Defiant Myanmar protesters return to streets

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Protesters returned to the streets of Myanmar’s main city Yangon for a second day on Wednesday, defying a police request to disperse as they explore the extent of freedoms under the reformist regime. The country’s first major demonstrations since a deadly 2007 crackdown on monk-led protests are being closely watched as a test of the new quasi-civilian government’s tolerance of public discontent. About 250 protesters gathered at the Sule Pagoda, in central Yangon, holding candles or placards calling for 24-hour electricity, watched by hundreds of onlookers, according to an AFP reporter. They ignored a request by the authorities to leave, saying they would gather for three consecutive evenings, although another group of what appeared to be farmers called off a rally in a nearby location. “We are protesting peacefully for 24-hour electricity. Police came and asked us to leave but we didn’t go. We will continue our protest. We are just asking for what we need,” protester Han Win Aung, a former political prisoner, told AFP. The impoverished country suffers crippling power cuts, with six-hour blackouts commonplace in Yangon and outages three times as long in Mandalay, another major city. “We are not protesting, just asking for more electricity. We get only about six hours a day,” said Yangon resident Zaw Lin Aung. Asked if he was worried about being arrested, he replied: “I have to suffer like others. So I will continue.”