Tens of thousands rally in growing protests against Myanmar coup

Yangon, Feb 7 (AFP/APP): Tens of thousands of anti-coup protesters in Myanmar poured back on to the streets Sunday, as an internet blackout failed to stifle growing outrage at the military’s ouster of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The fresh rally followed large protests on Saturday across the country condemning the coup that brought a 10-year experiment with democracy to a crashing halt. Backed by a din of car horns, tens of thousands of chanting protesters in Yangon held up banners saying “Justice for Myanmar” and “We do not want military dictatorship”, while others waved the signature red flags of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

“I completely despise the military coup and I am not afraid of a crackdown,” said Kyi Phyu Kyaw, a 20-year-old university student. “I will join every day until Amay Suu (Mother Suu) is freed.” The Yangon protesters had started gathering at City Hall in the afternoon, after their paths to downtown Yangon blocked at many points by riot police.

“We will fight until the end,” said Ye Kyaw, an 18-year-old economics student. “The next generation can have democracy if we end this military dictatorship.” The surge in popular dissent over the weekend overrode a nationwide internet blockade, similar in magnitude to an earlier shutdown that coincided with the arrest of Suu Kyi and other senior leaders on Monday.

Online calls to protest have prompted bold displays of defiance, including the nightly deafening clamour of people banging pots and pans — a practice traditionally associated with driving out evil spirits.

“Myanmar’s military and police must ensure the right to peaceful assembly is fully respected and demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals,” the United Nations Human Rights office tweeted after Saturday’s protests. There was a smaller protest in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city, and an NGO worker told AFP around 400 demonstrators rallied in the city of Mawlamyine.

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