Police Free 14 Detained During Violent Breakup of Anti-Coup Protest in N. Myanmar
By The Irrawaddy 19 February 2021
YANGON—Fourteen people, including two teachers, were released on Friday afternoon after being detained in the morning when security personnel cracked down on anti-coup protesters in Myitkyina, Kachin State.
The detainees were released by police at around 5:00 p.m. on Friday after the Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG), a Myitkyina-based group, mediated the case. The released protesters said they were forced to sign a paper saying they would not participate in future protests against the military regime.
Some of the peaceful demonstrators had been rounded up near the New Light Hotel by riot police and military personnel, who also shot at protesters with slingshots, and seized and destroyed their placards.
Since Feb. 8, thousands of residents of Myitkyina and its adjacent township, Waingmaw, have joined mass rallies against the military, which seized power from the country’s democratically elected leaders on Feb. 1. Locals have marched around the town and staged sit-in protests to show their opposition to the military regime and to demand democracy.
On Friday, protesters were planning to demonstrate from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Security forces put up barricades around the town including in front of a university, an education college, a hospital and historic Manau Park.
At around 8:30 a.m. on Friday, police and soldiers beat teachers who were preparing to take part in the protest and arrested two teachers from Myitkyina Education Degree College.
“There were about 30-40 people at that time. The security forces arrived and ordered them to disperse. As soon as the announcement ended, they started beating people, without following riot police protocol to disperse the crowd. Many ran and escaped, but two teachers were detained,” said a lawyer based in Myitkyina who was at the scene.
Police and soldiers also used slingshots to disperse anti-coup protesters in Myitkyina on Thursday. “They fired slingshots to disperse the protesters around 11 a.m. on Thursday. Many were hit, though it did not cause them to bleed,” local resident Htoi Awng said.
Anti-coup protesters are demanding the scrapping of the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, an end to the military dictatorship, the establishment of a federal democracy, the honoring of the 1947 Panglong Agreement, which guarantees equality for ethnic groups, and the immediate release of government leaders and political prisoners who were arrested by Myanmar’s military. They are also showing their support for the Civil Disobedience Movement against the military regime.
“Large numbers of soldiers and police were deployed starting early in the morning at the railway station and Manau Park, which are the protesters’ assembly points. Some people were arrested when they dispersed the protesters. I saw two people arrested,” Htoi Awng said on Thursday.
Starting at 8 a.m. on Thursday, around 100 troops from the military’s Northern Command and officers from the Myitkyina Police Force blocked the Myitkyina Railway Station and Manau Park.
Around 11 a.m., they forcibly dispersed protesters staging a sit-in protest near No. 1 Basic Education High School, and a group near Myanma Economic Bank.
They also arrested a betel nut vendor for taking pictures of the crackdown. The Irrawaddy was unable to contact Myitkyina Township police to check whether the detainees have been released.
Soldiers and police arrested a Buddhist monk and the driver of a vehicle carrying anti-coup protesters on Thursday morning, according to the PCG.
The KIA, via the PCG, has called on the Northern Command not to use force against Kachin protesters.
It said it had talked with Northern Command officials and requested they not harm the peaceful protesters. The Northern Command in response asked the KIA not to join the public protests and warned that it would shoot with real bullets if people rioted.
“From what happened on the streets on Thursday morning, it can be concluded that they will continue to prohibit people from taking to the streets. I dare not imagine what would happen if people clashed head-to-head. There could be casualties and injuries,” said Lamai Gum Ja of the PCG.
On Feb. 13, police and soldiers were deployed at power stations supplying electricity to Myitkyina. Concerned about a possible blackout, people surrounded the power stations and asked the security forces to leave. Tensions flared at around 9 p.m. on Feb. 14, and police dispersed the crowd with tear gas, smoke bombs, sound cannons and rubber bullets. Two civilians were injured and seven people, including five journalists, were detained overnight.
The Northern Command detained the five journalists for making live reports of the incident. In response to the PCG’s request, the Northern Command released the journalists after having them sign a bond promising they would conduct future reporting in line with media ethics and not produce reports that could incite public unrest.
Note: This story was updated to include the detainees’ release.
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