Largest protests in Myanmar since 2007 draw tens of thousands By Reuters


5/5 © Reuters. Protest against the military coup in Yangon 2/5

(Reuters) – Tens of thousands of people marched for the second day in Myanmar’s largest city on Sunday, and thousands more gathered across the country to protest the military junta’s coup and the arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week. The protests, which took place despite an internet blackout and restrictions on phone lines, were the largest demonstrations in the country since the 2007 Saffron Revolution led by Buddhist monks. Crowds in Yangon, the commercial capital, carried red balloons, the color representing Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) Party, and chanted: “We don’t want a military dictatorship! We want democracy! “Myanmar’s military seized power in the early hours of Monday, suddenly halting the troubled democratic transition of the Southeast Asian nation and sparking international outrage. On Saturday, tens of thousands took to the streets in the first mass protests since the coup. On Sunday morning, massive crowds from all corners of Yangon converged on Hledan Township, some walking through stagnant traffic and marching in bright sunshine in the middle of the road. They waved NLD flags and gestured with the three-finger salute that has become a symbol of protest against the coup. Drivers honked their horns and passengers held up photographs of Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi. The scenes broadcast on Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 were some of the few to leave the country since the board shut down the Internet and restricted phone lines on Saturday. Speaking while filming the streets, the announcer said getting information out could help keep protesters safe. There were no comments from the board in the capital, Naypyitaw, more than 350 km (220 miles) north of Yangon. “They have already started shutting down the internet; if they rule more, they will clamp down on education, business and health even more,” said Thu Thu, a 57-year-old man who was arrested by a previous junta during pro-democracy protests in late 80s. “That’s why we have to do this,” he said. “We cannot accept the blow,” said a 22-year-old who arrived with 10 friends, who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. “This is for our future. We have to get out.” By midmorning, about 100 people had taken to the streets on motorcycles in the coastal city of Mawlamyine in the southeast, and students and doctors were gathering in the city of Mandalay in central Myanmar. Hundreds of others spent the night in front of a police station in the city of Payathonzu, in the southeastern state of Karen, where local NLD lawmakers are believed to have been arrested. They stayed outside in the morning, singing pro-democracy songs. Without the Internet and scarce official information, rumors swirled about the fate of Suu Kyi and her cabinet. A story that she had been released, which drew huge crowds to the streets to celebrate Saturday night, was quickly overturned by her lawyer. More than 160 people have been arrested since the military took power, said Thomas Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar. “The generals are now trying to cripple the citizen resistance movement – and keep the outside world in the dark – by cutting off virtually all internet access,” Andrews said in a statement Sunday. “We must all support the people of Myanmar in their hour of danger and need. They deserve nothing less.”