YANGON: Two days after Myanmar marked its bloodiest day in weeks of protests, thousands of residents returned to the streets on Tuesday in a massive show of force against the military rule.
At least 18 were killed and dozens injured in the anti-coup demonstrations on Sunday after police opened fire in different parts of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, after attempts to disperse the crowds with stun grenades, tear gas and shots failed.
Experts say the unrelenting protests are part of the public’s fight “to unblock their future.”
“The youth are more resentful now as they feel their future has been blocked,” Aung Thu Nyeen, director of the Institute of Strategy and Policy – Myanmar, a Yangon-based think tank, told Arab News.
The political analyst commended the country’s “brave young people who are collectively leading the protests against the military dictatorship.”
Myanmar has been in a state of unrest since Feb. 1, when military leaders seized power after overthrowing the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
The coup followed a landslide win by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in the November general election. But the army rejected the results, citing poll irregularities and fraud.
During the takeover, the military detained key government leaders — including Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and several prominent activists — and declared a state of emergency, along with an announcement that the country would be under military rule for at least a year.
Myanmar has witnessed widespread protests ever since, with thousands ignoring a ban on public gatherings.
“No one can accept this military coup anymore,” Nyeen said, adding that this year’s “uprising against the military was much bigger than the 2007 and 1988 pro-democracy revolutions, as almost everyone across the country is participating in the protests.”
The past few weeks have seen some of the biggest public demonstrations in the country’s history, even as military leaders ordered the mobilization of soldiers to quell the latest wave of protests.
On Tuesday, too, there were attempts to crack down on protesters, with roads in Yangon and elsewhere in Myanmar blocked with makeshift barricades.
However, despite their fear, some of the residents said they had devised ways to protect themselves.
“Of course we are afraid, but we can’t hide at home at this time. We have to protest, and we also have to protect ourselves,” Ko Latt, a 23-year-old protester and member of Thingangyun township’s “Tank” team, told Arab News.
The “Tank” teams comprise protestors in their twenties and above who — armed with tear gas-proof masks, homemade bulletproof jackets and other protective gear — defy the lethal crackdowns with daily demonstrations.
Analysts said that most protesters are youth who “have realized that they needed to rely on themselves to stand up against the military.”
“Myanmar has been living in a dictatorship for over 60 years, and the young people from Generation Z cannot accept to lose their future. So, they have decided to create their future themselves,” Than Soe Naing, a Yangon-based peace monitor and political commentator, told Arab News.
“They have decided that the fight against the military dictators must be the last fight of their generation. So, they will keep on fighting,” he added.
Denouncing the deadly crackdown by the military and police on Sunday as “the worst and most cunning crime against the people,” Naing said the military is up against a formidable opponent this time as they are fighting with tech-savvy youngsters.
“This revolution is led by Generation Z. The technologies they have are modern…It would seem we are getting much closer to winning,” he said.
And despite Nyeen expressing concern for the young protestors’ safety as the “troops have a good surveillance system fitted with drones,” Naing dismissed the concerns.
“At least 30 million people have participated in the protests so far. Despite the forceful crackdown, there have been only 30 deaths. It shows that the protesters are more clever than ever. So, I think this revolution will conclude successfully by the end of March,” Naing said.