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Protests Grow In Myanmar In Aftermath Of Coup

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

In Myanmar today, tens of thousands of protesters were in the streets of Yangon, chanting, we want democracy.

(SOUNDBITE OF PROTEST)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: (Chanting in foreign language).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: They were denouncing last week's military coup and the near total shutdown of the Internet in their country. The Internet is now back up. Andrew Nachemson is a reporter in Yangon and has been covering the demonstrations, and he joins us now.

You've been on the streets today. What are you seeing?

ANDREW NACHEMSON: We're seeing bigger crowds than we had seen before by far. After the military coup happened, there were some small, scattered demonstrations. On Saturday, we finally saw numbers in the thousands. But today, tens of thousands, probably even more than that in many different parts of the city. It felt like a dam had finally broken, and people really poured out in the streets.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We're hearing the police presence was also substantial. How are they reacting to these demonstrations?

NACHEMSON: Yeah, there's been a strong police presence, but so far there hasn't been any violence. I've seen police blocking protests. So there will be marches to various places. And I've seen police set up barricades come in, heavily armed police wearing riot gear, sometimes vehicles with water cannons. And they'll block them from going to particularly sensitive areas. Like, they set up a blockade to one protest march that was trying to go towards the U.S. embassy, another one trying to go towards Yangon University. But I haven't seen or heard reports of any clashes between protesters and police yet.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: When you've been able to speak to people, what have they been telling you?

NACHEMSON: Well, the main thing that everybody says is that they want the military out of politics. They want an end to the dictatorship. And they don't want to revert back to the way things were before the coup, when the military still had a significant amount of political influence. They've now reached the point where they want the military completely removed from the political system of Myanmar.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Has anyone heard anything yet from Aung San Suu Kyi, where she is, her condition?

NACHEMSON: She's reported to be in house arrest in Yangon. I think there was a brief statement put out where she basically just encouraged people to continue to resist against the military dictatorship. But she has not had regular contact with the outside world or with her supporters.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And just briefly, you said it seemed to you as if a dam had broken. What do you think that will mean for the rest of the week and going forward in Myanmar?

NACHEMSON: I definitely think protests will continue at this point, especially considering what happened today. There was a very celebratory feeling at the end of the day. There were people kind of dancing, waving flags, playing music in the street. They definitely felt like they won today because they were able to protest in massive numbers, and there was no police crackdown or anything like that. A lot of it's being driven by students and young people. So I wouldn't be surprised if there's still fairly large protests throughout the week.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Andrew Nachemson. He is a reporter in Yangon, Myanmar.

Thank you very much.

NACHEMSON: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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