Myanmar Protesters Brave Shootings And Beatings as Police Raid Homes Hunting For Coup Opponents

2021-03-18
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Myanmar Protesters Brave Shootings And Beatings as Police Raid Homes Hunting For Coup Opponents A Myanmar soldier aims a semi-automatic rifle at anti-junta protesters in hiding in Tamwe township, Yangon region, March 17, 2021.
Photo courtesy of a citizen journalist

Anti-military protesters returned to the streets across Myanmar on Thursday, braving shootings and beatings, while residents living under martial law in the commercial center Yangon endured raids on homes amid police searches for demonstrators and random shootings in urban and residential areas.

An RFA tally has counted 182 deaths due to police and military violence since the army deposed Aung San Suu Kyi and her freshly elected civilian government on Feb. 1, claiming electoral fraud.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a watchdog group, said that as of Wednesday, 2,258 people had been arrested, charged, or sentenced in relation to the military coup, with 1,938 still being held or with outstanding warrants. The AAPP put the death toll at 224 people.

In Yangon’s South Okkalapa township, police knocked on the doors of houses along Yadanar Road, forcing owners to clear makeshift street barricades and remove photos pasted on the road, residents said.

Police arrested at least 17 protesters, and security forces raided a Hindu temple, in Yangon’s Tamwe township, according to a Twitter account dedicated to the Spring Revolution as the anti-coup movement is being called.

A 13 year-old-girl was hit by gunfire there in the afternoon when police and soldiers fired into the streets to disperse groups of young protesters, witnesses said. A video posted on social media by a citizen journalist showed at least a half a dozen policemen hitting and kicking a man they had arrested on a street of Kyaukmyaung ward, as several gunshots could be heard in the background.

Yangon’s Hlaingthaya township remained tense Thursday, the fifth day of martial law in that factory zone and five other outlying townships imposed after the looting, vandalizing, and burning of dozens of Chinese-funded textile enterprises.

With a population of more than 700,000 people, many of whom are migrant workers from other parts of Myanmar, Hlaingthaya is the most populous township in the country. Aid workers reported shortages of drinking water and food, with limited transportation clogged with migrant workers trying to flee.

Six more people died by gunfire in Hlaingthaya on Wednesday when security forces intervened in a brawl over wages between a Chinese employer and his factory workers.

Many young people nevertheless continued their peaceful anti-junta rallies in Dawbon, Thaketa, Tamwe, and Hlaing townships of Yangon.

myanmar-flower-pot-protests-yangon-mar18-2021.jpg
Two young Myanmar men stand behind a sidewalk flower pot to watch soldiers and police remove barricades set up by anti-junta protesters and residents to secure a neighborhood from security forces in Yangon, March 18, 2021. Credit: Associated Press

Wounded forestry official dies

Police in Magway, about 500 kilometers (325 miles) north of Yangon on the banks of the Irrawaddy River, fired rubber bullets and injured several people, as bikers marched in a show of opposition to the junta.

In the central city of Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, several dozens of people protested by riding around on motorbikes but avoiding streets where police and soldiers had set up roadblocks.

“We are not stopping our protests,” said one young man who did not give his name. “During the previous weeks when they [security forces] knew in advance where and when we were going to gather, they blocked or occupied the sites, so now we aren’t giving away our information publicly.”

With police and soldiers firing live bullets during crackdowns, demonstrators now are keeping in constant contact with each other via mobile phones and arming themselves with as much protective gear as possible, he said.

In other parts of Myanmar, including towns in Sagaing region and in Kachin, Chin, and Mon states, people braved beatings and worse to return to the streets again on Thursday.

A junior official from the Forest Department of Sagaing’s Yinmabin township died of head injuries he sustained during a beating by police and soldiers amid a crackdown on protesters in Ahlon on March 15, locals said. He died Thursday while being transported to Mandalay General Hospital after failing to get immediate treatment when blood clots formed in his head, they said.

The junior official is among 11 people who have died in Monywa, the largest city in Sagaing region, since the protests began, as well as the first to die among government employees participating in the civil disobedience movement there.

In western Chin state, residents of Hakha staged cat-and-mouse-style protests to avoid confrontations with the security forces, while in Mindat, hundreds of residents held a sit-in instead of marching through town.

“Our fathers and grandfathers lived under military rule for many years, so we have learned how dreadful it was to live like that and how it affected the country in so many ways,” said one of the protesters.

In Momauk, Kachin state, residents held a rally to support the local ethnic armed group — the Kachin Independence Army — and its political wing following reports of clashes between rebel forces and Myanmar soldiers over the past few days.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service and Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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