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Myanmar's online pop-up markets raise funds for protest

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Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

FILE - In this April 4, 2021, file photo, young demonstrators participate in an anti-coup mask strike in Yangon, Myanmar. Many in Myanmar have found a safer, more substantive way to protest the countrys military coup. Instead of facing down heavily armed solders from behind flimsy barricades, they're holding online rummage sales using sites like Facebook. (AP Photo, File)

BANGKOK – With security forces in Myanmar having shot dead at least 570 protesters and bystanders in the past two months, many of the country's residents see venturing out onto the street as a brave but foolhardy act.

Online, many have found a safer, more substantive way to show their defiance against February’s military takeover — virtual rummage sales whose proceeds go to the protest movement’s shadow government and other related political causes.

Everything from clothes and toys, to music lessons and outdoor adventures are on sale. Foreign friends are encouraged to donate, but fundraising inside Myanmar also serves the purpose of raising political consciousness for challenging the ousting of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.

Facebook users have taken to the social network to sell off their possessions, advertising that all the money raised will go to fund the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, formed by elected members of Parliament who were blocked from taking their seats by the coup.

The committee styles itself as the sole legitimate government of the country, rejecting the ruling junta as without legal standing. In turn, the junta has outlawed the committee and declared it treasonous, threatening to jail not just its members but anyone supporting it.

Formed from scratch shortly after the Feb. 1 coup, the CRPH needs money to carry on its organizing activities inside the country and diplomatic efforts abroad.

Even as the authorities keep narrowing access to the internet, lately limited to a relatively small number of households with fiber broadband connections, deals are still available.

Last week, one young woman was offering her collection of K-Pop music and memorabilia, especially of the band Exo. Anyone interested had to show her a receipt for a donation to CRPH, and the item would go to whoever gave the most.

Another put his collection of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes up for sale.

“It is not very pricey but difficult to collect. If you show me your CRPH donation slip, choose anything and I will give it to you,” his message read.

One group of friends advertised their collection of novels, poems and motivational books, with proceeds again going to the democracy fight and delivery “when everything becomes stable.”

And it isn’t just goods that are being hawked. Services are also on offer to help bankroll the struggle.

A quick check through Facebook notices turned up a seamstress offering to sew a traditional Myanmar dress for free to those who donate $25, a musician offering lifetime guitar and ukulele lessons and an outdoor expedition leader offering to take five people on an adventure holiday.

The expedition would go to the winner of a lucky draw from among receipts for donations to either the CPRH, the Civil Disobedience Movement that organizes the daily resistance activities or to help thousands of internally displaced people.

However, there's one small caveat to that last offer — it's advertised as being redeemable “after the revolution.”