Myanmar junta signals crackdown after 100,000 demonstrate

Feb 09 , 2021. 10 hours ago – 23:59 KYODO NEWS

Protesters rally in Yangon on Feb. 8, 2021, calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. (Kyodo)

YANGON – Myanmar’s military appeared to signal an impending crackdown on demonstrations after well over 100,000 people, the most since a 2007 uprising, protested nationwide Monday against last week’s military coup and ex-leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s detention.

As the protests continued for a third day, state TV said in an announcement that “some groups of people are abusing the democratic rights and forcing, disturbing or threatening others unlawfully” and called for “discipline.”

“Actions amounting to disturbing stability, rule of law and public danger shall be stopped effectively, according to the law,” it warned, while urging public cooperation to “stop and remove those violators of the law.”

In a televised address in the evening, his first since the Feb. 1 coup that ended almost a decade of civilian rule, junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing called for collaboration and dialogue, while urging people “to prioritize actual facts and reality instead of emotional feelings, and cooperate (with us).”

He said nothing about the growing protests but promised he would transfer power back to civilians after a one-year state of emergency ends and fresh elections are held.

In Myanmar’s largest city Yangon, tensions ran high from the morning as police deployed water cannon-mounted vehicles outside City Hall.

Protesters marched on the streets, with some holding pictures of Suu Kyi, and chanted such slogans as “Bring back democracy!” and “Release our leaders!”

In the capital Naypyitaw, police used water cannon against protesters. Video footage posted on social media showed a man left injured after being hit by high-pressure water.

Similar protests were also held in Mandalay, the second largest city, and the central Bago region, as well as in Mon State in the east and Kachin State in the north.

In Mandalay, authorities announced an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew and banned gatherings of more than five people, citing threats to public security, rule of law and stability. Similar restrictions were also reportedly imposed in other cities.

Among those protesting were monks, who hold a large influence in forming public opinion in the predominantly Buddhist country.

The military has questioned the legitimacy of last November’s general election — which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won by a landslide, defeating the military-backed opposition party — suggesting it was not held freely and fairly.

“I will be sticking to provisions of the state of emergency under the Constitution,” Min Aung Hlaing said in his televised address.

“I will be implementing and protecting the multiparty democratic system. I can ensure that a government with a clean and good governance administrative system will emerge,” he said.

Meanwhile, Suu Kyi’s lawyer said he has yet to be able to see or talk to her, with investigative authorities denying access citing a continuing investigation. She was charged Wednesday for allegedly using illegally imported communications equipment.

She can be held until Feb. 15.

Along with Suu Kyi, the nation’s ousted president and fellow party leader, Win Myint, has been charged and can also be detained until Feb. 15. He is alleged to have violated coronavirus restrictions.

People protest against the coup in Yangon, Myanmar on Feb. 8, 2021. (Kyodo)