Myanmar’s security forces surround striking railway workers against military coups

Myanmar’s security forces surrounded the workers’ union of striking railway workers who opposed the military junta on Wednesday, when expelled lawmakers appointed a acting vice president to take over the duties of the detained politicians.

In New York, the UN Security Council failed to agree on a statement that would have condemned the coup in Myanmar, called for military restraint and threatened to consider “further action”.

Talks on the statement are likely to continue, diplomats said, after China, Russia, India and Vietnam all proposed changes to a British draft late Tuesday, including the removal of the reference to a coup and the threat to consider further action.

Yangon’s railway workers are part of a civil disobedience movement that has paralyzed government activities and included strikes at banks, factories and shops since the army rejected Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in a February 1 coup.

Security forces have increasingly cracked down on daily, nationwide protests, leaving the Southeast Asian nation in turmoil.

More than 60 protesters have been killed and 1,900 arrested since the coup, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a lawyer group.

Pictures posted on social media showed security forces near railway personnel. A person involved in the strike said by telephone that they feared imminent violence.

“I think they will arrest us. Please help us, ”said the person, who asked to be identified only as Ma Su rather than their full name.

In a Facebook broadcast from the area, people sang:

Are we staffed? Yes, we are united ”and a commentator claimed that the police tried to remove barricades and threatened to shoot.

Details could not be verified independently. Police and army officials did not respond to requests for comment.

In Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay, protesters staged a sit-in protest on Wednesday, chanting: “Resolution must prevail”.

On Tuesday, Zaw Myat Linn, an official from the Suu Kyi National League for Democracy (NLD), died in custody after being arrested, the second party figure to die in custody in two days.

“He has continuously taken part in the protests,” said Ba Myo Thein, a member of Parliament’s dissolved upper house. The cause of death was not clear. In a Facebook post before his arrest, Zaw Myat Linn urged people to continue fighting the army, “even if it costs our lives”.

Efforts against the media

In a symbolic gesture, a statement posted on the NLD’s Facebook page on Tuesday stated that the expelled lawmakers had appointed Mahn Win Khaing Than, the speaker of the upper house, as acting vice president to carry out the duties arrested by President Win Myint and leader Suu Kyi. Mahn Win Khaing Than was not known.

Police on Tuesday also cracked down on independent media, looting two news agencies and arresting two journalists.

At least 35 journalists have been arrested since the coup on February 1, Myanmar Now reported, 19 of whom have been released.

Some police have refused to fire on unarmed protesters and have fled to neighboring India, according to an interview with an officer and classified Indian police documents.

“As the civil disobedience movement gains momentum and protests are held by anti-coup protesters in various locations, we are instructed to fire on the protesters,” four officers said in a joint statement to police in the Indian city of Mizoram.

“In such a scenario, we do not have the courage to shoot at our own people who are peaceful protesters,” they said.

The United States is “rejected” by the Myanmar army’s continued use of lethal force against its people and continues to urge the military to exercise “maximum restraint”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday.

The army has justified the coup by saying that an election in November that the NLD won was devastated by fraud – a claim that was rejected by the election commission. It has promised a new election, but has not said when it can be held.

The junta has hired a $ 2 million Israeli-Canadian lobbyist to “help explain the real situation” for the army’s coup to the United States and other countries, according to documents submitted to the US Department of Justice.

Ari Ben-Menashe and his firm, Dickens & Madson Canada, will represent Myanmar’s military government in Washington, as well as lobby Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Israel and Russia, and international bodies such as the United Nations, according to a consultative agreement.

International powers have condemned the takeover, traced by a slow transition to democracy in a country ruled by the military for long periods since independence from Britain in 1947.

The military has abolished the condemnation of its actions, as it has done in previous periods of military rule when violent outbursts of protest have been suppressed.

(REUTERS)