Protesters return to streets, crackdown continues

YANGON, MYANMAR (AP) — Demonstrators in Myanmar took to the streets again yesterday to protest last month’s seizure of power by the military, as foreign ministers from Southeast Asian countries prepared to meet to discuss the political crisis. Police in Yangon used tear gas against the protesters.

The planned special ASEAN meeting comes in the wake of worsening violence in Myanmar. The country’s new military rulers over the weekend escalated their use of deadly force and mass arrests to try to quash protests against the February 1 coup that ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hundreds of protesters gathered yesterday in the Hledan area of Yangon, where a day earlier police fired repeated rounds of tear gas canisters.

The protesters, many of whom wore construction helmets, dragged bamboo poles and debris to form barricades to impede any attempt to rush forward and make arrests, and chanted slogans and sang songs at the police lines.

Tear gas was used again yesterday. The demonstrators – hundreds of mainly young people – fled in panic but soon returned to their barricades.

Protesters shout slogans and display images of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during an anti-coup protest. PHOTO: AP

Protesters also took up their flags and banners and assembled to march through the streets of Dawei, a small city in southeastern Myanmar that has seen almost daily large demonstrations against the coup.

Some of them also carried metal shields, an apparent response to the possible use of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets by police. On Sunday, Dawei was the scene of a violent crackdown, with up to five people killed when security forces shot into a large crowd of demonstrators.

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar after five decades of military rule, coming the day a newly elected Parliament was supposed to take office. Ousted leader Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but instead she was detained along with President Win Myint and other senior officials.

Some countries imposed or are considering imposing their own sanctions. In Washington, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan issued a statement saying the United States (US) is “alarmed” by the violence and stands in solidarity with Myanmar’s people.