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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.

  • This article is published by Kodao as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Students vow to fight police presence inside schools

Students held a rally at the University of the Philippines in Diliman last August 14 to condemn attempts by state security forces to place police and military forces in campuses. They were joined by other organizations from marginalized sectors.

Following Senator Ronald dela Rosa and interior secretary Eduardo Año’s demands that police and military presence be allowed in state universities and colleges to combat student activism, the students said such moves are in violation of their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. (Video by Jek Alcaraz)

Galvez ill-suited as peace adviser—Karapatan

Criticism greeted Malacañan Palace’s announcement of President Rodrigo Duterte’s planned appointment of Carlito Galvez Jr. as Presidential adviser on the peace process, citing the general’s role in the collapse of the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights in a statement said Duterte’s decision to appoint the retiring Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff as peace adviser is nailing the door to peace shut.

“What will a high-ranking military officer contribute to the advancement of the peace process when the institution [he leads] has been largely behind the derailment and collapse of the negotiations?” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Palabay said it is likely that the general will only turn OPAPP into the “Office of the Presidential Adviser on Preventing Peace.”

“War is business, and the military is adept at profiting from violating people’s rights,” Palabay added.

Malacañan said Wednesday the President is set to appoint Galvez as replacement to Presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza who recently resigned “for failing to curb corruption in the agency.”

Duterte publicly fired OPAPP Undersecretary for Support Services Ronald Flores and Assistant Secretary Yeshton Donn Baccay of the agency’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program last November 26.

Before Dureza’s resignation, however, Galvez already announced he was keen on being a peace adviser when he retires from military service this month.

Prior to his appointed as AFP chief, Galvez was chairperson of the government’s Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

He said he used to visit territories controlled by belligerent forces in his 12 years as a military officer in Mindanao.

Karapatan, however, said Galvez is ill-suited to become a peace adviser because he actively and strongly opposed the peace negotiations between the government and the NDFP, along with defense secretary Delfin Lorenzana and national security adviser Hermogenes Esperon.

““The mercenary character of the military prevents them from understanding that peace is not merely the laying down of arms, but a condition that necessitates social justice,” Palabay said.

Palabay also pointed out that Galvez’s appointment will make him the seventh former AFP Chief appointed to key civilian positions in Duterte’s government.

 

Among other former AFP Chiefs-of-Staff appointed by Duterte are Esperon, Año, environment and natural resources secretary Roy Cimatu and social work and development secretary Joselito Bautista.

“Duterte may think he is keeping the military in line by doling out key civilian positions to military men, but he is further endangering the Filipino people. The control of the military over communities will heighten, insidiously using civilian agencies as arsenal against Filipinos themselves,” Palabay warned.

She added that Duterte’s militarization of the bureaucracy undermines civilian supremacy.

“This is how the Duterte regime intends to stay in power amid widespread protest and resistance – fear and repression to be manned by a set of military men kept loyal through the awarding of political favors at our expense,” Palabay concluded. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

‘Mas gusto pang magbayad sa security’

“Ang kapitalista, mas gusto pang magbayad sa mga militar, sa mga pulis, sa mga security kaysa bayaran yung mga manggagawang pinakikinabangan niya.”—Nenita Gonzaga, Vice President for Women, Kilusang Mayo Uno