Protests sweep Myanmar to oppose the coup and help Suu Kyi
© Reuters. Protest against the military coup in Yangon
(Reuters) – Tens of thousands gathered in Myanmar on Sunday to denounce last week’s coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. This was the biggest protest since the 2007 Saffron Revolution, which drove the transition to democracy.
On a second day of widespread protests against the military junta, the crowds in Yangon’s largest city wore red shirts, red flags and red balloons. This color represents the party of the National League for Democracy (NLD) of Suu Kyi. They sang: “We don’t want a military dictatorship! We want democracy! “
Myanmar’s military took power in the early hours of Monday morning, suddenly stalling the Southeast Asian nation’s difficult democratic transition and sparking international outrage.
The gathering on Sunday was much larger than one on Saturday, when tens of thousands took to the streets at the first mass protests against the coup and despite an internet blockade ordered by the junta in the name of ensuring calm.
On Sunday, huge crowds from all corners of Yangon gathered in the townships and made their way to Sule Pagoda in the heart of downtown Yangon, also a gathering point during the Buddhist monk-led protests of 2007 and others in 1988.
They gestured with the three-finger salute that has become a symbol of the protest against the coup. The drivers honked their horns and the passengers held up photos of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi.
“We don’t want to live under military boots,” said 29-year-old protester Ye Yint.
Despite the internet shutdown, some people were able to broadcast live on Facebook (NASDAQ :). Users said internet access was restored on Sunday afternoon.
There was no comment from the junta in the capital, Naypyitaw, more than 350 km north of Yangon.
Protests by 53 million people have been reported in the second city of Mandalay and elsewhere in the country.
The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, but shots were fired in the southeastern town of Myawaddy when uniformed police with guns charged a group of a few hundred protesters, live video showed.
Hundreds of people spent the night outside a police station in Payathonzu town, southeast Karen state, where they believed local NLD lawmakers had been arrested.
With no internet and no official information, rumors swirled about the fate of Suu Kyi and her cabinet. A story she posted drew crowds on Saturday to celebrate, but it was quickly picked up by her attorney.
75-year-old Suu Kyi is accused of illegally importing six walkie-talkies. She is being held in police custody for investigation until February 15. Her lawyer said he couldn’t see her.
She spent nearly 15 years under house arrest while struggling for decades to end nearly half a century of military rule before a troubled transition to democracy began in 2011.
Army Commander Min Aung Hlaing carried out the coup on charges of fraud in a November 8 election in which Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide. The electoral commission rejected the allegations of misconduct.
More than 160 people have been arrested since the military took power, said Thomas Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar.
“The generals are now trying to cripple the citizens’ resistance movement – and keep the outside world in the dark – by blocking practically all Internet access,” Andrews said in a statement on Sunday.
“We all have to stand with the people of Myanmar in their hour of danger and hardship. They deserve nothing less.”