Junta escorts international news team across Yangon, urges police to show restraint

While murders of protesters by the junta’s armed forces have been well documented through March 30, there was a reduction in the use of deadly force as a CNN news crew arrived in Myanmar on March 31 under close supervision by the regime. 

Myanmar Now has learned that the junta warned its police force not to use excessive force against crowds during the visit by CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward. 

The crew traveled across Yangon escorted by a military convoy on Wednesday to the sound of people banging pots and pans from their homes– an expression of defiance against the ruling junta. 

A police force directive signed by police Maj Myo Khine Oo dated March 30 has been widely circulated on social media outlining the tactical change. 

“When trying to handle crowds, every stage of the process must be done step-by-step in accordance with [riot control] procedures, and responsible officers at all levels need to supervise police to ensure that they do not go beyond [these] limits,” the message read. 

Police who have left their posts in opposition to the junta and are participating in the Civil Disobedience Movement told Myanmar Now that the directive is genuine. 

On Wednesday, the CNN news crew visited factories which were set on fire in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar township, with photos of the trips since shared on social media.

A former military officer who spoke to Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity said the junta appeared to be exercising restraint while the CNN staff were in-country. 

“It is obvious. When CNN was present, security forces were on hidden sentry duty. Soldiers and police were kept as invisible as possible. The news crew was escorted by [the army’s] convoy,” the ex-military officer explained. 

Ari Ben-Menashe, an Israeli-Canadian lobbyist hired last month by Myanmar’s junta, has said that international news agencies would be allowed to come to Myanmar, after which the CNN crew arrived. 

As CNN tours Yangon, five local media outlets remain banned by the junta since March 9: Mizzima, 7Day, DVB, Khit Thit and Myanmar Now. More than 50 journalists have been arrested since the February 1 coup, and 15 are formally facing charges, according to the Facebook page Detained Journalists Information Myanmar. 

On March 26, the junta threatened on state-run TV to shoot protesters “in the head or back,” and a total of more than 100 civilians in at least 40 towns and cities were shot dead by the junta’s armed forces the following day on March 27.

Abuses against protesters were documented on Wednesday, despite the police directive calling for restraint. The armed forces used slingshots to disperse anti-coup protesters in Yangon and a bank employee was injured when a vehicle she was in was shot at by the junta’s troops at U Chit Maung Road in Yangon’s Tamwe township. 

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) has said that 636 civilians have been killed and more than 2,700 detained since the junta seized power. 

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