The leader of the coup in Myanmar has made his first TV address, seeking to justify the action amid mass protests. A protester holds a photo of detained Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a demonstration against the military coup. Photo: AFP Min Aung Hlaing said November's election, won in a landslide by the party of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had been unfair. The military has begun to impose restrictions in some areas, including curfews and limits to gatherings. Huge protests were held on Monday for a third straight day, along with a nationwide strike, to oppose the coup. One demonstrating doctor - who did not want to be named - told the BBC: "Today, we, professionals - especially civil servant professionals such as doctors, engineers and teachers - came out to show that we are all together in this. Our objective is the same - to make the dictatorship fall." The general's speech drew angry opposition, with images on social media showing people banging pots and pans in protest in front of television screens. The military seized power last week and declared a year-long state of emergency in Myanmar, also known as Burma, with power handed over to General Min Aung Hlaing. Suu Kyi and senior leaders of her National League for Democracy Party (NLD), including President Win Myint, have been put under house arrest. An Australian economic adviser to Suu Kyi, Sean Turnell, has also been detained and on Monday his family posted a statement on Facebook calling for his immediate release. What did the general say? Min Aung Hlaing's speech focused more on the reasons for the coup and less on threats to protesters. He said the electoral commission had failed to investigate irregularities over voter lists in the November election and had not allowed fair campaigning. The commission had said there was no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud. Min Aung Hlaing, wearing green military uniform, promised new elections and to hand power to the winner. A new "reformed" election commission would oversee it. He also said his rule would be "different" from what was effectively a 49-year military grip on power that ended in 2011 and which saw brutal crackdowns in 1988 and 2007. He spoke of achieving a "true and disciplined democracy", a phrase that drew scorn from some opponents of the coup on social media. Myanmar military chief General Min Aung Hlaing makes an announcement on the nationwide demonstrations being held in protest over the military coup. Photo: AFP He also told citizens to "go with the true facts and not to follow feelings of your own". The general did not issue direct threats to protesters, saying only that no-one was above the law. But some areas have seen clampdowns, with parts of Yangon and second city Mandalay, along with other areas, under a 20:00 to 04:00 curfew and with gatherings limited to groups of five or less. Earlier, a broadcast on state TV warned "action must be taken, according to the law... against offences that disturb, prevent and destroy state stability, public safety and the rule of law". Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said: "For a military coup government that has trampled all over democracy and the rule of law, it's absurd for them to claim they have any right to 'legal action' against peaceful protesters." Who has been on the streets? Tens of thousands gathered on Monday in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, for the strike, with other cities such as Mandalay and Yangon also reporting significant numbers, according to BBC Burmese. The protesters include teachers, lawyers, bank officers and government workers. Online there had been calls asking workers to skip work to protest. "This is a work day, but we aren't going to work even if our salary will be cut," one protester, 28-year-old garment factory worker, Hnin Thazin, told news agency AFP. People holding placards shout slogans of anti-coup as they protest against the military coup. Photo: AFP Another protester, Hnin Hayman Soe, told the BBC she had joined the protest alongside her children, nieces and nephews. "We can see many young people can't accept the military junta. We can even see teenagers here," she said. A few injuries have been reported, but no violence. However, a water cannon was activated in Nay Pyi Taw to disperse crowds. A video appears to show protesters rubbing their eyes and helping one another after being soaked. Kyaw Zeyar Oo, who took the video, told the BBC two vehicles had sprayed protesters with "no prior warning", while "the crowd was peacefully protesting in front of [the police]". The BBC's Nyein Chan Aye, in Yangon, says Buddhist monks, members of the minority Muslim community, top footballers and film and music stars have all been joining the anti-coup protests, which he says are expected to become more organised in the coming days. - BBC
A caravan of US-bound Central American migrants has been met with truncheons and tear gas in Guatemala, where security forces blocked their path.
Thousands of people were intercepted on a road near the border with Honduras on Sunday (local time). The government said it would not accept “illegal mass movements”.
An estimated 7000 migrants, mostly from Honduras, have entered in recent days, fleeing poverty and violence.
They hope to travel on to Mexico, and then the US border.
Every year, tens of thousands of Central American migrants attempt this perilous journey to try and reach the US, often on foot.
President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, has vowed to end to the strict immigration policies of his predecessor, Donald Trump, a Republican.
But the Biden administration, which will take office on Wednesday, has warned migrants not to make the journey, as immigration policies will not change overnight.
Impeded by security forces
As the migrants trekked across Guatemala towards its border with Mexico, they were impeded by security forces near the south-eastern village of Vado Hondo.
A group of soldiers and police officers blockaded a road, stopping many of them from advancing. Some people still attempted to force their way through, prompting security forces to push them back.
Footage carried by local media showed troops using tear gas, riot shields and sticks to repel the migrants. Several people were injured in the melee.
Many migrants retreated, with some waiting nearby to make a new attempt later. Others fled into nearby mountains.
“Fortunately, our security forces managed to contain this pitched battle,” Guillermo Díaz, head of Guatemala’s migration agency, told the New York Times. “We managed to calm everything in a very complicated situation.”
A statement from the Guatemalan president’s office said: “Guatemala’s message is loud and clear: These types of illegal mass movements will not be accepted, that’s why we are working together with the neighbouring nations to address this as a regional issue.”
Escaping social oppression
The migrants say persecution, violence and poverty are a daily reality in their home countries. Conditions have been made worse by the devastation wrought by two huge hurricanes that battered Central America last November.
So, in search of a better life, they want to reach the US in the hope of finding work and safety.
Dania Hinestrosa, a 23-year-old travelling with her daughter, told AFP news agency: “We have no work, nor food, so I decided to go to the United States.”
The promise of new immigration policies under Biden’s administration is also thought to have spurred some migrants to make an attempt to reach the US border.
What is the incoming US administration saying?
Members of Biden’s team have warned Central American migrants not to make dangerous journeys to the border.
Speaking to NBC News, an unnamed senior Biden administration official said migrants attempting to claim asylum in the US “need to understand they’re not going to be able to come into the United States immediately”.
The Biden administration will prioritise undocumented immigrants already living in the US, not those heading to the country now, the official said.
“Processing capacity at the border is not like a light that you can just switch on and off,” Susan Rice, one of Biden’s policy advisers, told the Spanish language news agency Efe in December.
“Migrants and asylum seekers should absolutely not believe those in the region selling the idea that the border will suddenly be fully open to process everyone on day one. It will not.”
Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection, last week urged would-be migrants at the southern border not to “waste your time and money”.
The US commitment to the “rule of law and public health” is not affected by the change in administration, he said in a statement.
More than a dozen caravans, some with thousands of migrants, have set off from Central America in recent years. One of the largest came from Honduras in October 2018, provoking President Trump to brand it “an invasion”.
But all have run up against resistance under Trump, who put pressure on Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to crack down on illegal north-bound migration.