Police have successfully pressured some people living in Yangon’s outskirts into registering the names of people staying in their homes with local authorities, part of the coup regime’s push to re-establish neighbourhood surveillance networks.
The military last month said people must once again register members of their households and any overnight guests, a policy from the previous dictatorship that would make it harder for opponents of the regime to evade arrest.
Fearful of reprisals if they refuse, residents in Hlaing Tharyar, Shwe Pyi Thar and Thingangyun have been queuing at ward administration offices to register since Monday, residents told Myanmar Now.
Both Hlaing Tharyar and Shwe Pyi Thar are under martial law.
“The main reason we accepted this is because we don’t want to lose anymore people. We don’t agree with them,” said a resident of Hlaing Tharyar, where at least 58 people were murdered by police and soldiers earlier this month.
The township is one of Myanmar’s main industrial hubs and therefore home to many union activists, who have been at the forefront in the fight to topple Min Aung Hlaing’s regime.
Now, after suffering the worst of the military’s violence since the coup, many have retreated. The majority of workers who migrated to the township from rural areas have returned to their hometowns since last week.
“There’s no young people anymore, they’ve fled,” another Hlaing Tharyar resident said. “They’re worried about being forced to porter. And the military has guns, they can’t say anything.”
In late February, authorities tried to install a local administrator to lead the Kalargyisu village in west Hlaing Tharyar.
But Kyaw Nyein, a member of the military’s Union Solidarity and Development Party, was forced to retreat when residents came out to oppose his appointment.
“He came into the ward with a bunch of thugs, thinking he’s the next administrator,” a resident told Myanmar Now. “But there was a confrontation with the people in the ward and he fled.”
But Kyaw Nyein has now returned with the support of the military, the resident added.
Another resident, from Ward 8 in Hlaing Tharyar, said people were told they had to register homeowners’ information and details of any guests along with passport photos starting from Tuesday.
“We don’t even know who the administrator is, the wards are being handled by the 100-home elders,” he said. “But even some of them are on the run.”
The junta’s armed forces tried to make five local NLD members serve as ward administrators in Shwe Pyi Thar but they did not show up to work. So authorities instead appointed five military supporters and claimed they were NLD members, residents said.
In Nga Moe Yeik ward in Thingangyun, police trucks drove along the streets with loudspeakers warning people that they must register overnight guests. The ward does not have an administrator to handle registrations, so people waited in line for up to two hours to register, locals said.
The military council has faced fierce resistance from locals in neighbourhoods where it has tried to appoint its supporters as ward administrators.
The Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, a parallel government formed by elected lawmakers ousted by the coup, has urged people across the country to set up “Interim People’s Administration Teams” to run their neighbourhoods and townships themselves.