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Thousands take to streets as police join protests in Myanmar

YANGON, Myanmar: Thousands of protesters gathered across Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, for the seventh consecutive day on Friday as mass demonstrations against the military coup.

Civil servants and police defectors have been seen joining the anti-junta rallies triggered by a coup that toppled the country’s civilian leadership earlier this month.

A video showing 49 policemen joining protesters in Loikaw, Kaya state, appeared on social media on Wednesday.

Footage showed demonstrators protecting the defectors from arrest.

Two days earlier, the first officer to defect, Supt. Khun Aung Ko Ko, told a crowd in the capital, Naypyitaw, that he had sold his car to support other civil servants who risked their livelihoods by joining the strike.

The civil disobedience movement, initiated by health workers, has gained nationwide support, with staff in various ministries disrupting the government’s administrative mechanisms.

“It is going to be a people’s uprising,” Wai Yan Phyo Moe, All Burma Federation of Student Unions vice president said on Wednesday as protesters returned to the streets despite a violent crackdown a day earlier.

He said that a nationwide strike originally planned for Friday was already underway.

“The protests are growing day by day. Even religious people such as Buddhist monks and nuns, and Christian preachers, are taking to streets.”

Most businesses in Yangon and other cities are unable to operate due to public transport disruptions, while workers at government-run gas stations are refusing to work.

Banks have shuttered across the country. The central bank and state-owned Myanmar Economic Bank (MEB) also face daily protests.

An MEB employee in Yangon, who declined to be named, said that staff shortages left at least 120 of the lender’s 315 branches across Myanmar unable to process government employees’ salaries.

“The remaining public servants will probably not receive their salary in time,” he said.

The demonstrations are supported by labour groups, with union leaders vowing to protest until the civilian rule is restored.

“Our message to the military junta is clear. We don’t want you. We just want a civilian rule,” Pyo Sandar Aung, assistant general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions in Myanmar said.

The country’s biggest trade union has more than 10,000 member factories, and all are protesting against the coup.

“Some take to the streets, while some protest in their workplace. It is up to them,” Aung said.

Kyaw Thu Zaw, president of a labour union at the Rui-Ning garment factory in the Hlaing Thar Yar township, said that workers will protest until the civilian government is returned.

The factory is one of several producing clothing for major Western brands.

“Workers across the country will have the same thoughts,” he said.