Myanmar declares martial law in Yangon townships after deadly day
Soldiers are seen near makeshift barricades set up by protesters during a crackdown on demonstrations against the military coup in Hlaing Tharyar township in Yangon on March 14, 2021.

Myanmar declares martial law in Yangon townships after deadly day

(Agence France-Presse) - March 15, 2021 - 7:50am

YANGON, Myanmar — Myanmar's junta late Sunday imposed martial law in two densely populated Yangon townships after at least 18 protesters were killed in one of the deadliest days since the February 1 coup.

Sunday's violence brings the number of people killed in mass protests since the military wrenched civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power to around 100, though activists and rights groups believe it could be higher.

The junta has repeatedly justified its power grab by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November's elections, which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.

State-run media announced late Sunday that Yangon's massive Hlaing Tharyar township and the neighbouring Shwepyitha township will be placed under martial law.

The vast and impoverished townships are known as factory hubs and home to garment factories.

The junta "gives administrative and judicial martial law power to the Yangon regional commander... to perform security, maintain the rule of law and tranquility more effectively," said an announcer on state-run TV.

Soldiers and police have in recent weeks been staging near-daily crackdowns against demonstrators calling for a return to democracy, using tear gas and firing rubber bullets and live rounds to quell anti-coup protests.

In Hlaing Tharyar township police and soldiers clashed violently, with protesters wielding sticks and knives and rushing for protection behind makeshift barricades.

Protesters using cut-out trash cans as shields managed to rescue some demonstrators wounded when the security forces opened fire, but a doctor said not all could be reached.

"I can confirm 15 have died," the doctor told AFP, adding that she had treated about 50 people and expects the death toll to climb. 

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group — which verifies arrests and fatalities since the coup — gave a higher death toll. 

Residents hiding at home heard gunshots continuously throughout the day, while military trucks were seen driving through the smoky streets.

The United Nations' envoy for Myanmar strongly condemned the bloodshed, stating that the international community, "including regional actors, must come together in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations."

Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said in the statement that she had heard "heartbreaking accounts of killings, mistreatment of demonstrators and torture of prisoners" from contacts in Myanmar.

The ongoing brutality "severely undermines any prospects for peace and stability" in the country, she said.

Former colonial power Britain said it was "appalled" by the use of force "against innocent people."

A statement signed by British ambassador Dan Chugg called for an "immediate cessation" of violence and for the regime to return power to the elected civilian officials.

'I will fight until the end'

Hours before violence erupted in Hlaing Tharyar a police officer posted a TikTok video saying in a voiceover that security forces would be bringing heavy weaponry into the township. 

"I will not have mercy on Hlaing Tharyar and they will fight back seriously too because there are all kinds of characters there," said the officer under the account @aungthuraphyo40.

"We should not have mercy on them."

The video, which was seen and verified by AFP fact checkers, was removed hours later.

State-run media said that five factories in the garment-producing township had been razed.

Among the burned buildings were Chinese-owned factories, Beijing's embassy in Myanmar said. It condemned actions of the "destroyers" in a statement posted on their official Facebook account.

The embassy "quickly urged local police to guarantee the security of Chinese businesses and personnel," it said.

The evening news in Yangon confirmed a death in Tamwe township, saying that security forces opened fire when hundreds of protesters tried to torch a police station.

Elsewhere a man was shot dead in northern Hpakant city, and a woman was killed from a headshot in Mandalay.

Despite the bloodshed anti-coup movement members remain defiant.

"I've seen the fallen heroes give their lives," said 21-year-old Ma Khine Lay, admitting she was afraid even as she rebuilt barricades out of bricks and bamboo poles in a Yangon township.

"I will fight until the end."

'The darkest moment of the nation'

A group of elected MPs, many of whom are in hiding, have formed a shadow "parliament" called the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) — the Burmese word for the country's governing bloc.

They issued a statement saying protesters had the "full right to defend themselves" under the country's penal code against security forces. 

Their acting vice president on Saturday called for the people to continue protesting against the "unjust dictatorship". 

"This is the darkest moment of the nation and the light before the dawn is close," said Mahn Win Khaing Than, a high-ranking NLD politician reportedly under house arrest, in a video posted on the CRPH's Facebook page.

His Saturday address echoed the anti-coup movement's calls for a "federal democracy" -- which would allow ethnic minority groups to have a role in Myanmar's governance. 

"The uprising must win," he said. 

The junta has said the CRPH's formation is akin to "high treason" which carries a maximum sentence of 22 years in jail. 

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 11, 2021 - 1:22pm

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

May 11, 2021 - 1:22pm

Three Myanmar journalists have been arrested in Thailand after fleeing across the border to escape a crackdown by the military junta, their employer has said.

The trio were set to appear in court on Tuesday, their editor added, urging Thai authorities not to repatriate them to the coup-hit country.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, triggering a mass uprising as large swathes of the population take to the streets to demand democracy. —  AFP

May 10, 2021 - 11:46am

One hundred days after the military seized power in Myanmar, the nun who pleaded for protesters on her knees in the street says the coup has cast a pall of fear and depression over the country.

The image of Sister Ann Rose Nu Tawng kneeling in the dust, arms spread, begging police not to shoot "the children" went viral in March as an uprising swelled in Myanmar.

Today, the 45-year-old nun works in a clinic in Myanmar's northernmost Kachin state, tending to patients injured by security forces, sickened from stress, and even those who try to kill themselves.

"With the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and brutal actions of the military, there are more people who feel depressed and want to commit suicide," she told AFP.

"People are living in fear and they feel hopeless." 

On Tuesday, 100 days will have passed since the generals made their lightning power grab in the early morning of February 1, ousting and detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. — AFP

May 4, 2021 - 6:17pm

The Myanmar junta has charged a Japanese journalist under a "fake news" law, a report said Tuesday, in the latest blow to press freedom since the military seized power.

Freelance reporter Yuki Kitazumi was arrested last month and charged on Monday — World Press Freedom Day — with spreading fake news, according to a report by Kyodo news agency.

He is one of 50 journalists currently held in Myanmar as part of the junta's crackdown on widespread protests against its February 1 coup.

The country has been in turmoil since civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi's government was ousted, with more than 750 people killed as security forces struggle to quash near-daily demonstrations against their rule. — AFP

April 28, 2021 - 8:25pm

Myanmar's military launched air assaults for the second day in a row into rebel-held territory after gunfire was heard from neighboring Thailand, a Thai official said Wednesday, as fighting escalates along the border.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the junta ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a February 1 coup, its power grab angering much of its population.

The anti-junta movement has also garnered some support from some ethnic rebel groups, which controls territory along Myanmar's border regions.

The Karen National Union (KNU), one of the most prominent, has been among the junta's most vocal opponents — blasting the junta for violence against anti-coup protesters. 

Clashes with the military in KNU's territory along the eastern border have increased since Feb 1, with the junta deploying air assaults last month -- the first instance in Karen state in over 20 years. — AFP

April 26, 2021 - 5:28pm

Myanmar's junta again postponed court proceedings against deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday her lawyers said, as they fight for permission to visit her 12 weeks after she was detained.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted the Nobel laureate in a February 1 coup, shunting the country back into junta rule after a brief experiment with democracy. 

Large swathes of the population have taken to the streets in protest, with security forces unleashing a brutal campaign to quell the massive uprising. 

Meanwhile Suu Kyi has been under house arrest, with the junta charging her under six cases — including for sedition and having unlicensed walkie-talkies. 

But movement on her case was once again delayed until May 10, her lawyer Min Min Soe said Monday after a hearing. — AFP

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