Myanmar protests gather pace as protesters call for military to release Aung San Suu Kyi

A witness in the former capital, Yangon, told CNN that the crowd on Sunday was mostly young people and was significantly larger and better organized than the protest on Saturday. According to witnesses, public participation also appeared to be increasing. There were tens of thousands on the streets, according to Reuters news service. The protesters held banners and signs with the picture of Suu Kyi in their hands, some with the words “We want our leader”. Suu Kyi and other democratically elected lawmakers were arrested by the military during raids on Monday before dawn.

Protesters marched through the Yangon University area on Sunday, changing directions to avoid roadblocks and confrontations with the police. A witness saw several police cars in the area.

Resistance to the coup had initially proven limited, partly due to widespread communication difficulties and fears of further action.

Internet surveillance service NetBlocks announced on Saturday that the country was in the middle of a second “national level” Internet blackout as the military tried to secure its power.

According to NetBlocks, real-time network data showed that connectivity had dropped to 16% of normal and users reported that it was difficult to get online.

The Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC) ordered the nationwide shutdown of the data network on Saturday, according to the Norwegian telecommunications company Telenor Group, which operates Telenor Myanmar.

The group, who wrote on Twitter, said the ministry was citing “Myanmar’s Telecommunications Act, citing fake news spread, nation stability and public interest as the basis for the order.”

The decline in connectivity is due to blocking access to the social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as a number of well-known local news outlets.

According to a witness in Yangon, communication between protesters on Sunday was mainly through text messages, phone calls and word of mouth. On Saturday, the crowds announced where to gather on Sunday, resulting in what appeared to be an improved organization, the witness said.

Members of the student union, union and the National League for Democracy (NLD) of Suu Kyi should join the protest all Sunday.

Riot police blocked the road as protesters held a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 7, 2021.

Coup triggers protests

Myanmar – also known as Burma – has been ruled by successive isolated military regimes for more than 50 years that plunged the country into poverty and brutally suppressed any disagreement. Thousands of critics, activists, journalists, academics and artists were routinely imprisoned and tortured during this time.

The recently deposed civilian leader Suu Kyi became internationally known during her decades of struggle against military rule. When their party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a landslide in the 2015 elections and formed the first civilian government, many supporters of democracy hoped that it would mark a break with the military rule of the past and offer hope for Myanmar continues reform.

It has been widely reported that the NLD won another pivotal victory in the November 2020 general election. This means that she has another five years in power and is hoping for some military officials that an opposition party they support could democratically take over power.

Why the generals in Myanmar really took power back

The sudden seizure of power came as the new parliament was about to open and after months of increasing friction between the civilian government and the powerful military known as the Tatmadaw over alleged electoral irregularities. The country’s electoral commission has repeatedly denied that mass voter fraud occurred.

Hundreds of NLD lawmakers were arrested Monday in the capital, Naypyitaw, where they had traveled to take their seats. The junta has since removed 24 ministers and MPs from the government and appointed 11 of its own allies to replace them to take on their roles in a new administration.

Analysts have suggested that the coup had more to do with an attempt by the military to reaffirm its power and the personal ambition of Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing, who was due to step down this year, than with serious allegations of electoral fraud widely condemned internationally The United States urged military leaders in Myanmar “to immediately relinquish the power they have seized, release the activists and officials they have arrested, lift all telecommunications restrictions and refrain from violence against civilians”.

CNN’s Helen Regan and James Griffiths contributed to this report.