Security forces in Myanmar’s largest city fired warning shots and beat shields with batons to disperse thousands of anti-coup protesters on Friday (Feb. 26).
The demonstrators gathered in front of a popular shopping mall in Yangon, holding placards and chanting slogans condemning the Feb. 1 coup.
Warnings could be heard as about 50 riot police charged at the protesters. At least one protester was detained by police. Security forces drove the protesters off the main road and continued to chase them through nearby alleys, where some took refuge in houses and hid.
Such standoffs highlight rising tensions between a population that is increasingly rising up in revolt and the military generals who have overthrown Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government and reversed years of slow democratic progress in Myanmar.
On Thursday, supporters of Burma’s military junta attacked people protesting the junta, using slingshots, iron bars and pocket knives to injure several people. Photos and videos posted on social media showed the groups attacking people in downtown Yangon without police intervention.
Hundreds of pro-coup supporters marched and violence erupted. They carried signs, some of which read “We support the National Executive Council,” which is the official name of the junta.
Late Thursday, police descended on Yangon’s Tarmwe neighborhood to try to clear the streets of demonstrators protesting the junta’s appointment of a new administrator for the district. The protesters dispersed and stood in front of riot police, several of whom were arrested.
There did not appear to be a pro-junta march scheduled for Friday.
Anti-coup protesters took to the streets in Mandalay, Burma’s second-largest city. A group of Buddhist nuns held placards that read, “We need immediate action by the U.S. military.” Other protesters had placards reading “Free my leader Aung San Suu Kyi,” “Pray for Burma” and “No to military coup.
At noon, security forces blocked the main road in central Mandalay to prevent demonstrators from gathering.
Aung San Suu Kyi has not been seen since the coup. On Friday, about 50 supporters held prayers across the street from her Home in Yangon.
Aung San Suu Kyi is believed to be currently detained in the capital Naypyidaw. She is scheduled to appear in court Monday to face charges brought against him by the junta. The charges against her are widely believed to be politically motivated.
Several Western countries have imposed sanctions, or threatened to impose them, on the Burmese military. On Thursday, Britain announced further measures against members of the ruling junta to “monitor human rights abuses since the coup.”
Facebook announced Thursday that it will ban all military-related accounts and ads from military-controlled companies.