Crackdown Intensifies as Anti-Coup Protesters Defy Assembly Ban in Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 9 February 2021

YANGON—After days of passively monitoring the growing anti-coup protests, Myanmar police began to crack down on the demonstrations on Tuesday after hundreds of thousands of people defied the military regime’s ban on public gatherings.

Since Saturday, people have staged peaceful protests against the military’s toppling of their democratically elected government and the arrests of President U Win Myint and the country’s de facto leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The regime imposed a ban on gatherings of more than four people in 10 regions and states including Yangon on Tuesday morning, as the rallies were gaining momentum.

However, tens of thousands of people ignored the order and thronged the streets across the country.

With the announcement of the ban on Tuesday, military troops dressed in camouflage were deployed in Yangon for the first time since the protests broke out, intensifying fears of a major crackdown.

While there were some isolated reports of police acting against demonstrators in recent days, riot police in many areas largely refrained from violence through Monday.

However, in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw on Tuesday, they opened fire on protesters, injuring at least six people. A 20-year-old woman who was shot in the head is now in critical condition.

At least two protesters were injured in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, as the police knocked them down with water cannons and fired teargas and rubber bullets into the crowd. Around 40 people were reportedly arrested. The military TV channel Myawaddy announced on Tuesday night that four police officers were injured and some police vehicles were damaged in Mandalay due to “violent attacks by destructive demonstrators.” There was no mention of the Naypyitaw crackdown, though.

Protesters in Bago were also dispersed by water cannons.

In Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, downtown thoroughfares and the busy Hledan junction near Yangon University were swamped with protesters. The situation between protesters and riot police in Hledan grew increasingly tense from the morning. At one point, charity organizations and commuters parked their cars in front of a column of anti-coup protesters to shield them from riot police who were trying to advance on the demonstrators. There was no serious attempt to crack down on demonstrators in Yangon on Tuesday, however.

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