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Myanmar coup: Protesters try to reach NLD headquarters in Yangon

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A protester holds up a placard with an image of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an anti-coup rally in front of the Mandalay railway station in Myanmar. Feb. 15, 2021.
A protester holds up a placard with an image of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an anti-coup rally in front of the Mandalay railway station in Myanmar. Feb. 15, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo
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Protesters gathered in Myanmar's most populous city, Yangon, on Monday as demonstrations continued against this month's military coup.

A police barricade was put in place on the road leading to the Yangon headquarters of the National League for Democracy party (NLD), which is led by deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Demonstrators sat behind the barricade chanting slogans and waving banners aloft demanding the release of Suu Kyi and the return of the government they elected.

The military seized power of the country on February 1 and detained Suu Kyi and members of her government.

The junta, led by Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, said it stepped in because the government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election, which the NLD won in a landslide.

The state election commission refuted the claim, saying there is no evidence to support it.

Protestors also gathered outside a police station in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Monday demanding the release of a group of high school pupils who were detained while joining in anti-coup activities.

One of the students who managed to escape told reporters the pupils – thought to range in age from 13 to 16 – were demonstrating peacefully when police suddenly arrived and began arresting them.

It isn't clear exactly how many pupils were rounded up, but estimates put the figure at between 20 and 40.

It comes after a near-total internet shutdown was reported in Myanmar on Sunday night, as mass protests against the military coup of February 1 entered their second week.

Netblocks, a London-based service that tracks internet disruptions and shutdowns, said on Sunday night that a near-total internet shutdown was in effect, with connectivity at just 14% of normal levels.

Earlier, armoured personnel carriers were seen on the streets of Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, further raising tensions.

On Monday vast numbers of people around the country again flouted orders against demonstrations to protest the military’s seizure of power.

Despite the internet blackout, thousands of engineers marched on the streets of Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, chanting and holding signs that read: “Free our leader,” “Who stands with justice?” and “Stop arresting people illegally at midnight.”

In Yangon, the country’s most populous city, fewer protesters gathered, but there were still several hundred anti-coup demonstrators outside the Central Bank of Myanmar building, where there were also military trucks full of soldiers, riot police, water-cannon trucks and armoured personnel carriers.

Meanwhile, the military leaders extended their detention of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose detention was set to expire on Monday.

Her release is a key demand of the protesting crowds, but she will now be remanded until Wednesday, when she will likely appear in court by videoconference, according to Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer asked by Suu Kyi’s party to represent her.