Stalled democracy: 'broken-down' cars block roads in Myanmar anti-coup protest

·2-min read

At first glance it looks as if motorists in Myanmar's largest city have collectively forgotten how to drive -- streets are choked with overturned auto-rickshaws, stalled buses, cement trucks, cars and taxis.

But the traffic blockage on Yangon roads in the past two days has actually been a part of a disruption campaign by protesters against the country's military coup, in the hope of hampering movements of the security forces around the city.

Since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, big cities and isolated villages alike have mounted a revolt against the return of junta rule.

Thursday's morning peak hour saw city roads turn into car parks as motorists stopped their vehicles in the middle of the road, with bonnets of some left open in pretence that the vehicles have broken down.

"We are participating in this 'broken-down car campaign' because we want to support the (civil servants) and also because we're proud of them," truck driver Phoe Thar told AFP.

"We're protesting because we want to be dutiful citizens and we want to get rid of the military dictatorship."

Many of the country's public servants have gone on strike in protest of the military regime as part of a so-called "civil disobedience movement".

Among the hundreds of thousands of protesters nationwide are air traffic controllers, bankers, railway workers, teachers, engineers and health workers.

From the remote highlands of Chin state to cities along the Irrawaddy delta, protesters are demanding for the release of Suu Kyi and for the military regime to relinquish power.

More than 490 people have been arrested since the coup, according to a Yangon-based monitoring group -- many of them civil servants who refused to work under a military regime.

On Thursday, dozens of police watched on as motorists blocked roads at Myaynigone junction -- a key gathering site for protesters.

"We gathered about five taxis and one pretended his car had broken down and blocked the street... We blocked (for) about 30 minutes," said a 30-year-old taxi driver.

Street vendor Than Than said the traffic snarls are a minor inconvenience for a greater cause.

"I had to walk about 40 minutes because of blocked cars on my way back home yesterday afternoon before I got to the bus," she said, adding that protesters apologised to her on her walk.

"We replied to them that we were okay as they didn't do anything wrong."

But not everyone is in support of the "broken-down car" campaign.

Online footage shared Thursday morning showed a couple of the protest vehicles with "Free Aung San Suu Kyi" signs vandalised, one with cracked windscreen and the other with a smashed window.

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