‘Willing to die’: Myanmar protesters rally after overnight raids

Protesters back on the streets following overnight raids in parts of Yangon that targeted figures from the National League for Democracy.

People react after police fire tear gas during protests in Yangon [AFP]

Tens of thousands of anti-coup protesters have taken to the streets across Myanmar despite an escalating crackdown, including overnight raids in the main city of Yangon targeting activists and officials from Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (NLD).

A local campaign manager for the NLD died in custody after being arrested in Yangon on Saturday night, a legislator from the now dissolved parliament said in a Facebook post and the Irrawaddy news website reported. The cause of Khin Maung Latt’s death was not known, but Reuters news agency saw a photograph of his body with a bloodstained cloth around the head.

The protests on Sunday come as state-run media warned legislators involved in the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group claiming to be the legitimately elected government of Myanmar, that they were committing “high treason” and could be sentenced to death or 22 years jail.

The military has declared the group’s members persona non-grata and threatened those who communicate with them with seven years in jail.

Myanmar was plunged into chaos on February 1 when the military seized power in a coup, alleging fraud in a November election that returned the NLD to power and detaining much of the country’s civilian leadership hours before the country’s new parliament was set to meet for the first time.

The power grab – a decade after the end of 49 years of strict military rule – triggered an uprising that has upended daily life, with hundreds of thousands rallying in the streets and civil servants and others stopping work in protest against the army.

An alliance of influential worker unions has called for an extended nationwide strike starting on Monday, with the intention of causing the “full, extended shutdown” of the country’s economy in an attempt to stop the coup.

Security forces have cracked down on the protests, killing at least 54 people and wounding dozens more.

Police in Myanmar’s ancient former capital, Bagan, opened fire on Sunday, wounding several people, according to witness accounts and videos on social media.

At least five people were reported wounded as police sought to break up the Bagan protest, and photos showed one young man with bloody wounds on his chin and neck, believed to have been caused by a rubber bullet. Bullet casings collected at the scene indicated that live rounds were also fired.

In the town of Lashio in the northern Shan region, police on Sunday fired tear gas and stun grenades, according to a live video on Facebook.

In Yangon, police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse crowds while one video posted to Twitter by the Myanmar Now website showed soldiers and police beating and kicking three unarmed men.

Activist Maung Saungkha said rallies were being coordinated across multiple cities and areas as part of a two-day general strike.

“We are willing to die for our country,” he told AFP news agency

“This time we must fight to win. We believe that fighting together with the young generation will get us the victory.”

The biggest turnout of the day was in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay, where activists staged a sit-in protest after two minutes of silence in honour of people killed by police and the army, video showed.

‘Is no one going to help us?’

Overnight in the city, residents said soldiers and police moved into several districts, firing shots and arresting at least three in Kyauktada Township. Residents said they did not know the reason for the arrests.

“They are asking to take out my father and brother. Is no one going to help us? Don’t you even touch my father and brother. Take us too if you want to take them,” one woman screamed as two people, an actor and his son, were led off.

Soldiers also came looking for a lawyer who worked for the NLD but were unable to find him, Sithu Maung, a member of the now-dissolved parliament, said in a Facebook post.

“U Maung Maung’s brother was beaten by police and soldiers and his body was held in an upside-down position while he was tortured because there was no one to arrest,” the deposed legislator said.

More than 1,700 people have been detained by the military by Saturday, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group. It did not give a figure for overnight detentions.

“Detainees were punched and kicked with military boots, beaten with police batons and then dragged into police vehicles,” AAPP said in a statement. “Security forces entered residential areas and tried to arrest further protesters, and shot at the homes, destroying many.”

The monitoring group also said 21-year-old Ko Naing Min Ko died in Mandalay on Saturday after being shot in the leg and beaten by security forces the previous day.

People connected to the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party were also responsible for two deaths on Saturday morning in the Magway region – a 17-year-old youth and an NLD party official, according to AAPP.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies