Fresh anti-coup protests hit Myanmar after night of deadly raids

Protesters call for commemoration of 1988 popular uprising while authorities continue to target civilians resulting in more deaths on Saturday.

More than 70 people have been killed in Myanmar in widespread protests since the February 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group [Reuters]
More than 70 people have been killed in Myanmar in widespread protests since the February 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group [Reuters]

Activists called for more anti-coup protests in Myanmar on Saturday, the anniversary of the death of a student whose killing in 1988 sparked widespread protests against the government and led to the emergence of Aung San Suu Kyi as a democracy icon.

The calls came following an overnight crackdown by security forces that left at least three people dead and several injured in two Yangon townships.

In Thaketa township, two persons were confirmed dead during a pre-dawn crackdown on Saturday, while in Hlaing township, one person was shot in the head and later died, while at least three others were injured.

Several people were also reportedly detained or beaten by authorities on Friday night, following a nationwide candlelight vigil for slain protesters.

Early morning on Saturday, military and police forces also converged at the Insein Railways Compound, in what activists described on social media as a “siege”.

A video posted on social media also showed several protesters trying to help a severely injured person, who was shot in the Pyay township in Bago region on Saturday morning.

 

Another video showed alleged theft of privately owned motorcycles by security forces, who also reportedly smashed civilians vehicles in the Thukha Myaing Housing complex in Yangon.

An image that also went viral on social media and ignited anger showed an officer grabbing and beating what appeared to be a young boy in Mandalay on Friday.

8-8-88 campaign

Posters have been spreading on social media on Saturday calling on people to come out on the streets to protest against the military government and to mark the anniversary of the death of Phone Maw, who was shot and killed by security forces in 1988 inside what was then known as the Rangoon Institute of Technology campus.

His shooting and that of another student who died a few weeks later sparked widespread protests against the military government known as the 8-8-88 campaign, because they peaked in August that year. An estimated 3,000 people were killed when the army crushed the uprising.

Heeding the call, dozens of Buddhist monks and nuns at Sitagu International Buddhist University in Sagaing township of Yangon marched peacefully on Saturday morning.

Aung San Suu Kyi was caught up in the movement, and kept under house arrest for nearly two decades. She was released in 2008 as the military began democratic reforms and her National League for Democracy won elections in 2015 and again in November last year.

On February 1 this year, the generals overthrew her government and detained Aung San Suu Kyi and many of her cabinet colleagues, claiming fraud in the November elections.

More than 70 people have been killed in the Southeast Asian nation in widespread protests since then, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group said.

On Friday, a day after 12 people were killed in one of the bloodiest days since the coup, former colonial power Britain warned its citizens in Myanmar to leave, saying “political tension and unrest are widespread since the military takeover and levels of violence are rising”.

Test for Biden

The coup in Myanmar, where the military has close ties to China, is a major early test for new US President Joe Biden.

His administration flagged a virtual meeting with the Indian, Japanese and Australian leaders on Friday, the first official summit of a group known as the Quad, as part of a push to demonstrate a renewed US commitment to regional security.

“As long-standing supporters of Myanmar and its people, we emphasise the urgent need to restore democracy and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience,” the four leaders said in a statement released by the White House.

Protesters hold a candlelight vigil and shout slogans during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on Friday night [Stringer/AFP]

A spokesman for the military government did not answer phone calls from Reuters seeking comment.

UN human rights investigator Thomas Andrews on Friday dismissed as “absurd” comments by a senior Myanmar official that authorities were exercising “utmost restraint”.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, he called for a united approach to “strip away the junta’s sense of impunity”.

South Korea said on Friday it would suspend defence exchanges and reconsider development aid to Myanmar because of the violence.

The Kremlin said Russia, which has close ties to Myanmar’s military, was concerned over the mounting violence and was “analysing” whether to suspend military-technical cooperation.

“We evaluate the situation as alarming, and we are concerned about the information about the growing number of civilian casualties coming from there,” Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying.

Earlier this week, the UN Security Council dropped language from a statement that condemned the army takeover as a coup and threatened possible further action due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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