A crowd of tens of thousands of people marched this Sunday through the streets of Myanmar’s largest city in protest the coup from last week. The news that internet connection restored, blocked the day before, were the great incentive for the demonstration.
The protests that started in various parts of Yangon converged on the Sule Pagoda in the city center. The protesters chanted “Long live mother Suu” and “Down with the military dictatorship.”
Demonstrations in Yangon (Reuters)
Authorities had cut off internet access when protests began to grow on Saturday, stoking fears of a total blackout. On Sunday afternoon, however, users in Yangon reported that access from their cell phones had suddenly been restored.
The protesters wanted to revoke the seizure of power led by the Army last Monday and demanded the liberation of the overthrown leader of the country, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other prominent members of his party, the National League for Democracy.
The army has accused Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and his party of failing to heed their complaints about widespread fraud in last November’s elections, although the electoral commission said it had found no evidence to support the allegations.
The mounting protests were a reminder of the long and bloody fight for democracy in a country that in practice was under military rule for more than five decades, until the gradual opening of 2012.
Buddhist monks welcomed the protests on Sunday. (Reuters)
Suu Kyi’s government, which won overwhelmingly in the 2015 elections, was the first civilian-led in several decades, although its power was limited by a military-drafted constitution.
During Myanmar’s years of isolation under military rule, Sule Pagoda was a regular site of pro-democracy political protests, especially during the huge 1988 uprising and the 2007 revolt led by Buddhist monks.
The Army crushed both uprisings by force, and it is estimated that in 1988 there were hundreds, if not thousands, of deaths. Although riot police were dispatched to monitor protests in the past week, no soldiers were deployed or reported clashes.