Myanmar police arrest hundreds, shooting and wounding at least one person early on Saturday in the most extensive crackdown on demonstrators who have been in three-week nationwide protests against the military junta.
Confrontations developed as people came out despite the police operation, chanting and singing. They scattered into side streets and buildings as police advanced, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and shooting guns into the air. Police beat some people with clubs, witnesses said.
State-run MRTV television said more than 470 people had been arrested across the country. It said police had given warnings before dispersing people with stun grenades.
“People blocked the roads without reason. Among those arrested, we will scrutinize those who organise the protests and take tough action,” it said.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners rights group said it believed the number of arrests was higher, with at least 10 prison buses carrying 40 to 50 people each taken to the Insein Prison in Yangon.
Several journalists were among those detained, their media organisations and colleagues said.
“People are protesting peacefully but they’re threatening us with weapons,” youth activist Shar Yamone told Reuters.
“We’re fighting to end this military bullying which has been going on for generation after generation.”
Police confronted protesters across the country. Among those detained in the second city of Mandalay was Win Mya Mya, one of two Muslim members of parliament for Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), media said.
One woman was shot and wounded in the central town of Monwya, local media 7Day News and an emergency worker said. 7Day and two other media organisations had earlier reported that she was dead.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities have been using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have died over the days of turmoil. The army says a policeman has been killed in the unrest.
Activists called for another day of protests on Sunday.
Saturday’s violence came a day after Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun told the UN General Assembly he was speaking on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and appealed for help to end the military coup.
He urged the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to reverse the Feb 1 coup that ousted the democratically elected government of Myanmar.
MRTV television said he had been fired in accordance with civil service rules because he had “betrayed the country” and “abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador”.
However, the United Nations has not officially recognised the junta as Myanmar’s new government.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed by the ambassador’s “act of courage”, adding on Twitter “It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action”.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power on February 01 and detained Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.
The army takeover stalled Myanmar’s nascent steps toward democracy and has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions. (Source: CNA)