Monday, April 19, 2021

Supporters of Myanmar military coup attack protesters in Yangon

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Supporters of Myanmar’s military, some armed with knives and clubs, others firing catapults and throwing stones, attacked opponents of the coup on Thursday, as protests against the new junta continued in the country’s largest city.

Protests against the coup and strikes have taken place daily for about three weeks, and students had planned to come out again in the commercial hub Yangon on Thursday but about 1,000 supporters of the military arrived for a rally in the city centre.

Several people were set upon and beaten by groups of men, witnesses said.

“Today’s events show who the terrorists are. They’re afraid of the people’s action for democracy,” activist Thin Zar Shun Lei Yi told Reuters. “We’ll continue our peaceful protests against dictatorship.”

Dozens of riot police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd that had gathered at an administrative office to protest the appointment of a local official by the junta.

Earlier, police blocked the gates of Yangon’s main university campus, stopping hundreds of students inside from coming out to demonstrate.

Facebook said that due to the risks evident from the “deadly violence” seen since the coup, it had banned the Myanmar military from using its Facebook and Instagram platforms.

Military chief General Min Aung Hlaing says authorities are using minimal force. Nevertheless, three protesters and one policeman have been killed in violence.

A rights group said as of Wednesday 728 people had been arrested, charged or sentenced in relation to the pro-democracy protests.

The question of a new election is at the centre of a diplomatic effort by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or Asean, of which Myanmar is a member, aimed at ending the crisis.

Indonesia has taken the lead in the attempt and its foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, met her military-appointed Myanmar counterpart, Wunna Maung Lwin, for talks in Thailand on Wednesday.

But Indonesia’s intervention has raised suspicion among coup opponents who fear it will confer legitimacy on the junta.

Retno did not mention an election in comments to reporters after her talks but emphasised “an inclusive democratic transition process”.

A Reuters report this week cited sources as saying Indonesia was proposing that ASEAN members send monitors to ensure the generals stick to their promise of fair elections, which would imply accepting the November result was void.

Protesters gathered outside the Thai embassy in Yangon on Thursday chanting “respect our vote”.

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