Myanmar military coup | Thousands defy Myanmar protest ban

Demonstrations demanding release of Suu Kyi enter fifth day; military moves to tighten its grip

Updated - February 10, 2021 10:28 pm IST

Published - February 10, 2021 01:21 pm IST - Yangon:

People display placards as they rally against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar.

People display placards as they rally against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Yangon, Myanmar.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Myanmar’s biggest city for a fifth consecutive day on Wednesday, defying a ban on protests as the military moved to tighten its grip on the country.

Crowds swarmed through Yangon demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, facing down police a day after officers dispersed crowds elsewhere with tear gas and rubber bullets, and ramped up their harassment of the ousted leader’s party.

The sudden escalation of force against the demonstrations sweeping the country since last week’s coup prompted a fresh chorus of international condemnation after officers fired live rounds at one rally in the capital Naypyidaw.

Two people were critically wounded in the incident — including one woman who was shot in the head. Images depicting her in the moments after she was shot were by Wednesday appearing on a huge protest banner and had been widely shared online alongside expressions of grief and fury.

“They can shoot a young woman but they can’t steal the hope and resolve of a determined people,” United Nations Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said on Wednesday.

Massive crowds returned to the streets of Yangon on Wednesday, where the day before they had faced off against a phalanx of riot police standing alongside water cannon trucks near Ms. Suu Kyi’s residence.

More detained

More politicians from Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) were detained on Tuesday, along with 30 others — including a journalist from local broadcaster DVB — at a protest in Mandalay, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group said.

Their arrests came as police fired tear gas at protesters in the city who were waving red NLD flags.

State media claimed that the crowd had used “obscene language” and thrown objects at police, injuring four officers, in its first direct mention of the protests since they began on the weekend.

“Therefore, the police members dispersed in accordance with the methods and laws,” the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported, without mentioning other police confrontations elsewhere in the country.

But elsewhere the discipline of security forces appeared to be breaking down, with four officers defecting from their lines in the eastern town of Loikaw to join the anti-coup protests, according to local media reports.

The military justified last week’s power grab by claiming widespread voter fraud in the November polls, which saw a landslide for Ms. Suu Kyi’s party.

The UN Human Rights Council has said it would hold a special session on Friday to discuss the crisis.




Crowds demonstrating against the military takeover in Myanmar again defied a ban on protests on Wednesday, even after security forces ratcheted up the use of force against them and raided the headquarters of the political party of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Fresh protests were reported in Yangon and Mandalay, the country’s two biggest cities, as well as the capital Naypyitaw and elsewhere.

The protesters are demanding that power be restored to Suu Kyi’s deposed civilian government. They’re also seeking freedom for her and other governing party members since the military detained them after blocking the new session of Parliament on February 1.

Explainer | Why did the Myanmar military stage a coup?

The military says it acted because November’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won in a landslide, were marred by irregularities. The election commission had refuted the allegation.

The growing protests and the junta’s latest raid suggest there is little room for reconciliation. The military, which held power directly for five decades after a 1962 coup, used deadly force to quash 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 to try to clear away protesters. In Naypyitaw, they shot rubber bullets and apparently live rounds, wounding a woman protester, according to witnesses and footage on social media. The reports could not be independently confirmed.

The military coup in Myanmar and its geopolitical implications | The Hindu In Focus Podcast

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

“Myanmar police should immediately end the use of excessive and lethal force” against the protesters, said the statement from the New York-based watchdog.

Video from Mandalay on Tuesday showed riot police firing into the air and flailing away with batons at non-violent demonstrators. State television network MRTV, in one of its few reports on the protests, broadcast scenes it claimed showed the protesters carrying out the violence.

Protesters have been marching in defiance of orders on Monday night banning rallies and gatherings of more than five people, as well as motorised processions, while also imposing an 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew.

The orders are issued locally so the extent of the areas covered is hard to gauge, but according to the Myanmar Times newspaper, they cover 90 townships in 30 cities, including all of Yangon and other areas.

Setback in Myanmar: on military coup

The military on Tuesday night has raided the national headquarters of Suu Kyi’s party, which before the military seized power had been slated to take power for a second five-year term.

Kyi Toe, a spokesman for the party, wrote on Facebook that the army broke into the headquarters in Yangon and another office and took away documents and computer hardware. The headquarters was shuttered on Wednesday.

The United States “strongly” condemned the violence against demonstrators. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday that Washington would review assistance to Myanmar so that those responsible for the coup face “significant consequences.” “We repeat our calls for the military to relinquish power, restore democratically elected government, release those detained, and lift all telecommunication restrictions, and to refrain from violence,” Mr. Price said.

New Zealand suspended all military and high-level political contact with Myanmar, Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced in Wellington, adding that any New Zealand aid should not go to or benefit Myanmar’s military government.

The U.N. Human Rights Council, the 47-member-state body based in Geneva, is to hold a special session on Friday to consider “the human rights implications of the crisis in Myanmar.” Britain and the European Union spearheaded the request for the session, which will amount to a high-profile public debate among diplomats over the situation in Myanmar and could lead to a resolution airing concerns about the situation or recommending international action.

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