Despite overnight raids and arrests by security forces, tens of thousands of people came out in Myanmar on Sunday, in one of the biggest days of protest against the military take-over of the democratically elected civilian government.
Under the cover of darkness, raids by security forces in the main city, Yangon, saw the arrest of campaign leaders and opposition activists.
Meanwhile, in the country’s northern Shan region in the town of Lashio, police fired tear gas and stun grenades on the protesters, according to live video posted on Facebook.
A witness said police opened fire to break up a protest in the historic temple town of Bagan, but it was not clear if they were using rubber bullets or live ammunition and there were no immediate reports of casualties.
Protests in half a dozen other cities were peaceful.
The biggest turnout in Sunday’s protests was in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay, where activists staged a sit-in protest after two minutes of silence in honour of people killed by police and the army, video showed.
The United Nations says security forces have killed more than 50 people since daily protests began after the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February.
“They are killing people just like killing birds and chickens,” one protest leader said to the crowd in Dawei, in the country’s south. “What will we do if we don’t revolt against them? We must revolt.”
Protests were also held in at least three places in Yangon, where residents said soldiers and police moved into several districts overnight, firing shots. They arrested at least three in Kyauktada township, said residents who did not know the reason for the arrests.
Police could not be reached for comment and a junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.
More than 1,700 people had been detained under the junta by Saturday, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), an advocacy group.
“Detainees were punched and kicked with military boots, beaten with police batons, and then dragged into police vehicles,” AAPP said. “Security forces entered residential areas and tried to arrest further protesters, and shot at the homes, destroying many.”
Protesters demand the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and the respect of November’s election, which her party won in landslide but which the army rejected. The military has said it will hold elections at an unspecified date.
The junta leader and army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, had been under western sanctions even before the coup, for a campaign of alleged ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya minority. (Source: The Guardian)