Conflicts & War

Hundreds of Yangon protesters released after being trapped by security forces

Yangon, Myanmar, Mar 9 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of protesters were on Tuesday morning able to leave their hiding places in a central Yangon neighborhood that was surrounded by security forces overnight.

The protesters, many of them women who had participated in Women’s Day marches, were cornered in Sanchaung neighborhood after security forces blocked off the area Monday afternoon.

Overnight the forces repeatedly threw stun grenades and fired guns as protesters hid inside buildings and houses, waiting for the authorities to leave.

The blockade ended around 4 am (21:30 GMT Monday) but some of those trapped told Efe that they waited until sunrise to leave their hiding places for fear that the withdrawal was a trap.

At least 40 were arrested, witnesses told Efe, adding that military trucks left with those detained.

The embassies of the European Union, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada issued statements asking the military and police to allow the mostly young protesters to leave.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres demanded the authorities release the protesters and called for “maximum restraint” of the security forces.

The UN also insisted once again that the right to peaceful protest must be respected and that protesters must not suffer any form of retaliation.

Also Monday night, the military junta canceled the licenses of five independent media outlets reporting on the daily protests rejecting the Feb. 1 coup.

The licenses of Myanmar Now, 7Day News, Democratic Voice of Burma, Mizzima and Khit Thit News were revoked, according to state broadcaster MRTV, now controlled by the military.

According to the announcement, the outlets will no longer be able to continue to report, however they were continuing to publish news on social media on Tuesday despite the ban.

Soldiers and police raided Myanmar Now’s office in Yangon earlier Monday night, seizing computers, printers and parts of the newsroom’s data server, the news agency said.

“We are now at a point where continuing to do our jobs means risking being jailed or killed. What is certain is that we will not stop covering the enormous crimes the regime has been committing throughout the country,” Swe Win, Myanmar Now’s editor-in-chief, said.

The Myanmar authorities have charged at least six journalists of violating a public order law, an offense punishable by up to three years in prison, according to a lawyer of the United States news agency Associated Press, which has a photographer among those arrested.

Last week, Reporters Without Borders condemned the junta’s crackdown on journalists while the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) has reported that at least 34 journalists have been arrested since the coup.

A total of 1857 people have been arrested since Feb. 1, including 319 that have already been released, according to AAPP.

It also puts the number of people killed since the coup at over 50 but points out that the actual figure could be higher as it has not been able to verify all the information.

The UN also warned that the humanitarian situation in the country is critical, given that the coup has affected aid operations that must support more than a million people, including some 350,000 internally displaced persons.

Myanmar’s military has justified taking power on grounds of alleged electoral fraud in November’s elections, in which international observers did not detect any wrongdoing and which resulted in a landslide victory for National League for Democracy party, led by deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi. EFE-EPA


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