Police warn coup protesters in Myanmar to disperse or face force


Myanmar police warned coup protesters to stop the demonstrations or face force, after state television signalled impending action to stifle mass demonstrations.

Tens of thousands of people in Myanmar have come out to the streets on Monday (Feb. 08) on the third day of protests to denounce the military’s seizure of power, but were met with lines of police in riot gears and with road signs saying that live ammunition could be used if demonstrators breached the third line of officers.

In the capital Naypyitaw, protesters chanted anti-coup slogans and told police they should serve the people not the military but they were met with water cannon, according to media and a live feed of events.

State media signalled possible action against them in the first comment from any government channel, saying the public wanted to be rid of “wrongdoers”.

“We, the whole people who value justice, freedom, equality, peace, and safety, not only refuse to accept the lawless wrongdoers but also request that they be prevented and removed through cooperation,” the MRTV television station said in a comment.

Though not attributed to any authority or group, it was later read out on a military-owned network.

Calls to join protests and to back a campaign of civil disobedience have grown louder and more organized since the coup, which drew widespread international condemnation.

“We health workers are leading this campaign to urge all government staff to join,” Aye Misan, a nurse at a government hospital said at a protest in the biggest city of Yangon.

“Our message to the public is that we aim to completely abolish this military regime and we have to fight for our destiny.”

Gatherings have been good-natured and largely peaceful, unlike bloody crackdowns on previous protests, in 1988 and 2007 in particular.

Thousands also marched also in the southeastern city of Dawei and in the Kachin state capital in the far north, the massive crowds reflecting a rejection of military rule by diverse ethnic groups, even those who have been critical of Suu Kyi and accused her government of neglecting minorities.

In Yangon, a group of saffron-robed monks, who have a history of rallying community action in the overwhelmingly Buddhist country, marched in the vanguard of protests with workers and students. They flew multicolour Buddhist flags alongside red banners in the colour of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), which won a landslide election in November.

“Release Our Leaders, Respect Our Votes, Reject Military Coup,” said one sign.

The protests are the biggest since the “Saffron Revolution” led by monks in 2007, which led over subsequent years to the military’s gradual withdrawal from politics after decades of direct rule, a process brought to a jarring halt by the Feb. 01 coup.

In a development likely to worry the military, some government workers have been seen joining doctors and some teachers in rallying to the call for a campaign of civil disobedience and strikes.

“We request government staff from all departments not to attend work from Monday,” said activist Min Ko Naing, a veteran of the 1988 demonstrations that brought Suu Kyi to prominence.

The government lifted a day-long internet ban at the weekend. The block prompted even more anger in a country fearful of returning to the isolation and poverty before the transition to democracy began in 2011. (Source: INQUIRER.net)