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Myanmar Junta Imposes Curfew Amid Protests

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Police fire a water cannon at protesters demonstrating against the coup and demanding the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Feb. 8, 2021.

Myanmar's junta has declared a curfew in the country's two most populous cities, following days of large protests against the military's seizure of power.

Popular demonstrations were held for the third consecutive day Monday, exactly one week after the junta detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the elected civilian government.

Tens of thousands of people jammed the streets of major cities, including the capital, Naypyitaw, and the main commercial city of Yangon, holding signs that read "Save Myanmar" and "We want democracy," as well as photographs of Suu Kyi.

Police used water cannon to disperse protesters in Naypyitaw.

People join a rally against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 8, 2021.
People join a rally against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 8, 2021.

But Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the general who led the coup, made no mention of the unrest in his address to the nation Monday evening, his first since taking power.

The general reiterated claims that the November election, which had put Suu Kyi's ruling party back in power, was fraudulent. But he promised to hold new elections to bring a "true and disciplined democracy" different from previous eras of military rule.

He did not specify when the new elections would take place.

Myanmar Anti-Coup Protests Continue
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Also Monday, the military announced an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew would be imposed in the cities of Yangon and Mandalay.

The United Nations has called for the coup to be "reversed," urging international actors to "carry out calls for a return to democracy."

Demonstrations against the military entered a new phase Monday as civil servants, railway employees, teachers and workers in other sectors began a nationwide strike.

Internet service was restored Sunday a day after it had been cut off, which allowed citizens to livestream and post to social media videos of various protests taking part across Myanmar.

Many protesters chanted, "Long live Mother Suu," a reference to the deposed Suu Kyi, and, "We don't want military dictatorship." Other protesters raised a three-finger salute, a sign of resistance against tyranny in the Hunger Games movies.

House arrest

Suu Kyi was the country's de facto leader. She remains under house arrest at her official residence in Naypyitaw, according to party spokesman Kyi Toe.

Suu Kyi faces charges of illegally importing and using six unregistered walkie-talkie radios found during a search of her home.

Protesters holding an image of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi; President Win Myint in Mandalay, Myanmar on Feb. 8, 2021. A protest against Myanmar's one-week-old military government swelled rapidly Monday morning as opposition to the coup.
Protesters holding an image of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi; President Win Myint in Mandalay, Myanmar on Feb. 8, 2021. A protest against Myanmar's one-week-old military government swelled rapidly Monday morning as opposition to the coup.

The military said its state of emergency, set to last one year, was necessary because the government had not acted on claims of voter fraud in last November's elections that were overwhelmingly won by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party.

On Friday, nearly 300 members of Suu Kyi's deposed ruling party proclaimed themselves to be the only lawful representatives of the country's citizenry and called for global recognition as the stewards of the government.

US, international condemnation
The military takeover has been condemned by U.S. President Joe Biden and other world leaders, who called for the elected government to be restored to power.

Protesters from Myanmar residing in Japan rally against Myanmar's military, in Tokyo, Feb. 3, 2021.
Protesters from Myanmar residing in Japan rally against Myanmar's military, in Tokyo, Feb. 3, 2021.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, has long struggled between civilian and military rule, but until last week had been enjoying a hopeful transition to democracy.

A British colony until 1948, the country was ruled by military-backed dictators from 1962 until 2010.

An uprising in 1988 led to an election in 1990, which the NLD won in a landslide. But the elected members of Parliament were imprisoned, and the dictatorship continued.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi, the daughter of Myanmar's assassinated independence hero, Gen. Aung San, emerged as a leader in the pro-democracy rallies and in the NLD. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while under house arrest.

In 2010, Senior Gen. Than Shwe announced the country would be handed over to civilian leaders, who included retired generals. They freed political prisoners, including the lawmakers from the NLD, and Suu Kyi, who was elected in a 2012 by-election and later became the state counsellor of Myanmar.

While popular among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority, Suu Kyi, 75, has seen her international reputation decline over her government’s treatment of the country's mostly Muslim Rohingya minority.

In 2017, an army crackdown against the Rohingya, sparked by deadly attacks on police stations in Rakhine State, led hundreds of thousands of them to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, where they remain.

The International Criminal Court is investigating Myanmar for crimes against humanity.

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