International pressure on Myanmar generals mounts

Asian neighbours condemn lethal force as anti-coup protests rage on

YANGON • Opponents of Myanmar's coup protested again yesterday and international pressure increased on the military junta to halt its repression of democracy supporters, with Asian neighbours joining Western countries in condemning lethal force.

A young man was shot and killed in one of the most turbulent neighbourhoods of the main city of Yangon, a resident and media reported, taking the death toll since the Feb 1 coup to 238, according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group.

The bloodshed has not quelled public abhorrence for the return of military rule and anger over the ouster of the elected government and the detention of its leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi.

But some activists say they have had to adapt tactics. "We protest where there are no police or military, then when we hear they're coming, we disperse quickly," campaigner Kyaw Min Htike told Reuters from Dawei in the south before he and others staged a brief rally outside the town centre.

Some groups gather at night with candles and placards, then melt away after taking photographs.

People also stage "unmanned" protests, with rows of placards carrying messages like "We will never stop until we get democracy" set up on a street.

Meanwhile, dozens of demonstrators gathered in the second city of Mandalay yesterday.

Several were injured when a vehicle drove into them and when police fired rubber bullets, a city news portal reported.

There were small protests in other towns, including Kyaukme and Hsipaw in the north-east, Kawlin in the north, Hpa-an and Myawaddy in the east, Labutta in the Irrawaddy river delta, Myeik in the south and the central town of Yay Oo, according to news portals and social media images.

Hundreds marched in the town of Monywa and burned a copy of the 2008 Constitution, which was drafted under military supervision and limits the powers of elected civilians, the Irrawaddy news portal reported.

The United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews called for sanctions in response to the generals' "ruthless" attacks on people. "The world must respond by cutting their access to money and weapons. Now," he wrote on Twitter.

The US House of Representatives approved legislation condemning the coup, and lawmakers decried the increasingly harsh tactics against the demonstrators.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, in some of the strongest comments yet by a regional leader, said he would ask Brunei, the chair of Asean, to call an urgent meeting. "Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar be stopped immediately so that there are no more victims," Mr Widodo said in a virtual address on Friday.

Meanwhile, a Burmese journalist with the BBC's Myanmar language news service went "missing" on Friday. "We are extremely concerned about our BBC News Burmese reporter, Aung Thura, who was taken away by unidentified men," BBC said in its official press Twitter account.

Apart from protesters, the junta has also gone after the country's press corps, revoking the licences of five independent local broadcasting services, raiding newsrooms, and arresting journalists working to cover the news.

Local media outlet Mizzima also said one of its reporters, Than Htike Aung, was "arrested" when he was with the BBC journalist in the capital Naypyidaw on Friday.

Since the coup, more than 30 journalists have been arrested, according to the AAPP monitoring group. Among the detained is Thein Zaw, a photojournalist with the Associated Press, who has been charged with "causing fear, spreading false news or agitating directly or indirectly a government employee".

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 21, 2021, with the headline 'International pressure on Myanmar generals mounts'. Subscribe