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Thousands protest army takeover in yangon

Thousands protest army takeover in yangon
In this image made from video provided by the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), protesters flash the three-fingered salute and hold images of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they march in Yangon, Myanmar Sunday. (AP/PTI)
YANGON, FEB 7 (AP) | Publish Date: 2/7/2021 12:38:41 PM IST

Thousands of people rallied against the military takeover in Myanmar’s biggest city on Sunday and demanded the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose elected government was toppled by the army that also imposed an internet blackout.

Protest crowds have grown bigger and bolder since Monday’s coup.

At least 2,000 labour union and student activists and members of the public chanted “Long live Mother Suu” and “Down with military dictatorship” at a major intersection near Yangon University. They marched along a main road, snarling traffic. Drivers honked their horns in support.

Police in riot gear blocked the main entrance to the university. Two water cannon trucks were parked nearby.

The protesters held placards calling for freedom for Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, who were put under house arrest and charged with minor offenses, seen by many as providing a legal veneer for their detention.

On Saturday, new military authorities cut most access to the internet, making Twitter and Instagram inaccessible. Facebook had already been blocked earlier in the week — though not completely effectively.

The U.S. Embassy called on the military to give up power and restore the democratically elected government, release those detained, lift all telecommunications restrictions, and refrain from violence.

“We support the right of the people of Myanmar to protest in support of the democratically elected government and their right to freely access information,” it said in a tweet.

The communication blockade is a stark reminder of the progress Myanmar is in danger of losing after Monday’s coup plunged the nation back under direct military rule after a nearly decade-long move toward greater openness and democracy. During Myanmar’s previous five decades of military rule, the country was internationally isolated and communication with the outside world strictly controlled.

Suu Kyi’s five years as leader since 2015 had been Myanmar’s most democratic period despite the military retaining broad powers the continued use of repressive colonial-era laws and the persecution of minority Rohingya Muslims.

Sunday’s rally came a day after about 1,000 people — factory workers and students prominent among them — marched in Yangon. They were met by more than 100 riot police.

There was no violence reported. Similar-sized demonstrations took place in at least two other areas of Yangon as well as in Mandalay, the second-largest city. At Yangon’s City Hall, protesters presented flowers to police.

Nearly 300 elected lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party were supposed to have taken their seats last Monday in a new session of Parliament following November elections when the military announced it was taking power for a year.

The military accused Suu Kyi and her party of failing to act on its complaints that last the election was marred by fraud, though the election commission said it had no found no evidence to support the claims.

The lawmakers met in an online meeting Friday to declare themselves as the sole legitimate representatives of the people and asked for international recognition as the country’s government.

Internet access restored as Myanmar coup protests grow

Yangon, Feb 7 (AP): As enthusiastic crowds of tens of thousands marched through the streets of Myanmar’s biggest city on Sunday to protest last week’s coup, their spirits were lifted by the return of internet services that had been blocked a day earlier.

Separate protests that began in various parts of Yangon converged at Sule Pagoda, situated in the center of a roundabout in the city’s downtown area. Protesters chanted “Long live Mother Suu” and “Down with military dictatorship.”

 Authorities had cut access to the internet as the protests grew Saturday, fanning fears of a complete information blackout. On Sunday afternoon, however, internet users in Yangon reported that data access on their mobile phones had suddenly been restored.

The military has accused Suu Kyi and her party of failing to act on its complaints that last November’s election was marred by fraud, though the election commission said it had found no evidence to support the claims.

Reports on social media and by some Myanmar news services said demonstrations were taking place in other parts of the country as well, with a particularly large crowd in the central city of Mandalay.

Saturday had seen the size of street protests grow from the hundreds to the thousands, but is also saw the authorities cut most access to the internet. Holes in the military’s firewall allowed some news to trickle out, but also fanned fears of a complete information blackout.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were earlier ordered blocked, but had remained partially accessible. Social media platforms have been major sources of independent news as well as organising tools for protests.

Netblocks, a London-based service that tracks internet disruptions and shutdowns, confirmed that there had been a partial restoration of internet connectivity on Sunday, but noted that it might be temporary and social media remined blocked.

The communication blockade was a stark reminder of the progress Myanmar is in danger of losing. During Myanmar’s decades of military rule, the country was internationally isolated and communication with the outside world strictly controlled.

The elected lawmakers of Suu Kyi’s party met in an online meeting Friday to declare themselves as the sole legitimate representatives of the people and asked for international recognition as the country’s government.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pledged the United Nations will do everything it can to unite the international community and create conditions to reverse the coup. 

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