MYANMAR: Thousands of people joined a third day of nationwide demonstrations against the military coup which led to the removal of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi a week ago.
Calls to join protests and to back a campaign of civil disobedience have grown louder since last Monday’s coup and drew widespread international condemnation.
“We health workers are leading this campaign to urge all government staff to join the (civil disobedience movement)”, Aye Misan, a nurse at a government hospital said at a protest in the biggest city of Yangon. “Our message to the public is that we aim to completely abolish this military regime and we have to fight for our destiny.”
Police in the capital Naypyidaw fired water cannon at protesters who had gathered on Monday. Videos from the scene have spread across social media.
In Yangon, a group of saffron-robed monks marched in the vanguard of protests with workers and students. They flew multicoloured Buddhist flags alongside red banners in the colour of Suu Kyi’s National league for Democracy (NLD).
“Release Our Leaders, Respect Our Votes, Reject Military Coup,” said one sign. Other signs read “Save democracy” and “Say No to Dictatorship”.
The gatherings have been peaceful so far, unlike bloody crackdowns during previous widespread protests in 1988 and 2007. A convoy of military trucks was seen passing into Yangon late on Sunday, raising fears that could change.
The government lifted a day-long internet ban at the weekend that prompted even more anger in a country fearful of returning to the isolation and even greater poverty before a transition to democracy began in 2011.
In addition to the street protests, a campaign of civil disobedience has begun, first with doctors and joined by some teachers and other government workers.
“We request government staff from all departments not to attend work from Monday,” said activist Min Ko Naing, a veteran of the demonstrations in 1988 that first brought Suu Kyi to prominence.
The 75-year-old has been kept incommunicado since army chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power in the early hours of Feb. 1 to counter what the military said was widespread election fraud. Myanmar’s electoral commission has rejected those claims.
Suu Kyi faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkies and is being held in police detention for investigation until Feb. 15. Her lawyer said he has not been allowed to see her.
The United Nations Security Council called for the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees last week and the United States is considering targeted sanctions.
“Protesters in Myanmar continue to inspire the world as actions spread throughout the country,” Thomas Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar said on Twitter. “Myanmar is rising up to free all who have been detained and reject military dictatorship once and for all. We are with you.”