Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Yangon to denounce Myanmar’s military coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of her National League for Democracy.
It appears to be the largest demonstration since the power grab on Monday.
“Against military dictatorship” read the banner at the front of the march, as protesters chanted: “Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win.”
The protesters – factory workers and students prominent among them – marched on Saturday morning through the country’s biggest city.
By noon, more than 100 police in riot gear had been deployed to block them from moving ahead.
The military junta has tried to silence dissent by temporarily blocking Facebook and extended the social media crackdown to Twitter and Instagram on Saturday in the face of the growing protest movement.
Authorities ordered internet providers to deny access to Twitter and Instagram “until further notice”, said Norwegian mobile phone company Telenor Asa.
Demand for VPNs has soared in Myanmar, allowing some people to evade the ban, but users reported more general disruption to mobile data services, which most people in the country of 53 million rely on for news and communications.
“We lost freedom, justice and urgently need democracy,” wrote one Twitter user. “Please hear the voice of Myanmar.”
Army chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power alleging fraud in a November election that the National League for Democracy won in a landslide. The electoral commission dismissed the army’s accusations.
The junta announced a one-year state of emergency and has promised to hand over power after new elections, without giving a timeframe.
The takeover drew international condemnation with a United Nations Security Council call for the release of all detainees and targeted sanctions under consideration by Washington.
Ms Suu Kyi, 75, has not been seen in public since the coup. She spent some 15 years under house arrest during a struggle against previous juntas before the troubled democratic transition began in 2011.
A lawyer for Ms Suu Kyi and ousted president Win Myint said they were being held in their homes and were still being questioned.
Ms Suu Kyi faces charges of breaching import and export laws while Mr Myint is accused of flouting coronavirus restrictions.
“Of course, we want unconditional release as they have not broken the law,” said lawyer Khin Maung Zaw, who is representing them both.
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