As Myanmar ’s protests against the military junta gather steam, young demonstrators are turning out in the streets in droves to express their anger against the coup. The street rallies that have followed the putsch are the biggest demonstrations the country has seen since 2007’s Saffron Revolution, named after the colour of the robes worn by Buddhist monks who demanded democracy as they protested against the loss of fuel subsidies. This time around and more than a decade later, the protesters – and the language they are employing – are even more colourful. A steady stream of characters, from punk rockers to Harry Potter fans and beauty queens, ‘unicorns’ to superheroes, have marched the streets with cheeky placards featuring some choice words for the junta and its arrest of the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi . “Dictatorship? B**** please, I don’t even want a relationship”, read one of the placards. Another, held by a scantily clad woman, suggested that military power lay “under my bikini”. While there were plenty of placards in 2007 too, back then the messages were mostly in Burmese and far less colourful. Nearly all bore the same simple message: “We want democracy.” A generation has passed since then, and much has changed in the country. Until last week, it had even seemed to be embracing those calls for democracy . After more than a decade under house arrest, Suu Kyi – then still a democracy campaigner – was released in 2010 and elections followed in 2015 and 2020, though the junta’s distaste for the latest set of results – a landslide victory for Suu Kyi – appears to have set the clock back. This generational change is reflected in the placards’ use of English, which has become widely taught in schools and universities, particularly after the US under Barack Obama lifted sanctions on the Myanmar government in 2016. Though, again, there is a sense of deja vu, with new US President Joe Biden announcing on Thursday a new set of sanctions . Still, while the junta has for now put a brake on the democracy ambitions, the people’s English language skills and appreciation of Western culture endures, if the placards are anything to go by. As skateboarding protesters holding the red flag of the National League of Democracy (Suu Kyi’s party) whizzed past, a football fan wearing a Manchester United shirt in Sanchaung township held a sign saying, “Do not seize power if you want to win the cup”. A group of shirtless men paraded in Myaynigone, chanting phrases like, “It’s our duty to overthrow the dictator” and “release the arrested leaders”, while groups of women dressed as brides and Miss Universe strutted their stuff too. “We saw how people protested in Thailand , Hong Kong and the United States. We have learned a new way of protesting, more peacefully than in 1988,” said one student in Myaynigone, a 24-year-old who is majoring in English. The reference was to the civil unrest in August of that year known as the 8888 Uprising, a series of nationwide protests in which Suu Kyi first rose to prominence. The protests ended after a bloody military coup a month later. This time around, there was no shortage of superheroes ready to take the battle to the junta, with at least two spider-men and a power ranger. “Hello Marvel … Military coup is villainous, even Spidey is here,” wrote one of the spider-men, while the red Mighty Morphin Power Ranger went with: “Free Aung San Suu Kyi. Free President U Win Myint and say no to dictators”. Elsewhere a woman next to a sign saying, “Practice Yoga, no dictatorship” was busy stretching her legs, while a group of young men wearing miniskirts and holding pictures of Suu Kyi urged people to “come out” rather than go to work and suggested that “Military power is under my skirt”. In Sule, the party atmosphere was in full flow. Protesters brought inflatable pools to keep cool during the midday sun. INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION The signs have been a hit on social media , attracting comment from across the Anglosphere and beyond – a key part of the intention behind them. “We are doing this to attract more international attention and to protest in an innovative way,” said a young man near Sule. Crucial to the movement is that people feel safe to satirise the once feared military. The young man near Sule had felt so comfortable protesting he took time out for a brief nap. And even young girls were happy to poke some fun at the coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. “Roses are red. Violets are blue. I thought Voldemort was bad, but then I met you, Min Aung Hlaing,” read a sign held by one of three young fans of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, who was wearing a Slytherin house dress. Others brought along exotic pets such as iguanas and snakes. A group of dancers jigged their way around the crowd while another young girl, in unicorn pyjamas, held a placard saying “I should be at home watching Netflix and sleeping, not here protesting”. People even protested in groups with their colleagues from work. On Thursday morning, in front of the Central Bank office in Yangon, a group of Money Heist characters could be seen. “We only rob banks. You rob the whole nation,” read their sign. In Hledan, a photo of Ma Myat Thwe Thwe Khaing, who was shot during a protest in Naypyidaw on February 9, was also displayed on a flyover. Anti-military slogans were popular in the area, while young people protested peacefully with cooking demonstrations near the Hledan Arch Bridge. Young people also protested in front of the Chinese embassy, the UN office in Yangon, the US Embassy and the Embassy of Japan to drive home their international message. “Give more respect to Myanmar, look at its people,” said young protester Thet Yu Khaing outside the UN office on Wednesday. In front of the Chinese Embassy on Thursday, a group of young people welcomed the Lunar New Year by dressing in Chinese costumes and making barbecues. Led by the famous actor Paing Takhon, their signs were in both Chinese and English but the message was simple. It read: “No to military dictatorship”.