Police clamp down as protesters in Myanmar

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Dailynewsun Desk:

Police in Myanmar have fired water cannon to disperse protesters who have taken to the streets, despite a ban on large public gatherings.

The military has prohibited gatherings of more than five people in the cities of Yangon and Mandalay, with a curfew. The rules were brought in after three straight days of mass protests, following the overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in a coup, reports BBC.

State TV said on Monday action “must be taken” against those breaking the law.

However, the BBC’s Jonathan Head notes there has yet to be a sustained effort to break up the protest, with all eyes on the military.

If they move, our South East Asia correspondent says, the risk of a repeat of the bloodshed seen in the past in Myanmar – also known as Burma – is much higher.

On Monday, military leader Min Aung Hlaing warned that no one is above the law, although he did not issue a direct threat to protesters. But the mood remained defiant as protesters calling for democracy to be restored returned to the streets on Tuesday.

“We are not worried about their warning. That’s why we came out today. We cannot accept their excuse of vote fraud. We do not want any military dictatorship,” teacher Thein Win Soe told news agency AFP.

What is happening with the protests?
The fourth day of protests saw a large crowd face off with police who fired water cannon in the city of Bago. Water cannon was also repeatedly fired against a crowd of protesters in Nay Pyi Taw, who withstood the barrage and refused to retreat, according to Reuters news agency.

“End the military dictatorship”, people yelled out.

According to BBC Burmese, protesters in Nay Pyi Taw were even joined by a police officer. Protesters have been calling on police officers to join their cause.

One political analyst, Kin Zaw Win, had earlier told news outlet Al Jazeera that police were closer to Aung San Suu Kyi compared to the military and would be more “likely to stand with protesters” than soldiers.

How is the military reacting?
Monday saw Gen Min Aung Hlaing give his first televised address since the coup a week earlier. He insisted the seizure of power was justified due to “voter fraud”, accusing the electoral commission of failing to investigate irregularities over voter lists in the November election.

The commission had said there was no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud. The election was won in a landslide by the party of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ms Suu Kyi and senior leaders of her National League for Democracy Party (NLD), including President Win Myint, have been put under house arrest after being detained a week ago.

It is the first major international move to isolate the military since they took power on 1 February.