Bomb blasts, flash protests as Myanmar enters 4th month under junta

YANGON (AFP) – Explosions blasted off throughout Myanmar’s largest city Yangon yesterday as protesters held flash marches for democracy, defying a brutal junta that has held onto power for three blood-drenched months.

The country has been in uproar since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, bringing an abrupt end to Myanmar’s short-lived experiment with democracy.

The power grab triggered a massive uprising, which authorities have tried to quell by deploying lethal force and live ammunition.

As Myanmar entered its fourth month under military rule yesterday, protesters in commercial hub Yangon – an epicentre of unrest with a heavy security presence – staged flash demonstrations, marching rapidly through the streets to avoid confrontation with police and soldiers.

The lightning-quick pace of the Yangon protests is “so that people will have time to disappear when the security forces come, or else they would die or get arrested”, said student activist Min Han Htet.

In Yangon’s Insein township, a bomb blast went off around 10 am near a local school, said a resident staying nearby.

Anti-coup protesters flash the three-finger salute and chant slogan during the demonstration against the military coup at Pabedan township in Yangon, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

“Some security forces came to check the blast area, but I only watched from a distance from my home because I was worried they would arrest me,” he told AFP.

By afternoon, two more blasts went off in Yankin, further south, according to locals living in the leafy residential township.

“I thought it was thunder,” a resident told AFP, adding that the explosions left the security forces nervous.

It remains unclear if anyone was injured by the blasts.

No one has claimed responsibility for the bombs – which are exploding with increasing frequency in Yangon. Since the junta seized power on February 1, the former capital has utterly transformed – with barricades erected in key protest hotspots, security forces on patrol, and residents reporting nighttime arrests of suspected dissidents.

“They (the junta) have made people live in fear and it is good to have them on edge as well,” the Yankin resident said.

He also praised the flash protesters for their ingenuity to evade arrest and crackdowns.

“Any show of defiance without getting captured or killed is great for the resistance.”

Across the country, nearly 760 civilians have been killed in the anti-coup unrest, according to a local monitoring group, though the junta has recorded a far lower death toll.

But the anti-junta movement remains undeterred, with demonstrators gathering yesterday in central Monywa city – a flashpoint for violence – carrying signs that said, “Monywa cannot be ruled”.