New rallies in Myanmar's Yangon despite military warnings

·1-min read
Since the junta staged a coup on February 1 and ousted Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power, waves of dissent have swept the country -- with hundreds of thousands amassing in major cities

Protesters started rallying across Myanmar's largest city of Yangon on Tuesday, defying warnings from the military threatening "action" against large gatherings.

Since the junta staged a coup on February 1 and ousted Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power, waves of dissent have swept the country -- with hundreds of thousands amassing in major cities.

By Monday, the military issued a stern warning on state TV, vowing to take "action... against offences that disturb, prevent and destroy the state's stability".

Curfews and a ban on gatherings were also announced for hotspot areas across the country, including Yangon's San Chaung and Kamayut townships -- the main spots where protesters converged in recent days.

But in San Chaung township, about 200 teachers defied the orders Tuesday, carrying banners saying "We are teachers, We want justice" and waving a three-fingered salute -- a gesture borrowed from pro-democracy movements across Asia.

"Free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi!" they yelled as they marched down the main road, where cars passing by honked their horns in support.

"Down with the military dictatorship!"

Across town, another group gathered in front of the headquarters of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.

Wearing red -- the NLD's colours -- the protesters carried Suu Kyi's portraits and chanted for the military to free her.

Despite a tarnished reputation in the West for her handling of the Rohingya crisis, Suu Kyi remains an immensely popular figure in the country, with her party sweeping more than 80 percent of the votes in November's election.

But the army said the polls were marred by widespread voter fraud -- the reason they have used to justify the military coup.

bur-dhc/jah