Protesters rally again in Myanmar
NAYPYITAW (MYANMAR) – Protesters rallied across Myanmar on Thursday against the February 1 coup and arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Police took to force to drive away crowds, using water cannon in the capital and catapults in a northern town.
The daily protests and strikes show no sign of getting eased in spite of a junta promising new election and appeals for civil servants to go back to work and threats of action if they do not.
Ko Soe Min, who was out in the main city of Yangon where tens of thousands protested in the streets a day after some of the biggest protests yet. “I don’t want to wake up in a dictatorship. We don’t want to live the rest of our lives in fear.”
Big crowds returned to Yangon’s central Sule Pagoda while many young people also gathered in front of another favourite protest site, at an intersection near the main university campus.
Many motorists in Yangon drove at a snail’s pace, raising their voice of dissent to the coup, a day after many pretended to be broken down to block police and army vehicles.
Ko Soe Min, who joined the slow-car protest, said, “I’ll be happy if government officers are late for work or can’t get there.”
The second-biggest city of Mandalay saw protesters demanding the release of two officials arrested in the coup and police fired water cannon in the capital, Naypyitaw, to scatter a crowd approaching police lines.
The northern town of Myitkyina was tense after police and soldiers used catapults to break up a protest, a resident said. Pictures on social media showed soldiers and rows of police trucks.
“They’re not acting in line with the constitution nor rule of law. They are acting like terrorists,” said activist Sut Seng Htoi. Police were not available for comment.
In the old capital of Bagan, people with banners and flags marched in colourful processions with ancient temples in the backdrop. Some protesters stopped at a temple to put a curse on dictators, a witness said.
The charges against them can carry a two-year prison sentence.
Actor Lu Min, who was on the junta’s ‘wanted list’, posted defiantly on his Facebook page, “It’s amazing to see the unity of our people. People’s power must return to the people.”
An activist group that monitors social media said that since February 9, posts had shown different forms of protest occurring in about 90% of cities and towns across the country.
The military says a majority of people support its actions.
Train services have been badly disrupted and on Wednesday, security forces in Mandalay had to face railway workers, who were on strike, as the cops opened fire with rubber bullets and catapults and throwing stones, residents said.
One charity worker was wounded in the leg by a rubber bullet.
The army says that one policeman died of injuries from the protest. One protester who was shot in the head during a protest in the capital is on life support, however, according to doctors, she is not expected to survive.
Coup opponents are doubtful about junta promises to hand over power after a new election for which no date has yet been set.