MANDALAY: Myanmar’s security forces fired live rounds and rubber bullets at protesters in the country’s second-largest city of Mandalay on Saturday (Feb 20), leaving at least two dead and about 30 injured.
Much of the country has been in an uproar since the military deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on Feb 1, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets to protest against the junta.
On Saturday, hundreds of police and soldiers gathered at Yadanarbon shipyard in Mandalay, by the Irrawaddy river.
Their presence sparked fears among nearby residents that authorities would try to arrest workers for taking part in the anti-coup movement.
Banging pots and pans in what has become a signature gesture of defiance, protesters started yelling at the police to leave and throwing rocks at them.
But officers opened fire with live rounds, rubber bullets and slingshot balls, dispersing the alarmed protesters.
“Two people were killed,” said Hlaing Min Oo, the head of a Mandalay-based volunteer emergency rescue team, adding that one of the victims, who was shot in the head, was a teenager.
“About 30 others were injured – half of the injured people were shot with live rounds.”
The rest were wounded from rubber bullets and slingshots, he said.
The death toll was confirmed by another emergency worker on the scene, who declined to be named for fear of repercussions.
“One under-18 boy got shot in his head,” he told AFP.
A volunteer doctor said of the two deaths: “One shot in the head died at the spot. Another one died later with a bullet wound to the chest.”
READ: Singapore says use of lethal force in Myanmar against unarmed protesters ‘inexcusable’ after deaths reported
The man shot in the chest was identified by relatives as Thet Naing Win, a 36-year-old carpenter.
“They took away the body to the morgue. I cannot bring him back home. Although my husband died, I still have my son,” his wife, Thidar Hnin, told Reuters by phone. “I haven’t been involved in this movement yet but now I am going to … I am not scared now.”
State television MRTV’s evening news broadcast made no mention of the protests or casualties.
Police were not available for comment.
The protests against the coup that overthrew the government of veteran democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi have shown no sign of dying down. Demonstrators are sceptical of the army’s promise to hold a new election and hand power to the winner.
Authorities have arrested hundreds of people since the putsch, many of them civil servants who had been boycotting work as part of a civil disobedience campaign.
Around the Mandalay shipyard and its surrounding neighbourhood, empty bullet cartridges were found on the ground, as well as slingshot ammunition including metal balls.
One woman received a head wound from a rubber bullet and emergency workers quickly administered first aid to her.
A Facebook video streamed live by a resident on the scene appeared to carry non-stop sounds of gunshots.
“They are shooting cruelly,” said the resident, who appeared to be taking shelter on a nearby construction site.
“We have to find a safer place.”
Since the nationwide protests started two weeks ago, authorities in some cities have deployed tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against demonstrators.
There have been isolated incidents of live rounds in the capital Naypyidaw.
An anti-coup protester who was shot in the head during a Feb 9 demonstration in Naypyidaw died on Friday.
Updated 19 February 2021
Ma Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, a 19-year-old and eleventh grade student, who was shot in the head with a bullet while protesting against the coup, passed away today. We honour Ma Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing as the first fallen martyr struggling for democracy and fighting against the military dictatorship in 2021.
As the anti-coup protests across states and regions continued to engulf the country on February 19, so have violent crackdowns and arrests by the junta.
This morning, the police forces beat and forcibly arrested two female teachers who were gathering in front of Myitkyina Education College, Kachin State to take part in the civil disobedience movement. Protestors were blocked by the police nearby Myitkyina Myoma market and 11 civilians were detained. In addition, the police directed slingshots towards the public who took photographs as record. The detained two female teachers and 11 civilians were reportedly released this evening. Upon their release, those two teachers who were arrested in Myitkyina were beaten and one teacher Daw Aye Aye Kyi Sein’s arm was broken.
Another incident in Myitkyina was when anti-coup protestors were intimidated and threatened at gunpoint and sling-shot by the police and the military yesterday. As a result, two protesting youths and a monk from Mandalay Monastery were arrested. The student strike leaders living in Kyat Sar Pyin quarter, Dawei town, Tanintharyi Region, were abducted by the police at around 10:30pm last night, therefore, the residents stood with the students by banging pots and pans. But the police then shot some six gunshots at the crowd; causing three male residents to be injured. Also, this evening, Ko Aung Thet Paing from Pathein Student Union was arrested.
In Yangon Region 11 people who protected staff participating in CDM from the fertilizer factory in Myaung Taka Industrial Zone, Hmawbi were charged, they are currently evading arrest.
Sa Aung Moe Hein who lives in 8th Quarter, Hlaingbwe town, Kayin State was sentenced to seven days in prison for banging the pots and pans at his home in opposition to the military dictatorship.
Yesterday, Dr.Zaw Myint Maung who is the Chief Minister of Mandalay, had his court hearing at the Aung Myay Tharzan Township Court, Mandalay via video conferencing, charged under Section 505(b) of the Penal Code. Zaw Myint Maung was arrested at the outset of the coup in the early hours of 1 February and is currently detained at Obo Prison. His lawyer said they have not been given visitation rights. Lack of trial rights for lawyers has become a signature of this military coup’s attempts to prosecute government officials. It is a clear violation of the international standards of the rule of law and exemplifies the judiciary’s compliance to the military coup.
As of February 19, a total of (546) people have been arrested, charged or sentenced in relation to the military coup on February 1. Of them, (4) were convicted; (2) to two years imprisonment, (1) to three months and (1) to seven days. (32) have been charged with a warrant but are evading arrest, (3) others have been charged but not detained, and (46) were released. A total of (500) are still under detention or have outstanding charges/evading arrest, including the (4) sentenced.
AAPP will continue to keep you informed of verified daily arrests, charges and sentences in relation to coup, and update our lists to the details of these alleged offences.
If you receive any information about arrests/detentions of CSO leaders, teachers, activists, journalists, civilians, in relation to the military and police crackdown on dissent. Please submit to the following addresses:
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
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Download link for Recent Arrests List (Last Updated on 19 Feb 21)
By KYAW ZWA MOE 19 February 2021
Every morning, the whole of Myanmar wakes with a sickening feeling, consumed by worry and uncertainty over the possibility of arrests and crackdowns, full of rage and struggling to hold on to hope. We’ve been living this nightmare since the military staged a coup and seized power on Feb. 1.
It has now been 19 days, but every citizen here feels they have been in hell for ages. When I say “every citizen”, the phrase obviously excludes the coup leaders, their associates and supporters. But they are just a handful among the country’s 54 million people.
I repeat: Everyone wakes with a feeling of dread, not knowing what will happen to them in the next 24 hours, let alone for their foreseeable future—much less their children’s future.
This is a moment of tremendous loss for our country. It’s not the first time the military has seized power—it did so on two previous occasions, in 1962 and 1988—but the blow feels harsher this time, as our short-lived democratic era of 2011 to early 2021, and the exhilaration it brought us, has been suddenly, deliberately and brutally snatched away by the coup leaders.
Before long, however, those negative feelings tend to turn into a positive energy that sustains us for the rest of the day.
Soon after the sun rises, hundreds of thousands of protesters leave their homes and take to the streets in every part of the country. They are young, middle-aged and older; they are students, workers, professionals and retirees. Despite their diversity, they share the same will to fight to restore justice, and their rights.
It’s an eternal energy that appears, along with courage and determination, whenever Myanmar is oppressed. But the protesters know the risks they are facing.
Soon after they hit the streets, launching various types of anti-coup protests, the reports of crackdowns and arrests begin to emerge.
This morning it was in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin State, where riot police and military personnel violently cracked down on anti-coup protesters, including civil servants and young students. Of course, the protesters fled when the police beat them with batons. At least 12 protesters were arrested during the crackdown. Earlier, two teachers from the Myitkyina Education Degree College were arrested by police while they were preparing to join the protest. Fourteen people were released on Friday evening after being forced to sign a paper saying they would not participate in future protests against the military regime.
In Yangon, the biggest city in the country, police barricaded the Sule intersection, where tens of thousands of protesters have gathered for the past two weeks. But thousands of protesters started to gather outside the barricades, full of energy, as they did in previous days. Other groups of protesters took up positions in front of various embassies, as in previous days. One group, the Peaceful Musicians, performed on a variety of instruments outside those embassies. Some ambassadors came out to talk to the young protesters about their anti-coup demonstrations and listen to the music.
At the Myaynigone intersection, just a few miles from Sule, protesters helped pick up onions and gains of rice from the asphalt road, where someone had “dropped” them. Dozens of protesters picked up each onion and grain of rice, one at a time, while police watched over them. The purpose was to stop the traffic—as they had during the “car breakdown protest” and the “slow-motion drive protest” to create traffic jams in support of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), which is aimed at preventing government staff from going to work. These creative and responsive protests have given the public something to smile and even laugh about, as well as the protesters themselves, even as they risk violent crackdowns.
Just before noon, however, tragic news came from Naypyitaw, the capital. Ma Mya Thwet Thwet Khine, a 20-year-old student who was shot by police more than a week ago, died in hospital. Among the peaceful protesters, she was the first to be fatally shot since the coup. CCTV footage showed her collapsing abruptly after a police officer’s bullet struck her in the head.
Meanwhile, protests continued across the country on Friday afternoon.
Our reporters have been gathering information and writing up the news, working overtime. I was just told that at least 45 civil servants who joined the CDM have been arrested to date in Mandalay, Naypyitaw and some other cities. They include doctors, teachers, aviation officers, railway workers and more from other departments. These numbers will definitely increase as time passes. And the number of arrested political activists and members of the National League for Democracy reached more than 521 today, up from about 500 yesterday.
It’s been only 19 days since the coup. All these things are likely to worsen daily as long as this mass movement against the military regime goes on. The nation is under the military’s boot; the entire country is in revolt and citizens are under attack.
I am sure everyone is afraid of being killed, like Ma Mya Thwet Thwet Khine, amid violent crackdowns and arbitrary arrests by the regime’s troops. But this time, all anti-coup protesters, political activists and members of the NLD seem determined to permanently rid our soil of military dictatorship. That’s what we’ve been hearing whenever we journalists interview them or read their statements.
They believe the truth will prevail in the end, through the strength of people power. As I wrote in my last column, combining the mighty power of the gun with evil spirits, the dictators always seem to have the upper hand. It’s a miserable but bitter truth of our country’s history. But with all of these anti-coup protesters and other Myanmar people refusing to give up, there is always hope as long as there is struggle.
Every day under the military regime is a long one, filled with different, difficult and heartbreaking experiences. Before calling it a day, however, the people have one more task to complete—to bang on pots and pans at 8:00 p.m., in order to drive “the military regime” out of the country, in keeping with this particular tradition’s customary aim: to drive evil out of the village or house.
It is the last activity of the day for Myanmar people before going to bed. (For most people, at least; some able men have to spend their nights patrolling their neighborhoods to protect against thugs.) After the 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. curfew descends, it’s difficult to sleep soundly, as police and troops tend to start their arrests at this time. As the people go to bed, their fear, concern and uncertainty return; they know that tomorrow they will wake once again with a heavy heart.
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Topics: Coup, Democracy, History, Military, Protest, Rights
ND-Burma’s latest weekly graphic covers key updates from 11 to 16 February including increased violence against protesters and a reinstatement of draconian laws, and 1988 era fear mongering tactics by the military.
Police have been making regular visits to a housing complex where staff from Myanmar National Airlines live since they grounded the national carrier by joining the Civil Disobedience Movement.
Staff from state-owned Myanmar National Airlines say police are paying nightly visits to their housing complex in an effort to intimidate and force them back to work.
The airline had to halt relief flights and scheduled domestic services after more than half of its staff joined the Civil Disobedience Movement targeting the military regime.
“They came to the Department of Civil Aviation housing to threaten staff, saying things like, ‘We can arrest you at any time.’ They came to the housing complex every night. Staff are really concerned about it,” said a member of MNA ground staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Police arrived at the Mingalardon Township complex, near Yangon International Airport, around 11pm last night and stayed for a short period, the person said.
The ground staff member told Frontier that aviation police had on February 9 asked management for a list of staff who have joined the CDM.
“The company hasn’t given us any pressure yet for joining the CDM but it did call some staff to tell them to return to work, and they have refused their requests,” they said.
The first staff walked off the job on February 3 and around 60 percent are now refusing to work, including supervisors, ground staff, cabin crew and the maintenance and engineering team, sources at the airline confirmed.
The loss of the maintenance and engineering team has been particularly damaging, as it is needed to ensure the airline’s planes are safe for take-off.
The airline was forced to halt international relief flights on February 6 and scheduled domestic flights on February 10 because of a lack of critical staff, the sources said.
A cabin crew member, who also asked not to be identified, told Frontier on February 16 that many staff joined the CDM because they don’t want to work under a military government.
Although MNA was corporatised in 2014 and has significantly overhauled its fleet and improved operating standards, staff said it is still “under the influence” of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Because it is not independently run, they worry the military junta that took power on February 1 will interfere in their operations.
The person added that MNA had been in the process of transforming into a public company but it was unclear whether that would continue in the wake of the coup.
“We will fight to bring down the dictator. We will not work together with the military. We don’t want it,” said the cabin crew member.
Junta leader Senior General Min Aung has regularly mentioned that bringing home Myanmar nationals stranded abroad is a high priority for his administration, but with MNA grounded he has had to rely on privately owned airlines rather than the national carrier.
Myanmar Airways International, which was formerly owned by Kanbawza Group but is now controlled by a little-known Myanmar company, 24 Hour Group, is continuing to operate international relief flights.
It is also operating charter flights from China that activists have accused of ferrying equipment and technicians to implement curbs on internet access. Both the Tatmadaw and the Chinese government have rejected the allegations, with a Chinese business group saying the flights were carrying cargo, including seafood.
Meanwhile, 24 Hour Group’s domestic airline, Air KBZ, is still operating scheduled domestic flights, alongside several other local carriers.
MAI management have warned staff not to join anti-military demonstrations, according to a letter seen by Frontier.
“Do not protest as individual or groups at the International Airport building and airside,” the letter said.
MNA staff have been encouraging workers at other airlines to join the movement against the military but without success
“We have urged staff at MAI but so far they refused to join the CDM,” said the cabin crew member.
A long-expected crackdown on the protest movement is gaining pace but late-night raids to arrest suspects are meeting noisy resistance from citizens.
It has become a sad ritual of life in post-coup Myanmar: scanning Facebook each night for reports – even livestreams – of the latest arrest of an activist or dissenting civil servant.
Grainy videos show armed military and police officers in the dark of night urging suspects to leave their homes, using a phrase – “kanar lite ke par”, or “please come with us for a moment” – that has historically been associated with arrests of dissidents.
With hundreds of thousands of people joining mass protests throughout the country and increasing numbers of civil servants leaving their desks as part of a Civil Disobedience Movement, the military has embarked on a spree of arrests aimed at suppressing opposition to its February 1 takeover.
As of February 15, at least 426 people had been arrested or detained for political activities since the coup, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which was formed by activists in 2000, told Frontier. This includes members of the National League for Democracy and officials of the Union Election Commission and its sub-commissions. Three people have so far been sentenced, while 35 have been released.
Not only are large numbers of people being arrested, but AAPP member U Tun Kyi said that in many cases authorities are not giving any reason for their detention. It’s not clear where many of the detainees are being held, and they are not yet appearing in court or being granted access to lawyers.
“We do not have figures for the exact number of arrests, but we calculate that there are about 200 officials from the government, the NLD and the election commission, and nearly 100 civilians have been arrested since the protests started,” Tun Kyi told Frontier on February 12.
Most of those arrested are doctors who support the civil disobedience campaign and young activists involved in street protests.
There are fears the number in detention could rise significantly, particularly after the junta amended the Penal Code on February 14 to broaden the definitions of sedition, incitement and high treason, and in some cases also increase the penalties.
‘My children are asking for their father’
When four plainclothes police came to arrest Dr Pyae Phyo Naing at around noon on February 11, the 38-year-old head of Ingapu Township Hospital was treating a patient at a charity clinic.
“My husband asked if he could finish suturing a patient’s head wound,” recalled his wife, Dr Phyu Lae Thu. “But they wouldn’t wait and summoned another five police in uniforms who used force to push him into their car. When we tried to pull my husband away from them, they pointed their guns at us.”
Phyu Lae Thu told Frontier on February 12 she was certain her husband was detained for leading the CDM at the hospital in Ingapu.
“They [the police] did not give their names or their ranks or the reason why they wanted to take my husband. They only said they wanted to talk to my husband and he would be gone for a while,” she said.
Pyae Phyo Naing is an asthmatic and has a heart condition for which he needs to take medicine regularly. Phyu Lae Thu said she still does not know where he is being detained or when he will be released, but insisted her husband’s rights had been violated.
“He was not at the police station when I went there yesterday with clothes and medicine, which they said would be sent to my husband. Some witnesses say my husband was taken to a Tatmadaw base near Kwin Kauk,” she said.
The couple have two children, aged five and ten. “My children are asking for their father,” said Phyu Lae Thu, bursting into tears.
On February 16 she told Frontier she had learned her husband was in Hinthada Prison, but she had no information on his condition and neither she nor a lawyer had been able to meet him.
But Pyae Phyo Naing is not the only doctor to be detained at gunpoint. A video that spread on social media on February 11 showed U Win Hlaing, a member of the Myittar Shin Funeral Charity Association in Nansang being arrested by more than 10 soldiers. Win Hlaing had been playing a leading role in protests in the Shan State town. The soldiers who took him away refused to say why he was being arrested or where he was being taken.
Tun Kyi from the AAPP said that under the law, the police cannot detain a person for more than 24 hours without a court order. Police arrests since February 1 have involved clear violations of the law, he said.
He said the situation was similar to in the 1990s, when it was common for activists to be detained at nighttime.
But police have not always been successful. In the Sagaing Region capital, Monywa, two men in plainclothes tried to detain Ko Zaw Thurein Tun, chair of the Sagaing Township Computer Industry Association, at his home on February 10.
Zaw Thurein Tun released CCTV footage of the encounter that shows him using his mobile phone outside his home when he is approached by two men who try to seize him. When Zaw Thurein Tun resists and family members emerge from the house, three policemen join the attempt to arrest him. Neighbours gather and the police and the men in plainclothes back off. Zaw Thurein Tun has since gone into hiding.
“They did not say why they wanted to arrest me,” he told Frontier. “But I think it is because I was always at the front of the protests in Monywa.”
Citizens are also finding other ways to foil the police, including by livestreaming their attempts to arrest people in midnight raids in order to mobilise neighbours to prevent them from apprehending their target.
One such incident occurred in Mandalay about midnight on February 11 when police tried to arrest the rector of the University of Medicine (Mandalay), Professor Khin Maung Lwin.
Witnesses said about four police entered the family compound by scaling a fence “like thieves”.
The rector’s daughter raised the alarm by livestreaming the raid on Facebook. Within minutes, the police found themselves surrounded by hundreds of residents and retreated, empty-handed.
In many towns and cities, but especially Yangon and Mandalay, residents have been successful in foiling arrests by livestreaming raids on social media or banging pots and pans to raise the alarm when suspicious people or vehicles are spotted in their neighbourhoods.
There’s concern in the protest movement that the junta may shut down the internet in order to prevent arrests from being livestreamed, or that the State Administration Council will enact a recently released draft of the Cyber Security Law, which would put anyone using social media for anti-government purposes at risk of arrest.
The SAC has already undertaken a suite of legal changes to erode citizens’ rights and make it easier to arrest and imprison them for dissent.
It has reinstituted a section of the Ward and Village Tract Administration Law requiring all overnight guests to be registered, which in the past police often used as a justification to conduct “midnight inspections” without a warrant, making it easier to carry out arrests.
The regime on February 14 also enacted a range of amendments and additions to the Penal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure, including broadening the definitions of high treason, sedition and incitement, and in some cases increasing the penalties.
On February 13, it also suspended three sections of the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens, including the requirement that witnesses be present when a search is conducted, and a prohibition on authorities entering private property to conduct searches, seize evidence or make arrests without a warrant. Another suspended section required a court order to detain suspects for more than 24 hours.
A knock on the door
The authorities came for astrologer Lynn Nyo Tar Yar, 26, at his family home in Yangon’s South Okkalapa Township at 11pm on February 11, apparently because of his alleged sorcery against the military government.
Lynn Nyo Tar Yar, who has a wide following online, had posted on his Facebook page images of nine blades laid in a specific arrangement with burning candles on them – part of a ritual he said would “destroy the dictators”.
His father, U Tun Htut, told Frontier that five people, including two uniformed policemen, came to their home.
“We said if they want to arrest him, they should return after 4am when the curfew is lifted, but they threatened us all with arrest if we didn’t open the door. When we opened it, they put my son in a car and drove away,” he said.
Livestream footage of the encounter shows two men in plainclothes rudely ordering the door to be opened. One of them says, “It’s none of your business what time we come to make arrests – whether it’s day or night. We are here in line with the law.” He did not say which laws.
The livestream coverage alerted neighbours, who came out of their homes in their dozens and followed the police cars. About 200 neighbours marched to the township police station, where they remained until after curfew the following night. At 9pm on February 12 the crowd was still 300 strong, with some holding candles, but Lynn Nyo Tar Yar remains in custody.
It has emerged that the General Administration Department filed a complaint against Lynn Nyo Tar Yar under section 505(b) of the Penal Code for “making, publishing or circulating any statement, rumour or report likely to cause fear and alarm in the public that may induce any person to commit an offence against the State or against public tranquility.”
Tun Htut said his son has a heart ailment and there is an oxygen tank “ready for him at home”. He said he had taken necessities to the police station for his son on the morning of February 12. “I had a chance to see him; his condition so far is good,” he said.
Legal consultant U Khin Maung Myint said that even with the suspension of sections of the Law Protecting the Privacy and Security of Citizens, arresting officers are still required to show an order signed by either a court or the head of a police station, and the arrestee has the right to ask who brought charges against them and why.
“If the police cannot answer, people can reject the arrest. Don’t open the door. If you open the door, they will arrest you by force,” he told Frontier. “If the police abuse their power by arresting people by force or not saying where detainees are being held, the people have the right to counter charge them.”
“Of course, it depends on the police whether they will follow the law or not, or even whether they understand it. If they don’t, the people will continue to suffer,” he added.
But U Aung Myo Min, founder of Equality Myanmar, a civil society group, said justice could not be expected from police and prosecutors under the SAC. The people need to be able to protect each other from police abuses, he said.
“At the moment, we can only keep records of abuses by the authorities, because there is no person or organisation to which we can complain,” he said. “All we can do is show to the world what is happening. The police in Myanmar are behaving like terrorists in police uniforms.”