Friday, June 25, 2021

in-focus

Night raid on Myanmar protesters draws international alarm


Myanmar authorities cordoned off part of the commercial capital of Yangon on Monday night while searching for student protesters, drawing international condemnation as crowds defied a curfew to resist the crackdown.

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Embassies of the U.S., U.K., Canada, Germany and others sent tweets late Monday warning that security forces had surrounded a group of young people in the Sanchaung neighborhood of Yangon. People in surrounding areas swarmed the streets as videos of the situation spread on social media.

By midnight, there were no reports of deaths from the standoff, the Associated Press reported. Security forces chased crowds, fired stun grenades and harassed residents watching from their windows, it said. Myanmar has regularly shut down the internet in the early-morning hours, making it difficult to get information.

Residents said security forces used sound bombs, slingshots, tear gas shells and fired warning shots to disperse several hundred peaceful protesters in the Sanchaung area.

"They blocked all the four main roads so these protesters had nowhere to go but to run into nearby apartments and hide inside the apartments with the support of house owners," resident Zaw Moe Aung said. "They were raising their voices very peacefully, chanting to release detained leaders and immediately end the military dictatorship."

The troops, who stayed in the neighborhood late into the night, also threatened to enter home and buildings to search for the demonstrators, according to Myo Win Maung, who witnessed the scenes but eventually left after locals and people from other Yangon neighborhoods poured into the streets to protect the protesters.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy issued a statement in support of the protesters and decried the violence, saying, "We warn against such efforts which must end soonest."

"The Embassy is very concerned about reports of many young people being trapped in Sanchaung and other parts of Yangon," the German Embassy in Yangon said. "We urgently appeal to the security forces to abstain from the use of force and detentions against residents and others, and to let all peaceful protesters return to their homes immediately."

The military government of Myanmar, also known as Burma, also moved to close five local media outlets reporting on the protests. An order from the junta-appointed information minister revoked the licenses of Mizzima, DVB, 7Day News, Myanmar Now and Khit Thit Media, banning them from publishing any content.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing accused media outlets of misleading the international community, saying that security authorities used minimal force against protesters. He put the death toll at 34, about half of the figures reported by local media outlets, according to a broadcast on state-run MRTV.

The general also said the detention of Sean Turnell, an Australian economic adviser to detained former leader Aung San Suu Kyi, had revealed some state economic secrets. "We managed to detain Sean Turnell in time when he's about to leave the country," Min Aung Hlaing was quoted as saying.

Australia, which suspended defense cooperation with Myanmar after the coup, has demanded Turnell's release.

Published : March 10, 2021

By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg