Anti-coup protesters clash with security forces in Myanmar

Police in riot gear stormed a rally on Tuesday, removing hundreds of protesters by truck, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who were protesting last month.

Myanmar’s authorities have escalated their violence against the protests in recent days, made mass arrests and fired on the masses. The UN said it believed at least 18 people had been killed on Sunday by security forces. Foreign ministers from countries in Southeast Asia met on Tuesday to discuss the increasingly volatile crisis.

Despite counter-pressure, protesters have continued to flood the streets – and are beginning to resist attempts to spread them more strictly. Hundreds, many wearing construction helmets and wearing temporary shields, gathered in Myanmar’s largest city in Yangon, where the day before, police had fired repeated rounds of tear gas. They pulled bamboo poles and debris to form barricades, chanted slogans and sang songs along police lines. They even threw banana skins on the road in front of them in an attempt to slow down the police.

The predominantly young protesters fled in panic each time tear gas canisters were fired but soon returned to their barricades. Videos posted on social media showed similar chaotic scenes in the Insein district of northern Yangon.

Protesters also raised their flags and banners to march through the streets of Dawei, a small town in southeastern Myanmar that has seen large-scale demonstrations against the coup almost daily. A group of protesters were targeted by security forces as they entered a narrow street on the way to pay homage to the house of a man killed in Sunday’s action. Another was attacked on the main street in the city center.

Yangon and Dawei were among the cities where security forces reportedly fired live ammunition at crowds on Sunday, according to the UN Human Rights Bureau. There were reports that they also fired live rounds on Tuesday, but they could not be immediately confirmed.

Some fear that the junta’s escalating use of force is intended to provoke a violent backlash from protesters – who have largely remained non-violent – to discredit them and justify an even tougher attack. Videos from recent days show a large number of protesters trying to stand in their place and throw objects at the police.

“I urge the people of Myanmar not to fall into this trap, so that they remain peaceful,” UN special envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener said in an interview with CNN, acknowledging that it was easier for her to, safely away from violence , call for peaceful protests. She also accused the authorities of spreading rumors about the conditions of detainees to arouse even more anger in the streets.

The February 1 coup marked years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar after five decades of military rule. The day came when a newly elected parliament would take office. The dismissed leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party would have been installed for a second five-year term, but instead she was arrested along with President Win Myint and other senior officials.

The military government has accused Suu Kyi, 75, of several crimes that critics say were trumped just to keep her incarcerated and potentially prevent her from participating in the election that the military promised in a year. Her party says it does not know where Suu Kyi – who has a long history of campaigning for democracy in Myanmar – is being held.

This weekend’s crackdown drew international condemnation. In addition to the use of force, authorities also arrested more than 1,000 people over the weekend, according to the Independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The detainees included at least eight journalists, including Thein Zaw of the Associated Press.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the use of force and arbitrary arrests “unacceptable”, according to his spokesman. The United States, Britain and other governments issued similar concerns.

But the military has shown no signs of backing down.

The protesters and their supporters have appealed for help from abroad, but there are few prospects for major intervention. The results of Tuesday’s special meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which was held by video conference due to the coronavirus pandemic, were expected to be announced tonight. But the 10-national regional group’s policy of seeking consensus among its members makes it unlikely to take strong action.

The UN’s independent human rights expert in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, has suggested that countries could impose a global embargo on arms sales to Myanmar and “harsh, targeted and coordinated sanctions” against those responsible for coups, raids and other rights. abuse.

But all kinds of coordinated action at the UN would be difficult because two permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia, would almost certainly veto it. Some countries have introduced or are considering imposing their own sanctions.

(AP)