‘Broken-down cars’ form a line of defense to protect Myanmar coup protesters

Opponents of Myanmar’s military coup parked their cars in the middle of city streets and on bridges on Wednesday, pretending they had broken down to block police and army trucks moving around to break up protests. Calls for a “broken-down car campaign” spread quickly on social media after the military’s overnight block on the internet […]

Opponents of Myanmar’s military coup parked their cars in the middle of city streets and on bridges on Wednesday, pretending they had broken down to block police and army trucks moving around to break up protests.

Calls for a “broken-down car campaign” spread quickly on social media after the military’s overnight block on the internet was lifted. Numerous pictures soon appeared of supposedly stalled cars, with bonnets raised, clogging up streets.

“Everyone is facing difficulties,” said taxi driver Thein Naing, who was taking part in the protest in the main city of Yangon after giving up hope of doing any business on Wednesday, with petrol prices so high and traffic even more grid-locked than usual.

The car campaign came as democracy activists drew huge crowds in Yangon and elsewhere in what they hope will be a major show of opposition to the army’s overthrow. But it risked being too successful for its own good and preventing opponents of the coup joining the protest, one activist said.

“There need to be millions of protesters at Sule,” said activist Maung Saung Kha, referring to a central Yangon protest site.

“Stop the ‘broken-down car’ at 11 a.m. and help the protesters get to Sule as soon as possible.”

Hundreds of thousands of people marched in Myanmar on Wednesday, rejecting the army’s assertion that the public supported its overthrow of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and vowing they would not be cowed in their bid to end military rule.

Opponents of the Feb. 1 military coup are deeply skeptical of junta assurances, given at a news conference on Tuesday, that there would be a fair election and that it would hand over power, even as police filed an additional charge against Suu Kyi.

“We love democracy and hate the junta,” Sithu Maung, an elected member of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), told tens of thousands of people at the Sule Pagoda, a central protest site in the main city of Yangon.

“We must be the last generation to experience a coup.”

Protests in cities across the Southeast Asian country were some of the biggest since daily demonstrations began on Feb. 6 to denounce the coup that halted an unsteady transition to democracy from half a century of army rule and isolation.

Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the ruling council, told the Tuesday news conference that the army would not be in power for long and that 40 million of Myanmar‘s 53 million population supported the coup.

Sithu Maung poked fun at that, saying: “We’re showing here that we’re not in that 40 million.”