A multi-ethnic rally was held today to show the international community that Myanmar’s many ethnic groups can live together without harsh military rule Indonesia's foreign minister, Ratno Marsudi, scarps a visit to Myanmar. Protesters gathered in front of the Italian Embassy.
Yangon (AsiaNews) – Protests continue in Myanmar against the military coup, despite a ban imposed by the military on gatherings of more than five people.
The military warned youth that they risk dying if they take part in demonstrations "dragged" by older people. Yet more protests are expected today in Yangon, above all a multi-ethnic rally planned for Mayangone, in the northern part of the city, to show the international community that Myanmar's ethnic groups can live together without harsh military rule.
Another multi-ethnic rally was held six days ago with people from 27 different ethnic groups. The military has used the country’s ethnic diversity as a pretext to impose its rule, claiming that it was the guarantor of national unity, when in fact it has governed by “divide and rule”, arming one group against another so that it could intervene to “pacify” conflict-torn areas.
Multi-ethnic protests are a novelty in Myanmar, as most ethnic groups united against the coup and the junta.
The international community – especially the members of the Association of South-East Asian nations (ASEAN) – is concerned about the stability of the country and therefore dares not take an open stance against the junta.
Instability could negatively impact trade with Myanmar and drive tens of thousands of people to flee seeking asylum on nearby shores.
That is why, Myanmar’s largest trading partner, Singapore, and Indonesia (ruled once by military dictatorship like Myanmar) have been fudging the issue, describing the coup d'état as a “domestic issue” while calling for a solution to the impasse.
A few days ago, some media reported that Indonesia's Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, set out to rally ASEAN around the idea of new fair and inclusive elections, after the junta claimed that the November election was rigged and promised to hold fresh elections within a year.
In Myanmar, many people were displeased. For three days, young protesters held sit-ins in front of the Indonesian Embassy, to show their rejection of the Indonesian proposal (pictures 1 and 2).
For one protester, accepting Indonesia’s proposal would be like admitting that the November election was tainted. This is “Absolutely not” true. “We have already selected our leader and our government.”
Demonstrators have also visited other embassies calling for international action against the military junta and the release of imprisoned democratic leaders. In front of the Italian embassy, a large group held a placard saying “How many dead bodies are needed to take action” (picture 3).
Some point out that Indonesia's proposal violates ASEAN’s own charter, which promises to support 'democracy' and 'human rights'.
Reacting to the fallout, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah yesterday said that Indonesia did not have any plan for Myanmar, but he did confirm that his government is working with other ASEAN members to reach a democratic transition.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi cancelled a visit to Myanmar planned for today. For protesters, this is good news since her visit, the first by a foreign leader since the coup d'état, would be “tantamount to recognising the military junta”.