Railway workers flee as security forces take control of housing compound

Hundreds of people living in a residential compound for employees of the state-owned Myanma Railways in Yangon fled their homes on Wednesday to avoid being trapped inside by security forces.

Around 1,000 workers and their families were living in the housing estate near the Ma Hlwa Gone railway station in Mingalar Taung Nyunt township. The vast majority have joined the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against military rule.

The sudden appearance of a large contingent of police and soldiers in the area at around 6am on Wednesday sparked panic as residents anticipated a round of mass arrests.

“The families of those taking part in the CDM didn’t dare stay, so the place was in turmoil this morning as everyone rushed to get out,” said one railway worker who requested anonymity.

“It was like a fire alarm had gone off. We helped to carry out the sick and everyone just grabbed their kids and ran. It was complete chaos,” he added.

Residents said that over the next few hours, hundreds of security forces arrived in six police cars and 15 military vehicles, together with four prison transport trucks and six Hilux pickup trucks.

By noon, every road around the compound was closed and the combined force of police and soldiers had taken up position at a maintenance yard for locomotives, as well as near a local monastery and a community clinic, residents said.

Most of the people living in the housing compound had already left in the days before the raid, and most still there on Wednesday morning have now gone, they added.

Those who didn’t immediately leave were reportedly warned by police that they would be shot if they stayed.

There were also reports that the armed troops occupying the compound had a list of 13 names of individuals identified as CDM leaders.

At least three people were arrested, but Myanmar Now was not able to confirm their identities.

“We can’t say for sure who they were. A woman shot a video of the raid, but her camera was destroyed. Everyone else was gone or confined to their homes, so no one saw who they took away,” said a government employee who asked not to be named.

Some residents also suggested that another purpose of the raid was to secure control of more than 120,000 gallons of diesel fuel stored in the maintenance yard.

At least 100 bags of rice and other foodstuffs donated to workers taking part in the CDM were also seized, residents said.

Although no exact figure was available, it is believed that several hundred people fled the Ma Hlwa Gone housing compound on Wednesday with the help of relatives and volunteers.

It was unclear where the compound’s residents would live, but many around the country have donated to funds to assist public employees participating in the CDM.

The CDM has enjoyed strong support among railway workers, more than 90% of whom have refused to return to work until the country’s elected government is restored to power.

Rail transport has come to a standstill in Myanmar since workers went on strike on February 8, one week after a military coup that abruptly ended a decade of civilian rule.



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