Myanmar police raid housing of striking railway workers

MANDALAY, MYANMAR (AP) — Myanmar security forces yesterday raided a neighbourhood in the country’s largest city that is home to state railway workers who have gone on strike to protest last month’s military coup.

Police sealed off the Mingalar Taung Nyunt neighbourhood in Yangon where the Ma Hlwa Kone train station and housing for railway workers are located. Photos and video on social media showed officers blocking streets and what was said to be people escaping. At least three arrests were reported but it was not immediately possible to independently confirm that.

The raid comes just days after several Myanmar unions, including the Myanmar Railway Worker’s Union Federation, issued a joint call for a nationwide work stoppage.

The statement said the strike would be part of a broader effort for “the full, extended shutdown of the Myanmar economy”.

Myanmar has been roiled by protests and other acts of civil disobedience since the February 1 coup that toppled elected Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government just as it was to start its second term.

Anti-coup protesters retreat from the frontlines after discharging fire extinguishers towards a line of riot policemen in Yangon, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.

Security forces have responded with mass arrests and at times lethal force. At least 60 protesters have been killed since the military takeover, according to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Authorities have also moved to shut down independent reporting on the situation, both through arrests of journalists the closure of media outlets.

Despite the increasingly violent tactics of security forces, protests continued yesterday in cities and towns across the country, including Yangon, Mandalay, Monywa, Dawei and Myitkyina.

State railway workers were among the earliest organised supporters of the protest movement and their strike began soon after the coup. Police last month made an effort at intimidating railway workers in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, by roaming through their housing area one night, shouting and randomly firing guns.

The junta now in control of the country, formally called the State Administration Council, indirectly acknowledged the effectiveness of the rail strike.

Authorities continued their assault on the media on Tuesday, raiding the offices of Kamayut Media and detaining its co-founder and editor-in-chief. The military also raided the offices of Mizzima, an online news service. No one was arrested in the latter raid, though equipment was vandalised and property was taken away.

The military government on Monday announced that the licences of five local media outlets — Mizzima, DVB, Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now and 7Day News — had been cancelled. All five had been offering extensive coverage of the protests.