© Reuters. Protest against the military coup in Yangon
(Reuters) – Protesters again roamed Myanmar on Thursday condemning the February 1 coup and the arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Police used violence in at least two locations to disperse the crowd.
The daily protests and strikes that have paralyzed many government offices show no signs of détente, despite the junta’s promise of new elections and the call on officials to return to work and threats of action if they fail to do so.
“I don’t want to wake up in a dictatorship. We don’t want to live in fear for the rest of our lives,” said Ko Soe Min, who was in the capital, Yangon, where tens of thousands walked into the city streets a day after some of the biggest anti-protests yet Coup.
Large crowds returned to Yangon’s central Sule Pagoda, while many young people gathered at another popular protest location at an intersection near the main university campus and took to the streets as police tried to take them along.
The marches were more peaceful than the bloodily suppressed demonstrations that took place during an earlier half century of military rule, but they and the civil disobedience movement had a crippling effect on many official business.
Many drivers in Yangon drove at a snail’s pace to fight back the coup, the day after many pretended to collapse to block police and army vehicles.
“I will be happy if government officials are late for work or cannot get there,” said Ko Soe Min, who joined the protest against slow cars.
Protesters gathered in the second largest city, Mandalay, to demand the release of two officers arrested in the coup, and police fired water cannons in the capital, Naypyitaw, to disperse a crowd as they approached police lines.
The northern city of Myitkyina was tense after police and soldiers used catapults to end a protest, a resident said. Pictures on social media showed soldiers and rows of police cars.
“They do not act in accordance with the constitution or the rule of law. They behave like terrorists,” said activist Sut Seng Htoi. The police were not available to comment.
In the old capital of Bagan, people with banners and flags marched in colorful processions against the backdrop of ancient temples. Some protesters stopped at a temple to curse dictators, a witness said.
Ending the campaign against civil disobedience seems to be the priority of the military government.
Late Wednesday, the junta issued arrest warrants for six celebrities, including film directors, actors and a singer, under an anti-incitement law to encourage officials to join the protest.
The charges can result in a two-year prison term.
“It’s amazing to see the unity of our people. The power of the people must return to the people,” posted actor Lu Min, who was on the junta’s “wanted list”, defiantly on his Facebook page (NASDAQ :).
An activist group monitoring social media said posts had shown protests in about 90% of cities across the country since February 9.
The military says the majority of the people support its actions.
Train traffic was severely disrupted and after dark on Wednesday, security forces in Mandalay confronted striking railroad workers, opened fire with rubber bullets and catapults, and threw stones, residents said.
A charity worker was injured in the leg by a rubber bullet.
Neither the army nor the police made any immediate comments on the incident, but the army’s Facebook page stated that the armed forces are providing security across the country to “ensure people have rest and good sleep”.
The number of people known to have been detained since the coup had reached 495 as of Wednesday, Myanmar’s Aid for Political Prisoners said in a statement. It was said that 460 remained in custody.
The army halted Myanmar’s tentative transition to democracy and took power after the electoral commission rejected its allegations of fraud in a November 8 election won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), causing anger in western countries and led to local protests.
Opponents of the coup are deeply skeptical of the junta’s promises to hand over power after a new election for which no date has yet been set.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi, imprisoned since the coup, is now being charged with violating a natural disaster management law and illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios. Her next appearance in court is scheduled for March 1st.
75-year-old Suu Kyi spent almost 15 years under house arrest trying to establish democracy.
The army says a police officer died as a result of a protest. A protester who was shot in the head during a protest in the capital, Naypyitaw, continues to receive life support, but doctors say she is not expected to survive.