Mass street demonstrations in Myanmar have entered a second week with neither protesters nor the military government showing any signs of backing off from confrontations.
Protesters in Yangon, the country’s biggest city, again congregated at the key Hleden crossroads and groups fanned out to other points, including the embassies of the US and China. They marched despite an order banning gatherings of five or more people.
The US, especially after the announcement by President Joe Biden of sanctions against the military regime, is regarded as an ally in the protesters’ struggle against the February 1 coup. China is detested as an ally of the ruling generals, whose support is crucial to them keeping their grip on power.
Demonstrations also resumed in the second biggest city, Mandalay, with lawyers making up one large contingent.
The military ousted the country’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and her government and prevented recently elected legislators from opening a new session of parliament.
Ms Suu Kyi and other senior members of her government and party remain in detention.
The junta led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said it was forced to act because Ms Suu Kyi’s government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election, which her National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.
The election commission said there is no evidence to support the military’s claims.
Saturday’s protests coincided with the birthday of General Aung San, the country’s independence leader and father of Ms Suu Kyi. His name and image have appeared on signs carried by some demonstrators.
Authorities have stepped up the arrests of politicians and activists, and in areas outside Yangon have become more aggressive in trying to break up protests.
According to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 326 people have been detained since the coup, of whom 303 remain in custody.
There have been many reports over the past three nights of raids during a curfew in which security personnel have tried to seize people from their homes.
In several cases, neighbours and other people have rushed to the scene in such numbers that security forces have abandoned their operation. Videos of such raids have been widely posted on social media.
The prisoners’ association also said that riot police fired rubber bullets, injuring five students, and took away another nine in a protest on Friday in the southern city of Mawlamyine.
Detainees have included political leaders, government officials, civil servants, activists and student leaders. Medical personnel have been singled out because their community initiated the civil disobedience campaign against the military takeover and remains in its vanguard.
The UN’s top human rights body on Friday passed a consensus resolution urging the military to immediately release Ms Suu Kyi and other civilian government leaders while watering down a draft text amid pressure led by China and Russia.