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Myanmar coup: Police raid housing for striking railway workers

AP/Mandalay
Filed on March 11, 2021
AP

Railway workers went on strike to protest last month’s military coup.

Myanmar security forces on Wednesday raided a neighbourhood in the country’s largest city that houses state railway workers who have gone on strike to protest last month’s military coup.

Police sealed off the Mingalar Taung Nyunt neighbourhood in Yangon where the Ma Hlwa Kone train station and housing for railway workers are located. Photos and video on social media showed officers blocking streets and what was said to be people escaping.

At least three arrests were reported, but couldn’t immediately be confirmed. There was no apparent resistance to the raid, and local media reported that the authorities forced at least some residents from their homes.

Later Wednesday, police fired warning shots, tear gas, stun grenades and live rounds in other areas of Yangon to disperse protesters. In North Okkalapa, press and social media reports said at least 200 people were arrested. About 400 young people who were detained in mass arrests a week ago are believed to still be behind bars.

Also, the U.N. Security Council unanimously called for a reversal of the military coup, strongly condemning the violence against peaceful protesters and calling for “utmost restraint” by the military. The call was made in a presidential statement, which is a step below a resolution but becomes part of the official record of the U.N.’s most powerful body.

Diplomats said earlier drafts of the statement were stronger but drew objections from permanent council members China and Russia as well as from Myanmar’s neighbour India, and from Vietnam, which is part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations along with Myanmar.

The raid on rail workers comes just days after several Myanmar unions, including the Myanmar Railway Worker’s Union Federation, issued a joint call for a nationwide work stoppage. They said the strike would be part of a broader effort for “the full, extended shutdown of the Myanmar economy.”

Despite the increasingly violent tactics of security forces, protests continued Wednesday in cities and towns across the country, including Yangon, Mandalay, Monywa, Dawei, Myitkyina, Myitkyina, Bago, Kalaw and Myingyan. Some were met with police force, while others were brief and violence-free.

Riot police in Dawei fired tear gas, forcing marchers to disperse and hide. There were also reports of the use of rubber bullets. No injuries have been confirmed.

A leading organiser of protests in the small southern city was arrested Wednesday morning, according to the local Dawei Watch news service.

Dawei has become a hotspot for anti-coup protests and has experienced heavy police crackdowns, with up to five deaths.

In Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, Buddhist monks joined about 1,000 demonstrators marching through the streets near their monastery. They carried a banner that read “Demonstrating Peacefully.” The march ended before security forces could confront them.

Myanmar has been roiled by protests and other acts of civil disobedience since the Feb. 1 coup that toppled elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government just as it was to start its second term. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.

Security forces have responded with mass arrests and at times lethal force. At least 60 protesters have been killed since the military takeover, according to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Authorities have also moved to shut down independent reporting, both through arrests of journalists and the closure of media outlets.

State railway workers in Yangon and across the country were among the earliest organized supporters of the protest movement and their strike began soon after the coup.

Police last month attempted to intimidate railway workers in Mandalay by roaming through their housing area one night, shouting and randomly firing guns.

The junta now in control of the country, formally called the State Administration Council, indirectly acknowledged the effectiveness of the rail strike.





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