YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Myanmar’s new military rulers on Monday signaled their intention to crack down on opponents of their takeover, issuing decrees that effectively banned peaceful public protests in the country’s two biggest cities.
The restrictive measures were ordered after police fired water cannons at hundreds of protesters in the Myanmar capital, Naypyitaw, who were demanding the military hand power back to elected officials. It was just one of many demonstrations around the country.
Rallies and gatherings of more than five people, along with motorized processions, were banned, and an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew was imposed for areas of Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s first- and second-biggest cities, where thousands of people have been demonstrating since Saturday.
Protesters in Yangon rallied Monday at a major downtown intersection raising three-finger salutes that are symbols of resistance and carrying placards saying, “Reject the military coup” and “Justice for Myanmar.”
There were also demonstrations in towns in the north, southeast and east of the country.
The decrees enabling the new restrictive measures were issued on a township-by-township basis, and were expected to be extended to other areas as well. They say they were issued in response to people carrying out unlawful actions that harm the rule of law, a reference to the protests.
The growing wave of defiance — particularly in Naypyitaw, where such protests are unusual — was striking in a country where demonstrations have been met with severe force in the past. That resistance was happening in Naypyitaw, whose population includes many civil servants and their families, spoke to the level of anger among people who had only begun to taste democracy in recent years after five decades of military rule.
“We do not want the military junta,” said Daw Moe, a protester in Yangon. “We never ever wanted this junta. Nobody wants it. All the people are ready to fight them.”