Water Cannon Deployed as Protests Against Myanmar Junta Grow

Police used a water cannon against protesters in Myanmar’s capital of Naypyidaw on Sunday as protests against last week’s coup continued to grow. Minor injuries were reported before the crowd dispersed.

Sky News on Monday described the protests as “the biggest since the Saffron Revolution in 2007.” 

The Saffron Revolution was triggered by a huge increase in fuel prices and triggered a brutal crackdown by the military junta, which took power once again on Monday, deposing the civilian government and arresting most of its leaders.

One of the biggest moments in the Saffron Revolution was the reappearance of activist Aung San Suu Kyi, awarded a Nobel prize in absentia and who had not been seen in public for years before she emerged in 2007 to pray with protesting Buddhist monks. Suu Kyi went on to become the civilian leader of Myanmar in 2015 after democracy was restored, but she was imprisoned once again following the coup on February 1.

Over 150 other officials and advisers were detained along with Suu Kyi, including her economic adviser Sean Turnell, an Australian citizen. The Australian government on Sunday said it had “serious concerns” about the arbitrary detention of Turnell and other foreign nationals. Turnell was able to send a message indicating he is “fine and strong, and not guilty of anything.”

Hundreds of thousands of protesters marched this weekend in Naypyidaw and Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Marches also occurred in a number of smaller cities. Demonstrators in Yangon carried signs demanding the release of Suu Kyi and the fall of the military “dictatorship.” Many of the participants were government employees. 

The protesters have reportedly adopted the three-fingered salute of defiance made popular in the Hunger Games books and movies. They have also taken to banging pots and pans together, a gesture associated with driving off evil spirits in local culture.

On Monday, the junta announced a 4:00 p.m. curfew and banned gatherings of more than five people. Internet access was shut down over the weekend, but it seemed to have little effect on the size of the protests.

Military chief Gen. Min Aung Hlaing gave a televised address on Sunday in which he did not mention the protests. Instead, he repeated the military’s accusations that November’s elections were a fraud and promised new elections would be held in a year. He also reviewed the economic and pandemic control policies the military plans to impose.

The Ministry of Information issued a statement on Monday describing the protests as a threat to national security.

“Democracy can be destroyed if there is no discipline. We will have to take legal actions to prevent acts that are violating state stability, public safety and the rule of law,” the statement said.


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