Myanmar protests continue after ASEAN peace initiative

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Anti-coup protesters flash the three-finger salute, holding banner read " Yangon Strike will defeat all enemies" during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, on Monday, April 26, 2021. Southeast Asian leaders have demanded an immediate end to killings and the release of political detainees in Myanmar during an emergency summit in Jakarta with its top general and coup leader. (AP Photo)

YANGON – Protesters in Myanmar’s largest city braved potential violence by security forces on Monday to demonstrate against February’s military coup, showing their resolve to continue their resistance two days after Southeast Asian leaders met to address the country’s crisis.

The group of mainly young people flooded into the streets of a Yangon neighborhood carrying banners and brandishing the three-fingered salute which the movement has adopted as its symbol.

Demonstrations have continued in many parts of the country since Saturday’s meeting of leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as have arrests and beatings by security forces despite an apparent agreement by junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to end the violence.

More than 700 protesters and bystanders have been killed by the security forces since the Feb. 1 coup, according to several detailed estimates. The junta's own figure is roughly one-third of that. It also says it does not use disproportionate force to put down what it describes as rioting.

After chanting their opposition to the junta and listening to speeches, the protesters quickly scattered to avoid any confrontation with police or soldiers.

In Monday's protests and online, many expressed dissatisfaction with the outcome of Saturday’s ASEAN meeting in Jakarta, especially the lack of a demand for the release of political prisoners. The country’s former elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was arrested in the coup and is among an estimated 3,400 people still being held.

ASEAN issued a statement expressing a “five-point consensus” on Myanmar’s crisis. It called for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among all concerned parties, mediation of the dialogue process by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels, and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties.

U.N. special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener, who was in Jakarta over the weekend, met with Hlaing and several of ASEAN's foreign ministers, U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said Monday.