Myanmar coup: ‘Down with the military – release our leaders!’

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Tens of thousands of people in Myanmar are turning out in daily street protests as anger grows against the coup.

The military overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically-elected government on 1 February, alleging without evidence that elections her party won by a landslide had been marred by fraud.

The protests have been marked by a sense of fun, despite the ban on gatherings and fears that troops will eventually be deployed. Here, BBC Burmese reporters capture the mood in three cities around the country.

‘They are shooting’

Aung Thura, Nay Pyi Taw, 10 February

A plumber who was meant to come to my house to fix a faulty pump yesterday called and said he wouldn’t make it – as he and all his workmates were off to join the protests. That was a sign that demonstrations that had been going on against the military coup for a couple of days could be huge.

So I set out for the Thapyaygone roundabout in the city center. I didn’t take my car but decided to go by bike so it would be easier to get away quickly if things got nasty. As expected, more people had gathered on Tuesday – lots of young people joined by civil servants, many of whom were wearing their uniforms.
Demonstrators gesture during a protest against the military coup in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, 09 February 2021.
Demonstrators in Nay Pyi Taw took to the streets in their thousands on Tuesday

There was a large police presence nearby. The police commander, in full military gear, was ordering his troops to be ready. The looks on the faces of police at the front were hard and fierce, unlike those we’d seen in other parts of the country.

Then came the water jets. Three vehicles firing steady streams of water at the protesters. The crowds didn’t back off but stood firm. Police water cannon took turns to spray the crowd. Around noon, several hundred more joined the protesters – lawyers, teachers, and also farmers from nearby townships.

I went to a side street to buy water when I started to hear some shots. People in the streets shouted, “they are shooting, they are shooting” and rushed to where protesters were gathering.

Then I heard more shots fired and several people running back into the streets. I heard more than 20 shots but did not know if they had been fired into the crowd or not. People were running in different directions, shouting and cursing at the police.

I left the scene quickly on my bike and headed to the hospital nearby, thinking if there were injured, they would be taken there. Soon, two ambulances arrived. The second one opened its back door and a young man on a stretcher was carried into the hospital by nurses. He did not open his eyes.

The driver told me that the injury the girl in the first ambulance had received was very serious. She was driven straight to the main hospital. After a while, I saw a video posted on social media in which a girl collapsed onto the ground after a shot was heard. She was among a group of people sheltering behind a bus stop where rows of police were lining up facing them about a hundred yards away.

A demonstrator injured by police water cannon looks on during a protest against the military coup, in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, 09 February 2021.
A number of protesters were injured in the capital on Tuesday

Seeing the girl in another close-up video, I remembered noticing her in the morning waving at the protesters. I recognized the red blouse she was wearing. The bullet had penetrated the motorcycle helmet she was wearing and stuck in her head.

The picture of the hole in that bloodied helmet sent out a chilling reminder of the lethal weapons the security forces possess. Today, a doctor from the main hospital told me the young woman was on a life-support system and had only a 5% of survival. We pray for her and hope that she does not become the first casualty in this movement against the military coup.

After she was shot, more protesters came out on the streets of Nay Pyi Taw, the seat of the new military government. One young man told me that what they had witnessed was sheer brutality – and the determination to root out the military dictatorship had deepened among Myanmar’s so-called Generation Z.

‘Stop working and come out!’

Nyein Chan Aye, Yangon, 10 February

Large scale demonstrations have been going here for five days in a row to protest against the military regime.

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