Crackdown against coup protesters intensifies in Myanmar


Soldiers and police in Myanmar intensified their crackdown against anti-coup protesters on Monday, firing slingshots and attacking with sticks to disperse the crowd, resulting in some injuries.

The protests against the February 01 military coup continued for a tenth day despite the deployment of extra soldiers in some areas and an eight-hour internet blackout overnight.

In Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, at least 10 trucks full of soldiers and police arrived and started firing slingshots toward the protesters before they even got out of the trucks, according to a photographer who witnessed the events.

The soldiers and police then attacked the protesters with sticks and slingshots, and police could be seen aiming long guns into the air amid sounds that resembled gunfire.

Local media reported that rubber bullets were also fired into the crowd, and that a few people were injured.

In the capital, Naypyidaw, protesters gathered outside a police station demanding the release of a group of high school students who were detained while joining in anti-coup activities. It was not clear how many students were rounded up, but estimates put the figure at between 20 and 40.

One student who managed to escape told reporters that the pupils – thought to range in age from 13 to 16 – were demonstrating peacefully when a line of riot police suddenly arrived and began arresting them.

Earlier on Monday, Myanmar’s military leaders extended their detention of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose house arrest was set to expire and whose freedom is a key demand of the protest.

Aung San Suu Kyi will now be remanded until Feb. 17, when she will likely appear in court by videoconference, according to her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw. The Nobel laureate remains under house arrest on a minor charge of possessing unregistered imported walkie-talkies.

Local report also said that security forces surrounded the National League of Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Yangon. It is believed that 16 people, lawmakers and members, were inside the premises.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s extended detention is likely to further inflame tensions between the military and the protesters who have taken to the streets of cities across the Southeast Asian nation seeking the return of the government they elected.

Protesters continued to gather across Myanmar on Monday, following a night in which authorities cut the country’s internet access and increased the security presence in major cities seeking to curtail demonstrations.

In Yangon, the country’s most populous city, fewer protesters gathered on Monday due to the loss of the internet and reports of military vehicles on the streets.

Nevertheless, more than 1,000 anti-coup demonstrators were outside the Central Bank of Myanmar building, where there were also military trucks full of soldiers, riot police, water cannon trucks and armoured personnel carriers.

On Sunday, ambassadors from the United States and Canada and 12 European nations called on Myanmar’s security forces to refrain from violence against those “protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government”.

They condemned the arrests of political leaders and activists as well as the military’s interference with communications.

“We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity,” they said in a joint statement issued late Sunday night. “The world is watching.” (Source: CNA)