MYANMAR: Military warns of ‘action’ as protests grow


WORLD | AGENCIES | Aljazeera – Authorities in Myanmar have threatened to take “action” against protesters who break the law as police fired water cannon at peaceful demonstrators in Naypyidaw and thousands of people took to the streets of major cities for a third day to denounce last week’s putsch.

A statement read by an announcer on state-run MRTV on Monday said there had been violations of the law and threats of force by groups “using the excuse of democracy and human rights”.

“Action must be taken according to the law with effective steps against offences which disturb, prevent and destroy the state’s stability, public safety and the rule of law,” the statement said.

The ruling generals have so far refrained from using deadly force to quell demonstrations but have a long history of doing so in previous times of tumult. The warning on Monday came as videos posted on social media showed police firing brief bursts of water cannon at protesters to try and disperse crowds gathered on a highway in the capital, Naypyidaw, where Myanmar’s top civilian leaders – including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint – are believed to be held.

Calls to join protests and to back a campaign of civil disobedience have grown louder and more organised since the February 1 coup, which drew widespread international condemnation.

In Yangon, nurses, teachers, civil servants and monks joined Monday’s protests, holding signs reading: “Say no to dictatorship” and “We want democracy”. The protesters flew multicoloured Buddhist flags alongside red banners in the colour of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).

Activists also called for a general strike on Monday, urging government employees to stop work as part of the effort to “tear down the military dictatorship”, the Yangon-based Myanmar Now newspaper quoted activist Ei Thinzar Maung as saying.

Aye Misan, a nurse at a government hospital, told Reuters news agency that health care workers want all “government staff to join” in the protests.

“Our message to the public is that we aim to completely abolish this military regime and we have to fight for our destiny,” she said.

Kyaw Zin Tun, an engineer protesting in Yangon, told AFP news agency he was at the protest because he remembered the fear he felt growing up under military rule during his childhood in the 1990s.

“In the last five years, under democracy government, our fears were removed. But now fear is back again with us, therefore, we have to throw out this military junta for the future of all of us,” the 29-year-old said.

Thousands also marched in the southern city of Dawei and in the capital of far northern Kachin state, Myitkyina – the massive crowds reflecting a rejection of military rule by diverse ethnic groups, even those who have been critical of Aung San Suu Kyi and accused her government of neglecting minorities.

The demonstrations come a day after tens of thousands protested the coup in cities and towns across Myanmar in the biggest show of public dissent in the country since a 2007 revolt by monks that was brutally suppressed by the military. A year later, the generals held a referendum on a newly drafted constitution, which made sure the military maintained considerable power but opened the door to a civilian government.

The democratisation process was upended on February 1 this year, however, when Senior General Min Aung Hlaing seized power, alleging widespread fraud in the November election that the NLD won in a landslide. He has yet to provide any proof.

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