Myanmar protesters 'barricaded' in by security forces: UN

Agence France-Presse
Myanmar protesters 'barricaded' in by security forces: UN
Protesters hold homemade shields during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on March 8, 2021.

YANGON, Myanmar — Hundreds of peaceful anti-coup protesters were "barricaded" by Myanmar security forces in apartment buildings in Yangon on Monday, the UN secretary-general said, calling for their release "without violence or arrests".

The Southeast Asian country has been in turmoil since a February 1 coup ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and triggered mass protests against the new military junta.

The police and military have responded with an increasingly brutal crackdown on demonstrators, with more than 50 people killed and nearly 1,800 arrested.

As demonstrators across the country sought to paralyse the economy with strike action following a weekend of night raids and arrests, security forces blocked around 200 protesters "from leaving a four-street area" in Sanchaung township in the country's largest city Yangon, according to the UN rights office. 

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was following the developments "very closely", particularly in the township "where hundreds of peaceful protesters have been barricaded inside residential apartment complexes for hours", his spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.

Sharp loud bangs could be heard coming from the area, according to an AFP reporter, although it was not immediately clear if the sounds were caused by gunfire or stun grenades.

Repeated screaming was audible in a live Facebook stream.

"I just escaped from Sanchaung," wrote Maung Saungkha, an activist, on Twitter.

"Almost 200 young protesters are still blocked by the police and soldiers there. Local and international community needs to help them now!"

Around 10:00 pm, "police began shooting and making arrests", UN rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell said, although she said it was "unclear if they were arresting trapped protesters or newly-arrived demonstrators". 

The UN and embassies in Yangon — including those of the United States and former colonial power Britain — urged security forces to free the demonstrators.

Guterres called for "maximum restraint" and "the safe release of all without violence or arrests", Dujarric told reporters, adding that "many of those trapped are women who were peacefully marching in commemoration of International Women’s Day".

The statement came after three protesters were shot dead on Monday.

In the northern city of Myitkyina, security forces used tear gas and opened fire during street clashes with stone-throwing protesters.

There was grisly footage of bleeding bodies lying on beds as health workers frantically tried to resuscitate them.

One man was also seen lying face down, with part of his skull blown out.

"Two men were shot dead on the spot, meanwhile three others including a woman were shot in the arm," a medic told AFP.

A third protester was shot dead in the town of Pyapon in the Irrawaddy Delta region, an eyewitness and a rescue official told AFP.

General strike call

It was also a dark day for independent media in the country, as security forces raided the office of Myanmar Now in Yangon.

The outlet later had its publishing licence revoked, as did independent media Mizzima, DVB, Khit Thit and 7 Day, following an information ministry order, state broadcaster MRTV said.

That followed the closure of banks, stores, shopping malls and some clothing factories Monday after an appeal by trade unions for a general strike to bring the economy to a standstill.

"To continue economic and business activities as usual... will only benefit the military as they repress the energy of the Myanmar people," 18 unions said in a statement.

"The time to take action in defence of our democracy is now."

Unions are seeking to ramp up an ongoing "Civil Disobedience Movement" — a campaign urging civil servants to boycott working under military rule — which has already hit state machinery hard.

The impact has been felt at every level of the national infrastructure, with hospital disruptions, empty ministry offices, and banks unable to operate.

The junta has warned that civil servants "will be fired" with immediate effect Monday if they continue to strike.

International pleas

The coup and subsequent crackdown have drawn widespread international condemnation as well as sanctions against key military personnel.

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne said her country was suspending its defence cooperation programme with Myanmar, which included English language training.

Canberra is reviewing its aid programme so money is channelled away from government agencies towards not-for-profit organisations.

The military, which denies responsibility for loss of life in the protests, has defended seizing power by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November's elections, which Suu Kyi's party had won in a landslide.



As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 20, 2022 - 4:51pm

Follow this thread for updates on the situation in Myanmar, where a coup may be happening after de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other officials have reportedly been detained by the military.

Photo: Military officers wearing facemasks who serve as members of Myanmar's parliament leave after a session at the Assembly of the Union (Pyidaungsu Hluttaw) in Naypyidaw on March 10, 2020. AFP/Ye Aung Thu

September 20, 2022 - 4:51pm

Anti-coup fighters in Myanmar patrol the smouldering ruins of a burned village after what they say was a reprisal attack by junta troops struggling to crush resistance to last year's military coup.

Corrugated roofs, support beams and cooking utensils are all that remain amid the ash in the village in northwestern Sagaing -- an area which has seen some of the fiercest fighting against the military's power grab.

Rare footage obtained by AFP shows a region wracked by violence, and criss-crossed by junta troops, pro-military militias and anti-coup fighters, where internet access is regularly cut by authorities.

Win Soe says junta troops brought destruction to his village of Tharyarkone, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of Myanmar's second city Mandalay, late last month.

"Soldiers came to our village on their way back to their camp," he says. 

"There had been no fighting here and they just came to destroy things -- they torched 60 houses in our village," Win Soe says. — AFP 

September 3, 2022 - 12:23pm

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken denounces a new three-year sentence imposed on Myanmar's ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and urges further pressure on the country's junta.

"We strongly condemn the Burma military regime's unjust sentencing of Aung San Suu Kyi to three more years of prison, including hard labor," Blinken says, using Myanmar's former name.

"We must work together to hold the regime accountable for its escalating violence and repression of democratically elected leaders in Burma." — AFP

September 2, 2022 - 3:21pm

A source says a Myanmar junta court sentenced ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to three years in jail on Friday for electoral fraud over 2020 polls which her party won in a landslide.

Suu Kyi was "sentenced to three years' imprisonment with hard labour", a source with knowledge of the case says, adding that the Nobel laureate, 77, appeared to be in good health.

Detained since a putsch last year, Suu Kyi has already been convicted of corruption and a clutch of other charges by a closed junta court and sentenced to 17 years in prison. — AFP

August 25, 2022 - 3:24pm

Myanmar authorities have detained the United Kingdom's former ambassador to the country, a diplomatic source says 

Vicky Bowman, who served as envoy from 2002 to 2006 was arrested on Wednesday in the commercial hub Yangon, the source says, requesting anonymity.

Prior to serving as ambassador, Bowman was also the second secretary in the UK's embassy from 1990 to 1993. 

"We are concerned by the arrest of a British woman in Myanmar," a UK embassy spokesperson tells AFP. — AFP

August 20, 2022 - 10:31am

Myanmar's military chief says the junta is open to negotiations with ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end the crisis sparked by its coup after her trials in a junta-run court have concluded.

Suu Kyi, 77, has been detained since the generals toppled her government in a coup on February 1 last year and plunged the Southeast Asian nation into chaos.

She has been jailed for 17 years for a clutch of charges and faces decades more in prison if convicted on a raft of other charges she is battling in a closed junta court. — AFP 

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