Thousands of people gathered on Sunday in Yangon, Myanmar’s most populous city, against the military takeover. They called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose elected government was overthrown by the army that also blackouted the internet. AP hide caption
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Myanmar on Sunday to call for an end the military coup and the release of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested along with other elected officials during the military takeover last week.
Protesters gathered in Yangon, Myanmar’s most populous city, chanting anti-military slogans and waving the red peacock flag representing Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party. Many wore shirts and carried balloons with the colors of the party in the biggest protest of the day.
The protesters carried banners reading “Respect our voice,” reports the BBC, an indication of a landslide victory by Suu Kyi’s party in an election on November 8th. Military leaders justified their takeover by claiming that the vote was fraudulent. A protester named Suu Kyi, quoted by the BBC “Our true leader.”
“It is our only hope for our democracy. If it died or something happened to it, what does our future look like? We really need it back,” the protester told the BBC.
Above all, the three-fingered greeting was seen, a gesture from the series The Hunger Games, which has become a widespread symbol of defiance after the coup. Passing motorists honked in support as protesters tossed the borrowed symbol during the day’s largest demonstration.
“We don’t want a dictatorship for the next generation,” one protester, 21-year-old Thaw Zin, told Reuters. “We will not end this revolution until we have made history. We will fight to the end.”
According to Reuters, protesters in Yangon made their way from every corner of the city to downtown Sule Pagoda, which was a focus of monk-led protests and other movements in the country in 2007.
Protesters march towards Sule Pagoda in Yangon on Sunday. AP hide caption
Armed police with shields erected barricades, but did not disturb the protests.
The protests marked the second day in a row that demonstrations took place in Yangon, almost a week after the February 1 coup that ended a decade-old democracy in Myanmar and brought the military chief Min Aung Hlaing to power brought.
The protests on Sunday were the largest since the so-called Saffron Revolution in 2007, which led to bloody raids by the military.
The military leadership had started the day before the protests a day-long internet blackoutwhat seemed to be relaxing on Sunday.
Tens of thousands marched in Mandalay, the country’s second largest city, to express their support for the civilian-elected government and to decipher the military takeover. The Myanmar Times Reports. In the capital, Naypyidaw, a city built on the orders of military generals, protesters joined hundreds of motorcyclists, both from the Myanmar Times and the New York Times Report.
A protester shouts slogans as he holds a placard with the picture of the Commander in Chief of the Myanmar Military, Maj. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, as other protesters march around Mandalay on Sunday. AP hide caption
Demonstrations also took place in nearby Bangladesh, where thousands of Rohingya Muslims are being resettled in refugee camps after the bloody military crackdown on the ethnic minority, the New York Times reports. This support came despite previous criticism of Suu Kyi – a Nobel Peace Prize winner – for inaction during ethnic cleansing.
“They killed Rohingya, they tortured us and we have not forgotten those brutal days,” Abdur Rahim, who lives in the Kutupalong camp, the world’s largest refugee settlement, told the Times. “We express our solidarity with those who protest against the military government in Myanmar.”
There were few reports of violence during the day’s demonstrations, although earlier shots are reported to have been fired in the border town of Myawaddy, Myanmar. The BBC cited local media reporting that police used rubber bullets to stop a rally.
The Myanmar military did not comment on Sunday’s protest and was largely silent about the growing opposition to the coup. The US and the United Nations have repeatedly denounced the takeover.
As a result, the military also accused Suu Kyi of illegally importing walkie-talkies and she is reportedly being detained until at least February 15th. Reuters adds that at least 160 people have been detained since the military took power, according to the United Nations
Michael Sullivan contributed to this report.