In defiance of the military junta, Myanmar saw its biggest protests in more than a decade on Sunday as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in several cities, calling for the release of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Footage of the demonstrations flooded social media after the military-run government restored internet access it had previously blocked.
Around 100,000 protesters were estimated out in the streets of Yangon while large demonstrations were also reported in other cities.
The rallies were universal in their condemnation of the coup that brought Myanmar’s 10-year experiment with democracy to a crashing halt.
“I completely despise the military coup and I am not afraid of a crackdown,” said Kyi Phyu Kyaw, a 20-year-old university student.
“I will join every day until Amay Suu (Mother Suu) is freed.”
Backed by a din of car horns, chanting protesters in Yangon held up banners saying “Justice for Myanmar”, while others waved the signature red flags of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party as they marched to City Hall.
Police with riot shields blocked the path of the protesters at several points in the city, but a huge crowd was able to gather near Yangon City Hall without any clashes.
Some protesters handed out roses to policemen.
Many flashed the three-finger salute inspired by the “Hunger Games” films, which became a symbol of resistance during the pro-democracy protests in Thailand last year.
“We will fight until the end,” said Ye Kyaw, an 18-year-old economics student.
“The next generation can have democracy if we end this military dictatorship.”
The surge in popular dissent over the weekend overcame a nationwide internet blockade, similar in magnitude to an earlier shutdown that coincided with the arrest of Suu Kyi and other senior leaders on Monday.
Monitoring service NetBlocks said internet access was partially restored on some mobile networks in Myanmar Sunday afternoon, but social media platforms remained blocked and it was unclear how long the connectivity would last.
Online calls to protest have prompted bold displays of defiance, including the nightly deafening clamour of people banging pots and pans — a practice traditionally associated with driving out evil spirits.
The UN Human Rights office has said Myanmar authorities “must ensure the right to peaceful assembly is fully respected and demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals.”
There were also protests in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, and Mawlamyine.
The coup has been widely condemned by the international community, with US President Joe Biden leading calls for the generals to relinquish power and release those arrested in the post-coup crackdown. (Source: Bangkok Post)