© Reuters. People surround a police vehicle as they protest the military coup in Yangon
(Reuters) – Security forces in Myanmar opened fire on Sunday to disperse protesters at a power plant and armored vehicles rolled into major cities as the army’s new rulers stood before a ninth day of anti-coup demonstrations that saw hundreds of thousands rising the streets were.
In addition to mass protests across the country, the military faced a strike by government workers that was part of a civil disobedience movement against the February 1 coup that overturned the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Soldiers were deployed to power plants in northern Kachin state, leading to a confrontation with protesters, some believed the army intended to turn off electricity.
Security forces fired to disperse protesters outside a plant in Kachin’s capital, Myitkyina. This was broadcast live on Facebook (NASDAQ 🙂 although it was not clear whether they were using rubber bullets or live fire.
Two journalists from The 74 Media, which were broadcast live from the site of the confrontation, were arrested along with three other journalists, the news agency said in a Facebook post.
As evening fell, armored vehicles appeared in the trading capital of Yangon, Myitkyina and Sittwe, the capital of the state of Rakhine. Live footage, broadcast online by local media, showed the first large-scale rollout of such vehicles across the country since the coup.
The government and the army could not be reached for comment.
Shortly after midnight, Myanmar residents reported an internet outage. All four telecommunications networks are no longer accessible on Monday (1830 GMT) from around 1 a.m. In the early days after the coup, the internet was cut off across the country.
Western embassies – from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and eleven other nations – issued a statement late Sunday calling on security forces “not to use violence against protesters and civilians protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government “.
The US embassy in Myanmar previously urged American citizens to seek “protection on the ground” and cited reports of the military movements in Yangon. It was also warned that there was a potential for disruption to telecommunications overnight between 1:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.
“The Internet shutdown in #Myanmar is now back in effect with all major operators, reportedly until 9:00 am,” said Alex Warofka, Facebook product policy manager for human rights and freedom of expression, in a post on Twitter after the Internet failed.
“I hope everyone is safe tonight when it comes to reports of military activity. #KeepItOn”.
In a statement, the Department of Civil Aviation said that many employees had not come to work since February 8, causing delays in international flights. It added that four air traffic controllers had been arrested Thursday and nothing had been heard since.
One pilot, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, said hundreds of department employees had been on strike. Soldiers surrounded Yangon International Airport late on Sunday evening, he said.
Trains in parts of the country also stopped running after staff refused to go to work, local media reported, while the military sent soldiers to power plants where they were faced with angry crowds.
The junta has ordered officials to go back to work and threatens to take action. The army carried out mass arrests at night and gave itself full powers on Saturday to arrest people and search private property.
But hundreds of railroad workers took part in demonstrations in Yangon on Sunday when the police went to their residential complex on the outskirts of the city to order them to return to work. Police were forced to leave after angry crowds gathered, according to a live broadcast on Myanmar Now.
Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the work of many government departments had virtually stalled.
“This has the potential to affect vital functions as well. The military can replace engineers and doctors, but not power grid controls and central bankers,” he said.
PROTESTS OVER NATION
Hundreds of thousands of people protested across the country on Sunday.
Engineering students marched through downtown Yangon, the largest city. They carried white posters demanding the release of the ousted leader Suu Kyi, who has been in custody since the coup and is charged with importing walkie-talkies.
A fleet of motorway buses rolled slowly through the city with their horns booming, part of the largest street protests in more than a decade.
A convoy of motorcycles and cars drove through the capital, Naypyitaw. In the southeast coastal town of Dawei, a band was playing drums as crowds marched under the hot sun. In Waimaw, Kachin State, the masses carried flags and sang revolutionary songs.
Suu Kyi’s detention expires on Monday. Her attorney, Khin Maung Zaw, could not be reached to comment on what should happen.
More than 384 people have been arrested since the coup, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said in a wave of mostly night arrests.
Late on Saturday, the army reinstated a law requiring people to report visitors to their homes overnight, allowed security forces to arrest suspects and search private property without judicial authorization, and ordered the arrest of known supporters of mass protests.