Tens of thousands of people marched for a second day in Myanmar’s biggest city on Sunday and thousands more across the country to protest against the military junta’s coup and detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week.
Crowds in Yangon, the commercial capital, carried red balloons, the colour representing Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party (NLD), and chanted, “We don’t want military dictatorship! We want democracy!”
People from across the city converged on Hledan township, some walking through stalled traffic, and marched under bright sunshine in the middle of the road. They waved NLD flags and gestured with the three-figure salute that has become a symbol of protest against the coup. Drivers honked their horns and passengers held up photos of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi.
The scenes broadcast on Facebook were some of the few that have come out of the country since the junta shut down the internet and restricted phone lines on Saturday.
“We cannot accept the coup,” said a 22-year-old who came with 10 friends, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. “This is for our future. We have to come out.”
A woman in her early 30s, who brought her family, said they had not joined protests a day earlier but refused to be afraid.
“We have to join the people, we want democracy,” she said.
By mid-morning about 100 people had taken to the streets on motorbikes in the coastal town of Mawlamyine in the southeast, and students and doctors were gathering in the city of Mandalay in central Myanmar.
Another crowd of hundreds spent the night outside a police station in the town of Payathonzu in Karen state in the southeast, where local NLD lawmakers were believed to have been arrested. They remained outside in the morning, singing pro-democracy songs.
With the internet cut off and official information scarce, rumours swirled about the fate of Suu Kyi and her cabinet. A story that she had been released, which drew huge crowds onto the streets to celebrate overnight on Saturday, was quickly quashed by her lawyer.
More than 160 people have been arrested since the military seized power in the early hours of Monday, said Thomas Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar.
“The generals are now attempting to paralyse the citizen movement of resistance – and keep the outside world in the dark – by cutting virtually all internet access,” Andrews said in a statement on Sunday.
“We must all stand with the people of Myanmar in their hour of danger and need. They deserve nothing less.”