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Protests continue in Myanmar since Feb. 1 coup

Nonviolent protestors are met with tear gas and bullets

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Non-violent protesters march in Tahan, Kalaymyo in Myanmar. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE ­— Since the Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar, peaceful protesters practicing non-violent civil disobedience have been met with bullets, tear gas and the fear of being dragged from their homes in the middle of the night.

Yet the protests continue across large cities and small towns around the country.

The largest and most coordinated protest occurred Monday, when thousands took to the streets and brought communities across the country to a grinding halt.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, as of Tuesday, 23,696 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced, and 646 people are still being detained.

The logo of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar

A global partner of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Presbyterian Church in Myanmar, made the following statement, translated to English:

“The Presbyterian Church in Myanmar (PCM) stands for love, justice and peace according to the teaching in the Bible. We were surprised and astonished on hearing the news of the coup d’état on 1 February. We, along with the people of Myanmar, are deeply saddened by this. Based on biblical theology, PCM condemns any form of oppression which is against the truth. We urge the military to release from house arrest the State Counselor, President and other elected leaders without exception. We urge the authorities not to cause any harm or to oppress anyone in the civil disobedience movement who are pursuing nonviolent means of protest. PCM prays that love, peace, tranquility, human rights and dignity may rule our government; that there would be no oppression; and that federal democracy would be implemented successfully.”

The National Council of Churches (NCC) has also denounced the military coup and expressed its support for the people of Myanmar to achieve peace, democracy and freedom.

“The NCC calls for Myanmar’s military to abide by the will of the people as expressed in the democratic elections held on November 8, 2020 and to relinquish control of the government,” the organization said in a statement.

The NCC also supports the plan by the administration of President Joe Biden to review sanctions and take action against Myanmar’s military leaders and the companies associated with them.

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tweeted Sunday, “The United States will continue to take firm action against those who perpetrate violence against the people of Burma as they demand the restoration of their democratically elected government. We stand with the people of Burma.”

Students, faculty and staff of Tahan Theological College (TTC), part of the Presbyterian Church of Myanmar,  were encouraged to attend the peaceful protests on Feb. 18. The Board and faculty of TTC are appointed by and accountable to the PCM General Assembly.

Military regimes controlled Myanmar, formerly Burma, from 1962 to 2011. But in 2015, Aung San Suu Kyi, a 1995 Nobel Prize winner and former political prisoner, led her National League for Democracy (NLD) party to victory in Myanmar’s first openly contested election in 25 years.

During the February coup, the military arrested the 75-year-old leader,m cut internet services, took control of the airwaves and announced army commander Min Aung Hlaing was running the country.

The military justified the takeover by alleging widespread voter fraud during the November 2020 general election, which gave Suu Kyi’s party an overwhelming victory and dashed the hopes of opposition-backed military leaders that they could take control democratically. Protesters believe that the coup was instead driven by Hlaing’s personal ambition and desire to rule.

“Our brothers and sisters in Myanmar are bracing for crackdown,” said the Rev. Mienda Uriarte, coordinator of World Mission’s office of Asia and the Pacific. “We ask that Presbyterians pray for protection of peaceful protestors and restoration of peace.”

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