The junta’s crackdown continues in Burma, where three demonstrators protesting against the coup are in critical condition after being wounded Tuesday, March 2, by live ammunition, Agence France-Presse has learned ( AFP) from medical sources.
“About twenty people were injured” by security forces who had come to disperse a rally in the northwestern town of Kale, a rescue worker told AFP. “Three, hit by live ammunition, must be operated on urgently and are in critical condition”, said a doctor from the hospital where they were transported. State television MRTV reported that four policemen were injured. These new tensions come after a day of murderous repression Sunday with at least 18 demonstrators killed, according to the United Nations (UN).
Burmese police and military have stepped up the use of force in recent days in an attempt to contain the uprising against the ruling junta since its coup on 1er February, using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons, with more and more reports of live ammunition. Internet shutdowns, strengthening of the legislative arsenal, arrests, use of lethal force: the junta has continued to increase its repression since the coup d’état which overthrew the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
For fear of reprisals, demonstrators were less numerous Tuesday to take to the streets, especially in Rangoon, the economic capital. Some still erected makeshift barricades with tires, wooden panels and metal bars to protect themselves. In front of them, the security forces were deployed in numbers.
In Sanchaung, in the north of the city, their objective was clearly to “Clean up the neighborhood”, noted a resident, another reporting tear gas, rubber ammunition or stun grenades against the demonstrators.
During the demonstrations against the military coup, journalists were also targeted and several were arrested in the exercise of their profession, including a photographer of the American agency Associated Press (AP) in Yangon. A Burmese journalist was arrested at his home Monday evening, during a night operation carried out by the police against his building, his employer announced on Tuesday. Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB).
Monday evening, a journalist from DVB broadcast live on his media’s Facebook page of an apparent attack on his apartment building in the southern town of Myeik, as he cried for help. A few hours later, DVB confirmed on Twitter that his journalist Kaung Myat Hlaing had been taken from his home under duress by police and soldiers.
“If you shoot like that, how am I going to get off?” “
“We do not know where he was taken and which military authority took him”, Explain DVB in a statement released Tuesday morning, adding that Kaung Myat Hlaing’s latest reports recounted the military crackdown over the weekend in Myeik, as well as Monday’s protests. Sounds of gunfire could be heard during Kaung Myat Hlaing’s live broadcast, as he shouted for security forces outside to stop shooting:
“If you shoot like that, how am I going to get off?” “
The media demanded Tuesday that the army release Kaung Myat Hlaing, as well as other journalists detained since the putsch. “They all do their job as journalists”, he said.
DVB, one of Burma’s best-known news outlets, was started in 1992 by expatriate Burmese refugees in Thailand and Norway under the previous junta, broadcasting uncensored news on television and radio. After forty-nine years in power, the army loosened its grip in 2011 and DVB had moved its headquarters to Yangon the following year.
The techniques used by the army are similar to those used by the former junta, the director of the military told AFP. DVB, Aye Chan Naing. But “It’s totally different now: you have the Internet, you have cell phones, people are well connected in the country”, he said, reached by phone from Norway. “They may be able to quell this uprising, but it will haunt them as long as they are in power”, he said.
Journalists find it increasingly difficult to be able to work. Twenty-six have been arrested since the putsch of 1er February, according to Reporters Without Borders, ten of whom are still in detention. Others were targeted by rubber bullets, including two employees of the Chinese agency Xinhua.
1,300 people arrested
The waves of arrests continue. Thousand three hundred people were arrested on Sunday alone, according to state television channel MRTV. More than 500 prisoners were released, added the channel, without specifying whether they were common law detainees imprisoned before the putsch of 1er February or political prisoners arrested since.
There have been around thirty dead in the ranks of the demonstrators since the 1er February, according to an NGO, the Association for Aid to Political Prisoners (AAPP). The junta claims, for its part, that a police officer perished while trying to disperse a rally.
New international talks must take place. The United Kingdom has requested a new closed meeting of the UN Security Council on Burma for Friday at 4 p.m. (Paris time), AFP learned from diplomatic sources. The last meeting of the Security Council was held on February 2 and resulted two days later in the publication of a rare joint statement by the fifteen members of the UN, which expressed the Council’s concern without, however, condemning the Rebellion.
Burmese Ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun himself dramatically broke with the putschist generals last week by calling for “Put an end to the coup”. He was removed from his post by the junta. Singapore, the main investor in Burma, raised the tone, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong telling the BBC that “The use of lethal force (…) is simply not acceptable”.
The city-state’s foreign minister spoke online Tuesday with his counterparts from Asean. But the regional bloc, which has made non-interference in the internal affairs of a member state one of its golden rules, has not reached a consensus. Beijing and Moscow, traditional allies of the Burmese army, also consider this crisis to be a “Internal affair” to Burma.
The last popular uprisings of 1988 and 2007 were bloodily suppressed by the army, in power for nearly fifty years since the country’s independence in 1948. The army, which contests the result of the won November elections overwhelmingly by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy (LND), has promised to hold a new ballot. Asked, she did not respond to multiple requests from AFP to comment on the events.