Demonstrators in Myanmar defied new rules making protests illegal as they took to the streets once again on Tuesday, protesting against the military coup in the country.
Police arrested protesters and fired water cannon to try to disperse crowds in Mandalay, and a crowd also gathered in the biggest city Yangon.
The new laws had banned gatherings of more than five people in certain parts of the cities, and imposed a curfew from 8pm to 4am.
Thousands of people have been demonstrating since Saturday, demanding the return of the deposed civilian government and the release of the nation’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained when the military blocked the new session of Parliament on February 1.
Demonstrations were also held in other cities, including Bago and Dawei, and in northern Shan state.
The growing defiance was striking in a country where past demonstrations have been met with deadly force and are a reminder of previous movements in the Southeast Asian country’s long and bloody struggle for democracy.
On Sunday, tens of thousands of protesters rallied at Yangon’s Sule Pagoda, which was a focal point of demonstrations against military rule during a massive 1988 uprising and again during a 2007 revolt led by Buddhist monks. The military used deadly force to end both of those uprisings.
State media for the first time on Monday referred to the protests, claiming they were endangering the country’s stability.
“Democracy can be destroyed if there is no discipline,” declared a statement from the Ministry of Information, read on state television station MRTV. “We will have to take legal actions to prevent acts that are violating state stability, public safety and the rule of law.”
However, the military commander who led the coup and is now Myanmar’s leader made no mention of the unrest in a 20-minute televised speech Monday night, his first to the public since the takeover.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing instead repeated the claims about voting fraud that have been the justification for the military’s takeover, allegations that were refuted by the state election commission.
He added that his junta would hold new elections as promised in a year and hand over power to the winners, and explained the junta’s intended policies for COVID-19 control and the economy.