military claimed that fraud occurred in last year’s election and that the election needed to be held again.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in that election. The military arrested Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar President Win Myint, among other senior leaders, in a coup d’état on Feb. 1.
Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Friday (Feb. 26), Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, unexpectedly announced his allegiance to Myanmar’s democratically elected government led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, parting ways with the country’s military. He called on the international community to put pressure on the Burmese military to immediately end the coup and restore a democratically elected government.
Kyaw Maung Tun asked countries to issue a public statement strongly condemning the coup and refusing to recognize the military regime. He also called on the international community to take stronger measures to stop the Myanmar military from committing violence against peaceful protesters.
Kyaw Maung Tun ended his speech by extending three fingers to say no to the military coup. The gesture is a trademark of Burmese protest demonstrators and means non-cooperation and non-compliance.
Kyaw Maung Tun’s speech, delivered in Burmese, lasted about 12 minutes, and his voice trembled with emotion as he vowed to continue the struggle to restore a democratically elected government.
The Burmese ambassador’s speech was followed by thunderous applause and many tributes to him.
It is extremely rare in the history of the United Nations for an ambassador of a country to speak out against his own regime from the rostrum of the UN. The last Time there was a similar act was in 2011 when Libya’s ambassador to the UN issued a statement breaking with the Qaddafi dictatorship.