Scores of people in Myanmar’s largest city honked car horns and banged on pots and pans on Tuesday evening in the first known public resistance to the coup led a day earlier by the country’s military.
What was initially planned to take place for just a few minutes extended to more than a quarter hour in several neighborhoods of Yangon. Shouts could be heard wishing detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi good health and calling for freedom.
“Beating a drum in Myanmar culture is like we are kicking out the devils,” said one participant who declined to give his name for fear of reprisals.
Several pro-democracy groups had asked people to make noise at 8 p.m. to show their opposition to the coup.
A senior politician and close confidante of Suu Kyi also urged citizens to defy the military through civil disobedience.
Win Htein, a leader of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, spoke on Tuesday from a small party office in the capital, Naypyitaw, not far from where hundreds of lawmakers elected in November national polls were detained when the military seized power Monday in a lightning takeover.
“The curse of the coup is rooted in our country and this is the reason why our country still remains poor. I feel sad and upset for our fellow citizens and for their future,” the former political prisoner said.
“All the voters who gave their backing to us in the 2020 general election should follow Aung San Suu Kyi’s instructions to carry out civil disobedience,” he said, referring to a note posted Monday on Facebook attributed to her.
The military began to lift restrictions Tuesday on the hundreds of members of Parliament who had been confined at a guarded government housing complex, with the new government telling them to go back to their homes, party spokesman Kyi Toe said.
He said Suu Kyi was in good health at a separate location where she was being held and would stay there for the time being. His comments couldn’t immediately be confirmed.
The coup came as lawmakers gathered in the capital for the opening of a new parliamentary session. The military said the seizure was necessary because the government had not acted on the military’s unsubstantiated claims of fraud in November’s election, in which Suu Kyi’s party won a majority of seats. It claimed the takeover was legal under the constitution. The move was widely condemned abroad.
The coup highlights the extent to which the generals ultimately maintained control in Myanmar, despite more than a decade of talk about democratic reforms. Western countries had greeted the move toward democracy enthusiastically, removing sanctions they had in place for years.
An announcement read on military-owned Myawaddy TV on Monday said Commander in Chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing would be in charge of the country for one year. A new Cabinet composed of current and former generals and former advisers to a previous government headed by former Gen. Thein Sein held its first meeting Tuesday.
The takeover marked a shocking fall from power for Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who had lived under house arrest for years as she tried to push her country toward democracy and then became its de facto leader after her party won elections in 2015.
Suu Kyi had been a fierce critic of the army during her years in detention. But after her shift from democracy icon to politician, she worked with the generals, who despite allowing elections maintained control of key ministries and guaranteed themselves enough seats in Parliament to have veto power over any constitutional changes.