Issued on: 08/02/2021 – 05:32
Thousands of people joined anti-coup protests across Myanmar on Monday as workers went on a nationwide strike, demanding the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the return of democracy.
In the commercial capital, Yangon, more than 1,000 people gathered at a park by mid-morning, helping to kick off a third straight day of rallies following last week’s coup.
“This is a work day, but we aren’t going to work even if our salary will be cut,” one protester, 28-year-old garment factory worker, Hnin Thazin, told AFP.
In Myanmar‘s second largest city, Mandalay, more than a thousand had also gathered by mid morning.
And hundreds were seen turning out in the capital of Naypyidaw, riding around on motorbikes and honking car horns, while major rallies were also reported in other towns.
Over the weekend tens of thousands of people massed on the streets across Myanmar in the biggest protests since the coup.
Myanmar’s generals staged their putsch by detaining Suu Kyi and dozens of members of her National League for Democracy in pre-dawn raids on Monday last week.
The generals justified the coup by claiming fraud in last November’s elections, which the NLD won in a landslide.
The junta has proclaimed a one-year state of emergency, and promised to then hold fresh elections, without offering any precise timeframe.
The coup has triggered widespread international condemnation, although neighbouring China has declined to criticise the generals.
US President Joe Biden has leading the calls for the generals to relinquish power.
Pope Francis on Sunday also expressed “solidarity with the people of Myanmar”, urging the army to work towards “democratic coexistence”.
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.
The surge in popular dissent over the weekend overcame a nationwide internet blockade, similar in magnitude to an earlier shutdown that coincided with the start of the coup.
As protests gathered steam, the junta also ordered telecom networks to freeze access to Facebook, an extremely popular service in the country and arguably its main mode of communication.
But on Sunday, live Facebook video feeds from multiple cities continued to show protesters marching through the streets.