YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — As enthusiastic crowds of tens of thousands marched through the streets of Myanmar’s biggest city on Sunday to protest last week’s coup ousting Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected authorities, their spirits were raised by the return of internet services that was blocked a day earlier.
Separate protests that started in various parts of Yangon located at Sule Pagoda, situated in the middle of a roundabout in the city’s downtown region. Protesters in different areas of the country echoed their own calls.
Authorities had cut access to the internet as the protests grew Saturday, fanning fears of a complete information blackout. On Sunday afternoon, however, internet users at Yangon reported that information access on their mobile phones had suddenly been revived.
The demonstrators are working to roll back last Monday’s seizure of power by the military and demanding the release from detention of the Suu Kyi, the country’s ousted leader, and other top characters out of her National League for Democracy party.
The army has accused Suu Kyi’s government of failing to act on its own complaints that last November’s election was marred by fraud, though the election commission said that it had found no evidence to support the claims.
The rising protests are a sharp reminder of the long and bloody struggle for democracy in a state that the army ruled directly for at least five decades before due to its grip in 2012. Suu Kyi’s government, which won a landslide election 2015, was the very first headed by civilians in years, though it faced a range of curbs to its power under a military-drafted constitution.
Throughout Myanmar’s years of isolation under military rule, the golden-domed Sule Pagoda functioned as a rallying point for political protests calling for democracy, most notably in throughout a massive 1988 uprising and again during a 2007 revolt led by Buddhist monks.
The military used to deadly force to end both of those uprisings, with quotes of hundreds or even thousands killed in 1988. While riot police have been delivered to observe the protests this past week, soldiers were absent and there have been no reports of clashes.
A number of videos published online Sunday that were said to be in the town of Myawaddy, on Myanmar’s eastern boundary with Thailand, showed police shooting into the atmosphere in an evident effort to distribute a crowd. There were not any symptoms of panic and no reports of injuries.
Showing little dread, protest audiences have grown bigger and bolder in recent days, while staying nonviolent in support of a telephone from Suu Kyi’s party and its allies for civil disobedience.
In among Sunday’s gatherings, at least 2,000 labor union and student activists and members of the public gathered in a major intersection near Yangon University. They marched along a primary street, snarling traffic. Drivers honked their horns in support.
Police in riot gear blocked the main entrance to the college.
The mostly young protesters held placards calling for freedom for Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, who were placed under house arrest and charged with minor offenses, seen by many as providing a legal veneer due to their detention.
“We only want to demonstrate this current generation how the old generation fights this crisis, by heeding the guideline of Mother Suu, which is to be honest, transparent and calm,” said 46-year-old protester Htain Linn Aung. “We do not need a military dictator. Let the dictator fail.”
Reports on social media and by some Myanmar news services said demonstrations were occurring in other parts of the country also, with a particularly large audience from the central city of Mandalay, in which there was also a motorbike procession where hundreds took part, constantly beeping their horns.
Saturday had seen the size of street protests grow from the countless thousands, but can also be watched the police cut access to the world wide web. Holes from the army’s firewall enabled some information to trickle out, but also fanned fears of a complete information blackout.
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter were previously ordered blocked, but had remained partly available. Social media platforms have been significant sources of independent news as well as organizing tools for protests.
Netblocks, a London-based service which monitors internet disruptions and shutdowns, confirmed there was a partial restoration of online connectivity on Sunday, however, noted that it may be temporary and social network remined blocked.
The communicating blockade was a stark reminder of the progress Myanmar is in danger of losing. During Myanmar’s decades of military rule, the country was internationally isolated and communicating with the external world strictly controlled.
The chosen lawmakers of Suu Kyi’s party met in an online meeting Friday to announce themselves as the sole legitimate representatives of the people and requested for global recognition as the country’s government.
Pope Francis joined the worldwide chorus of concern over the situation.
In remarks to the public in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday, the pope said he’s been after”with strong worry the situation that has developed in Myanmar,” noting his affection to the country since his visit in 2017.
He said he expected Myanmar’s leaders functioned sincerely”to promote social justice and national equilibrium for a compatible democratic co-existence.”