Over a thousand protesters defy ban on large gatherings, army-related slogans at Mandalay rally 

Pro-military demonstrators once again defied a ban on large gatherings to protest against the Union Election Commission (UEC) in Mandalay’s Pyawbwe township on Thursday, with over a thousand gathering despite a limit of 30 set by local authorities.

The protestors also waved flags with the army’s insignia on them in defiance of a ban on using military-related imagery or slogans during the march.

Since the National League for Democracy’s massive landslide win in November’s election, military aligned groups have pushed unfounded allegations of election fraud and irregularities in an effort to delegitimise the result.  

Nyein Nyein, who is a spokesperson for the Pyawbwe branch of the Union Solidarity and Development Party and helped organise the demonstration, said there were more than 1,000 “supporters” present but only 30 people who were “allowed to protest inside the line of the rally.”

The group of 30 refrained from using military slogans or waving military flags, she said. “Only the supporters were holding them.” 

The Mandalay regional government banned the demonstrators from using two military-related slogans that organisers submitted ahead of the rally, she added, but did not say what they were. 

“Since they restricted it, we don’t get to yell military-related slogans, just election-related ones,” she said.

She said the organisers supported the military because it was actively exposing the injustices of the 2020 election and had objected to the UEC’s actions. 

Ko Ko Lwin, an organiser and a Pyawbwe local, signed an agreement with the township management committee saying the protest would avoid military slogans, have no more than 30 attendees, and follow Covid-19 protection guidelines.

Pyawbwe township administrator Thein Tun did not answer calls seeking comment. It is unclear if his office plans to take action against the organisers for breaching the agreement.

Late last month hundreds attended a similar protest in Yangon in defiance of Covid-19 restrictions, holding placards that read, “People who degrade the country’s integrity by stealing votes are our enemy.” 

Moe Moe Khaing, who organised the protest and is a leader from the Yeomanry Development Party, was charged under the Peaceful Assembly Law on Monday and faces a prison sentence of up to a month plus a fine if found guilty.

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