Burmese protesters return to streets despite police brutality – WPRI.com


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YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Large crowds protesting against Myanmar’s military takeover again defied the ban on protests on Wednesday, even after security forces stepped up the use of force against them and raided at the political party headquarters of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Witnesses estimated that tens of thousands, if not more, gathered in Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s largest cities. Gatherings were also held in the capital Naypyitaw and elsewhere.

Protesters demand that power be restored to the deposed civilian government of Suu Kyi. They are also seeking freedom for her and other members of the ruling party since the military detained them after blocking the new session of parliament on February 1.

“As Generation Z, we are voting for the first time. It is also the first time that we have protested, ”said a student who refused to give her name for fear of being harassed. “They canceled our votes, and it’s totally unfair. We don’t want that. We hope that they free our leaders and establish a real democracy.

The army says it acted because the November elections, won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, were marred by irregularities. The electoral commission had refuted the allegation.

Some protesters in Yangon have gathered at foreign embassies to urge international pressure against the coup.

A small group outside the Japanese Embassy held signs and chanted “We want democracy, we have dictators!” They sat in several children’s wading pools, three or fewer per pool, in what seemed like an ironic way of showing compliance with an emergency law that bans gatherings of more than five people.

Others marched through town chanting and waving Suu Kyi party flags.

Another group carried a fake coffin as part of a mock funeral for Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the military leader who is the country’s new ruler.

Officials in many areas risked their jobs to march with the protesters, and even some police officers have switched sides to oppose the coup. In a dramatic video filmed Wednesday in a small village in Kayah state in eastern Myanmar, a group of 42 police officers and women declared their allegiance to the deposed elected government and resisted pleas from a senior resume his duties. Local residents flocked to their side to stave off any attempts to stop them.

The head of the United Nations International Labor Organization, Guy Ryder, urged Myanmar’s military leaders “to ensure that workers and employers can exercise their rights to freedom of association in a climate of freedom and of total security, without violence or threats ”.

“I call on the military to immediately withdraw orders restricting gatherings of more than five people, end the crackdown on dissenting voices and full respect for the basic and human rights and freedoms of workers,” Ryder said. “I urge military leaders to ensure that no worker, including government officials, is detained, intimidated or harassed for participating in peaceful protests. “

The booming protests and the latest junta raid suggest there is little room for reconciliation. The army, which ruled directly for five decades after a 1962 coup, used deadly force to crush a massive 1988 uprising and a 2007 revolt led by Buddhist monks.

In Naypyitaw and Mandalay on Tuesday, police sprayed water cannons and fired warning shots in an attempt to drive away protesters. In Naypyitaw, they fired rubber bullets and apparently live ammunition, injuring a female protester, according to witnesses and images posted on social media. Reports cannot be independently confirmed.

Human Rights Watch cited a doctor at a hospital in Naypyitaw as saying the woman was in critical condition. The doctor said the woman had a projectile lodged in her head, which is believed to be a bullet that penetrated the back of her right ear and lost significant brain function. The doctor said a man was also treated with an upper body injury matching that from a live bullet.

State television channel MRTV, in one of its few reports of the protests, aired scenes on Tuesday evening showing that the protesters were responsible for the violence.

“Myanmar police should immediately end the use of excessive and deadly force,” urged the New York-based watchdog.

No major incidents were reported in connection with the large turnout at Wednesday’s demonstration in Mandalay. Social media users said 82 people arrested were released thanks to the work of local lawyers.

Students and medical staff, lawyers and Buddhist monks were part of a large cross section of locals who marched through Mandalay, but the biggest buzz on social media was generated by a contingent of muscular chested men. naked with well-defined six-packs that would have been members of a gym.

Yangon’s most photogenic walkers were a group of young women in formal dresses more suited to a wedding reception.

The military raided the national headquarters of Suu Kyi’s party Tuesday night, which before the military took power, was due to seize power for a second five-year term.

Party spokesperson Kyi Toe wrote on Facebook that the military broke into Yangon headquarters and another office and took away documents and computer equipment. The headquarters were closed on Wednesday.

US President Joe Biden ordered new sanctions on Wednesday, saying he was issuing an executive order that would prevent Burmese generals from accessing $ 1 billion in assets in the United States. Biden added that more measures are to come.

“The army must give up the power it has taken and show respect for the will of the Burmese people,” he said.

The day before, the United States had “strongly” condemned the violence against the demonstrators.

“We reiterate our calls for the military to relinquish power, reestablish a democratically elected government, release those detained, lift all restrictions on telecommunications and refrain from violence,” the spokesperson said. of the State Department, Ned Price.

New Zealand has suspended all high-level military and political contacts with Myanmar, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said in Wellington, adding that no New Zealand aid should go to or benefit Myanmar’s military government.

The UN Human Rights Council, the body of 47 member states based in Geneva, is due to hold a special session on Friday to consider “the human rights implications of the crisis in Myanmar.”

Britain and the European Union have spearheaded the session request, which will constitute a high-level public debate among diplomats on the situation in Myanmar and could lead to a resolution expressing concerns about the situation or recommending international action.

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