Myanmar police crack down on protests; one woman shot and wounded

Riot police fire tear gas during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 27, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Police transfer people arrested from a vehicle to another during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 27, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

YANGON (REUTERS, AFP) - Police in Myanmar launched their most sweeping crackdown in three weeks of protests against military rule on Saturday (Feb 27) in towns and cities across the country, and one woman was shot and wounded and dozens of people were detained.

Three domestic media outlets said earlier that the woman shot in the central town of Monwya had died, but an ambulance service official said she was in hospital. The circumstances of the shooting were not clear and police were not available for comment.

The violence came after Myanmar's United Nations envoy Kyaw Moe Tun, saying he was speaking on behalf of the ousted civilian government of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, urged the UN to use "any means necessary" to reverse the Feb 1 coup.

State television MRTV said Kyaw Moe Tun had "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organisation which doesn't represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador".

Police were out in force in cities and towns from early on Saturday in their most determined bid to stamp out the protests.

In the main city of Yangon, police took up positions at usual protest sites and detained people as they congregated, witnesses said. Several journalists were detained. Confrontations developed as more people came out to demonstrate despite the police operation.

Earlier, a protester in the town said police had fired water cannon as they surrounded a crowd.

"They used water cannon against peaceful protesters - they shouldn't treat people like that," Aye Aye Tint told Reuters.

The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.

A big crowd of protesters later surged through town streets chanting defiance, an activist video feed showed. One protester told Reuters the crowd was demanding the release of people detained by the security forces.

Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities were using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters had died over the days of turmoil up to Saturday. The army says a policeman was killed in earlier violence.

In Yangon, crowds came out to chant and sing, then scattered into side streets and slipped into buildings as police advanced, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and shooting guns into the air, witnesses said.

Some protesters threw up barricades across streets. Crowds eventually thinned but police in Yangon were still chasing groups and firing into the air in the late afternoon, witnesses said. Numerous people were seen detained and some beaten through the day.

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Similar scenes played out in the second city of Mandalay and other towns from north to south, witnesses and media said. Among those detained in Mandalay was Win Mya Mya, one of two Muslim members of parliament for the NLD, media said.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.

Uncertainty has grown over Suu Kyi's whereabouts, as the independent Myanmar Now website on Friday quoted officials of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party as saying she had been moved this week from house arrest to an undisclosed location.

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