Two female civilians who participated in an anti-regime protest during the visit of CNN reporter Clarissa Ward to a local bazaar in Sawbwagyi Gone in Yangon’s Insein Township were arrested on Friday morning.
A witness told The Irrawaddy that the network’s chief international correspondent and her team arrived at Salminegone market with army escort in the morning.
Ward has now been in Myanmar for three days. On Myanmar’s most popular social media platform, Facebook, many initially welcomed her trip, hoping she would report what was really happening on the ground, including the scale of the popular uprising against the junta and the brutality its troops are using against the protesters.
Since her arrival, she and her team have been spotted in several Yangon neighborhoods, traveling in army convoys, apparently being given guided tours by the regime. Many people have grown concerned that restrictions on her access will give her a distorted view of what is actually happening on the ground.
Shortly after a fire at a military-owned wholesale center was put out on Thursday morning, Ward was seen there accompanied by authorities; many fear she has been fed the regime’s official narrative.
At Salminegone bazaar on Friday morning, after becoming aware of Ward’s presence, many shopkeepers, vendors and marketgoers staged an improvised anti-regime protest by banging pots and pans and shouting anti-regime slogans.
The protest was joined by bystanders and pedestrians, and drivers participated by honking their car horns and flashing three-finger salutes to let the reporter know of their opposition to the military regime.
One marketgoer told The Irrawaddy that Ward talked to a woman and her team took some footage in the bazaar during their visit.
However, right after the CNN team departed from the market, a vehicle from her convoy turned back to the area and arrested two women who had joined the protest.
Questions have been raised over whether the CNN team’s visit to the bazaar was arranged by the regime, rather than being requested by Ward, as the regime has been trying desperately hard to show the world that everything in Myanmar is under control and that the situation has returned to normal. On its state-run TV channels, it repeatedly shows footage of people selling and shopping at local markets and bazaars like Salminegone, while neglecting to show the many shopping malls and downtown business centers that remain deserted.
“I think the reporter will not see the real situation here, as she has to visit those areas arranged by the authorities” the witness in the bazaar said.
In Myanmar, local markets and bazaars are normally open every morning, humming with activity as people buy their food for the day, before falling silent in the late morning hours. Such local markets didn’t even close on March 27, when the regime’s troops killed more than 100 people across the country.
To shame the regime and counter its claims of “normalcy”, a nationwide “Silent Strike” was held on March 24, with virtually the entire population staying indoors.
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