Myanmar is in its “darkest moment” according to a group of MPs in hiding as they urged protesters to move with “invincibility” and the coup-hit nation neared its seventh week under military rule.
The country has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power in a February 1 putsch, triggering a mass uprising that has seen hundreds of thousands protest daily for a return to democracy.
The junta has repeatedly justified its power grab by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party had swept in a landslide.
In response, a group of elected MPs, many of whom are in hiding, had formed a shadow “parliament” called the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — the Burmese word for the country’s governing bloc — to denounce the military regime.
As anti-coup protesters turn to nighttime rallies to defy a nationwide 8 pm curfew, the acting vice president of the CRPH called for the people to continue protesting against the military’s “unjust dictatorship”.
“This is the darkest moment of the nation and the light before the dawn is close,” said Mahn Win Khaing Than in a recorded video posted on the CRPH’s Facebook page Saturday night.
“This is also a moment testing our citizens to see how far we can resist these darkest times,” said Than, a high-ranking NLD politician who served as speaker of the house during Suu Kyi’s previous administration.
Along with other top Suu Kyi allies, he had been placed under house arrest during the February 1 power grab, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.
His address Saturday would be his first appearance in his capacity as CRPH’s acting vice president, and he echoed the anti-coup movement’s calls for a “federal democracy” — which would allow ethnic minority groups to have a role in Myanmar’s governance.
“This uprising is also the chance for all of us to struggle together hand-in-hand to establish a federal democracy union which we — all ethnic brothers and sisters who have been suffering various kinds of oppression from military dictatorship — have long desired,” he said.
“The federal democracy union… is waiting for us in the near future if we move forward unitedly with invincibility,” Mahn Win Khaing Than said.
“We must win the uprising.”
The committee has issued several statements since its formation, but the protest movement on the ground appears largely leaderless — with daily rallies organised by local activists.
The junta — self-anointed as the State Administration Council — had said the CRPH’s formation is akin to “high treason”, which carries a the maximum sentence of 22 years in jail.