FRI 30 Jul, 2021

Thousands of Myanmar protesters in standoff with police in Yangon

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Yangon to denounce this week’s coup and demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in the first such demonstration since the generals seized power.

“Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win,” protesters chanted, calling for the military to free Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party who have been detained since the coup on Monday.

“Against military dictatorship” read the banner at the front of the march. Many protesters dressed in the NLD’s colour, red, and some carried red flags.

Images and videos posted on social media on Saturday showed police blocking a major intersection of Insein Road and Hledan junction in Yangon, as protesters attempt to march forward. Demonstrators peacefully chanted as their raised their hands in a three-finger salute.

Drivers of private cars and public buses were also seen honking their horns as the standoff continued.

Myanmar’s military government has tried to silence dissent by temporarily blocking Facebook and extended the social media crackdown to Twitter and Instagram on Saturday in the face of the growing protest movement.

Authorities ordered internet providers to deny access to Twitter and Instagram “until further notice”, said Norwegian mobile phone company, Telenor Asa.

Demand for VPNs has soared in Myanmar, allowing some people to evade the ban, but users reported more general disruption to mobile data services, which most people in the country of 54 million rely on for news and communications.

“We lost freedom, justice and urgently need democracy,” wrote one Twitter user. “Please hear the voice of Myanmar.”

In a statement on Saturday, Amnesty International denounced the blackout as “heinous and reckless”.

“To shut down the internet amid a volatile coup, a humanitarian crisis and a health pandemic is a heinous and reckless decision,” Ming Yu Hah, a senior Amnesty official in Asia said.

“The military must re-establish all telecommunications immediately and stop putting people’s rights in danger.”

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