By Spy Uganda Correspondent
Burma: Armoured vehicles on the streets of major Myanmar cities, an internet blackout and nighttime raids on prominent critics on Sunday did not stop protesters taking to the streets for a tenth consecutive day on Monday to oppose the recent military coup.
In the confrontation broadcast lives on Facebook, soldiers and police in the state capital Myitkyina fired shots to disperse protesters, though it is unclear whether rubber bullets or live rounds were used. Video shows security forces using water cannon and then protesters fleeing as several rounds of fire can be heard. Five journalists were reportedly arrested while covering the incident.
The weekend’s events marked an escalation in the military’s continued crackdown on demonstrators and opposition leaders, since it seized power in a coup on February 1, ousting democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, detaining key government officials and forming a new ruling junta.
Suu Kyi’s detention, due to expire Monday, will be extended until a court hearing Wednesday, according to reports, citing her lawyer.
“We came here to submit our power of attorney letter and discussed with the district judge. According to him, the remand is until the 17 and not today,” Khin Maung Zaw told reporters. He added that he had still not been able to see Suu Kyi.
Western diplomats on Sunday warned Myanmar’s military junta that “the world is watching” and advised the military to refrain from violence against protesters.
“We call on security forces to refrain from violence against demonstrators and civilians, who are protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government” read a joint statement signed by the US, Canada, and the European Union which was published on the official Facebook pages of their embassies.
The statement condemned arrests of civilian leaders and activists, and denounced “the military’s interruption of communications, as well as the restriction of the Myanmar people’s fundamental rights and basic legal protections.”
Since the takeover, hundreds of thousands of people have joined protests and civil disobedience campaigns. People could be seen on the streets in Yangon, Dawei and Myitkyina holding “Civil Disobedience Movement” signs and “Free our leader” banners, showing pictures of detained leader Suu Kyi. People also marched holding signs saying: “Stop arresting people illegally at midnight.”
The protests have swelled to include people from all sections of society, including a strike by government workers as part of a mass civil disobedience movement.
In response to the protests, the military has sought to limit access to the internet and news services, as well as floating a potential new cybersecurity law that observers fear could further limit the flow of information.
Internet and mobile services were disrupted overnight Sunday into Monday, and Monitoring NGO NetBlocks said network connectivity across the country dropped to only 14% nationwide since at 1 a.m. local time. Mobile services from all carriers were also disrupted, according to residents.
Hundreds of people have been arrested since the coup, and most held without charge, according to the United Nations human rights office. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Burma said at least 400 people have been detained in relation to the takeover and other reports suggested some activists and journalists had gone into hiding following news of their potential arrest.
On Saturday, the military announced the arrest warrants for seven high profile activists for using “their popularity on social media and speeches were posted on social to undermine the peace and order of the country,” according to the military’s information page on Facebook.
Among those named is leading democracy activist Min Ko Naing, an organizer for the “Civil Disobedience Movement” Facebook page, which has more than 200,000 followers. Min Ko Naing spent more than 20 years in prison following the 1988 student uprising in Yangon that was brutally suppressed by the military.