Hundreds attend pro-military protest in defiance of Covid-19 restrictions  

Hundreds of people attended a pro-military protest organised by a nationalist party against the Union Election Commission (UEC) on Monday even though authorities had restricted the event to 29 people to prevent the spread of Covid-19, an official has said.  

Htoo Kyaw, the administrator of Yangon’s Kyauktada township, told Myanmar Now that the protest would be reported to the regional cabinet for exceeding the limit on attendees. 

Kyi Myint, a lawyer, told Myanmar Now the protest violated the Natural Disasters Management Law, which has been used to enforce restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.

Around 400 people showed up at Yangon’s City Hall to protest “electoral fraud” by the UEC in last month’s poll. The rally was organised by the Yeomanry Development Party (YDP), which stood 24 candidates on November 8 but lost badly in every seat. 

There has been no evidence of major electoral fraud in last month’s poll and election observers reported no major issues. 

The YDP’s general secretary, Michael Kyaw Myint, received just 437 votes in South Dagon township, where last year he led a mob of 100 Buddhist extremists to shut down Ramadan prayers. He was sentenced to one year in prison for his role in leading the mob.

Kyauktada township police station chief officer Po Tun said Monday’s protest was allowed in accordance with the law. “This was presented step by step. I don’t know if the crowd exceeded 20. We just presented it to the administrator, who then presented it to the higher ranks,” he said. 

Protestors held placards that read: “People who degrade the country’s integrity by stealing votes are our enemy”.

In a speech to the crowd, YDP central executive committee member Myo Myo Khaing said that Myanmar’s people had a responsibility to protect the military-drafted constitution. 

“Are we not ready to arm ourselves and fight alongside the military when the country needs to be protected?” he asked the crowd as some waved flags bearing the Tatmadaw’s logo. “We’re ready!” the crowd responded.

About twenty monks including Pyin Nya Wun Tha, a senior member of the Patriotic Myanmar Monks Network, attended the protest.

“We just want to tell the UEC that they’re liars,” he said. “They committed electoral fraud. And I want to condemn their actions.”

One of the people at the rally, Khin Ma Ma, said she had travelled to Yangon from Hlegu thinking she would be taken to visit pagodas and was not expecting to be brought to a protest.  

“I only found out when I got here,” she told Myanmar Now. “I’m concerned about being here because there’s a pandemic. I wouldn’t have brought my child with me if I’d known.”

The YDP was formed in 2019 and claims to have over 8,000 members. Party chair Aye Aye Thin, who is also Michael Kyaw Myint’s wife, ran for a seat last month in Shwe Pyi Thar township but received less than one percent of the vote. 

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