Thousands of anti-coup protesters in Myanmar took to the streets on Sunday as an Internet shutdown could not quell the growing outrage over the military ouster of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The new meeting followed the biggest protests so far on Saturday, when tens of thousands took to cities across the country to condemn the coup that brought a ten-year experiment with democracy to a crash stop.
Thousands of chanting protesters marched in Yangon, backed by a heel of car horns. They held up banners that read “Justice for Myanmar” and “We do not want a military dictatorship”. Some waved the red flags of Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy (NLD) party.
“I completely despise the military coup and I’m not afraid to strike,” said Kyi Phyu Kyaw, a 20-year-old college student.
“I will join every day until Amay Suu (mother Suu) is liberated.”
Many protesters waved their three-fingered greetings inspired by the “Hunger Games” movies, which were used as a symbol of resistance by democratic protesters in Thailand last year.
Protesters planned to hold a demonstration at Yangon City Hall, but access to the area was blocked by police and barricades. Protesters were forced to divide into different groups as they tried to find a way around the checkpoints.
“We have made up our minds. We will fight to the end,” said Ye Kyaw, an 18-year-old economics student.
“The next generation can have democracy if we end this military dictatorship.”
The rise in popular controversy over the weekend overtook a nationwide blockade of the internet, similar in size to a previous shutdown that coincided with the arrest of Suu Kyi and other senior leaders on Monday.
Online calls to protest the army takeover have led to bold challenges, including the nocturnal ear assessment of people around the country hitting pots and pans – a practice traditionally associated with casting out evil spirits.
Yangon residents repeated the pot at 8 a.m. on Sunday.
“# Myanmar’s military and police must ensure that the right to a peaceful assembly is fully respected and protesters are not subjected to reprisals,” the UN human rights office tweeted after Saturday’s protests.
When the protests gathered this week, the junta ordered telecommunications networks to freeze access to Facebook, an extremely popular service in the country and undoubtedly its main means of communication.
The platform had hosted a fast-growing “Civil Disobedience Movement” forum that had inspired officials, health care workers and teachers to show their disagreement by boycotting their jobs.
On Sunday, a live video on Facebook showed the Yangon protesters marching through the streets, as well as police in riot gear who were standing there in some places.
It was not immediately clear how the broadcast bypassed the government bloc.
The military had expanded its efforts to quell organized disagreement on Friday when it demanded new blocs for other social media services including Twitter.
“Generals are now trying to paralyze the citizens’ movement of resistance – and keep the outside world in the dark – by cutting off virtually all access to the Internet,” said Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar.
In addition to Suu Kyi and some of her best aides, dozens have been jailed so far.
The exact number of arrests is not yet known, but the assistance group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said on Saturday that more than 150 people are still in custody.
Rumors that Suu Kyi had been released sparked brief but cruel street parties among her supporters on Saturday before being denied by her lawyer who said she was staying.
An extremely popular figure despite a wounded reputation in the West, Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since the coup, but a party spokesman said on Friday that she was “in good health”.
Two days after the coup, criminal charges were filed against her in connection with the illegal importation of a set of walkie-talkies.
The military had indicated its coup intentions days in advance and insisted that the NLD’s landslide victory in the November election was the result of voter fraud.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party, a military power of attorney, was enthroned in the election.
Following the takeover, the junta declared a one-year state of emergency, after which it promised to hold new elections without offering any exact time frame.
The coup has been widely condemned by the international community, with US President Joe Biden leading the calls for generals to relinquish power and release those arrested in the aftermath of the coup.