Hundreds of people gathered in Myanmar’s main city of Yangon on Monday in a new protest against last week’s military coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government. The rally drew enthusiastic crowds holding signs saying “Say no to dictatorship” and “We want democracy”.
The demonstrators are seeking to roll back last Monday’s seizure of power by the military. They’re demanding the release from detention of Suu Kyi, the country’s ousted leader, and other top figures from her National League for Democracy party. Monday’s protest followed a series of rallies over the weekend.
Authorities had cut access to the internet as the protests grew Saturday, fanning fears of a complete information blackout. On Sunday afternoon, however, internet users in Yangon reported that data access on their mobile phones had suddenly been restored. The military has accused Suu Kyi’s government of failing to act on its complaints that last November’s election was marred by fraud, though the election commission said it had found no evidence to support the claims.
The U.S. Embassy called on the military to give up power and restore the democratically elected government, release those detained, lift all telecommunications restrictions, and refrain from violence.
“We support the right of the people of Myanmar to protest in support of the democratically elected government and their right to freely access information,” it said in a tweet.
The communication blockade is a stark reminder of the progress Myanmar is in danger of losing after Monday’s coup plunged the nation back under direct military rule after a nearly decade-long move toward greater openness and democracy. During Myanmar’s previous five decades of military rule, the country was internationally isolated and communication with the outside world strictly controlled.
Suu Kyi’s five years as leader since 2015 had been Myanmar’s most democratic period despite the military retaining broad powers the continued use of repressive colonial-era laws and the persecution of minority Rohingya Muslims.
Sunday’s rally came a day after about 1,000 people — factory workers and students prominent among them — marched in Yangon. They were met by more than 100 riot police.
There was no violence reported. Similar-sized demonstrations took place in at least two other areas of Yangon as well as in Mandalay, the second-largest city. At Yangon’s City Hall, protesters presented flowers to police.
Nearly 300 elected lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party were supposed to have taken their seats last Monday in a new session of Parliament following November elections when the military announced it was taking power for a year.
The military accused Suu Kyi and her party of failing to act on its complaints that last the election was marred by fraud, though the election commission said it had no found no evidence to support the claims.