Riot police arrested anti-coup protesters in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 27, 2021.
Hkun Lat | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Police launched their largest raid on cities and towns across Myanmar on Saturday in three-week protests against military rule. One woman was shot and wounded and dozens of people were arrested.
Three domestic media outlets previously reported that the woman shot dead in downtown Monwya had died, but an ambulance official said she was in the hospital. The circumstances of the shooting were not clear and the police were not available to comment.
The violence came after Myanmar’s US envoy, who said he was speaking on behalf of the overthrown civilian government, called on the United Nations to use “whatever means” to reverse the February 1 coup.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army took power and arrested elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of their party leadership. She claimed to have committed fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.
The coup, which stalled Myanmar’s progress towards democracy, brought hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to the streets and condemned Western countries with some limited sanctions.
Police were in place in cities from early Saturday to fight the protests.
In the capital, Yangon, police took positions at usual protest locations and detained people while they gathered, witnesses said. Several journalists have been arrested, their media organizations and colleagues said.
Confrontations developed when more people came out despite the police operation.
Anti-coup protesters hold makeshift shields before police crack down on them in Yangon, Myanmar, on February 27, 2021.
Hkun Lat | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Crowds sang and sang and then scattered in back streets and buildings as police advanced, firing tear gas, firing tranquilizers and shooting rifles in the air, witnesses said.
“People are protesting peacefully, but they are threatening us with weapons,” youth activist Shar Yamone told Reuters.
“We are fighting to end this military bullying that has lasted for generations.”
Some protesters threw barricades across streets. The crowd eventually thinned, but Yangon police were still tracking groups and firing into the air in the late afternoon, witnesses said. The police arrested numerous people during the day and clubbed some of them.
Similar scenes took place in the second city of Mandalay and other cities, witnesses and media said. One of the prisoners in Mandalay was Win Mya Mya, one of two Muslim MPs from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD).
Aye Aye Tint, a protester in downtown Monwya, said police fired water cannons as they surrounded a crowd.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing said the authorities used minimal force. Even so, at least three demonstrators died during the turbulent days. The army says a police officer was killed in previous violence.
Uncertainty about Suu Kyi’s whereabouts increased when an independent media website quoted her party officials on Friday that she had been moved from house arrest to an undisclosed location this week.
Riot police meet protesters who take part in a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on February 27, 2021.
YE AUNG THU | AFP | Getty Images
Activists called for another day of protest on Sunday.
At the United States General Assembly Friday, Myanmar Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said he was speaking on behalf of the Suu Kyi government and calling for help.
“We need the strongest possible measures from the international community to end the military coup immediately,” he said.
Reuters was unable to immediately contact the army for comment.
United States Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed by the ambassador’s “act of courage,” adding on Twitter, “It is time for the world to take action on this bold call.”
China’s envoy did not criticize the coup, saying the situation was an internal Myanmar matter. China supports the diplomatic efforts of Southeast Asian countries to find a solution.
Myanmar’s generals have traditionally shaken off diplomatic pressure. Australian Woodside Petroleum Ltd said it had reduced its presence in Myanmar over concerns over rights violations and violence.
Suu Kyi, 75, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during the military rule. She is accused of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and violating a natural disaster law by violating coronavirus protocols.
An attorney for her, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters that he had also heard that she was moved from her home in the capital, Naypyitaw, but could not confirm it. The authorities did not respond to a request for comment.
The attorney said he was not given access to Suu Kyi prior to her next hearing on Monday and was concerned about her access to justice and legal assistance.