Over a dozen Kawkareik residents detained for alleged involvement in ‘Flower Strike’ to honour the 78th birthday of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi

Fifteen residents from Kawkareik Township, Karen State, have been detained and are currently being interrogated at the local police station for their alleged participation in the Flower Strike, a demonstration held to honour the 78th birthday of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the 2021 coup.

The people of Myanmar consider adorning flowers in their hair as a symbolic gesture associated with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. On her birthday June 19th, the Military Council apprehended 15 individuals in Kawkareik who were simply purchasing flowers at the market, accusing them of participating in Flower Strike, a local told KIC.

Birthday celebrations of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s esteemed symbol of democracy, and flower strikes were organized in towns, villages, and areas controlled by resistance forces. On the other hand, on June 19th, the Junta aggressively carried out arrests of individuals who purchased flowers, wore them in their hair, or carried bouquets. According to local media estimates, the number of people arrested under these circumstances in Karen State is expected to exceed 150.

The local from Kawkareik shared with KIC, “The soldiers began pursuing everyone who carried flowers or adorned their hair with them. By the following morning, the 15 individuals arrested on June 19thand had not been released. Uncertainty loomed regarding whether they would face charges, or be granted their freedom. The severity of arrests in Kawkareik has intensified recently, particularly targeting and apprehending individuals affiliated with the NLD (National League for Democracy)”, he said.

Over the past few months, the Military Council has detained over 40 individuals from Kawkareik. Some of them were able to secure their release through bribery, but a majority have faced unjust prosecutions on various charges.

These individuals included prominent celebrities who were among those arrested .There are rumors circulating that celebrities may face charges, while some individuals have been released after making commitments to refrain from engaging in such controversial activities again.

“In Karen State, we witnessed flower distribution campaigns at Payathonzu (Three Pagodas Pass) and vibrant celebrations marking the birthday of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, accompanied by Flower Strikes. The resilience of the resistance in these areas deterred the soldiers from making any arrests. Similarly there has been no news of arrests in Hpa-An and Myawaddy townships. However in Kawkareik side reports have emerged indicating that individuals have been subjected to arrests”, a member of the Karen State-based Lawyers Network told KIC.

In the present circumstances in Karen State, it is evident that the Military Council’s control is limited to a handful of urban areas within certain townships. On the other hand, the combat operations led by the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and the joint forces of the resistance have exhibited significant strength in the outskirts and rural regions. As a result, the Military Council’s governance and security measures in the region have notably diminished. In a state of insecurity and faced with setbacks on multiple fronts, the Military Council troops persist in instilling terror among residential areas through daily shelling. Their objective is to deter targeted attacks on the remaining areas under their control, locals suggested.

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