Thousands of anti-coup protesters marched in towns and cities across Myanmar on Monday, witnesses said, demonstrating for a third straight day against the military’s removal and detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi a week ago.
Calls to join protests and to back a campaign of civil disobedience have grown louder and more organised since last Monday’s coup, which drew widespread international condemnation.
In the biggest city of Yangon, a group of saffron-robed monks marched in the vanguard of Monday’s protest with workers and students. They flew multicoloured Buddhist flags alongside red banners in the colour of Suu Kyi’s National league for Democracy (NLD), witnesses said.
“Release Our Leaders, Respect Our Votes, Reject Military Coup,” said one sign. Other signs read “Save democracy” and “Say No to Dictatorship”. Many protesters wore black.
Protests that swept the country on Sunday were the biggest since the “Saffron Revolution” led by Buddhist monks in 2007 that helped prompt democratic reforms that were upended by the February 1 coup.
“Marchers from every corner of Yangon, please come out peacefully and join the people’s meeting,” activist Ei Thinzar Maung urged followers on Facebook, using VPN networks to rally protesters despite a junta attempt to ban the social media network.
Thousands marched in the coastal city of Dawei, in the southeast, and in the Kachin state capital in the far north, where they were dressed head to toe in black.
So far gatherings have been peaceful, unlike bloody crackdowns during previous widespread protests in 1988 and 2007.
A convoy of military trucks was seen passing into Yangon late on Sunday, raising fears that could change.
Reuters has been unable to contact the junta for comment on the protests and state television has not mentioned them.
Calls for work stoppages
The government lifted a day-long internet ban at the weekend that prompted even more anger in a country fearful of returning to the isolation and even greater poverty before a transition to democracy began in 2011.
Activists Maung Saungkha and Thet Swe Win posted on their Facebook pages that police had been to search for them at their homes, but that they were not there and were still free.
In addition to the street protests, a campaign of civil disobedience has begun, first with doctors and joined by some teachers and other government workers.
“We request government staff from all departments not to attend work from Monday,” said activist Min Ko Naing, a veteran of the demonstrations in 1988 that first brought Suu Kyi to prominence.
She won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for campaigning for democracy, and spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during decades of struggling to end almost half a century of army rule.
Suu Kyi, 75, has been kept incommunicado since army chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power in the early hours of February 1.
She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkies and is being held in police detention for investigation until February 15. Her lawyer said he has not been allowed to see her.
The United Nations Security Council called for the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees last week and the United States is considering targeted sanctions.
“Protesters in Myanmar continue to inspire the world as actions spread throughout the country,” Thomas Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar said on Twitter.
“Myanmar is rising up to free all who have been detained and reject military dictatorship once and for all. We are with you.”