Police in Myanmar crack down on protesters as envoy urges UN to stop coup
YANGON (MYANMAR) – In a bid to prevent protesters gathering across Myanmar, police acted decisively on Saturday. This came after the nation’s UN envoy urged the body to use “any means necessary” to prevent a Feb. 1 coup.
The nation has been in turmoil ever since the military seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and most of her party leaders after alleging election fraud in the polls in November.
There is growing uncertainty about the whereabouts of the Nobel Peace laureate as the independent Myanmar Now website on Friday quoted officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party as saying she had been moved from her house to an undisclosed location.
The military coup led to thousands of people taking to the streets to protest against the junta.
Police were deployed early in the morning in Yangon and elsewhere where they detained people as they assembled.
In spite of police action, people kept on assembling and members of ethnic minorities took out a march in Yangon.
Crowds of protesters chanted and sang and as policemen advanced, they retreated into side streets. Cops lobbed tear gas shells, set off stun grenades and fired into the air, said witnesses.
There were similar scenes in the second largest city of Mandalay as well as in several other towns.
A protester in Monwya said police used water cannon to disperse a crowd.
“They’ve blocked all the ways out,” Aye Aye Tint said. “They used water cannon against peaceful protesters, they shouldn’t treat people like that.”
According to junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing, authorities were using minimal force to disperse protesters. However, three agitators have lost their lives so far while the army says a policeman was killed during one of the protests.
Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun told the UN General Assembly that he was speaking on behalf of the Suu Kyi government and urged them “to use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military and to provide safety and security for the people”.
“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people … and to restore the democracy,” he said.
As he read the statement on behalf of the elected leaders, Kyaw Moe Tun appeared emotional.
The final words were delivered in Burmese and he raised the three finger salute of pro-democracy protesters and said “our cause will prevail”.
Protesters hailed Kyaw Moe Tun as a hero and social media platforms were flooded with messages of thanks.
“The people will win and the power-obsessed junta will fall,” said one protest leader, Ei Thinzar Maung on Facebook.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed watching the act of courage of the envoy.
“He spoke up for the people of Myanmar and against an illegal coup. It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action,” Andrews tweeted.