Tens of thousands of anti-coup protesters in Myanmar have poured back onto the streets for a second day, as an internet blackout failed to stifle growing outrage at the military's ouster of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
On Sunday morning, massive crowds from across the country marched under bright sunshine in the middle of main roads.
In Myawaddy, shots were heard as police tried to break up a protest, a live video published on Facebook showed.
The video showed uniformed police armed with guns rushing at a crowd of a couple of hundred demonstrators. Shots can be heard but it is unclear what kind of munitions were used or whether there are any casualties.
In Yangon, protesters converged on Hledan township, walking through stalled traffic.
Backed by a din of car horns, tens of thousands of protesters in Yangon held up banners saying "Justice for Myanmar" and "We do not want military dictatorship", while others waved the signature red flags of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
"I completely despise the military coup and I am not afraid of a crackdown," said Kyi Phyu Kyaw, a 20-year-old university student.
"I will join every day until Amay Suu (Mother Suu) is freed."
Many demonstrators also flashed the three-finger salute inspired by the "Hunger Games" films, which became a symbol of resistance during the pro-democracy protests in Thailand last year.
About 2,000 protesters rallied against the military takeover in Myanmar's biggest city and demanded the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, whose elected government was toppled by the army that also imposed an internet blackout. https://t.co/WWM1zMLOKy— The Associated Press (@AP) February 7, 2021
"We will fight until the end," said Ye Kyaw, an 18-year-old economics student.
"The next generation can have democracy if we end this military dictatorship."
The surge in popular dissent over the weekend overrode a nationwide blockade of the internet, similar in magnitude to an earlier shutdown that coincided with the arrest of Suu Kyi and other senior leaders on Monday.
Online calls to protest against the army takeover 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.
"#Myanmar's military and police must ensure the right to peaceful assembly is fully respected and demonstrators are not subjected to reprisals," the United Nations Human Rights office tweeted after Saturday's protests.
Protesters also gathered in Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city, to demand the release of detained leaders.
"We cannot accept this unlawful military coup," Win Mya Mya, an MP from Mandalay, said.
As protests gathered steam this week, the junta ordered telecom networks to freeze access to Facebook, an extremely popular service in the country and arguably its main mode of communication.
The platform had hosted a rapidly growing "Civil Disobedience Movement" forum that had inspired civil servants, healthcare professionals and teachers to show their dissent by boycotting their jobs.
On Sunday, live Facebook video feeds showed the Yangon protesters as they marched through the streets. It was not immediately clear how they bypassed the government block.
The military had widened its efforts to quell organised dissent on Friday when it demanded new blocks on other social media services including Twitter.
Monitoring group Netblocks said Sunday that Myanmar "remains in the midst of a nation-scale internet blackout", with connectivity at 14 percent of usual levels.
"The generals are now attempting to paralyse the citizen movement of resistance, and keep the outside world in the dark, by cutting virtually all internet access," said Tom Andrews, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar.
In addition to Suu Kyi and some of her top aides, dozens have been detained so far.
The precise number of arrests is not yet known, but monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said Saturday that more than 150 people were still in custody.
Rumours that Suu Kyi had been released triggered brief but raucous street celebrations among her supporters on Saturday, before they were denied by her lawyer who said she remained in detention.
An immensely popular figure despite a tarnished reputation in the West, Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since the coup, but a party spokesman said Friday she was "in good health".
Two days after the coup, criminal charges were filed against her related to the illegal import of a set of walkie-talkies.
The military had hinted at its coup intentions days in advance, insisting that the NLD's landslide victory in the November elections was the result of voter fraud.
Following the takeover, the junta proclaimed a one-year state of emergency after which it promised to hold fresh elections, without offering any precise timeframe.
The coup has been widely condemned by the international community, with US President Joe Biden leading calls for the generals to relinquish power and release those arrested in the post-coup crackdown.
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