Protesters gathered in cities across Myanmar on Tuesday as part of the “Six Twos Revolution” nationwide strike in a show of resistance to the ruling military regime despite the junta’s brutal crackdown on critics, protest leaders said.
Civilians joined monks in the streets and held up anti-regime placards and banners and chanted slogans denouncing the junta.
Some protesters wearing T-shirts with red number twos formed a horizontal line with the day’s date — 2/22/2022 — while others held banners with the numbers to signify the continuation of mass strikes and demonstrations a year after a protest on Feb. 22, 2021 in which millions of people participated, three weeks after the military overthrew Myanmar’s elected government.
The pro-democracy General Strike Committee (GSC) said student unions and strikers staged morning demonstrations in Kyimyindaing and Thaketa townships in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.
“Today is a significant day in the period of the uprising that we are going through,” said a GSC spokesman who gave his name as Leo. “We wanted to do something significant that would convey our message, the people’s message of our revolution, to the world.”
Nan Lin, co-founder of University Students’ Union Alumni Force at Yangon University, said protests took different forms across the country.
“What we have seen and heard from various reports is that people did it in various ways like putting thick thanaka paste on their faces, wearing certain flowers and wearing certain headware,” he said.
Nearly 300 political prisoners detained in Yangon’s Insein Prison also smeared their faces with thanaka, a cosmetic paste made from ground bark, and observed five minutes of silence, a source with knowledge of the situation said.
In Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, a flash protest was staged by the Mandalay Monks’ Union, while civilians wearing flowers in their hair and thanaka on their faces distributed anti-junta fliers and hung protest banners from posts, trees, and the historic U Pein Bridge, said a member of the Mandalay Strike Committee who did not want to be named for security reasons.
Water cannon trucks and prison vans were seen driving along major roads after the protests, he said.
In Monywa, the capital of northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing region, authorities arrested four locals in connection with the movement, residents said.
Following a morning protest, armed police arrested a young man at a tea shop in Inn Ywa Thit and another at a tea shop in Yankin ward, they said. Two female venders were also arrested.
Security forces also allegedly tried to abduct two young women who were on their way to the city to distribute anti-coup leaflets, but they escaped, said a member of the Monywa People’s Strike Committee.
A car pulled up beside the women, who were on a motorcycle, and grabbed them, said a committee member named Arku.
“After a while, the car broke down, and the girls fell off the motorcycle,” he said. “The girl who was driving got onto the motorcycle and rode away, while her friend ran into small alleys and escaped.”
Both women are believed to be uninjured.
RFA was unable to reach junta spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for a comment on the protests.
Number of IDPs grows
The junta has cracked down on its opponents through attacks on peaceful protesters, arrests, and beatings and killings. The military regime has also attacked opposition strongholds with helicopter gunships, fighter jets, and troops that burn villages they accuse of supporting anti-junta militias.
As of Tuesday, nearly 1,570 people had been killed since the coup and almost 12,300 arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights organization based in Mae Sot, Thailand.
Meanwhile, nearly 823,000 civilians who have been displaced by ongoing conflicts in various regions of Myanmar as well as by the military coup and its violent aftermath are in need of food, health care, and warmer clothes and blankets to cope with the cold, according to a February 15 update issued by the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR). The estimated 453,000 civilians who have been displaced since the Feb. 1, 2021, coup come from ethnic minority states and central regions alike.
The UNHCR said there are about 34,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in western Myanmar’s Chin state. But the Chin Human Rights Group and the Chin Affairs Federation said the actual number is more like 90,000, over 30,000 of whom have fled to Mizoram state in neighboring India.
A woman from Hein Zin village in Chin’s Tedim township told RFA that she has cannot return to her home and that she needs money and food.
“We have a large family and as we have no jobs or income, we have to live on scraps available from other people’s homes,” she said.
A refugee from Demoso township in Kayah state, where fighting between civilian defense forces and the military has intensified, said she is concerned about her family’s survival.
“If we return home now, we will not be safe,” said the woman, who declined to be identified for safety reasons. “There are also many dangers on the road, and we will not be able to stay at home peacefully.”
Salai Za Op Lin, executive director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, said that the junta’s efforts to hang on to power will lead to even greater numbers of IDPs.
“This is directly related to human rights abuses,” he told RFA. “After the junta came to power, people were forced to flee for their safety because no one was able to live in their homes. Therefore, it is certain that the number of IDPs will increase exponentially under the military. As long as the junta exists, we will suffer more.”
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.