Myanmar yesterday saw its largest anti-coup protests yet, with young demonstrators spilling on to the streets to denounce the country’s new military regime, despite a nationwide Internet blackout aimed at stifling a growing chorus of popular dissent.
Soon before nearly all lines of communication in and out of the country went dark, an Australian adviser to ousted Burmese state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi told media he had been detained and was unable to leave his hotel.
The shutdown did not stop several thousand demonstrators from gathering on a road near the University of Yangon, many holding up the three-finger salute that has come to symbolize resistance to the army takeover.
“Down with the military dictatorship,” the crowd yelled, many donning red headbands — the color associated with Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.
A large riot police contingent blocked nearby roads, with two water cannon trucks parked at the scene.
Some protesters left the area without confrontation, while others remained at the scene, with no reports of clashes with police so far.
At least two other groups of demonstrators were marching through other parts of Myanmar’s biggest city, while as many as 2,000 people were marching further north in Mandalay, Agence France-Presse reporters on the ground said.
All were out to condemn Monday’s raids that brought a sudden halt to the country’s brief 10-year experiment with democracy, just as lawmakers elected in national polls in November last year were due to sit in parliament for the first time.
“They don’t respect our people’s votes, and I think they are betraying the country,” one protester said. “Our revolution starts today.”
Australian professor Sean Turnell became the latest figure associated with Aung San Suu Kyi — and the first confirmed foreign national — to be detained by the junta.
“I’m just being detained at the moment, and perhaps charged with something. I don’t know what that would be,” Turnell, a longtime economics adviser to the Nobel laureate, told the BBC.
Online calls to protest the army takeover had prompted increasingly bold displays of defiance against the regime, including the nightly deafening clamor of people around the country banging pots and pans — a practice traditionally associated with driving out evil.
Some have shown their opposition by gathering for group photographs with banners decrying the coup and flashing a three-finger salute earlier adopted by democracy protesters in neighboring Thailand.
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