Hundreds of thousands of protesters have turned out in Myanmar in defiance of the military to stage one of the largest protests yet against the military coup that has held the country bound since the beginning of this month.
On February 3, Military leaders overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government and placed her under house arrest, charging her with possessing illegal walkie-talkies and violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law.
Ever since then there have been protests all over the country.
But on Monday, February 22, businesses closed, and even government workers and bankers joined a general strike, despite a military statement that said protesters were risking their lives by turning out.
The military had to disperse crowds in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, using a water cannon truck .
A statement from the military carried on state-run broadcaster MRTV said that protesters were “now inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life”.
The military cautioned people against “riot and anarchy”.
This comes after at least two people were killed in protests on Sunday the worst violence yet since the onset of demonstrations.
Protesters say they want an end to military rule and want Ms San Suu Kyi released, along with senior members of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
Foreign pressure on military leaders has also been high.
In a speech on Monday, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK will demand Ms Suu Kyi’s release.
While the UN has also responded.
“I call on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately,” United Nations Secretary General António Guterres said in his annual address to the UN Human Rights Council.
“Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights, and the will of the people expressed in recent elections,” he said, before insisting that “coups have no place in our modern world”.
The US, Canada and the UK have all imposed sanctions on the leaders of the coup.
On Monday, the European Union said it was ready to impose its own sanctions on Myanmar’s top generals.
“The EU stands ready to adopt restrictive measures targeting those directly responsible for the military coup and their economic interests,” the bloc’s foreign ministers said in a joint statement.
During the demonstrations in Myanmar’s main cities, people could be seen waving flags and chanting.
Monday’s protest, which has been nicknamed the “22222 Revolution” because it is taking place on 22 February, is being compared by protesters to demonstrations on 8 Aug 1988 – known as the 8888 uprising – when Myanmar saw one of its most violent protests.
Images on social media show some protesters forming the shape of 22222, while others waved signs and banners bearing the number.
By Jide N.