Millions in the Streets

YANGON – The vast majority of citizens, who had experienced a taste of freedom and democracy for the past decade, couldn’t accept the return of the military rule. Teachers, doctors, bank managers and engineers joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), and refused to work under the new Special Administrative Council (SAC) regime. The first group of protesters was led by U Tay Zar San, a prominent CSO leader, in Mandalay on February 4th. On February 5th, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of National League for Democracy (NLD) lawmakers and members of parliament ousted in the coup d’état, formed a government in exile, the National Unity Government (NUG), in cooperation with several ethnic minority insurgent groups.

Protests then spread across the entire country and tens of thousands of people started demonstrating in the streets, on dirt paths, in fields and on the rivers. In the daytime, people held anti-coup billboards, flashed the ‘three-finger Salute’ and Generation Z youths organized creative street events and online campaigns to attract the world’s attention on their plight. Every evening, families gathered on their balconies and in front of their houses to bang on pots and pans, to symbolically draw the evil of dictatorship out of Myanmar.

To control the uprising, the junta imposed a curfew from 8 pm to 4 am and tried to create instability to justify its power grab. Hundreds of common-law criminals were released, given weapons and incendiary tools and dropped by military trucks at night to instigate violence in neighborhoods. Citizens built camps and organized night watches to protect their properties and communities from raids by thugs for hire and soldiers. The Guest Registration Requirement and Household Inspection Laws were also reenacted, in violation of the fundamental rights to privacy and freedom of movement and association.