UPDATE – Thousands rally in Myanmar against military coup


By Kyaw Ye Lynn

YANGON, Myanmar (AA) – Tens of thousands of demonstrators, mostly young people, staged nationwide rallies against the military coup in Myanmar on Sunday amid tight security and roadblocks.

In Yangon, the country's largest city, police struggled to hold back the protesters as they marched toward downtown Sule Pagoda.

Street protests and anti-coup rallies also erupted in other cities including Mandalay, Pathein, Monywa, Dawei and Myeik.

Myanmar's military, officially known as the Tatmadaw, seized power on Feb. 1, detaining the country's elected leader and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other senior members of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

It has alleged voter fraud in the November 2020 elections, in which Suu Kyi's party won a landslide victory with more than 80% of the seats. The move has been condemned both inside and outside Myanmar.

Yu Htwe, a final year student at a medical university in Yangon, joined the protests for the first time in her life. She wanted to be a civil servant.

"But now it seems all my dreams are shattered. I am here to condemn the coup," she told Anadolu Agency, adding that she doesn't believe the military junta would hold an election and transfer power to a civilian government in one year, referring to the duration of the state of emergency imposed.

Kaung Thukha, a fourth year student at a technology university in the city, said he was rallying to condemn the internet ban, which has now been restored.

"If we don't even have internet, how will the regime guarantee human rights," the 22-year-old told Anadolu Agency. "We don't trust them, and want them to step down immediately."

Telenor Myanmar, the country's second-largest mobile service provider, said in a tweet that it has restored the data network nationwide following instructions from the Communications Ministry.

"Partial restoration of internet connectivity confirmed from 2 p.m. local time on multiple providers," NetBlocks, a non-profit that monitors cybersecurity and the governance of the internet, said in a tweet. "However, It remains unclear if restoration will be sustained. Social media remain blocked."

– Arrests continue

Zaw Myint Maung, the ruling party's vice-chair, was taken away from his home in Mandalay by soldiers as arrests of political figures continue across the country, according to an NLD spokesperson.

Maung, the regional chief minister, was among those detained during the coup d'état, but was released a day later and placed under house arrest. Charges against him remain unclear.

Nearly 300 lawmakers in a joint statement on Saturday rejected the military junta, and asserted that they alone are representatives of the people. They vowed to continue to the struggle for democracy on behalf of their constituents.

Health care workers at government hospitals, meanwhile, are also at the forefront in the non-violent resistance, with some on strike and others registering their protest while continuing to tend to patients.

– Rohingya group supports popular protests

A Rohingya rights group expressed its support to "the democratic aspirations of Myanmar’s diverse peoples, both majoritarian Buddhist Burmese and other national minorities."

"We join hands with all Myanmar peoples in their struggle to end 58 years of military repression, crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide," the Free Rohingya Coalition, an international network of Rohingya refugee activists and international human rights activists and scholars, said in a statement.

It said that the military has blocked the public's democratic aspirations since 1962, "while committing international crimes against national minorities including Karen, Kachin, Shan and Rohingya people."

The group supported targeted financial and economic sanctions, and other punitive measures, against the military, military conglomerates, associate companies as well as its businesses associates.

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group in Rakhine state, most of whom fled to neighboring Bangladesh following a brutal military crackdown in 2017.