Senior General Min Aung Hlaing says an election will be held and power handed to winning party, in a rare national address, as anti-coup protesters hit streets nationwide.

A protester holds a placard with an image of Myanmar's military leader Min Aung Hlaing and Justice For Myanmar as fellow protesters march around Mandalay, Myanmar on February 8, 2021.
A protester holds a placard with an image of Myanmar's military leader Min Aung Hlaing and Justice For Myanmar as fellow protesters march around Mandalay, Myanmar on February 8, 2021. (AP)

Myanmar's junta leader has called on the public to prioritise facts and not feelings, and said an election would be held and power handed to the winning party, in a rare national address, as anti-coup protests took place nationwide on the third day in a row. 

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in his first address since a coup a week ago, said on Monday the junta was different to previous military governments and that the campaigning in a vote last November had not been fair.

Suitable ministers were selected, he said, adding foreign policy would remain unchanged and countries would be encouraged to invest in Myanmar.

He reiterated there were irregularities in last year's election that were ignored and said no organisation was above the law. He made no mention of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

READ MORE: Mass protests against army coup hit Myanmar for second day

Martial law imposed 

Martial law was declared in parts of Myanmar's second largest city Mandalay on Monday, after hundreds of thousands rallied across the country against the coup and the military issued a stern warning against further protests.

The orders cover seven townships in Mandalay, banning people from protesting or gathering in groups of more than five, and a curfew will run from 8 pm until 4 am (local time), the general administration department said in a statement.

A similar declaration has been made in a township in Ayeyarwaddy further south and announcements concerning other localities are expected to trickle out tonight.

"This order is applied until further notice," one Mandalay township statement said.

"Some people ... are behaving in a worrying way that can harm the safety of public and law enforcement. Such behaviours can affect stability, the safety of people, law enforcement, and peaceful existence of villages and could create riots, that's why this order bans gathering, speaking in public, protest by using vehicles, rallies," the statement said.

READ MORE: Myanmar army blocks internet as thousands protest against coup

Opposition to junta called illegal 

The junta has so far refrained from using deadly force against the demonstrations sweeping most of the country, but with pressure building riot police fired water cannon in an attempt to disperse thousands gathered in Naypyidaw.

The military last week detained Suu Kyi and dozens of other members of her National League for Democracy party, ending a decade of partial civilian rule and triggering international condemnation.

In the face of an increasingly bold wave of defiance, state broadcaster MRTV warned that opposition to the junta was unlawful and signalled a potential crackdown.

READ MORE: Myanmar military junta plans probe of last year's election won by Suu Kyi

Anti-coup protests swell

Police fired a water cannon at hundreds of protesters in Myanmar's capital who are demanding the military hand power back to elected officials, as demonstrations against last week’s coup intensified and spread to more parts of the country.

The demonstrations in Naypyitaw, ongoing for several days, are especially significant since the city, whose population includes many civil servants and their families, has no tradition of protest and has a heavy military presence.

A protest also swelled at a major downtown intersection in the country’s largest city, Yangon, with people chanting slogans, raising a three-finger salute that is a symbol of resistance and carrying placards saying, "Reject the military coup" and "Justice for Myanmar."

"Police used water cannons to clear the (road)," Naypyidaw resident Kyaw Kyaw, who had joined the protest, told AFP news agency.

A photographer also witnessed the incident, the first reported use of water cannons against protesters since rallies kicked off three days ago.

"We are joining the protest to end the military dictatorship," Kyaw Kyaw said.

Rallies over the weekend were largely peaceful, but local media reported that in the southeastern city of Myawaddy, police fired warning shots in the air to disperse a group of protesters.

'Reject Military Coup'

Thousands of anti-coup protesters marched in Myanmar's biggest city of Yangon on the third day of street demonstrations.

A group of saffron-robed monks marched in the vanguard of the protest with workers and students. They flew multicoloured Buddhist flags alongside red banners in the colour of Suu Kyi's NLD, witnesses said.

"Release Our Leaders, Respect Our Votes, Reject Military Coup," said one sign. 

Many protesters wore black. 

In Myanmar's second largest city, Mandalay, more than a thousand had also gathered by mid morning.

And hundreds were seen turning out in the capital of Naypyidaw, riding around on motorbikes and honking car horns, while major rallies were also reported in other towns.

Over the weekend tens of thousands of people massed on the streets across Myanmar in the biggest protests since the coup.

READ MORE: Myanmar military junta plans probe of last year's election won by Suu Kyi

Military coup

Myanmar's generals have justified the coup by claiming fraud in last November's elections, which the NLD won in a landslide.

The junta has proclaimed a one-year state of emergency, and promised to then hold fresh elections, without offering any precise timeframe.

The coup has triggered widespread international condemnation, although neighbouring China has declined to criticise the generals.

US President Joe Biden has been leading the calls for the generals to relinquish power.

Pope Francis on Sunday also expressed "solidarity with the people of Myanmar," urging the army to work towards "democratic coexistence."

Britain and the European Union requested on Monday that the United Nations Human Rights Council hold a special session in response to the ongoing political crisis.

The call comes came a week after Myanmar's generals conducted a coup in the country.

"The United Kingdom would like to inform all colleagues that together with the European Union, we have submitted a request for a special session on the human rights implications of the crisis in Myanmar," Julian Braithwaite, Britain's ambassador in Geneva, told a council organisational meeting.

READ MORE: UN Security Council expresses 'deep concern' after Myanmar coup

Source: TRTWorld and agencies