Myanmar activists held candle-lit protests overnight and scrambled to find ways to get around a deepening internet shutdown on Friday, as anti-coup protesters pledged to continue efforts to force out the generals despite a military crackdown that has killed hundreds, including dozens of children.
Anti-coup groups shared radio frequencies, offline internet resources and providers of text message news alerts to try to circumvent new curbs on the internet, which is now limited to fixed-line services.
The military did not announce or explain its order to telecom firms to cut wireless broadband, which adds to a ban on mobile data through which a nationwide movement has mobilised on social media and spread images of the military’s lethal suppression of mostly youth-led protests against its rule.
Overnight, there were more reports of protesters being fired at in the city of Monywa in Sagaing region, with one death reported. An 18-year-old boy was also killed in Mandalay on Thursday, according to social media reports. Both demonstrators from Monywa and Mandalay were buried on Friday.
The Irrawaddy news website also reported that four villagers were shot and four others arrested by security forces during a protest in Sagaing region on Friday. The crackdown did not stop hundreds of protesters from marching in Sagaing’s Katha township.
Protesters have been spreading a call for a “flower strike” at the bus stops where security forces had killed demonstrators.
“We will leave flowers at bus stops tomorrow … That’s what I want to tell you guys before the internet is down,” Khin Sadar, a protest leader, posted on Facebook.
“In the following days, there were street protests. Do as many guerrilla strikes as you can. Please join.”
“Let’s listen to the radio again. Let’s make phone calls to each other too.”
The former British colony has been in chaos for two months following the military’s February 1 overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected administration, which has sparked anger across towns and cities and reignited hostilities between the armed forces and ethnic minority groups in several different regions.
New charges of violating the colonial-era Official Secrets Act have been filed against the Nobel laureate, her chief lawyer said on Thursday, the most serious so far, on top of two comparatively minor offences. Breaches of the secrecy law are punishable by 14 years in prison.
The charges were filed against three of Aung San Suu Kyi’s cabinet colleagues and her Australian economic adviser Sean Turnell, who are among hundreds who have been detained in the military’s sweeping crackdown on opponents since it took power, alleging fraud in an election swept by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party.
#Sagaing Division,in #Kalay ၊ The body of Maung Nyan Lin Htet (Salai Van Biak Thang), a 19-year-old student at #Kalay University, who was killed by terrorists near #Kalay University at around 9.30 pm on Apr 1, will be buried at 3 pm today.#Apr2Coup#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar pic.twitter.com/qzepvksEyp
— Spring Revolution 2021 Myanmar (@various__k) April 2, 2021
Lawyer Min Min Soe said Aung San Suu Kyi looked in good health during a video hearing on Thursday, but was unable to tell whether the deposed leader, the figurehead of Myanmar’s decades-long fight for democracy, was aware of the deteriorating situation in the country.
‘We will not surrender’
Protesters were in the streets in several urban centres day and night on Thursday, where some burned copies of the military-drafted 2008 constitution.
Some 543 people have been killed in the uprising, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group, which is tracking casualties and detentions.
The military has repeatedly said those killed had instigated the violence. But according to a report on Monday from the aid group, Save The Children, at least 42 children, who were not involved in the protests, were also killed.
A video shared widely on social media late on Thursday showed an unconscious man being kicked and beaten by a group of seven helmeted, uniformed men with rifles, who dragged him face down along a road before carrying him away.
Another image shared widely showed an overhead view of hundreds of candles arranged on a road in the darkness, forming the words “we will never surrender”.
Britain on Thursday put sanctions on one of the military’s biggest conglomerates, following a similar move by the United States. Britain’s Next became the latest high-street brand to suspend orders from Myanmar’s factories.
“The Myanmar military has sunk to a new low with the wanton killing of innocent people, including children,” British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. The UK move was welcomed by his US counterpart Antony Blinken.
Myanmar’s Asian neighbours have not imposed any embargoes but some have moved beyond measured language after the military killed 141 people as it marked Armed Forces Day last Saturday.
Thailand on Thursday said it was “gravely troubled”. Stronger positions on Myanmar have been taken by the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, whose top diplomats are meeting separately this week with Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi in Beijing.
In a transcript of an interview made available late on Thursday, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan expressed dismay at the bloodshed.
“We are alarmed and appalled at the escalating violence,” he said, adding China’s Wang Yi also hoped for an end to violence and for dialogue.
On Friday, Ko Bo Kyi, joint secretary of AAPP, also urged China and Russia to support a UN Security Council resolution to take action against the coup leaders.