Space for peaceful protests is vanishing in Hong Kong as pro-democracy coalition is disbanded

Civil Human Rights Front announced its disbandment on August 15, 2021

The following post is an English translation of a Chinese report published on Hong Kong-based CitizenNews on August 14, 2021. It is republished by Kodao through Global Voices under a content partnership agreement. 

Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF), a coalition of pro-democracy political and citizen groups for the mobilisation of large-scale rallies, announced its disbandment on August 15, 2021. 

Many anticipated the group would eventually dissolve when the Hong Kong Police Force started investigating the group in April 2021, citing national security concerns

Throughout its tenure, the umbrella organization frequently hosted major mass rallies in Hong Kong, including the 2019 anti-China extradition protests. Since its establishment in 2002, the Hong Kong police had collaborated with the group to ensure rallies were orderly, safe and peaceful. Yet, upon the enactment of the national security law (NSL) on June 30, 2020, the Police Force banned the CHRF’s 2020 July 1 pro-democracy rally for the first time since the annual protests began in 2002, citing COVID-19 and security concerns. In May 2021 the coalition was flagged as an illegal entity.

CHRF has represented the rational, peaceful and moderate front of Hong Kong’s civil society since its establishment. For 18 years, it served as a platform for civic groups to communicate and build consensus on common agendas for positive social change. Though no protests have been organised since the NSL was implemented, police vowed to investigate key figures of the group for potential national security infractions. 

The Civil Human Rights Front’s origins

The Civil Human Rights Front was established in 2002 by Rose Wu, a veteran feminist and a faculty member at CUHK’s School of Theology. The group hoped to provide a loose platform for civil groups to regularly discuss human rights and social justice. Eventually, more than 30 groups had joined the coalition, which was officially launched on September 13, 2002. 

At that time, the most pressing issue in Hong Kong was the legislation of Basic Law Article 23 — a local version of the national security law. The CHRF hosted its first rally in December 2002 against the proposed law and unexpectedly drew 60,000 demonstrators — ten times more than anticipated. 

On July 1, 2003, the CHRF organized its second rally against local national security legislation. Around 500,000 people turned out, making it the second-largest protest in the city since the mass rally against China’s crackdown on the Tiananmen student movement in 1989. The rally forced the Hong Kong government to halt the legislation. 

Since then, July 1 rallies have become an annual event for citizens to voice out their discontent. As the rally host, the CHRF would decide on the annual agenda while other organisations and protesters would use the occasion to voice their demands.

Between 2005 and 2013, the agenda of the annual rally covered a wide range of issues including universal suffrage, minimum wage, environmental concern, property bubbles, the introduction of a national education curriculum and more. The turnout ranged from 21,000 to 430,000 depending on the political climate at the time.

In 2014, 510,000 people joined a rally demanding genuine universal suffrage of the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive. After the rally, two student activist groups, Hong Kong Federation of Student Unions and Scholarism staged a rehearsal of ‘Occupy Central Protests‘, a massive civil disobedience campaign that advocates for democratic election reform with no pre-screening for candidates according to international standards of universal suffrage. During the sit-in, 511 protesters were arrested.

Since then, many started to question the effectiveness of the annual ‘ritualistic’ peaceful rallies organized by the CHRF and called for more radical forms of protest and civil disobedience. 

CHRF: The rational and peaceful front of Hong Kong protests

Civil engagement ebbed after the Occupy Central sit-in protests in 2014 failed to bring democratic changes in the city. As a large number of activists were arrested for participating in the peaceful sit-in, some protesters became sceptical of orderly, symbolic acts of protest in favour of more disruptive resistance. The number of participants in demonstrations dropped dramatically until February 2019 when the government introduced an amendment to the Extradition Bill or The Fugitive Offenders and Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Legislation (Amendment) Bill 2019.

In response to the government decision to bypass the Bill Committee and submit the controversial bill directly to the Legislative Council for second reading on June 12, 2019, the CHRF organized the anti-China extradition rally on June 9. The government decided to proceed with the reading despite the 1 million demonstrators who had turned out against the bill. After the rally, some protesters clashed with police outside the Legislative Council. 

On June 12, the CHRF hosted an authorized peaceful assembly at Lung Wui Road. On the same day, some protesters surrounded the Legislature and a few clashed with the riot police. The police force ended up firing tear gas, bean bag rounds and rubber bullets to disperse the protesters, including thousands of peaceful protesters at Lung Wui Road. At the end of the day, the police justified its actions by labelling the protest a riot, a crime that could lead to a maximum of 10 years imprisonment. The CHRF called for another rally on June 16. 

Although the government announced on June 15 they would suspend the amendment to the extradition law, the police operation on June 12 had turned the single-issue protests into a city-wide political movement with five demands: the withdrawal of the fugitive law amendment, holding the police accountable for the violent clampdown on June 12, the release of the arrested protesters, changing the ‘riot’ label of the June 12 protests, and stepping down of the Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Over 2 million people turned out for the June 16 protest, which made headlines worldwide.

After the 2019 July 1 rally, which ended when a few dozen radical activists stormed the Legislative Council complex, the anti-China extradition movement evolved into a series of decentralised protests hosted by different activist groups. Very often, these protests ended in clashes between riot police and protesters. 

In response to the violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators and between pro-Bejing and pro-democracy protesters such as the Yuen Long subway attack incident on July 21, the CHRF hosted a ‘be water assembly’ at Victoria Park on August 18, 2019, condemning the collusion between the police and the pro-Beijing mobs, more than 1,700,000 joined the protest. 

The Hong Kong government and the pro-establishment groups condemned the CHRF and the pro-democracy political parties for not cutting ties with the radical protesters. 

Since March 2021, when Singapore-based Chinese newspaper Lianhe Zaobao reported that the Hong Kong police had launched an investigation on the CHRF, many coalition members have cut ties with the group. One month later in April 2020, the Hong Kong police accused the CHRF of violating the Societies Ordinance for failing to register as a legal entity.  The last convenor of CHRF Figo Chan was sentenced to jail for participating in an illegal assembly on October 1, 2019. The umbrella group was left with no leadership. 

The final disbandment of the CHRF was announced on August 15 through a statement

CHRF originally hoped to continue to face the challenge with everyone in the existing ways, but convenor Figo Chan is already in jail because of several cases, and the secretariat can no longer maintain its operations. With no members participating in the next secretariat, we can only begrudgingly announce our disbandment.

Thailand protests against pandemic mismanagement met with police violence

By Prachatai/Global Voices

A protest in Bangkok against the Thai government’s alleged mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic was met with police violence on Saturday, August 7. Police used water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas against the protestors and arrested at least 18 people.

The protest was organized by the activist group Free Youth and partner organizations, who have made three demands: the resignation of Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha, the reallocation of monarchy and military budgets toward COVID-19 assistance, and replacement of the Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines with mRNA vaccines. This is one of several protests that have been held related to the government’s COVID response.

Organizers met at the Democracy Monument with a plan to march to the Grand Palace. By noon, two hours ahead of the scheduled 2:00 pm start time, around 100 protesters had begun gathering at the Democracy Monument but were faced with lines of crowd control police blocking the planned route.

At 12:25 pm, the police ordered the protesters to end their gathering and crowd control police began to advance on the protesters. There were reports that rubber bullets were used and that 2 protesters were arrested.

Firecracker-like sounds were heard at the scene. Protesters were also reportedly shooting slingshots and throwing glass bottles and rocks at the crowd-control police. Officers in the vicinity were seen wearing bulletproof vests and carrying cable ties, batons, and shields. Some were also carrying rubber bullet firearms.

Due to the crowd control police and other anti-protest blockades, the protesters were repeatedly re-routed on thier march, but eventually ended up at the Victory Monument. The Free Youth announced via their Telegram channel for the protesters to meet at the Victory Monument before marching to the 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters, where PM Prayut lives.

However, protestors found the roads near the 1st Infantry Regiment headquarters closed, as the police had declared them a no-entry zone. The police ordered the protesters back to the Victory Monument, and the protestors refused, sparking. clash.

During the conflict, officers were told that they could use rubber bullets if protesters approached the police lines. The clash lasted for at least two hours, as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the protesters. At around 5:20 pm, police began using water cannons.

Tear gas was fired at protesters at the Din Daeng Intersection. Photo by Prachatai

Amid the tear gas, bullets, and water cannons, the protesters were forced to retreat to the Victory Monument and the organizers announced the end of the protest at 5:35 pm.

However, clashes continued at the Victory Monument throughout the evening as crowd control police continued to fire tear gas at the remaining protesters. There were also reports that tear gas was fired from the skywalk above the monument, while water cannon blasts were reported as crowd control police moved toward the momument. Clashes continued until around 9:00 pm.

Several National Human Rights Commissioners weighed in on the protest. Regarding the potential violations of the right to freedom of expression, Commissioner Wasan Paileeklee said that even though there might be a legal framework supporting the police’s operation, their actions must be proportional.

Rows of containers blocked the street at the Nang Leong Intersection. Photo by Prachatai

Activists harassed by officers ahead of protest

Police officers searched several activists’ homes ahead of the protest. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR) reported that on Saturday, August 7 that three plainclothes officers and one uniformed officer searched activist Chukiat “Justin” Sangwong’s apartment at 7:30 am. Chukiat said that the officers also asked to see his computer, but he refused, and he was told that he would be charged if he shared images of the search warrant. TLHR said that three plainclothes officers and one uniformed officer also searched the home of a Thammasat University student in Pathum Thani.

Activist Piyarat Chongthep said that at least two members of the We Volunteer protest guard group were followed by police officers who tried to search their houses ahead of the protest. Officers also came to We Volunteer’s headquarters, and Piyarat later told TLHR that around 10 officers were stationed outside the building, threatening that he could be arrested if he left to join the protest.

Piyarat also said that two members of the We Volunteer protest guard group had been arrested at a friend’s house on Friday night August 6. The house was also searched and the two detainees were later released after nothing illegal was found.

TLHR reported that over 15 police officers also raided the residence of a We Volunteer member on Saturday morning, claiming that they had received a report of illegal activities. They arrested at least three people, brought them to the police station, and confiscated their car and mobile phones. No search warrant was presented.

Protest route blocked with oil tankers

Oil tankers blocking the route to the Grand Palace. Photo by Prachatai.

Shipping containers and oil tankers were placed across Sanam Luang on Saturday morning to block the original route of the march to the Grand Palace. A banner saying “The king’s soldiers and the police of the (good) people have joined forces, ready to protect Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace” was hung from the containers.nearby roads were also closed.

TLHR later published a letter from Assistant Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Kraiboon Suadsong to the State Railway of Thailand requesting the use of decommissioned train cars and oil tankers to prevent activities risking the spread of COVID-19.

The State Railway Workers’ Union of Thailand (SRUT) then issued a statement calling for decommissioned rolling stock not to be used as barriers, and for an investigation to be launched into how the train cars were taken. They also expressed disagreement with the train cars were used, as the right to peaceful assembly is enshrined in Thailand’s Constitution and in international human rights law.

The SRUT said that there is a risk that dangerous objects could be placed in the cars and oil tankers, potentially causing harm.

At least 18 people arrested

A protester was arrested at the Democracy Monument (Photo from iLaw)

TLHR reported that at least 18 people were arrested before and during Saturday’s protest. TLHR also said that two protesters who were arrested at the Democracy Monument had thier hands tied with cable ties, and one of them showed signs of being assaulted while in detention. TLHR later reported that police officers also detained the driver of a van carrying four speakers after the protest, pushing him to the ground before arresting him.

Eight We Volunteer members arrested before the protest were charged with being members of a secret society under Sections 209 and 210 of the Thai Criminal Code, while the remaining 10 people were charged with violating the Emergency Decree. #

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The original version of this article was published by Prachatai, an independent news site in Thailand, and was edited and republished by Global Voices as part of a content-sharing agreement. It is republished by Kodao as part of a similar agreement.

‘Maohi Lives Matter’: Tahiti protesters condemn French nuclear testing legacy

By Mong Palatino/Global Voices

More than 1,000 people gathered in the Tahiti capital of Papeete to condemn the failure of the French government to take full accountability for its nuclear testing program in the South Pacific.

France conducted 193 nuclear tests from 1966–1996 in Mā’ohi Nui (French Polynesia). France’s 41st nuclear experiment in the Pacific led to catastrophe on July 17, 1974, when France tested a nuclear bomb codenamed “Centaure.” Because of weather conditions that day, the test caused an atmospheric radioactive fallout which affected all of French Polynesia. Inhabitants of Tahiti and the surrounding islands of the Windward group were reportedly subjected to significant amounts of ionizing radiation 42 hours after the test, which can cause significant long-term health problems.

The July 17, 2021 protest was organized under the banner of #MaohiLivesMatter to highlight the continuing fight for nuclear justice. Campaigners said that despite the statement of former French President François Hollande in 2016 recognizing the negative environmental and health impact of the nuclear tests, the French government has done little to provide compensation or rehabilitation to French Polynesia.

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After analyzing 2,000 pages of declassified French military documents about the nuclear tests, in March 2021 a group of researchers and investigative journalists from INTERPRT and Disclose released their findings on the health implications of the experiments.

According to our calculations, based on a scientific reassessment of the doses received, approximately 110,000 people were infected, almost the entire Polynesian population at the time.

The report has revived public awareness in France about the impact of their nuclear testing program. The French government held a roundtable discussion about the issue in Paris in early July. Though some criticized the French government for their alleged lack of transparency around the clean-up efforts in French Polynesia, officials denied these claims.

Protesters in Tahiti insisted that the French government should do more to address the demands of French Polynesian residents. Some noted that if French President Emmanuel Macron was able to seek forgiveness for the role of France in enabling the Rwanda genocide in 1994, he should at least make a similar apology for the harmful legacy of the nuclear tests in the Pacific.

The #MaohiLivesMatter protest has inspired solidarity in the Pacific.

Community leaders of West Papua expressed their support for the protest:

Youth activists from Pacific island nations also took part in the protest:

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons (ICAN) Australia issued this statement of support:

As you gather in Maohi Nui on the 17th July we offer our deep respects to your leaders and community members who have long spoken out against the harms imposed by these weapons. We have heard your calls for nuclear justice. We continue to listen closely when you speak of the lived experience of the testing years and the on–going harms.

French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to tackle the legacy of nuclear testing during his visit to Tahiti this month. #

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Kodao publishes Global Voices articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

China wipes out LGBTQ channels on WeChat with no explanation

Some believe the crackdown is related to the three-child policy.

The following post is the English version of a Chinese report written by Rex Yung and published on Hong Kong-based CitizenNews on July 7, 2021. It is published on Global Voices under a content partnership agreement.

By CitizenNews

At least 14 LGBTQ public channels on WeChat, the most popular Chinese social media platform, were permanently blocked on July 6, 2021. All their content vanished without a trace. 

The majority of the channels were run by university-based LGBTQ groups including Purple at Tsinghua University, Colorsworld at Peking University, Gender Equality Research Association at Wuhan University and Zhihe Society at Fudan University. 

Chinese Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on July 8 that the removal of LGBTQ channels on WeChat was in accordance with Chinese law:

CitizenNews’ reporters reached out to a number of group administrators through various channels, but they all declined to comment on the incident. 

An LGBTQ activist commented anonymously that the incident had hit the community very hard as they don’t have many in-person opportunities to connect with other LGBTQ people — and now even virtual channels are blocked.  

He revealed that many sexual minority groups had been under pressure because of June’s LGBTQ Pride Month and the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. The community had faced many verbal attacks on social media in the past few months, but they were shocked that all their accounts were shut down so abruptly. 

According to a report from Reuters, the Chinese authorities have been investigating the loyalty of the university-based LGBTQ groups since May 2021:

Many of the LGBTQ groups blocked on WeChat have been established for many years. For example, the Guangzhou-based Gay and Lesbian Campus Association of China was founded in 2006. In 2014, they published a report entitled ‘Report on the Misrepresentation and Stigmatization of Homosexuality in Chinese High School Textbooks’, criticizing textbooks that reinforced stigmas on homosexuality. One of their members even sued the Ministry of Education for discrimination. 

Founded in 2005, the Zhihe Society of Fudan University is the first student organization that focuses on gender equity in China. Since its establishment, the society had run a play called ‘Monologues from the Vagina’ on campus annually until 2018 when the University authorities stepped in to ban their performance. 

Earlier this year, the Society was punished with a three-month suspension for repeatedly violating the Fudan University Student Association Management Regulations. One of the violations cited by the university administrator was that it had forwarded the announcement of an online lecture on feminism organized by the University of Michigan in the United States. The act was flagged as a ‘very serious violation’ as it mobilized students to participate in activities organized by foreign forces outside of the university. 

In recent years, thanks to the ideological struggle against Western culture, there is a general belief that feminist and queer movements in China are colluding with foreign forces.

Regarding the disbanding of LGBTQ accounts on WeChat, reactions are very polarized on Chinese social media. Those who support equal rights for LGBTQ people are outraged by the crackdown. Some believe that the action has something to do with the three-child policy. One comment on Weibo said: 

“A surge of conservative forces. First they targeted the feminist, then they went after LGBT people. They just want you to go to bed and give birth to three children.”

Another said:

“Gays and Lesbians can’t give birth to three children, this is a policy-backed crackdown on difference.”

As for those who are against LGBTQ rights, they celebrate the disbandment of the public channels on social media and praise the authorities for stepping in to ban LGBTQ groups’ campus activities. 

For example, Mei Xinyu, a researcher at the Ministry of Commerce, wrote in a WeChat post, 

“This is the right way. In dealing with the perverted LGBT, we could allow their existence in silence, but we could not let them enjoy the privilege of standing above other normal people. This is an attempt to protect national security and save the Chinese society from extinction.”

Many criticize the LGBTQ community for taking part in the pride month activities on Weibo. For example, one comment said

“You can say ‘I am gay and I am proud’. But what is the point of saying that in public? Whether you are proud of not has nothing to do with the general public. Have you been oppressed? Are the gay and lesbian being discriminated upon? The rights that they demand is a privilege in the name of the sexual minority.”

A number of posts circulating online speculate that the Chinese LGBTQ community has been infiltrated by foreign forces. Though this is widely viewed as a conspiracy theory, some cited a Weibo post by the U.S. consulates in China supporting LGBTQ rights as evidence.

One such post summed up the US’s plot against China in two points: 

“First, LGBTQI divides people into different groups. This would give space for the US to sow discord and destroy the unity of the Chinese people and instigate internal conflicts; 

“Second, China’s fertility rate has become so low that it must intervene, and while the country has launched the three-child policy and encouraged fertility. Against such background, LGBTQI movement would encourage more Chinese people to become infertile and sabotage China’s population plan.”

China’s official stance on homosexuality has followed a ‘Three No’ policy for many years — no support, no encouragement and no opposition.

The country decriminalized homosexuality in 1997 and removed homosexuality from the list of mental illnesses in 2001. 

In early 2019, China accepted the UN Human Rights Council’s recommendations on improving LGBTQ people’s rights. Though it did not recognize same-sex-partnershipin its updated Civil Code last year.

Suppression of feminist and LGBTQ communities’ online presence has escalated in recent months.

In April, the Chinese social media platform Douban closed at least eight feminist channels. The platforms said the action was taken to prevent the spread of extremism and radical political views. One month later,  Xiao Meili, a well-known feminist, was accused by online nationalists of colluding with foreign forces and supporting Hong Kong independence. Eventually, Xiao, together with more than a dozen feminists who spoke out for her, had their accounts blocked by Weibo.

However, no authority has given any official explanation on the suppressive policies. An LGBTQ rights supporter described the situation as:

“Something covers your mouth and you can’t make any noise. Who should I file the appeal to? You can’t identify who exactly is in charge. Which government authority is staging the clampdown? What kind of power are you confronting? The whole thing is so repressive, suffocating and ridiculous.”

(This report was also published by Global Voices, a content-sharing partner of Kodao.)

Myanmar crackdown intensifies as air strikes lead to more killings and displacement

46 children have died during the protest crackdown and air strikes

By Global Voices South East Asia

This article originally appeared on Medium and was written by a blogger who doesn’t wish to be identified. An edited version is published here.

Note: This article contains disturbing images of violence.

Throughout March 2021, Myanmar’s military regime continued its brutal suppression of civilian movements that were calling for the restoration of democracy in the country since the military coup of February 1.

Since February, protests across the country have been challenging the military rule. Starting in March, the junta ramped up its crackdown on peaceful protesters.

As pressure from the ethnic armed organizations (EAO) grew stronger, the final week of March saw the bloodiest reprisals from the Myanmar military, which launched airstrikes on villages in EAO-controlled areas. As of April 2, 550 protesters, including 46 children, had been killed while around 12,900 villagers have fled their homes to escape clashes between the military regime and EAOs in Karen and Kachin states.

Below is a timeline of violence inflicted by the junta on civilians and protesters during the second half of March:

On March 19, a military operation in a small city of Aung Ban in Shan state was responsible for the deaths of nine protesters.

Starting on March 21, the regime intensified the violence in Taunggyi, the capital of Shan state. Footage shared on Facebook showed soldiers shooting protesters and torturing civilians in their homes.

On the same day, the military ramped up night crackdowns in parts of Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, and killed five people, including a 15-year-old boy. The crackdown continued in Mandalay the next day with the killing of four more people, one of whom was a 13-year-old boy.

On March 23, soldiers raided a home and shot a seven-year-old girl while she was in her father’s arms. Her 19-year-old brother was also severely hit in the head with a rifle butt and was arrested by the soldiers. These children were the first of many victims of military’s intensified attacks against the youth.

In three days of continuous violence in Mandalay, 22 people were reportedly killed.

On March 24, a nationwide “silent day” strike was organized across the country, where people “protested” by not going out on the streets while shops and markets were also closed.

“Day of shame”

On Saturday, March 27, while junta leaders celebrated “Armed Forces Day” in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, the forces of the regime unleashed the most ruthless attack against protesters causing a bloodbath in 40 cities across the country. The death toll reached 114.

That day, five children were also killed. A 13-year-old boy from Mingalar Taung Nyunt ward of Yangon was shot by riot police while he was playing on the street. His body was taken by the police. A one-year-old child was also severely injured with a rubber bullet. By that time, 29 people under 18 had already been killed by the military across the country.

In the city of Dawei, CCTV footage showed the regime’s soldiers on a truck trying to kill three civilians on a motorbike that was merely crossing the street. Two escaped but one person was shot dead.

Perhaps the most heinous crime was a military raid during a night in Mandalay when they burned a resident alive.

Before the bloodbath, the regime confirmed in a state television announcement that it was enforcing a policy of shooting people in the head, and warned that it would do more if people continue protests.

Because of this and the high number of fatalities, the international community dubbed Myanmar military regime’s Armed Forces Day as a “Day of Shame.”

The Armed Forces Day was originally known as Resistance Day when the Myanmar army expelled Japanese forces during the Second World War. Later on, the military junta changed it to Armed Forces Day, locally known as Tatmadaw Day (တပ်မတော်နေ့).

As a symbol of fascist resistance, activists asked the people to come out for nationwide demonstrations on March 27.

Continuing impunity

On Sunday, March 28, the military crackdown in the central city of Monywa, where mass protests had been going on every day, saw five people killed.

In Yangon, there were also reports of the military using live grenades in the neighborhood of Hlaing.

At night, the military launched a crackdown in the city of Pathein in the delta region amid electricity and internet blackouts.

Similarly in Yangon’s South Dagon township, the military used submachine guns during the night crackdown.

The crackdown continued in March 29 in South Dagon, where the regime’s forces used RPG (rocket-propelled grenade) launchers to break down the strong resistance of the protesters. Another person was also found with his/her body burnt at night in the street by the military (it was not clear if he/she was still alive at the time of burning). Twenty-one people were confirmed dead during the two-day clampdown.

Civilians from the city of Kalay and nearby areas, where there is a majority of Chin ethnic people, had been also putting up a tough fight against the military forces for three days since March 30. Seventeen civilians died during that clash.

Air strikes in ethnic villages

Since March 11, the KIA (Kachin Independence Army) had been attacking military bases near Hpa-Kant, a northern town in the Kachin state. The military reportedly retaliated with air strikes against the KIA.

A decade-long civil war between the KIA and the Myanmar military has been ongoing since 2011 with occasional ceasefire agreements.

The KIA claimed that it renewed offensives against the junta because of the Tatmadaw’s atrocities against civilians.

On March 23, the AA (Arakan Army) from the Rakhine state also condemned the violence of the Tatmadaw forces. This was significant because the military granted a ceasefire with the AA when the coup began, which ended bouts of intensified fighting in the Rakhine state that began in 2018. On March 11, the military council had also removed the previous designation of the AA as a terrorist group.

On Armed Forces Day, March 27, the KNU (Karen National Union) attacked and captured a military base near Thee Mutra in the Karen state.

On the same evening, the Myanmar military started retaliating with airstrikes in KNU controlled territories. Continuous aerial bombings during the weekend had forced over 10,000 people from nearby villages to flee their homes. Air attacks continued until March 30 which killed at least 20 civilians.

By March 28, the KIA had captured four military bases near the city of Hpa-Kant. The next day, the military retaliated with an air strike. More people had fled due to the fighting in the Hpa-Kant area.

On March 30, a coalition of ethnic armed groups, namely the MNDAA (Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army), the AA (Arakan Army) and the TNLA (Ta’ang National Liberation Army) released a statement saying they will defend and stand with civilians if military crackdowns continued.

Over 46 children have died in the past two months during the protests and the air strikes since February 1.

People’s defiance

Throughout the second half of March, many cities across Myanmar continued to show defiance by demonstrating in the streets.

In Yangon, having experienced inhumane clampdowns, young people continued to show up in random street lanes within neighborhoods using guerrilla-style tactics to evade military forces.

Protesters also chose unusual hours like dawn or night in organizing actions. Other protests used symbolic actions such as red balloons or flowers, without people to avoid being arrested or killed.

On the night of March 31, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (a counter government body set up by ousted parliament members), introduced the Federal Democracy Charter as a roadmap to move forward the country’s political future in the fight against the brutal military regime, and declared that the 2008 Constitution, drafted by the previous junta, had been abolished.

Over the next few days, people protested by burning the constitution and also its flag across different cities.

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Kodao publishes Global Voices articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

In another blow for Japan’s Summer Games, male chauvinist “Olympig” is forced to resign

Second high-level resignation over misogynistic remarks

By Nevin Thompson

On March 17, Tokyo Olympic creative director Sasaki Hiroshi was forced to quit after making misogynistic remarks, becoming the second high-ranking official to be pushed out of the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2021 because of overt sexism. Sasaki’s resignation marks yet another setback for the 2020 Olympic Games, already postponed a year because of the pandemic, and plagued with gaffes, low public support and the ongoing problem of COVID-19.

Sasaki Hiroshi, who until March had been responsible for the opening and closing ceremonies of both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, had been seconded to the position from giant advertising and public relations firm Dentsu. Sasaki stated he proposed the idea a year ago that popular comedian and entertainer Watanabe Naomi, a woman, dress up as a pig as a play on words taking the last three letters of “Olympics.” Sasaki was forced to explain his comments after investigative news magazine Shukan Bunshun broke the story on March 17.

In February, the president of the Japan Olympic Organizing Committee, Yoshiro Mori, had already been forced to resign after making and doubling down on misogynistic comments. Amid national protests, at least 1,000 Olympic volunteers quit before Mori was forced out.

Chelsea Szendi Schieder, historian and faculty member at Aoyama Gakuin University, remarked:

Proposing to cast Watanabe Naomi, the most charismatic talent working in Japan today, as the “Olympig” in the opening ceremonies is insulting, and sadly on-brand for Tokyo 2020.

Others noted that Sasaki’s proposal seemed to exemplify an out-of-touch gerontocracy that is in charge of both the Olympics and Japan itself, a country recently ranked 120th in the world for gender equity. Freelance journalist Thoton Akimoto said:

Who on earth could think dressing up Watanabe Naomi as a pig, and then making her say “I’m an Olympig” would ever be a good idea for the opening ceremony of the Olympics? It’s not only demeaning to Watanabe, but also to anyone self-conscious of their own appearance. The idea could also be perceived as being anti-women. It’s as though Sasaki confused the Olympics with a vulgar variety television show with a 60s or 70s sensibility.

In an official statement, Watanabe said there were no plans for her to participate in the opening ceremonies after the Olympics had been postponed last year, and that she was unaware of Sasaki’s remarks.

Watanabe also said:

As Naomi Watanabe, a person in the public eye, it is true that there are times when people have told me my physique is large, and I have been working with the understanding that there will be times when I will be taunted for it.

In reality, I am very happy with my figure. Therefore, I want to continue to express myself not only as someone who is large but as ‘Naomi Watanabe.’

However, as one human being, I truly hope from the bottom of my heart that the world can become a joyous place where each person’s individuality and ideas are respected and accepted by all.

Amid ongoing controversies, celebrities and other prominent people continue to pull out of the torch relay, which kicked off on March 25 in Fukushima prefecture. Most celebrities, such as beloved entertainer and television host Shofukutei Tsurube and gentleman crooner Itsuki Hiroshi cited “scheduling conflicts” when pulling out of the torch relay.

They are likely responding to public sentiments about the Games. A recent poll by news agency Kyodo found that 80 per cent of Japanese people think the Olympics should be either canceled, or postponed again due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The poll was conducted following Mori Yoshiro’s earlier misogynistic remarks in January and February, which also prompted the exodus of Olympic volunteers.

Despite the setbacks and seeming low public support for the Tokyo Olympics, organizers have insisted the Olympic torch relay will continue as planned  (a “men-only” stage was canceled after public outrage) even as COVID-19 cases continue to increase in cities along the route, including Osaka and Tokyo.

Meanwhile, Japan, with a population of 126 million people, has entered its “fourth wave” of COVID-19. More than 1 million COVID-19 cases have been identified in the country since the start of the pandemic in February 2020, and infection numbers in some parts of the country continue to increase week over week.

By the beginning of April this year, the seven-day average in Tokyo, with a population of 15 million people, identified 440 new cases of COVID-19 per day, compared to 376 and 303 on the previous two Fridays.

On April 1, Osaka prefecture, with a population of 8.8 million, logged its highest daily case count of COVID-19 since January 23, with 559 new cases. Japan’s central government, which retains overall control over regional COVID-19 management measures, has been forced to re-enact stronger measures to reduce infections.

Rising numbers of infections have alarmed not only the Japanese government but others as well. The U.S. military, which itself was implicated with the initial spread of COVID-19 throughout Japan, has identified “red zones” in the country:

Vaccines may not offer an easy exit from COVID-19. While speeding up, Japan’s vaccination program is off to a slow start, with less than one per cent of the population vaccinated so far. The government has signed deals with vaccine providers, and is focusing on healthcare workers and seniors first.

In the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Japanese government has decided to host an “athletes-only” Olympic Games. Theoretically, this would limit the number of overseas visitors to just 15,000. However, the rule would also allow families, coaches, media and sponsors—potentially 100,000 to 200,000 people—to enter Japan from overseas.

Japan’s decision to close its borders to anyone but its citizens has left some foreign residents of Japan stranded overseas. The situation is especially difficult for foreign students, many of whom have been unable to enter Japan for more than a year. While re-entry restrictions have been relaxed, it can still be difficult for students and some workers to receive permission to enter the country.

There are fears Japan will not admit foreigners, including students, visitors, and visa-holders until at least September 2021—after the Olympic Games have concluded.

The Japan Olympic Organizing Committee appears unwilling to acknowledge howregular gaffes, a pattern of outright misogyny among senior leadership and the sense the COVID-19 pandemic is being ignored have all resulted in low public support for the Games.

Instead, after news magazine Shukan Bunshun reported on the Sasaki Hiroshi’s “Olympig” comments that resulted in his resignation, Hashimoto Seiko, who replaced Mori Yoshiro on the new Organizing Committee, demanded the publication retract the story and pull all physical copies from circulation.

Shukan Bunshun bluntly refused, causing yet a new controversy for the Tokyo Olympics. Besides noting that it is in the public interest to report on a taxpayer-funded event, Shukan Bunshan concluded its response with this question:

Translation:

Who are the Tokyo Olympics for? It shouldn’t just be an “Olympics for some people,” such as the organizing committee, Dentsu, and politicians.

Original Quote:

東京オリンピックは、誰のためにあるのか。組織委員会や電通、政治家など利益を得る一部の人々のために、オリンピックがあるのではないか。

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Myanmar’s anti-coup protesters include DIY shields, women’s sarongs in their defensive arsenal

Protesters never seem to run out of ideas, or audacity

By Global Voices South East Asia

This edited article originally appeared on the blog of a Global Voices contributor who doesn’t wish to be identified.

The death toll of Myanmar’s protesters had already reached more than 217 by Wednesday, March 17 as the military ramped up its violent crackdown on the anti-coup resistance.

The Myanmar military, led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, staged a coup on February 1 and replaced the civilian government with a “military council,” having accused elected leaders of the National League for Democracy of committing massive fraud in the November 2020 election.

Read More: Coup and resistance in Myanmar: A timeline of the first month under the 2021 military junta

The military has been conducting nightly raids and arbitrary arrests. Many people have died during these detentions from beatings and torture—acts of terror intended to instil fear. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, there were 1,873 confirmed political prisoners as of March 14.

Despite the intensified violence unleashed by security forces in recent weeks, young pro-democracy protesters continued to show no signs of fear or slowing down their peaceful protests across the country. They even came up with different physical and psychological defence strategies to deter the riot police.

In Yangon, people set up protest stations in their own neighbourhoods with makeshift defence barriers, rather than going to a massive gathering point as protesters had done in February. The barriers, made of local resources such as sandbags, large trash bins, concrete blocks, bricks and even large PVC pipes, were meant to slow down the soldiers while protesters retreated to safety.

Frontline protectors, mainly local youths, are often the first line of defence. This is a dangerous spot since their DIY shields, made of plastic, wood, or iron from recycled barrels, do not protect them from live ammunition. Wearing DIY vests and construction hats, they risk their lives to buy some time for other protesters to escape before the arrival of police and military forces. The riot police are mostly soldiers dressed in police uniforms. Many frontline protesters were violently beaten [Warning: VIOLENT IMAGERY] or tortured [GRAPHIC IMAGERY] during detention.

Tear gas bombs are defused by frontline protesters by using wet blankets and water bags that have been prepared by residents of the neighbourhood. They also use improvised gas masks, goggles, and other protective gear.

Demoralizing the coup leader

Protesters have been placing pictures of Min Aung Hlaing on the streets or on the ground in front of defence barriers based on the belief that soldiers stepping on the face of their leader could be accused of showing disrespect. This tactic aims to slow down the soldiers because they would have to remove the pictures first before attacking protesters. Some protesters put pictures of the general on their shields hoping that soldiers would not shoot directly into the face of their leader.

The tactic worked for a few days as soldiers tediously removed images of the general before advancing toward the protesters. As more crackdowns happened, the tactic has become less effective as riot police ignored the images. The footage of a soldier deliberately goose-stepping on the general’s face has become viral.

In Myaung Mya and other cities people placed pictures of the general on tombs as a way to demoralize the coup leader.

ထဘီ ခံတပ်: Women’s sarong defence line

ထဘီခံတပ် (“Hta-main-khan-tat”), which means “women’s sarong defence line,” draws from the superstition that male soldiers who go under a clothesline used for women’s clothes, particularly women’s sarongs (ထဘီ/hta-main) and underwear, would fall in battle.

The idea comes from the deep-rooted misogyny within Myanmar’s military that regards women or women’s bodies as being inferior or impure. Myanmar’s military subscribes to the patriarchal superstition that women’s sarongs impair the virtue of men (ဘုန်း or “Hpone”), and thus, soldiers will lose protection in battle.

Indeed, soldiers stopped and tried to remove the clotheslines of women’s sarongs on the streets before they moved forward.

In some cities, protesters have gone as far as publicly putting Min Aung Hlaing’s pictures on women’s underwear as well as menstrual pads.

While these moves are welcomed as effective ways to slow down, people were also urged not to promote misogyny. A Twitter user pointed out that while battling against the violent military, protesters must also battle against internalized sexism.

It is awesome that we are using sarong clotheslines to fight back the extreme patriarchy of the terrorist [military council]. But we must also understand among ourselves that sarong clotheslines are there to protect people and they are not there to be inferior.

On March 8, International Women’s Day, Myanmar women protesters marched in front of a rally holding up sarong flags to fight both the military dictatorship and society’s misogyny.

On social media, young men also posted pictures of themselves wearing women’s sarongs on their heads and holding up three fingers to symbolize their rejection of the idea about ဘုန်း (“Hpone”) or male virtue.

An activist, Aung Myo Min, wrote about the opportunity to fight both the dictatorship and misogyny.

Translation:

The words that my grandma used to say when I was young now became true. She said “don’t low down on women. We will raise our hta-main (sarong) flag.”

This is the day we break down both the military dictatorship and the beliefs that sarongs are inferior and women are weak.

Today..

International Women Day

08–03–2021

Original:

ငယ်ငယ်က အဖွားပြောပြောနေတဲ့ မိန်းမတွေကို အထင်မသေးနဲ့.. ထမီအလံထူပစ်မယ်ဆိုတဲ့ စကား လက်တွေ့ဖြစ်လာပြီ….

ထမိန်ဆိုတာ ယုတ်ညံ့တယ်…

အမျိုးသမီးဆိုတာ ပျော့ညံ့တယ်ဆိုတဲ့အတွေးအခေါ်ဟောင်းတွေကို စစ်အာဏာရှင်စနစ်နဲ့အတူ ရိုက်ချိုးပစ်တဲ့နေ့…

ဒီနေ့…

အပြည်ပြည်ဆိုင်ရာအမျိုးသမီးများနေ့

၈-၃-၂၀၂၁

Avoiding confrontation with military forces

In some cities like MyitkyinaNyaung Oo and Dawei, protesters picked unusual times such as five or six in the morning to avoid the riot police. Night-time prayers and protests have also been organized across the country. Some cities also tried “guerilla protests” in which protesters evaded crackdowns by showing up on different streets from where riot police were deployed.

Meanwhile, some held protests in rivers where protesters rode on boats, or in farms, while others climbed mountains to protest.

In some cities, a “peopleless protest” was done by leaving placards and other protest materials on the streets. In Mindat, a “completely silent protest” took place where nobody came out on the streets and markets were closed for the whole day.

Ethnic armed groups on the side of civilians

In some states, ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) stepped in to protect the protesters. One of the EAOs, the Karen National Union (KNU), has announced that it will protect civilians from the military.

Karenni Nationalities People’s Liberation Front (KNPL) came and protected the protesters in Loikaw, Kayah state, on March 13.

Civil defence force

Despite the atrocities perpetrated by the Myanmar military, protesters have not resorted to retaliation as the majority continued to uphold the non-violent principle of the movement.

However, with the alarming rise of the daily death toll of protesters, some have called for the formation of a preemptive strike force like a civil defence force to fight back against violent oppression. Since March 13, protesters in Yangon and Taunggyi have raised black flags as a sign to retaliate or strike back if violent crackdowns continue.

The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which was established by ousted elected members of parliament, announced on March 14 that protesters and civilians, in general, have the right to lawfully use other means of defence against the armed terrorists, i.e. the military.#

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Kodao publishes Global Voices articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

For this Filipina journalist, every day is a battle with fear

A personal testimony by Filipina journalist Inday Espina-Varona

By CIVICUS

Women journalists, feminists, activists, and human rights defenders around the world are facing virtual harassment. In this series, global civil society alliance CIVICUS highlights the gendered nature of virtual harassment through the stories of women working to defend our democratic freedoms. These testimonies are published here through a partnership between CIVICUS and Global Voices.

There has been a hostile environment for civil society in the Philippines since President Rodrigo Duterte took power in 2016. Killings, arrests, threats, and intimidation of activists and government critics are often perpetrated with impunity. According to the United Nations, the vilification of dissent is being “increasingly institutionalized and normalized in ways that will be very difficult to reverse.”

There has also been a relentless crackdown against independent media and journalists. Threats and attacks against journalists, as well as the deployment of armies of trolls and online bots, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have contributed to self-censorship—this has had a chilling effect within the media industry and among the wider public.

One tactic increasingly used by the government to target activists and journalists is to label them as “terrorists” or “communist fronts,” particularly those who have been critical of Duterte’s deadly “war on drugs” that has killed thousands. Known as “red-tagging” in the Philippines, this process often puts activists at grave risk of being targeted by the state and pro-government militias. In some cases, those who have been red-tagged were later killed. Others have received death threats or sexually abusive comments in private messages or on social media.

Rampant impunity means that accountability for attacks against activists and journalists is virtually non-existent. Courts in the Philippines have failed to provide justice and civil society has been calling for an independent investigation to address the grave violations.

Filipina journalist Inday Espina-Varona tells her story:

‘Silence would be a surrender to tyranny’

The sound of Tibetan chimes and flowing water transformed into a giant hiss the night dozens of worried friends passed on a Facebook post with my face and a headline that screamed I’d been passing information to communist guerrillas.

Old hag, menopausal bitch, a person “of confused sexuality”—I’ve been called all that on social media. Trolls routinely call for my arrest as a communist. But the attack on June 4, 2020 was different. The anonymous right-wing Facebook page charged me with terrorism, of using access and coverage to pass sensitive, confidential military information to rebels.

That night, dinner stopped at two spoonsful. My stomach felt like a sack with a dozen stones churning around a malignant current. All my collection of Zen music, hours of staring at the stars, and no amount of calming oil could bring sleep.

Strangers came heckling the next day on Messenger. One asked how it felt to be “the muse of terrorists.” Another said, “Maghanda ka na bruha na terorista” (“Get ready, you terrorist witch”). A third said in vulgar vernacular that I should be the first shot in the vagina, a reference to what President Rodrigo Duterte once told soldiers to do to women rebels.

I’m 57 years old, a cancer survivor with a chronic bad back. I don’t sneak around at night. I don’t do countryside treks. I don’t even cover the military. But for weeks, I felt like a target mark in a shooting range. As a passenger on vehicles, I replaced mobile web surfing with peering into side mirrors, checking out motorcycles carrying two passengers—often mentioned in reports on killings.

I recognized a scaled-up threat. This attack didn’t target ideas or words. The charge involved actions penalized with jail time or worse. Some military officials were sharing it.

Not surprising; the current government doesn’t bother with factual niceties. It uses “communist” as a catch-all phrase for everything that bedevils the Philippines. Anonymous teams have killed close to 300 dissenters and these attacks usually followed red-tagging campaigns. Nineteen journalists have also been murdered since Duterte assumed office in 2016.

Journalists, lawmakers, civil liberties advocates, and netizens called out the lie. Dozens reported the post. I did. We all received an automated response: It did not violate Facebook’s community standards.

It feels foolish to argue with an automated system but I did gather the evidence before getting in touch with Facebook executives. My normal response to abusive engagement on Facebook or Twitter is a laughing emoji and a block. Threats are a different matter.

We tracked down, “Let’s see how brave you are when we get to the street where you live,” to a Filipino criminology graduate working in a Japanese bar. He apologized and took it down.

After I fact-checked Duterte for blaming rape on drug use in general, someone said my “defending addicts” should be punished with the rape of my daughter.

“That should teach you,” said the message from an account that had no sign of life. Another said he’d come to rape me. Both accounts shared the same traits. They linked to similar accounts. Facebook took these down and did the same to the journalist-acting-as-rebel-intel post and page.

The public pressure to cull products of troll farms has lessened the incidence of hate messages. But there’s still a growth in anonymous pages focused on red-tagging, with police and military officials and official accounts spreading their posts.

Some officers were actually exposed as the masterminds of these pages. When Facebook recently scrapped several accounts linked to the armed forces, government officials erupted in rage, hurling false claims about “attacks on free expression.”

This reaction shows the nexus between unofficial and official acts and platforms in our country. It can start with social media disinformation and then get picked up by the government, or it leads with an official pronouncement blown up and given additional spin on social media.

We’ve officially filed complaints against some government officials, including those involved with the top anti-insurgency task force. But justice works slowly. In the meantime, I practice deep breathing and try to take precautions.

Officials dismiss any “chilling effect” from these non-stop attacks because Filipinos in general, and journalists in particular, remain outspoken. But braving dangers to exercise our right to press freedom and free expression isn’t the same as having the government respect these rights.

Two years ago, journalist Patricia Evangelista of Rappler asked a small group of colleagues what it could take for us to fall silent.

“Nothing,” was everyone’s response.

And so every day I battle fear. I have to because silence would be a surrender to tyranny. That’s not happening on my watch.#

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Inday Espina-Varona is an award-winning journalist from the Philippines and contributing editor for ABS-CBNNews and the Catholic news agency LiCASNews. She is a former chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the first journalist from the country to receive the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Prize for Independence.

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Kodao publishes Global Voices articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Philippines’ ‘Paradis Island’ has a message for ‘Attack on Titan’ fans

‘We have nothing to do with Titans’

By Mong Palatino / Global Voices

Paradis Island PH is a vacation resort in the Philippines and it has no connection with the Paradis Island in the popular manga and anime series “Attack on Titan” (進撃の巨人). To make that clear, Paradis Island PH created a Facebook post assuring readers and potential visitors that there were no “titans” at the resort—and the tongue-in-cheek post quickly went viral.

The island resort is in Lake Lumot, Cavinti, located in Laguna province, south of the capital region of Metro Manila. It offers recreational activities for those who want to rent the villas on the “eco-friendly and unspoiled” private island.

Meanwhile, the Paradis Island of “Attack on Titan” is where the Eldian people have relocated and built gigantic walls as protection against giants, the “titans.” The original Japanese manga series is written and illustrated by Hajime Isayama, and the animated version of the series is currently wildly popular around the world.

This year marks the final season of the series and this probably led more people to look for information about the manga, including the setting of the story on “Paradis Island.”

Paradis Island PH acknowledged the coincidence of sharing a name with an island in a popular manga and used this to post a light-hearted disclaimer on Facebook:

Disclaimer: News is spreading online that the Founding Titan is in Paradis Island PH and that we are hiding it. For those who do not know, the Founding Titan is already with Eren Yeager, including the Attack Titan and War Hammer Titan.

We are an innocent island in a lake in Laguna and we have nothing to do with Titans. You can book events with us during the summer, we assure you that your stay will be fun and enjoyable (and no Titans will disturb you)

The Philippines’ Paradis Island. Not to be confused with Attack on Titan’s ‘Paradis Island’. Screenshot of Google Map

This post became popular and was widely shared by netizens especially those who know the manga and anime series. A local news website also published a story about the viral social media disclaimer.

Another Facebook post by the resort has also gained popularity. It refers to the soundtrack of the anime which features the Japanese word sasageyo (捧げよ, calling upon another to sacrifice oneself in battle).

Reminder to fellow citizens:

We recently learned that many are inquiring and interested to visit the lake and Paradis. We are begging you, refrain from being noisy and don’t shout “SASAGEYO SASAGEYO” if you are in the lake. It is scaring our guests and caretakers. If this persists, we will have no choice and be forced to build walls on Paradis Island.

We expect more hilarious social media updates from Paradis Island PH alluding to “Attack on Titan” especially as the series will continue to publish and air more episodes until April. #

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‘You messed with the wrong generation’: Daily protests pose strong challenge to Myanmar coup

By Global Voices Southeast Asia

The civil disobedience movement launched in response to the February 1 military coup has continued to gather support across Myanmar.

Communication lines have been intermittently disrupted since the coup and internet connectivity was totally cut off on February 6. When service was restored the following day, the world saw images and reports of massive pro-democracy rallies in the streets of Myanmar cities and towns.

Global Voices interviewed local researchers and foreign residents (whose identities have been withheld for security reasons) about the protest movement. One foreign resident shared this account from over the weekend:

The civil disobedience movement asked the public to go out in the streets on Friday [February 5]. The protests swelled on Saturday. Then internet connection was cut off in the country. Protests continued on Sunday until today [February 7]. Hundreds of thousands participated in almost all regions and cities. Police are deployed in the streets but so far no arrests were made. Protest is peaceful. Meanwhile the Than Pone is still being done every night at 8PM.

Than Pone—which means “iron buckets”—is the name given to the banging of pots to ward off evil spirits. Since the coup, collective pot-banging takes place  three times a day in some areas: at 8am, 2pm, and 8pm, for a total of 15 minutes.

Local researchers told Global Voices that many internet users “got pissed off that the internet was shut down and joined the protest.” One researcher had no internet at home so went out to meet a friend and ended up in the crowd.

They observed that people offered the police flowers, water bottles and snacks during the protest in Yangon on February 6.

These videos shared by the researchers offer a glimpse of the large protest in Yangon, the country’s largest city:

Disinformation runs rampant during internet shutdown

Disinformation has been rampant since the coup. One of the most notorious sources of disinformation is Radio Free Myanmar, which mimics the logo and naming convention of the news website Radio Free Asia.

Local researchers noted that verifying information became more difficult when the internet was blocked:

When you don’t have internet for two days, there is no way to verify those news. Even politicians starting to believe those are rumours.

They were referring inaccurate reports circulating outside Myanmar based on discussions taken place on Chinese social media platform Weibo, such as the military’s supposed readiness to repatriate Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, or that soldiers had staged the coup to protecting the people.

The symbol of the civil disobedience campaign is inspired by the Hollywood film ‘Hunger games’ three-finger salute. Photo supplied to Global Voices by local researchers, used with permission.

The researchers also reported that some Buddhist ultra-nationalists have been attempting to mislead coup supporters by claiming that the three-finger salute widely used in anti-coup protests is in fact a Muslim gesture that means “I am the son/daughter of Muhammad.”

Civil disobedience campaign gathers public support

The disinformation appears to be a desperate reaction by coup supporters as the civil disobedience campaign gains traction. Here are some photos depicting the defiance of many groups across Myanmar:

Even Japanese beer giant Kirin was forced to sever business ties with the military after the coup.

The Burmese Ghouls, a professional esports team that rarely comments on politics, publicly condemned the coup.

In response to the week-long protests, Myanmar military authorities have banned public gatherings of more than five people in some townships. The police also used water cannons to disperse a protest in Naypyidaw, the country’s capital.

These two recent developments will certainly affect the trajectory of the protest movement in the coming days. #

*With additional reporting from Global Voices’ Civic Media Observatory project.

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