Cops crack down on protests

Coming in full force: Police charging to disperse protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon. — AFP

The country’s police moved decisively in a bid to prevent opponents of military rule gathering throughout the country after Myanmar’s UN envoy urged the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to stop the Feb 1 coup.

The South-East Asian country has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party had won in a landslide.

Uncertainty has grown over Suu Kyi’s whereabouts, as the independent Myanmar Now website on Friday quoted officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party as saying she had been moved this week from house arrest to an undisclosed location.

The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to Myanmar’s streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.

Police were out in force early in the main city of Yangon and elsewhere yesterday, deployed at usual protest sites and detaining people as they congregated, witnesses said.

Several media workers were detained.

But people still gathered, some for a march by ethnic minorities in Yangon, their numbers building through the day.

Crowds chanted and sang, then melted into side streets as police advanced, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and firing guns into the air, witnesses said.

Similar scenes played out in the second city of Mandalay, and several other towns including Dawei in the south, witnesses and media reported.

A protester in the central town of Monwya said police had fired water cannon as they surrounded a crowd.

“They’ve blocked all the ways out, ” Aye Aye Tint said from the town.

“They used water cannon against peaceful protesters, they shouldn’t treat people like that.”

Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities were using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have died.

The army says a policeman was also killed.

At the UN General Assembly, Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said he was speaking on behalf of Suu Kyi’s government and appealed to the body “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military and to provide safety and security for the people”.

“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people... and to restore the democracy, ” he told the 193-member group, receiving applause as he finished.

Kyaw Moe Tun appeared emotional as he read the statement on behalf of a group of elected politicians that he said represented the legitimate government.

Delivering his final words in Burmese, the career diplomat raised the three-finger salute of pro-democracy protesters and announced “our cause will prevail”.

Meanwhile, Asean members are arranging to hold a special foreign ministers meeting on Tuesday to discuss the political crisis in Myanmar in the wake of the coup there early this month, Asean diplomatic sources said on Friday.

It would be the first such meeting of the bloc since the coup.

Most Asean countries have expressed readiness to attend the meeting, with Myanmar’s military-appointed Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin also asked to attend, the sources said. — Agencies

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military rule , coup , Aung San Suu Kyi , protest


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