Protests sweep Myanmar, Web restored

Yangon, February 7

Tens of thousands of people rallied across Myanmar on Sunday to denounce last week’s coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in the biggest protests since the 2007 Saffron Revolution that helped lead to democratic reforms.

In the afternoon, the junta ended a daylong blockade of the Internet that had further inflamed anger since the coup last Monday that has halted the Southeast Asian nation’s troubled transition to democracy and drawn international outrage.

Suu Kyi fate not known

  • With no Internet and scarce official information, rumours swirled about the fate of Suu Kyi and her cabinet

  • A story that she had been released drew crowds out to celebrate, but it was quickly quashed by her lawyer

  • Suu Kyi, 75, faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkies and is being held in police detention for investigation until Feb 15. Her lawyer said he has not been allowed to see her

In a second day of widespread protests, crowds in the biggest city, Yangon, sported red shirts, red flags and red balloons, the colour of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party (NLD). “We don’t want military dictatorship! We want democracy!” they chanted.

Massive crowds from all corners of Yangon gathered in townships, filling streets as they headed towards the Sule Pagoda at the heart of the city, also a rallying point during the Buddhist monk-led 2007 protests and others in 1988.

A line of armed police with riot shields set up barricades, but did not try to stop the demonstration. Some marchers presented police with flowers. One officer was photographed giving a surreptitious three-finger salute.

Protesters gestured with the three-finger salute that has become a symbol of protest against the coup. “We don’t want a dictatorship for the next generation,” said 21-year-old Thaw Zin. “We will not finish this revolution until we make history. We will fight to the end.”

There was no comment from the junta in the capital Naypyidaw, 350 km north of Yangon and state-run TV news carried no mention of the protests.

An internal note for UN staff estimated that 1,000 people joined a protest in Naypyidaw, while there were 60,000 in Yangon alone. Protests were reported in the second city of Mandalay and many towns and villages across the country that stretches from Indian Ocean islands to the fringes of the Himalayas. The Yangon protesters dispersed after dark. — Reuters

160 held so far

  • Over 160 persons have been arrested since the military seized power, said Thomas Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar
  • “The generals are now attempting to paralyse the citizens’ movement and keep the outside world in the dark by cutting all Net access,” he said

Pope for harmony

  • Pope Francis, who met Min Aung Hlaing during a visit to Myanmar in 2017, appeared to come down on the military leaders at his Sunday address
  • He said he prayed the leadership would promote a ‘harmonious and democratic co-existence’

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