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Security presence stifles protests in Myanmar's biggest city

Security presence stifles protests in Myanmar's biggest city

Myanmar's military government is employing menacing gangs of civilians to snuff out a rare wave of protests by pro-democracy activists against fuel price hikes.
Demonstrations triggered by soaring prices began Aug. 19 and have continued almost daily _ although they have dwindled from a few hundred people to a few dozen _ and despite strong-arm tactics by the junta to supress them.
Tension was especially high at Hledan Junction in Myanmar's biggest city of Yangon, where security officials and their civilian auxillaries clamped down Tuesday on a protest within minutes of its start.
They pushed through crowds of onlookers to rough up about 15 demonstrators before tossing them into waiting trucks to take them away for detention, witnesses said.
On Wednesday, three trucks, each carrying about 20 tough-looking young men, were parked on either side of the road, watching for any protesters. About 20 plainclothes security officials roamed nearby sidewalks at the intersection, a traditional site for protests.
No demonstrations were known to have taken place Wednesday in Yangon, although there were reports of protests in two or three other towns. Information about them could not be independently confirmed.
Dozens of people have been detained, including several prominent pro-democracy activists many of whom are members of detained opposition leader Aung san Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy.
The EU on Tuesday said it was concerned about recent arrests of leading activists and the "decision to detain individuals who were exercising their right to peaceful demonstration."
While the protesters have shown no sign of giving up, analysts said they didn't expect the momentum to last as the general public remained afraid to join in.
"The struggle thus far is one-sided, with numbers, organization and will in the hands of the rulers," Josef Silverstein, a Myanmar expert and retired professor of Rutgers University in New Jersey, said earlier.
In 1988, public protests over rising rice prices were a prelude to a burst of major demonstrations.
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.


Updated : 2021-05-15 00:43 GMT+08:00