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Protests Persist In Myanmar Even As The Military Tightens Its Grip On Power


People in Myanmar are finding more ways to protest a military coup, and the military is seeking new ways to crack down. The armed forces were always powerful in Myanmar, and they took full control of the government at the start of this month, detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Michael Sullivan reports on the day-by-day struggle for control of the streets.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: The demonstrations Monday and today were smaller than most of those that preceded them, muted by the military show of force over the weekend. The Internet was shut down overnight for the second straight day. When service was restored, there were even more military vehicles and more troops on the street. Demonstrators are demanding the military step aside and for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and others detained in the coup. The activist group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says more than 425 people have been arrested and says it's worried that number will grow now that the military has suspended legal constraints on detaining people without a warrant.

The United Nations' special envoy, on Monday, warned of severe consequences if the military cracks down hard on demonstrators. So far, violence has been limited. Police used rubber bullets against protesters last week in the capital Naypyidaw and again yesterday in Myanmar's second-largest city, Mandalay, with several reportedly wounded. Richard Horsey is an independent political analyst based in Yangon.

RICHARD HORSEY: What I've been witnessing over the last days in the streets of Yangon is truly inspiring. You know, it's not just the protesters out on the streets. It's also government officials declining to go to work, the train workers who are striking, the doctors who are striking. This is a genuine and awe-inspiring outpouring of public rejection of this coup.

SULLIVAN: On the other hand, he says...

HORSEY: Knowing the Myanmar military, having lived through years of military rule in Myanmar, I worry that, should they choose to - and I think there's a high risk that they will - that the military does have the ability to restore order and to complete their coup. And there's probably not very much anyone else can do about that if they are determined to shut down these demonstrations.

SULLIVAN: For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Chiang Rai.

(SOUNDBITE OF AK'S "23.01.2018") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.