Myanmar activists are canceling New Year celebrations and holding low-key protests


© Reuters. Protesters march in Yangon during a protest against the military coup


(Reuters) – Opponents of military rule in Myanmar canceled the traditional New Year celebrations on Tuesday and instead showed their anger over a February 1 coup with silent demonstrations of defiance and small protests across the country.

The five-day New Year holiday, known as Thingyan, is usually celebrated with prayers, ritual cleansing of Buddha images in temples, and exuberant pouring of water on the streets.

“We’re not celebrating Myanmar Thingyan this year as over 700 of our innocent brave souls have been killed,” said a Twitter user named Shwe Ei.

Women dressed in fine clothing for the most important holiday of the year protested Tuesday with traditional pots of seven flowers and branches on display at the time.

Many people painted the demonstrators’ three-finger salute on their Thingyan pots.

According to media reports, small protests took place in numerous cities. In some places, people set dozens of Thingyan pots smeared with messages like “Save Myanmar” in silent shows of opposition to the military.

There have been no immediate reports of violence, but information has become scarce due to the junta’s restrictions on broadband internet and mobile data services.

A junta spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Activists have called for similar protests throughout the holiday, which runs through Saturday, to keep their campaign going.

This was the second year in a row that the New Year celebrations were canceled. Last year it was because of the novel coronavirus.

“We cannot enjoy this year. We will celebrate as soon as we have democracy,” said another Twitter user, Su Su Soe.

The coup in February plunged Myanmar into crisis after ten years of tentative steps towards democracy.

Opponents of military rule have protested daily and workers in many sectors have gone on strike, bringing the economy to a standstill.

The security forces have reacted with violence and killed 710 demonstrators since the coup, according to a report by the activist group of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Despite the violence, people return to the streets every day demanding an end to military rule and the release of the leader of the overthrown government, Nobel Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

The military says it must overthrow their government because a November election, again won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, was rigged. The electoral commission rejected the allegation.

75-year-old Suu Kyi, who has led Myanmar’s struggle against military rule for decades and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, has been imprisoned since the coup and charged with various crimes. This includes violating an official colonial secrecy law under which she could be imprisoned for 14 years alone.

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