Myanmar police fire rubber bullets, crank up pressure

YANGON (CNA) – Police in Myanmar yesterday escalated their crackdown on demonstrators against this month’s military takeover, deploying early and in force as protesters sought to assemble in the country’s two biggest cities.

Myanmar police also fired rubber bullets to disperse protesters in Yangon, after the country’s ambassador to the United Nations broke ranks to make an emotional plea for action against the military junta.

The country has been shaken by a wave of pro-democracy protests since a military coup toppled civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1.

Authorities have gradually ramped up the use of force to suppress dissent, using tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets to disperse some protests.

Live rounds have been used in isolated cases.

Police stand in formation across a main road in front of military trucks in Mandalay, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

In Myanmar’s biggest city Yangon yesterday, police used rubber bullets to disperse a demonstration at Myaynigone junction, the site of an hours-long standoff on Friday.

“What are the police doing? They are protecting a crazy dictator,” the protesters chanted as they were chased away by the police.

Hundreds of ethnic Mon protesters had gathered there to commemorate Mon National Day, joined by other ethnic minority groups to protest against the coup.

They scattered into smaller residential streets and started building makeshift barricades out of barbed wire and tables to stop the police. Many wore hard hats and gas masks, wielding homemade shields for protection.

At least 15 people were arrested, a police official confirmed.