MYANMAR: After tens of thousands of people took to the streets across Myanmar in recent days, local orders banning gatherings of more than four people were imposed. Despite the ban protesters opposed to Myanmar’s military coup came together for the largest demonstrations in more than a decade on Tuesday. They chanted and confronted police who fired water cannons and arrested more than two dozen people.
The coup that took place on Feb. 1 has led to a growing civil disobedience movement affecting hospitals, schools and government offices.
As the protesting crowd refused to disperse, Myanmar police fired water cannon at them in the country’s capital Naypyitaw for a second day.
Police have arrested at least 27 demonstrators in the second-biggest city Mandalay, including a journalist, local media organisations said.
In his first televised address since seizing power, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing promised on Monday to eventually hold a new election. He repeated unproven accusations of fraud in last November’s election, won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) in a landslide. He added that the junta would form a “true and disciplined democracy,” different to previous eras of military rule which left Myanmar in isolation and poverty.
“We will have a multiparty election and we will hand the power to the one who wins in that election, according to the rules of democracy,” he said. The electoral commission had dismissed his accusations of fraud in last year’s ballot.
Min Aung Hlaing gave no time frame but the junta has said a state of emergency will last one year.
Activists are seeking the abolition of a constitution that gave the army a veto in parliament and for federalism in ethnically-divided Myanmar.
“We will continue to fight,” said a statement from youth activist Maung Saungkha, calling for the release of political prisoners and the “complete collapse of dictatorship”.
An older generation of activists formed during bloodily suppressed protests in 1988 called for the continuation of the strike action by government workers for another three weeks.
The civil disobedience movement, led by hospital workers, has resulted in a plunge in coronavirus tests, official testing figures showed.
Myanmar has suffered one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Southeast Asia with a total of 31,177 deaths from more than 141,000 cases.
Western governments have widely condemned the coup, although there has been little concrete action so far to put pressure on the generals.
The U.N. Security Council has called for the release of SuuKyi and other detainees. The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Friday to discuss the crisis at the behest of Britain and the European Union.