Myanmar protests resume, internet restored as military circles

Armoured vehicles on streets of Yangon as people continue protests for restoration of civilian government.

Protesters returned to the streets of Yangon on Monday morning despite a heavy military presence [Reuters]

Pro-democracy protests resumed in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, on Monday two weeks after the military seized power in a coup, despite a heavy military presence that has increased concern of a crackdown.

Livestreams shared by Myanmar media showed people gathering in different parts of Yangon, as an Internet blackout that was enforced overnight appeared to lift.

NetBlocks, which tracks Internet disruption, said on Twitter that connectivity was being restored, but that social media remained restricted for many users. The system was shut down for eight hours from 1am (18:30 GMT).

The military seized power on February 1, the day Myanmar’s parliament was due to begin a new session following elections in November, which were won by the National League for Democracy (NLD) in a landslide.

Detaining NLD founder and civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi as well as senior members of her government, the generals said they were forced into the coup because of alleged election fraud. Election officials have said there is no evidence of fraud.

The United Nations and a number of western countries including the United States have condemned the coup, and on Friday the US imposed the first new sanctions on military chief Min Aung Hlaing and other senior generals.

In a statement late on Sunday, following reports of shots being fired in the northern state of Kachin and the deployment of armoured vehicles to various cities in Myanmar,  United Nations’ Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” about the situation in the country.

A man gives the thumbs down to a passing armoured vehicle in Yangon [Stringer/Reuters]

“The Secretary-General reiterates his call on Member States collectively and bilaterally to exercise influence regarding the protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of Myanmar, ” he said in a statement released through his spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

On Monday, more than a dozen police trucks with four water cannon vehicles were deployed near the Sule Pagoda in Yangon, which has been one of the city’s main centres for protest.

The generals are also facing a civil disobedience movement calling on the military to step down and free the country’s civilian leaders.

Thousands of government workers from doctors to railway workers have already walked out with a nationwide strike expected on Monday.

Aung San Suu Kyi, who was awarded in the Nobel Peace Prize during her years-long fight for democracy in Myanmar, has been charged with the illegal possession of walkie-talkies, and was expected in court on Monday.

Her lawyer told reporters that she had been remanded in detention until Wednesday.

“We came here to submit our power of attorney letter and discussed with the district judge,” Khin Maung Zaw told reporters, adding that he was still trying to see her in line with the law. “According to him, the remand is until the 17 and not today.”

Khin Maung Zaw said that the initial appearance would be by video conferencing.

Some 400 people have been arrested since the coup, according to the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which keeps track of the mostly nightly arrests. Of those, 375 people remain in detention.

The UN is urging the generals to allow Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener to visit Myanmar and assess the situation.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters