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Myanmar junta imposes martial law in part of Yangon


Myanmar's junta declared "full martial law" late Sunday in parts of the commercial capital Yangon after clashes led to more deaths and Chinese-owned businesses were set on fire.

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Coup leaders imposed the measure after the Chinese Embassy asked authorities to guarantee the safety of its investments and citizens. Military-run broadcaster Myawady announced that more than 2,000 protesters blocked roads over the weekend to prevent firefighters from putting out fires at several factories in industrial zones, which included Chinese businesses.

The martial law order applies to two densely populated townships in Yangon: Hlaing Thar Yar and Shwe Pyi Thar. It gave the head of the military's Yangon command power "to endure safety, the rule of law and peace more effectively."

"We urge Myanmar authorities to impose effective measures to end all acts of violence and to investigate and punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law," the Chinese Embassy said in a statement late Sunday. The Global Times, a tabloid run by the Communist Party, said in an editorial on Monday that "those who maliciously defame China and instigate attacks against Chinese factories" must be "severely punished."

The death toll continued to rise over the weekend as Myanmar authorities continue using force to quell persistent nationwide protests against the military coup of Feb. 1. At least seven people were confirmed dead Saturday, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office, bringing the total to 88 since the coup. Local media outlets reported that more than 50 protesters were killed in Yangon during crackdowns Sunday, mostly in the townships, though the figures could not be immediately corroborated.

The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, a group of international experts consisting of former UN officials, said it has "grave concerns that a major military crackdown may be imminent, with fatal consequences." The group called for "immediate international political intervention."

"So far, the international response to the attempted coup has been weak," the council said. "It is sending a dangerous message that the generals will continue to suffer no meaningful repercussions for their violent attacks on the Myanmar people."

While the U.N. Security Council has condemned the violence, countries including China and Russia have opposed stronger language and sanctions against the Myanmar military leaders. China has said it maintains good relations with all parties in Myanmar and called for dialogue to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

The junta's lead spokesman, Zaw Min Tun, reiterated on Thursday that minimal force was used to disperse protesters, even as witnesses say live bullets continued to be fired. He said security forces will continue to enter some properties to search for protest instigators in some townships, which he added was "to ensure safety and the rule of law."

In Mandalay on Saturday, demonstrators took to the streets after deadly violence earlier in the day. Tens of thousands of engineers and engineering students chanted for an end to military dictatorship and the release of detained leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi, the deposed elected leader.

"Security forces are trying to scare us from joining street protests in the coming days," said Aung Myo Nyunt, a 20-year-old student protester in Mandalay. "Their efforts will be in vain."

Myanmar's police detained 36 protesters in Mandalay on Saturday, according to state broadcaster MRTV. The television station accused Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy of instigating protests and spurring unrest. On March 3, 21 protesters were killed, while 12 died in crackdowns Thursday.

Soldiers and riot police have forced striking public servants and employees in certain sectors to return to work as the civil disobedience movement threatens a collapse in services including banking, health care, education and transportation. The junta asked all banks to reopen on Monday, and it said actions would be taken if lenders do not obey.

Published : March 15, 2021

By : Syndication Washington Post, Bloomberg