dpa/GNA – Protests sparked by Myanmar’s recent coup grew to their largest size yet on Wednesday, as hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of multiple cities, according to observers and images posted on Twitter.
But although the protesters seemed excited by the large turnout, there were also fears that it would prompt a brutal reaction from a military that seems keen to cement its hold on power.
Observers in Yangon, the country’s former capital, said turnout on Wednesday was the largest in days, with tens of thousands on the streets. Images shared online showed demonstrators participating in sit-ins near the centre, shutting down traffic in some parts of the city.
“They have a right to do so without the threat of detention or violence at the hands of the Tatmadaw. The world marches with you today!” tweeted Tom Andrews, the UN’s special rapporteur for Myanmar, using the official name of country’s the armed forces.
News portal Eleven Myanmar reported on a “sea of demonstrators” lashing out in the wake of the February 1 coup, with hundreds of thousands demanding that Aung San Suu Kyi be released from detention and restored to her position as de facto leader of the civilian government.
She and other leaders were detained in the wake of the coup on charges observers have called spurious, such as the improper acquisition of walkie talkies or violations of health guidelines necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
In Mandalay, Myanmar’s third-largest city, images shared on social media showed multiple military vehicles had appeared. Internet access was also blocked for the third night in a row. Nonetheless, there were still protests on Wednesday.
Andrews had earlier warned that he is worried soldiers will violently put down protests, noting that he has heard about troop build-ups outside Yangon. Such troop movements have served as precursors to bloody crackdowns in the past.
There have already been reports about an increased military presence across the country, along with social media reports of detentions and attacks on peaceful demonstrators with water cannon and rubber bullets.
Myanmar has only enjoyed democracy for a decade. At the time, the military said it would allow elections, but wrote a constitution in such a way that it retained a veto-proof bloc in the legislature and control of key ministries.
Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since she was taken into custody and is believed to be under house arrest. This is happening, despite her National League of Democracy party winning decisively in November’s legislative elections.