| 5°C Belfast

Myanmar security forces crack down on anti-coup protesters

They are seeking to quell demonstrations calling for the military junta that seized power earlier this month to reinstate the elected government.

Close

A policeman aims a catapult towards an unknown target during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters holding a rally in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank in Mandalay (AP)

A policeman aims a catapult towards an unknown target during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters holding a rally in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank in Mandalay (AP)

A policeman aims a catapult towards an unknown target during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters holding a rally in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank in Mandalay (AP)

Security forces in Myanmar have intensified their crackdown against anti-coup protesters.

They are seeking to quell the large-scale demonstrations calling for the military junta that seized power earlier this month to reinstate the elected government.

More than 1,000 protesters were rallying in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, when at least 10 trucks full of soldiers and police arrived.

They started firing catapults towards the protesters before they even got out of the trucks, according to a photographer who witnessed the events.

Close

A soldier holds a long firearm during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters holding a rally in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank in Mandalay (AP)

A soldier holds a long firearm during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters holding a rally in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank in Mandalay (AP)

AP/PA Images

A soldier holds a long firearm during a crackdown on anti-coup protesters holding a rally in front of the Myanmar Economic Bank in Mandalay (AP)

The soldiers and police then attacked the protesters with sticks and catapults, and police could be seen aiming long guns into the air amid sounds that resembled gunfire.

Local media reported that rubber bullets were also fired into the crowd, and that a few people were injured.

Police were also seen pointing guns towards the protesters.

In the capital, Naypyitaw, protesters gathered outside a police station demanding the release of a group of high school students who were detained while joining in anti-coup activities.

One student who managed to escape told reporters that the pupils – thought to range in age from 13 to 16 – were demonstrating peacefully when a line of riot police suddenly arrived and began arresting them.

It was not clear exactly how many students were rounded up, but estimates put the figure at between 20 and 40.

Earlier on Monday, Myanmar’s military leaders extended their detention of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose remand was set to expire and whose freedom is a key demand of the crowds of people continuing to protest against the February 1 coup.

Close

Engineers hold posters with an image of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they hold an anti-coup protest march in Mandalay (AP)

Engineers hold posters with an image of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they hold an anti-coup protest march in Mandalay (AP)

AP/PA Images

Engineers hold posters with an image of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi as they hold an anti-coup protest march in Mandalay (AP)

Ms Suu Kyi will now be remanded until February 17, when she is likely to appear in court by video conference, according to Khin Maung Zaw, a lawyer asked by Ms Suu Kyi’s party to represent her.

The Nobel laureate remains under house arrest on a minor charge of possessing unregistered imported walkie-talkies.

Ms Suu Kyi’s extended detention is likely to further inflame tensions between the military and the protesters who have taken to the streets of cities across the South East Asian nation seeking the return of the government they elected.

Protesters continued to gather across Myanmar on Monday, following a night in which authorities cut the country’s internet access and increased the security presence in major cities seeking to curtail demonstrations.

Thousands of engineers marched on the streets of Mandalay chanting and holding signs that read: “Free our leader,” “Who stands with justice?” and “Stop arresting people illegally at midnight.”

In Yangon, the country’s most populous city, fewer protesters gathered on Monday due to the loss of the internet and reports of military vehicles on the streets.

Close

Soldiers cross the road near the headquarters of the National League for Democracy party in Yangon (AP)

Soldiers cross the road near the headquarters of the National League for Democracy party in Yangon (AP)

AP/PA Images

Soldiers cross the road near the headquarters of the National League for Democracy party in Yangon (AP)

Nevertheless, more than 1,000 anti-coup demonstrators were outside the Central Bank of Myanmar building, where there were also military trucks full of soldiers, riot police, water cannon trucks and armoured personnel carriers.

Demonstrators carried placards that read “#SupportCDM #SaveMyanmar.”

CDM refers to the civil disobedience movement that has seen doctors, engineers and others in Myanmar refuse to work until the military releases elected political leaders and returns the country to civilian rule.

Some protesters posed for photographs in front of military vehicles while holding red signs that read “Join in CDM.”

When the military seized power, it detained Ms Suu Kyi and members of her government and prevented recently elected legislators from opening a new session of parliament.

Close

Protesters and soldiers outside the Central Bank of Myanmar building in Yangon (AP)

Protesters and soldiers outside the Central Bank of Myanmar building in Yangon (AP)

AP/PA Images

Protesters and soldiers outside the Central Bank of Myanmar building in Yangon (AP)

The junta, led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, said it stepped in because the government failed to properly investigate allegations of fraud in last year’s election, which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.

The state election commission rejected that contention, saying there is no evidence to support it.

The military justified its move by citing a clause in the 2008 constitution, implemented during military rule, that says in cases of national emergency, the government’s executive, legislative and judicial powers can be handed to the military commander-in-chief.

It is just one of many parts of the charter that ensured the military could maintain ultimate control over the country it ruled for 50 years following a 1962 coup.

The military is allowed to appoint its members to 25% of seats in parliament and it controls several key ministries involved in security and defence.

An order on Sunday that appeared to be from the Ministry of Transport and Communications told mobile phone service providers to shut down internet connections from 1am to 9am on Monday.

Close

Government employees from the Mandalay City Development Committee during an anti-coup rally in front of Mandalay railway station (AP)

Government employees from the Mandalay City Development Committee during an anti-coup rally in front of Mandalay railway station (AP)

AP/PA Images

Government employees from the Mandalay City Development Committee during an anti-coup rally in front of Mandalay railway station (AP)

It circulated widely on social media, as did a notice said to be from service provider Oredoo Myanmar containing the same details.

On Sunday, ambassadors from the United States and Canada and 12 European nations called on Myanmar’s security forces to refrain from violence against those “protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government”.

They condemned the arrests of political leaders and activists as well as the military’s interference with communications.

“We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity,” they said in a joint statement issued late on Sunday night.

“The world is watching.”

PA


Privacy