In Myanmar and abroad, anti-junta protests continue after executions of four pro-democracy activists

·4-min read
© @TTFR__Myanmar

The executions of four pro-democracy activists in Myanmar by the military junta not only attracted international condemnation but also fuelled anti-junta demonstrations that have been taking place in the country since early 2021. The FRANCE 24 Observers spoke to demonstrators in Myanmar and abroad for whom the junta’s brutality only served as a catalyst for their determination to achieve democracy.

As Myanmar endeavored to seek democracy for its society after a long history of political unrest, the coup d’état in February 2021 launched by the Min Aung Hlaing-led military junta once again deferred the democratization agenda.

Since then, numerous strikes and demonstrations against the junta have taken place in cities and rural areas throughout the country.

The democratic resistance has been severely repressed by Myanmar's army, and civilian casualties in military raids have been constantly reported.

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS: Burned churches: Myanmar’s junta accused of abuses against the Christian minority

On July 25, Myanmar's military rulers executed four prisoners, including Kyaw Min Yu, a writer famous for his prominent opposition to the junta, and Phyo Zeya Thaw, a hip-pop singer and an activist.

It was the country's first use of capital punishment in decades, sparking widespread condemnation both domestically and internationally.

While many pro-democracy Myanmar activists abroad are afraid more death sentences will be carried out, citizens remaining in the country continue to call for more constructive support from the international community.

‘We won’t post any cremation ceremony for them until we get democracy’

Said Kay is the founder of Twitter Team for Revolution, a digital platform aimed at informing the world of the ongoing demonstrations in Myanmar on Twitter.

The executions carried out on July 25 renewed the international community’s awareness about the ongoing political turbulence in the country. One of the slogans on platform's page reads, “No need for cremation”.

Protesters marched to condemn the executions of the four activists on July 25, 2022. Twitter/@kayparilnyein1

First image: “We are making a revolution, and there is no need for cremation. If you dare to kill us, kill us like this”. Second image: “We are martyrs, we will never die in people’s minds”.

When questioned about this slogan, the owner of the daily updated Twitter account explained:

In Burmese culture, if someone dies, the rest of the family needs to conduct cremation.

Buddhists believe that death is a natural part of life, and that those final moments can significantly impact the individual’s rebirth.

When death is imminent, Buddhists focus on keeping the person calm, peaceful, and we pay tribute to the good deeds he/she performed during their lifetime.

For this, the family or friends of the deceased may ask a monk to come and read the prayers. Sometimes, they chant along with the monks. But this is the tradition for a person who dies of a disease.

Our heroes were murdered by the military regime, and their families don’t have the access to getting the bodies back. As such, we won’t post any cremation ceremony for them until we get democracy.

Photos of monks in Mandalay protesting against the executions of pro-democracy activists with the three-finger salute inspired by the Hunger Games. Twitter/@minmyatnaing13

In this photo, the poster reads: “Have you heard any comments from the famous monks, who are promoting themselves as missionaries, saying that they (the junta) should not do it (the executions)?” A message, according to our Observers, believed to accuse prominent religious figures of being nationalists and taking the junta's side. Twitter/@minmyatnaing13

Kay added that many democracy supporters have changed their social media profile pictures to plain black to show their sadness and strong opposition to the junta.

Calling on the international community to legitimize and negotiate with the National Unity Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, the country's government in exile ousted in 2021, Kay believes that mere condemnations from international governments will not suffice to stop the junta.

Fifty years ago, the Burmese army went on a rampage in villages with ethnic minorities [Editor’s note: The statement refers to General Ne Win who, in the 1960s, initiated a coup d'état in which large-scale violence was used against democracy supporters and minorities]. In 2021, their brutality reached urban areas.

We can’t have dialogues with the murderers. Our future is bleak as the junta is killing, abducting people, and burning houses.

>>READ ON THE OBSERVERS :Residents of Myanmar’s Kayah State flee to jungle to escape military junta

In search of international support

But demonstrating in Myanmar has great risks, so many take the fight abroad. On the day before the executions took place, Myanmar expats in Japan gathered on the street to protest against the Japanese government's decision to invite Ming Aung Hlaing to the state funeral of former prime minister Shinzo Abe.

On July 26, pro-democracy Myanmar communities in cities from New York to Bangkok protested against the junta for carrying out the death penalty, and demonstrated for democracy in Myanmar.

Crowds gathering outside the embassy of The Republic of the Union of Myanmar in Bangkok. Facebook/@Sam

‘I pray that Myanmar will get democracy as soon as possible’

Our Observer in Bangkok, Sam (not his real name), attended the gathering in front of the embassy of The Republic of the Union of Myanmar on July 26 and provided us with videos he filmed during the demonstration.

Even though we, the exiles, are safe, I feel bad for the people who are dying in Myanmar.

I hope that Min Aung Hlaing will be punished as soon as possible, and I hope that Aung San Suu Kyi, whom the people love, will be released soon.

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