Despite the country’s military warning of more “loss of life” when citizens responded to a call for a general strike against its February 1 coup, hundreds of thousands of protestors gathered in cities and towns across Myanmar as businesses also shut their doors.
The rallies on Monday, which local media called the largest to date since the military occupation, came as the United States warned that it would “take firm action” against the generals of Myanmar if they continued to crack down on individuals calling for the restoration of the elected government of the country.
Today's protests are the biggest to date against the February 1 military coup and are being called the "22222 uprising" (22/2/2021). In Yangon, large crowds already at Sule (below), Hledan, Myaynigone and other areas.#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar— Frontier Myanmar (@FrontierMM) February 22, 2021
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“Tens of thousands gathered in the hot sun in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, chanting “Release all detained leaders” and “Don’t go to the workplace, break free,” while local shops and foreign chains declared closures, including Yum Brands Inc’s KFC and Delivery Hero’s Food Panda.
In the capital, Naypyidaw, Mandalay’s second largest city, and various towns across the region, including Myitkyina, Hpaan, Pyinmana, Dawei and Bhamo, protesters also turned out en masse.
The crowds gathered after members of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), a loosely formed resistance leadership organization, called for citizens to mobilize for a “Two Five” or a “Spring Revolution” on Monday’s date.
The CDM said “millions” responded to its call on its Twitter account, with “sea of people” turning out in every city.
22-year-old Htet Htet Hlaing told Reuters news agency in Yangon that she was terrified and had prayed before joining the demonstration on Monday, but would not be discouraged.
“We don’t want the junta, we want democracy. We want to create our own future,” she said. “My mother didn’t stop me from coming out, she only said ‘take care’.”
Kyaw Kyaw, a 23-year-old university student, said he was also worried about a crackdown.
“But we will move forward,” he told AFP. “We are so angry.”
In the meantime, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the Myanmar military to “immediately stop the repression,” while speaking in a pre-recorded video message at the beginning of the 46th session of the Geneva Council.
“Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights, and the will of the people expressed in recent elections,” he said, insisting that “coups have no place in our modern world.
“We see the undermining of democracy, the use of brutal force, arbitrary arrests, repression in all its manifestations. Restrictions of civic space. Attacks on civil society. Serious violations against minorities with no accountability, including what has rightly been called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population. The list goes on,” added Guettres.