Myanmar police have warned protesters to disperse or face force shortly after state television signalled impending action to stifle mass demonstrations against a military coup and the arrest of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In the capital Naypyidaw today, three lines of police in riot gear could be seen across a road with a sign saying that live ammunition could be used if demonstrators breached the third line of officers.
The scene comes as martial law has been declared in parts of Myanmar’s second-largest city Mandalay, banning people from protesting or gathering in groups of more than five.
A curfew will also run from 8pm until 4am, the general administration department said in a statement.
Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the military coup, appeared on TV for the first time on Monday, claiming his action was justified amid mass protests.
The general said the country’s November election, won in a landslide by the party of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had been unfair.
Policeman stands behind a banner reading ‘if this line is crossed, Myanmar police force will fire with live ammunition’ during the protests against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyidaw, Monday
Police stand guard by their vehicles as protesters rally against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw on February 8
Min Aung Hlaing (pictured during broadcast on his Monday TV address), the leader of the military coup, appeared on TV for the first time on Monday, claiming his action was justified amid mass protests
Protesters were blasted with a suspected chemical-laced water cannon today as massive crowds staged a third straight day of rallies to voice their anger at last week’s military coup.
Huge crowds gathered in Yangon on Monday as workers went on a nationwide strike to demand the return of democracy and the release of the ousted leader – a call supported today by Pope Francis.
And in Naypyidaw, footage showed two people collapsing after being sprayed with the suspected chemical-tinged water which was fired from a truck to disperse protesters.
‘Down with military dictatorship’ and ‘Release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and arrested people,’ the protesters chanted as they marched in the streets, with others holding signs saying ‘we want democracy’ and riding on the back of trucks singing revolutionary songs.
The call to release Suu Kyi was backed today by the Vatican, where Francis said a ‘path to democracy’ had been ‘brusquely interrupted’ by the coup and said he hoped that arrested leaders would be ‘promptly released’
Blast of a water cannon: A police truck fires water at protesters during a rally in the capital Naypyitaw today where demonstrators were condemning the military coup and demanding the release of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi
Face to face: A line of riot police wearing helmets and carrying shields stand opposite protesters during a demonstration in Nyapyidaw against the military putsch by Myanmar generals last Monday
Icon: Protesters in Myanmar hold up posters of Aung San Suu Kyi, the ousted leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner whose reputation had been tarnished abroad by the military’s treatment of the Rohingya minority
‘This is a work day, but we aren’t going to work even if our salary will be cut,’ one protester, 28-year-old garment factory worker, Hnin Thazin, told AFP.
Construction worker Chit Min, 18, joined the Yangon rally saying his loyalty to Suu Kyi outweighed his immediate concerns about his financial situation.
‘I am jobless now for a week because of the military coup, and I am worried for my survival,’ he said.
In Myanmar’s second largest city, Mandalay, thousands had also gathered by mid morning, many waving red flags and clutching photos of Suu Kyi.
Protests were also gaining momentum in Naypyidaw, with many riding around on motorbikes and honking car horns, while major rallies were also reported in other townships.
Over the weekend tens of thousands of people massed on the streets across Myanmar in the biggest protests since the coup.
Teachers flash the three-finger salute, a symbol of pro-democracy protests in Myanmar and other countries such as Thailand
March: Protesters walk down a street in Yangon today, some holding signs calling for Suu Kyi’s release, as workers staged a nationwide strike to join in the massive demonstrations
Buddhist monks (left) were among those who joined in Monday’s protests, while other demonstrators waved flags (right)
Traffic jam: Some demonstrators blocked a street at Hledan junction in Yangon while others watched from a bridge as thousands took to the streets for the third straight day of pro-democracy rallies
Policemen wearing masks and holding riot shields line up behind barricades as they stand guard at Yangon City Hall today
Myanmar’s generals staged their putsch by detaining Suu Kyi and dozens of members of her National League for Democracy in pre-dawn raids on Monday last week.
The generals justified the coup by claiming fraud in last November’s elections, which the NLD won in a landslide.
The junta has proclaimed a one-year state of emergency, and promised to then hold fresh elections, without offering any precise timeframe.
The coup has triggered widespread international condemnation, although neighbouring China has declined to criticise the generals.
US President Joe Biden has led the calls for the generals to relinquish power.
Pope Francis on Sunday also expressed ‘solidarity with the people of Myanmar’, urging the army to work towards ‘democratic coexistence’.
A police truck sprays water over a crowd of protesters in Myanmar’s capital , Naypyitaw, during the latest round of rallies
Protesters march near the Sule Pagoda, a major landmark in Yangon where anti-coup demonstrations were continuing today
Protesters hold up signs denouncing the military during a demonstration against the putsch which took place last Monday
Protesters and police lined up in Naypyitaw where demonstrators voiced their anger at the coup and called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday
Online calls to protest have prompted bold displays of defiance, including the nightly deafening clamour of people banging pots and pans – a practice traditionally associated with driving out evil spirits.
The surge in popular dissent on the weekend overcame a nationwide internet blockade, similar in magnitude to an earlier shutdown that coincided with the start of the coup.
As protests gathered steam, the junta also ordered telecom networks to freeze access to Facebook, an extremely popular service in the country and arguably its main mode of communication.
But on Sunday, live Facebook video feeds from multiple cities continued to show protesters marching through the streets.
Kyaw Zin Tun, 29, an engineer said he remembers the fear he felt growing up under junta rule during his childhood in the 1990s.
‘In the last five years under democracy government, our fears were removed. But now fear is back again with us, therefore, we have to throw out this military junta for the future of all of us,’ he said.
Protesters are blasted with a water cannon in Naypyitaw during the protests against the coup, which has been denounced by Joe Biden and other international leaders
A group of nurses show the three-finger salute and hold signs calling for ‘civil disobedience’ a week after the Myanmar coup