Police and soldiers attack protesters in Myanmar’s three biggest cities with guns, batons and stun grenades

Security forces attacked peaceful anti-coup protesters in Myanmar’s three biggest cities on Friday, firing guns, tossing stun grenades and swinging batons at fleeing crowds.   

It is the severest use of force yet against protesters in Yangon, where police and soldiers had been relatively restrained compared to other parts of the country. 

Police have killed three protesters in Mandalay and one in Naypyitaw in previous attacks and once again used violence against protesters in the cities on Friday.  

Protesters at Hledan junction, a major rallying point in Yangon, scattered into surrounding neighbourhoods as riot police marched at them with batons. 

Protesters chant anti-coup slogans during a rally at Hledan junction on Friday (Myanmar Now)

“We were doing a sit-in protest. The police came at us with their shields raised and beat protesters with batons. We fled the scene immediately,” one protester told Myanmar Now.

“They claimed we started a confrontation. But we didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.

According to witnesses and reporters, the police fired guns and used explosives that appeared to be stun grenades, some of which did not explode.

After the attack, a smaller group of people gathered again at Hledan junction in the afternoon chanting anti-coup slogans. The police broke up that protest by firing rubber bullets into the crowd.

“They didn’t fire into the air but towards people… about four or five rounds. A girl fell down,” a protester told Myanmar Now. “We didn’t throw anything at them. We remained peaceful.”

At least eight protesters were arrested and detained at the Sanchaung police station, according to a lawyer who is trying to meet with them.

Police arrest a protester at Hledan junction (Myanmar Now)

“We have been waiting in front of the police station but they have not allowed us to see them,” the lawyer, who asked not to be named, told Myanmar Now.

“We should be allowed as we have rights as clients and lawyers. We asked them to just let us meet our clients but they didn’t allow it,” the lawyer added.

Security forces also targeted journalists who were covering the protests and ensuing crackdowns.

Japanese freelance journalist Yuki Kitazumi, who is based in Yangon, was arrested as the police broke up another protest in Sanchaung and later released. 

Two local journalists were also briefly detained at the same protest. Wai Yan, who works for the Xinhua News Agency, told Myanmar Now he was detained while photographing the crackdown from behind the line of police officers. 

“We didn’t think they would arrest us but one officer shouted, ‘Arrest them! Arrest them! Arrest all those journalists!” he said.

The police tried to handcuff him but relented after Wai Yan said there was no need to and he was just doing his job. But he witnessed another journalist being beaten and handcuffed, he said.

The two journalists were kept in a police truck for about five minutes and were released after police officers took photos of their media ID badges. He then saw the police put six young protesters in the same truck.

“This should not be happening… and it is not the first time,” he said.

Most of Myanmar’s cities have been flooded with protesters for just under three weeks since the army seized power from the elected government and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, president Win Myint, and other top officials. 

The rallies have gone ahead in defiance of an order by the junta banning gatherings of more than five people.

A stun grenade found in Yangon after police attacked peaceful protesters (Myanmar Now)

In Naypyitaw on Friday afternoon, security forces broke up a sit-in protest and arrested at least 20 protesters in Pyinmana township. The police fired guns and used stun grenades as protesters fled. 

About 30 motorbikes were also seized from the protest, witnesses said, and some of those arrested were not protesting. The exact number of people arrested and injured is still unknown.

In Mandalay, security forces cracked down on anti-coup protesters in four different areas on Friday afternoon. Police fired into the air with live rounds to disperse the crowd.

They also shot people with slingshots from trucks and used water cannon.

No deaths have been reported so far and details of injuries are not yet clear. Emergency workers treated at least four protesters injured in the attack, including one who had been shot in the leg. 

People assist a man who was shot in the leg by police in Mandalay.

Elsewhere in the city, about 15 trucks full of soldiers and police arrived after monks blocked off a street by staging a sit-in protest and giving talks in front of the city’s Mya Taung monastery in the afternoon. 

“We negotiated with them to wait until we had finished our talks, but one soldier said they would make arrests if the crowd was more than five people,” said one of the monks.

The crowd eventually dispersed after the talks. But as it did the security forces fired into the air three times and arrested at least seven people, the monk said. “What they are doing is threatening peaceful protesters,” he said.

“They do not need to treat the public as enemies,” he added.

Police seen at Hledan after the crackdown (Myanmar Now)


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