(Reuters) – Protesters in Myanmar applauded on Monday in a demonstration of dissent against the military junta as a regional bloc prepared for talks on the crisis that has killed nearly 600 people.
The applause began in various parts of the main city of Yangon at 5 pm (1030 GMT) in response to a call from protest organizers, residents said.
The gesture would honor “Myanmar’s Generation Z ethnic and youth armed defense organizations, including Yangon, who are fighting in the revolution … on our behalf,” wrote Ei Thinzar Maung, leader of the protest, on Facebook.
Despite the killing of at least 564 people by security forces since the February 1 coup, protesters have come out across the country every day to express their opposition to the overthrow of the elected government headed by Aung San Suu Kyi. and the return of the military government. .
The movement, which some protesters call a “spring revolution,” has included street marches, a campaign of civil disobedience of strikes, and outrageous acts of rebellion organized through social media.
In addition to the repression in the streets, the junta has tried to suppress the campaign by shutting down wireless broadband and mobile data services.
On Monday, one person died in the central Sagaing region when security forces broke up a protest, the Myanmar Now news outlet reported. Earlier, protesters with Suu Kyi banners and signs calling for an international intervention marched through Mandalay’s second-largest city, showing images posted on social media.
Brunei, president of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), on Monday supported a meeting of leaders to discuss Myanmar.
After talks between Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Brunei said both countries would make preparations for a meeting to be held at the ASEAN Secretariat in the Indonesian capital Jakarta. No date was given.
The divergent views of ASEAN members on how to respond to the Myanmar military’s crackdown on the civilian population and the group’s non-interference policy have limited their ability to act.
Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore have voiced alarm over the killings of protesters and supported an urgent high-level meeting on Myanmar. Besides Brunei, the other members of ASEAN are Myanmar itself, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.
The United States and other Western countries have denounced the coup and called for the release of Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her campaign against the military regime. She has been accused of violating an act of official secrecy that is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
The military seized power as a new session of parliament was about to begin after Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, achieved victory over the army-backed parties in the November elections.
The board, headed by General Min Aung Hlaing, has said the election was fraudulent and promised to hold a new election on an unspecified date, but Myanmar’s electoral commission and international observers have dismissed the claim.
BOARD REBUTS UN ENVOY
The board said Monday that last week’s comments by UN special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener about an impending “bloodbath” in Myanmar were inaccurate and misleading.
“Em. Burgener’s comments contravene basic principles of sovereignty and the fact that the United Nations is destined to work for the peace and stability of the nations of the world,” he said in a notice in the state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar.
Schraner Burgener told the UN Security Council on March 31 that it must consider “potentially significant action” to reverse the course of events, as “a bloodbath is imminent.”
The board said the remarks were “very far from reality and could delay and destabilize the efforts of the State Governing Body to establish a genuine and disciplined multi-party democracy.”
The coup and subsequent crackdown have led to Western sanctions on the military and its lucrative businesses.
Fitch Solutions said on Monday that a conservative forecast for Myanmar’s economy would be a 20% contraction in the fiscal year that began in October, instead of the 2% seen before the coup.
External pressure is mounting on the military to stop the violence, with some countries calling for it to relinquish power and release all detainees, and others urging dialogue and new elections soon.
A total of 2,667 people have been detained under the junta, the activist group Association of Political Prisoners (AAPP) said on Monday. The RFA news service said 11 people arrested last week for speaking to a visiting CNN news team had been released.
CNN said it knew that 8 of the 11 had been released.
The board has also announced arrest warrants for some 80 celebrities, social media influencers, journalists, models and musicians charged with incitement.
The army, which ruled for half a century until 2011, has also seen fighting with armed ethnic minorities reignite on at least two fronts.
Reuters staff report; Written by Martin Petty and Raju Gopalakrishnan; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Angus MacSwan