‘Bloody paint strike’ in Myanmar as doctors charged over protests

Activists throw red paint in the streets to remember those killed in protests as military charges 19 doctors for opposing its power grab.

An anti-coup protester uses red paint as he writes slogans at a bus stop on Wednesday April 14, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar [AP]

Activists in Myanmar have splashed red paint and dye on roads and buildings to represent the blood of the hundreds of people who were killed while protesting against the military’s February 1 power grab.

The display on Wednesday, the second day of the traditional New Year holiday, came as a military-run newspaper reported that at least 19 doctors were charged with incitement for participating in the civil disobedience protests.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the coup, with daily protests and various campaigns of defiance, including strikes by workers in many sectors. Activists have cancelled the usual festivities over the five-day New Year festival, announcing different shows of defiance on each day.

On Wednesday, people in various towns and cities across the country joined what activists termed “a bloody paint strike”.

In the main city of Yangon, protesters spray-painted pavements and signs outside government offices in red and left a note in one suburb that said: “Dear UN, How are you? I hope you are well. As for Myanmar, we are dying.”

A participant in the protest told AFP news agency that the purpose of the activity was to “remember the martyrs who died in the struggle for democracy”.

At least 714 people have died since Senior General Min Aung Hlaing deposed Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a monitoring group.

“We should not be happy during this festival time,” the protester in Yangon said. “We have to feel sadness for the martyrs who are bleeding and we must continue to fight this battle in any way we can.”

A general view shows empty streets on the second day of Thingyan, the water festival which marks the country’s new year, in Yangon on April 14, 2021 [Ye Aung Thu/ AFP]
This handout photo from Kawkareik Open News taken and released on April 14, 2021 shows protesters taking part in a general strike demonstration against the military coup in Kawkareik, in eastern Myanmar’s Karen state [Handout/ Kawkareik Open News via AFP]

In the second-largest city of Mandalay, red paint was also spilled on the streets as protesters held signs saying, “hope our military dictatorship fails”, “overthrow the era of fear” and “blood has not dried on the streets”.

In some cities, people also marched with placards calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the coup on various charges including violating an official secrets act. Her lawyers have denied the charges against her.

There were no immediate reports of violence at any of the protests on Wednesday, but the Monywa Gazette reported two explosions in the central city of Monywa that wounded one person.

There was no claim of responsibility.

Doctors on trial

The military meanwhile added dozens more people to an arrest warrant list of 260 celebrities, doctors and ordinary citizens, and filed charges against 19 medical doctors for supporting and participating in the civil disobedience movement “with the aim of deteriorating the state administrative machinery”, according to the military-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

The Irrawaddy newspaper said the doctors were from government hospitals in Naypyidaw, Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing and Tanintharyi regions and Shan and Kachin states. They face up to three years in jail if found guilty.

The military’s crackdown has drawn widespread international condemnation and calls for restraint, with the United States and other Western countries imposing limited sanctions focused on the Myanmar armed forces and their extensive business interests.

This handout photo taken and released by Dawei Watch on April 14, 2021 shows protesters carrying pots filled with Thingyan festival flowers and leaves during a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei [Dawei Watch/ AFP]

Southeast Asian neighbours have also been encouraging talks between the Myanmar sides but without progress.

The US ambassador to Myanmar, Thomas Vajda, said in a New Year message he was aware that many people were making sacrifices and suffering for their beliefs and convictions in these “very difficult times”.

“I’m deeply impressed with your courage and your commitment,” Vajda said. “Let me also reconfirm the commitment of my colleagues and I … to do all we can to support the people of Myanmar in your aspirations for genuine democracy, peace, and freedom.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations human rights office said on Tuesday it feared that the military clampdown on the protests risked escalating into a civil conflict like that seen in Syria.

“I fear the situation in Myanmar is heading towards a full-blown conflict,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

“There are clear echoes of Syria in 2011,” she warned, referring to the start of a war that over the past decade has killed hundreds of thousands of people and forced millions to flee the Middle Eastern country.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies