Myanmar: Huge turnout for anti-coup protests | News | DW | 07.02.2021

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Myanmar: Huge turnout for anti-coup protests

Tens of thousands of people have joined the biggest rallies yet to condemn the military coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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Myanmar anti-coup protests continue

Fresh protests took place on Sunday against the detention of Myanmar's recently deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi after the country's military seized power.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Yangon, brandishing flags and calling for the Nobel laureate's release.

Some estimates put the number of protesters in the country's commercial hub at 100,000.

Shoon Naing, Reuters reporter in Myanmar, shared a video on Twitter showing thousands of people marching in protest of the coup. 

No to military 'dictatorship'

Demonstrators held up banners — including some saying "We do not want military dictatorship" — and the signature red flags of Suu Kyi's National League of Democracy (NLD) party.

"We will move forward and keep demanding until we get democracy. Down with the military dictatorship," said protester Myo Win, 37.

Riot police had tried to stop one march in Yangon from reaching the city hall, but some protesters were able to get through.

"I completely despise the military coup and I am not afraid of a crackdown," said Kyi Phyu Kyaw, a 20-year-old university student.

Although some police officers appeared to sympathize with the protests. In an image shared by DW correspondent in Myanmar, Cape Diamond, four policemen appear to gesture the three-fingered salute, which protesters had used as a sign of resistance.

Reuters reported that some protesters gave flowers to officers, as some policemen set barricades without trying to stop the demonstrations.

Protests also took place in the second-largest city, Mandalay, and the capital Naypyitaw.

In Myawaddy, shots were heard as riot police attempted to break up a demonstration, Reuters reported.

Social media still blocked

Also on Sunday, the military partially restored internet services that were blacked out a day earlier.

Social media remained blocked even after connectivity was restored, according to a tweet from NetBlocks.

Resistance to the February 1 coup had initially proved limited, due in part to widespread communications difficulties, as well as fears of a further crackdown.

But the large weekend turnout appeared to show that the online blackout had failed to quell the protests.

For more than 50 years, Myanmar — also known as Burma — was run by successive isolationist military regimes that plunged the country into poverty and brutally stifled any dissent. 

Thousands of critics, activists, journalists, academics and artists were routinely jailed and tortured during that time.

Recently deposed civilian leader Suu Kyi shot to international prominence during her decades-long struggle against the military, which held power from 1962 to 2011.

Military won't let go

Suu Kyi's party, the NLD, won a landslide in elections in 2015 and formed the first civilian government in November. 

Many pro-democracy supporters hoped it would mark a break from the military rule of the past and offer hope that Myanmar would continue to reform.

The sudden seizure of power came as the new parliament was due to open and after months of increasing friction between the civilian government and the powerful military.

The country's election commission has repeatedly denied mass voter fraud took place.

Hundreds of NLD lawmakers were detained in the capital Naypyitaw Monday, where they had traveled to take up their seats. 

The junta has since removed 24 ministers and deputies from government and named 11 of its own allies as replacements who will assume their roles in a new administration.

UN Rapporteur backs protesters

Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar said on Twitter that the demonstrations across Myanmar have inspired the world, as calls grow for a general strike. 

Andrews said earlier in a statement that he was calling for an immediate session by the UN Human Rights Council to address the situation in Myanmar, urging countries to take action against military dictatorship.  

Rights groups and countries around the world have raised concerns over the coup. 

Pope Francis on Sunday also said that he hoped that Myanmar's political leadership would work sincerely "to promote social justice and national stability for a harmonious democratic co-existence.''

fb,jf,ab/mm (AFP, AP)

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