With ‘Flower strikes,’ citizens call for the release of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi

Flower strike in Myanmar

The Democracy Movement Strike Committee-Dawei in Tanintharyi Region’s Long Lone Township organized a protest against the Myanmar junta by celebrating the 79th birthday of detained Myanmar leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Photo from the X post of The Irrawaddy, a content partner of Global Voices.

“Flower Strikes,” community protests, and solidarity actions were held on June 19 across Myanmar to push for the release of detained Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and over 20,000 political prisoners.

Suu Kyi celebrated her 79th birthday under the custody of the military junta which grabbed power in February 2021 and detained the democratically elected leader and her allies. The Nobel Laureate and pro-democracy icon has spent almost a quarter of her life in detention and under house arrest. She became a State Counselor after her party clinched a historic landslide victory in 2015. Her party won again in 2020 but the military dismissed the result and staged a coup which stunted the country’s transition to civilian and democratic rule. Suu Kyi was among those arrested in a mass crackdown on day one of the coup.

Over the past three years, the military dictatorship has waged a brutal crackdown on dissenting groups. This was countered by a civil disobedience movement in urban centers and armed resistance in ethnic communities. The “flower strikes” reflected not just the enduring popularity of Suu Kyi but also the growing political influence of pro-democracy forces.

“Flower Strikes” featured individuals donning flowers on their heads or carrying flowers to honor Suu Kyi. Individuals also made banners greeting Suu Kyi on her birthday and promoting the theme of the protest: “Roses That Never Bow Down.”

Alinn, a Mandalay youth activist who spent two years in detention for opposing the coup, joined the “flower strike” to pay tribute to Suu Kyi. She told The Irrawaddy, an exiled Myanmar news outlet:

Even in my 20s, it was very hard to survive in prison. And unlike her, I had the chance to contact my family regularly. I can’t even imagine being in her shoes, held in solitary confinement at the age of my grandmother.

I wanna thank her for resisting to date and wanna wish her a long life and good health and that she may witness the victory of the revolution.

Even some European embassies posted photos of flowers on social media which indicates their support for the call to release Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

The police arrested scores of individuals who were seen wearing or carrying flowers on June 19. Police conducted random inspections on buses and arrested those who were selling and buying flowers in markets. Junta supporters also reported the accounts of Facebook and Telegram users who posted photos of “flower strikes.”

A Mandalay resident condemned the misplaced priorities of junta officials.

There are too many robberies and other similar crimes in the city, but the junta is not interested in arresting criminals. Is it a crime for a Burmese lady to wear a flower?

Kim Aris, the son of Suu Kyi who is based in the United Kingdom, told the media that the brutality of junta forces reveals their fear over rising public dissatisfaction.

The excessive reaction to last year’s flower strike serves as a stark reminder of a military leadership that has succumbed to corruption due to their fear of the very populace they are determined to govern. Their default recourse to brutality merely reinforces my mother’s role as a unifying emblem of a liberated Burma and a beacon of inspiration for those currently striving to reinstate fundamental liberties.

He also expressed concern regarding the health condition of his 79-year-old mother whose exact whereabouts is not known to the family and the general public.

While I am sure maymay’s [Burmese word for mother] many years under house arrest will have prepared her for her current period of isolation, given her age and ongoing health issues, I am concerned about her circumstances.

The junta assured the public that Suu Kyi is safe and being given “necessary care.”

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