The military, which has ruled Myanmar in some form for 45 years, is facing the biggest challenge to its supremacy since 1988, when a student uprising was brutally put down by the army, killing at least 3,000 people.
State media on Tuesday were filled with warnings by the junta of a crackdown, despite international appeals to the regime to show restraint.
Deeply-respected Buddhist monks have spearheaded the protests and numbers on the streets have snowballed to at least 100,000 as the general public join in the movement.
Restrained and peaceful, the monks clad in saffron and red robes have urged people not to chant political slogans as their processions snake through the main city Yangon, but to recite prayers of peace and compassion.
"They are learning from the 1988 uprising, when there were so many different demands," said Aung Naing Oo, a Thailand-based Myanmar expert.
The question for many analysts and diplomats is whether the junta has also learnt lessons from the 1988 massacre.
"The military has a history of cracking down on the pro-democracy movement and has had no qualms about doing that in the past," Aung Naing Oo said.
Most analysts agree that the protests show little sign of fizzling out.
What began as a movement by democracy activists against a rise in the price of fuel in the middle of last month has now mushroomed to encompass monks, nuns, artists and celebrities.
The demands have crystallized too. On Sunday, the monks' placards asked for dialogue with the junta, reconciliation and freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi, the democracy icon who has spent 12 of the last 18 years under house arrest.
"[Protests] could peter out, but that's looking increasingly unlikely. You could see a sharp reaction from the government, which is more likely," said Mark Canning, the British ambassador in Yangon. "The obvious way out of this is to sit down with the various elements that are involved in all this and try and reach some sort of common ground."