YANGON – Protesters against Myanmar’s military coup returned Friday to the streets of downtown Yangon, defiantly chanting their opposition to the army’s seizure of power as the junta chief prepared to attend a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders on the country’s crisis.
Such open demonstrations in the center of Myanmar’s largest city all but stopped weeks ago, as the deadly crackdown on dissent by the security forces made it too dangerous. Yangon is where the first major demonstrations were held against the February coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The protests launched a nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement that even the use of lethal force has failed to cow. Daily crackdowns by police and soldiers have killed more than 700 protesters and bystanders nationwide, according to several independent tallies.
About 150 protesters marched down the wide boulevards of Yangon's Pabedan neighborhood with their hands raised in the three-fingered salute adopted by the opponents of military rule.
“Let’s roar till the whole city can hear out voices!” the group’s leader shouted.
They quickly scattered when police vehicles appeared nearby.
Leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations will discuss the Myanmar crisis on Saturday in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, with coup leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing set to attend in person.
The invitation to the junta chief has angered the coup’s opponents, including a parallel National Unity Government created by ousted elected lawmakers, who argue his attendance legitimizes his power grab. The NUG was not invited to take part.
The ASEAN leaders may seek to stop the security forces’ violent suppression of the protests. They may also suggest an ASEAN-led humanitarian mission and a roadmap to dialogue between Myanmar's military rulers and their opponents.
There were other protests around Myanmar on Friday, including in Launglone township in southern Myanmar, where demonstrators came out in force to show their support for the National Unity Government.