(Reuters) – Opponents of the military government in Myanmar inscribed protest messages on Easter eggs on Sunday as others were back on the streets, confronting security forces after a night of candlelight vigils for the hundreds of deaths since the coup of February 1.
In the latest in a series of impromptu defiance demonstrations, messages including “We must win” and “Get out MAH”, referring to the board’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing, were seen as eggs in photos on social media.
“Easter is about the future and the people of Myanmar have a great future in a federal democracy,” Dr. Sasa, international envoy for the overthrown civilian government, said in a statement. Sasa is a member of the Christian minority in the predominantly Buddhist country.
Opponents of the military government have mounted a campaign of civil disobedience since the military overthrew the elected government of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, which has included creative demonstrations of defiance promoted on social media.
Young people in the main city of Yangon handed out eggs with the protest messages, they showed pictures in the posts.
Crowds have returned to the streets day and night to reject the return of the military government after a decade of faltering steps toward democracy. During the night numerous vigils were held by candlelight.
The Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), an activist group that monitors victims and arrests, said the death toll had risen to 557 as of Saturday night.
Several thousand people flocked to the second city of Mandalay, some on foot, others on motorcycles, to show their opposition, according to images on social media, before police and soldiers mobilized to disperse them.
The protesters also gathered in several other cities in the northern, central and southern areas.
Police and a board spokesperson did not respond to phone calls seeking comment.
The AAPP said 2,658 people were in detention, including four women and a man who spoke to a CNN news team in interviews on the streets of the main city of Yangon last week.
A CNN spokesperson said the network was aware of reports of arrests following the team’s visit. “We are pressuring the authorities for information on this and for the safe release of the detainees,” he said.
The army, which is conducting its own campaign to crack down on dissent, has ordered Internet providers to cut down on wireless broadband, depriving most customers of access.
Authorities have issued arrest warrants for nearly 40 celebrities known for opposing the military government, including social media influencers, singers and models, under a law against incitement to dissent in the military.
The charges, announced in the evening news bulletin on state television on Friday and Saturday, can carry a three-year prison term.
One of the defendants, blogger Thurein Hlaing Win, told Reuters he was shocked to see himself branded as a criminal and had gone into hiding.
“I did not do anything bad or evil. I was on the side of the truth, ”he said by phone from an undisclosed location. “If they punish me for that, my conscience is clear. My beliefs will not change. Everyone knows the truth. “
The army ruled the former British colony with an iron fist after seizing power in a 1962 coup until it began to withdraw from civilian politics a decade ago, freeing Suu Kyi from years of house arrest and allowing an election for her party. it swept in 2015.
He says he had to topple Suu Kyi’s government because the November elections, again easily won by his party, were rigged. The electoral commission has dismissed the claim.
But many in Myanmar, particularly the younger ones who have come of age in the last decade of opening, cannot accept the return of government by the generals.
Suu Kyi is in custody and faces charges that could carry up to 14 years in prison. His lawyer says the charges are false.
The coup has also sparked clashes with ethnic minority forces seeking autonomy and who have announced their support for the pro-democracy movement.
The Karen National Union, which signed a ceasefire in 2012, has seen the first military airstrikes against its forces in more than 20 years and says it must fight to defend itself from a government offensive.
The group said that more than 12,000 villagers had fled their homes due to the airstrikes.
Clashes have also broken out in the north between the army and ethnic Kachin insurgents. The unrest has caused several thousand refugees to flee to Thailand and India.
Suu Kyi’s party has promised to establish a federal democracy, the main demand of minority groups.
Reuters staff reports; Written by Robert Birsel; Edited by William Mallard and Kenneth Maxwell