Myanmar Sees Biggest Protest in Years as Coup Opposition Grows
Protesters gather at an intersection in downtown Yangon on Feb. 7. (Photographer: Getty Images)

Myanmar Sees Biggest Protest in Years as Coup Opposition Grows

Myanmar saw its biggest protests in more than a decade on Sunday as tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in several cities calling for the release of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

In Yangon, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in an area of the city’s downtown that has served as the staging ground for prior pro-democracy protests. The showing at Sule Pagoda, which has remained peaceful so far, marks the biggest protest there since the monk-led, anti-junta demonstrations in 2007 as part of the Saffron Revolution.

Myanmar Sees Biggest Protest in Years as Coup Opposition Grows

“People need to continue to show their courage until the power-crazy military realizes they cannot win everything with weapons,” said Aung Kyaw Kyaw Oo, a lawmaker with Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party and one of the organizers of the “pots and pans” protests being held three times daily across the country. “We are not afraid of anything.”

Footage of the demonstrations flooded social media as the military-run government restored internet access it had previously throttled. Earlier in the day, around 2,000 demonstrators gathered close to Yangon University chanting “Long live Mother Suu” and “Down with military dictatorship,” according to the Associated Press.

Stifling Dissent

Since taking power in a Feb. 1 coup, Myanmar’s generals have ordered telecom providers to block social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in a bid to curb dissent. One of two wholly foreign-owned telecommunications firms, Telenor Myanmar, announced Sunday afternoon that services had been restored.

Myanmar Sees Biggest Protest in Years as Coup Opposition Grows

Suu Kyi, who has been held along with other senior leaders of her civilian government since the military takeover, has called on supporters to resist the generals. The military seized power after claiming, without showing evidence, that Suu Kyi’s landslide victory in a November election was tainted with fraud. It pledged to hold a new election in the Southeast Asian nation after a yearlong state of emergency.

As fresh protests broke out on Sunday, London-based internet monitor NetBlocks reported that Myanmar “remains in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout with national connectivity flatlining at just 14% of ordinary levels.”

On Sunday, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar called on the agency’s Human Rights Council to convene a special session on the “unfolding crisis” in the country.

In a post on Twitter, Tom Andrews, who is also a senior fellow at Yale Law School, urged the UN to hold the meeting on Myanmar immediately and called on nations to “exert maximum pressure on the military dictators who have seized power, including through the imposition of targeted sanctions.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed China on Friday to “join the international community in condemning the military coup,” while China’s top diplomat Yang Jiechi reiterated the global community should create a favorable environment to solve the problem. China is Myanmar’s biggest trading partner.

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