Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

Trucks of militiamen stake out Myanmar capital as authorities seek to prevent protests

Trucks of militiamen stake out Myanmar capital as authorities seek to prevent protests

Pro-government militia members on trucks staked out key streets in Myanmar's largest city Wednesday as the country's military rulers sought to crush a rare wave of dissent against fuel price hikes by pro-democracy activists.
Tension was especially high at Yangon's busy Hledan Junction, where on Tuesday security officials and their civilian auxiliaries clamped down on a protest within minutes of its start, roughing up about 15 demonstrators before tossing them into waiting trucks to take them away for detention, witnesses said.
Three trucks, each carrying about 20 tough-looking young men, were parked on either side of the road Wednesday, watching for protesters in what has become a familiar scene on the city's streets over the past week. About 20 plainclothes security officials roamed nearby sidewalks, a traditional site for protests.
Rumors swept Yangon of further planned protests despite the government's strong-arm tactics, which have drawn international condemnation. Unconfirmed reports said protests were held in two other towns.
The EU on Tuesday added its voice to the chorus of criticisms, saying in a statement that it was concerned about recent arrests of leading activists and "condemns this decision to detain individuals who were exercising their right to peaceful demonstration."
The protests _ triggered by fuel price hikes _ began Aug. 19 and have continued almost daily. Government security forces clamping down on the demonstrations have been backed by allied civic groups.
Reports from Myanmar activists and media in exile said other protests took place in the central town of Meikhtila and in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in western Myanmar.
Mizzima News, an online news service operated by Myanmar exiles in India, quoted a member of the opposition National League for Democracy, Thein Lwin, as saying that about 20 party members marched peacefully in Meikhtila after attending a morning prayer session.
He said they were followed and photographed by people belonging to the pro-government Swan Arrshin and Union Solidarity and Development Association groups _ whose members are also believed to be harassing protesters in Yangon _ but allowed to march undisturbed.
Mizzima also reported that hundreds of people marched in Sittwe, where on Tuesday 200 to 300 people, including many Buddhist monks, had demonstrated. Unconfirmed reports said the military has warned a number of senior abbots around the country against letting monks participate in the demonstrations.
Prominent labor activist and former political prisoner Su Su Nway took part in Tuesday's protest at Yangon's busy Hledan intersection, but managed to escape arrest.
She said many of her colleagues were beaten up and dragged into waiting cars while she fled with a few others in a taxi.
"Peaceful protests are brutally cracked down upon and I want to tell the international community that there is no rule of law in Myanmar," she told The Associated Press.
Su Su Nway, a member of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's NLD, said she has a heart condition and is not fit to take part in street demonstrations, but with other prominent activists in jail, she thought it was her duty to take part.
Myanmar's ruling junta, which has received widespread international criticism for violating the human rights of its citizens, tolerates little public dissent. It has held Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, under house arrest for 11 years.
In 1988, public protests over rising rice prices were a prelude to a burst of major upheaval.
Those protests, which sought an end to military rule that began in 1962, were violently subdued by the army, with thousands of people estimated to have been killed around the country. The junta held general elections in 1990, but refused to honor the results when Suu Kyi's party won.
The current protests are nowhere near the scale of the 1988 events, but are the best organized in a decade, and their extension into a second week _ as well as to several upcountry towns _ represents surprisingly sustained defiance.
But most ordinary citizens are reluctant to risk taking part, and many of those protesting have been members of Suu Kyi's party.


Updated : 2021-06-23 11:11 GMT+08:00