Yangoon: Tens of thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Myanmar’s biggest city in one of largest protests yet, despite warnings from a United Nations human rights expert that recent troop movements could indicate the military was planning a violent crackdown.
In Yangon, protesters marched carrying signs calling for ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to be released from detention, while others feigned car trouble, strategically abandoning their vehicles — and leaving the hoods up — to prevent security forces from easily accessing the demonstrations.
Large rallies were also held in the country’s second-biggest city, Mandalay, and the capital of Naypyitaw, in defiance of an order banning gatherings of five or more people.
One motorist, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared being targeted, explained tongue-in-cheek that his car had broken down “due to the suffering that our people are undergoing now”.
“We just stopped the cars here on the road to show that we do not want the military regime,” he said.
Demonstrators gather in an intersection close to Sule Pagoda to protest against the military coup in Yangon.
The demonstrations came a day after UN rapporteur Tom Andrews expressed alarm at reports of soldiers being transported into Yangon, noting that such movements had previously preceded killings, disappearances and mass arrests.
“I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments — planned mass protests and troops converging — we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar,” he said in a statement issued by the UN Human Rights office in Geneva.
However, residents of Mandalay reported hearing gunshots about an hour after the start of the nightly curfew at 8:00pm local time as dozens of police and soldiers roamed a neighbourhood with housing for state railway workers.
There have been similar reports of gunshots and other aggressive actions in several cities since last week — apparently part of attempts to intimidate people rather than cause injury.
Railway workers could be targets because they have declared their support for the protest movement and carried out work stoppages.
Demonstrators on motor bikes flash the three-fingered salute against the military coup as they ride pass military vehicles
The military seized power on February 1, the day newly elected parliamentarians were supposed to take their seats.
It was a shocking backslide for a country that had been taking tentative steps toward democracy.
The junta said the takeover was necessary because Ms Suu Kyi’s government had failed to investigate fraud claims in elections her party won in a landslide. The election commission has dismissed those claims. ABCnet.com