Soldiers and police fire air guns into crowd of protesters at bank in Mandalay 

Soldiers and police fired steel balls from air guns and used slingshots on Monday as they broke up a crowd of protesters in Mandalay who had gathered to urge Myanma Economic Bank staff to join a general strike aimed at hobbling the military regime.

Hundreds were gathered outside the branch at 26th and 82nd street shouting “Don’t go to work, break away!” when 10 military and police trucks arrived at about 4pm and began shooting without warning. 

They shot into the crowd as well as into the homes and shops of people who were watching the attacks from inside, Myanmar Now’s reporter on the ground there said.

The township police chief had earlier warned the crowd not to block the way, but there was no warning that authorities would use violence against the protesters. 

The soldiers not only shot at the protesters but also, they shot at the people near the scene who were at that time looking at the situation from their houses and shops, said witnesses. 

“We were peacefully protesting but they ambushed us without warning,” said Ko Latt, one of the demonstrators. 

At least three were injured and two were arrested in the crackdown. A reporter was beaten and briefly detained, but released when he explained he was a journalist. 

“The military released two injured people when a volunteer team asked for them to be freed,” said another journalist who witnessed the attacks and requested anonymity. “The volunteer team is treating them at this moment. I saw two arrests; they ran after them and caught them.”

Nu Nu Lwin, a 45-year-old local resident, said she was shot in the head with an air gun even though she wasn’t involved in the protest. 

“I live on 18th street and came around here to shop for some goods,” she told Myanmar Now. 

“Then lots of police trucks came so I was watching the situation. When clashes broke out I tried to run but it was too late. I don’t know where it came from, I got shot to the head without any involvement in the protest.”

After the protest was dispersed, about 50 soldiers blocked off the section of 82nd street where the bank is located, between 26th and 27th street, another local resident told Myanmar Now.

Two teenage girls and a woman who live in the compound of the Mandalay Joon Mosque were also arrested on Monday afternoon, even though they didn’t participate in the protest, a family member said. 

Loved ones are concerned about the safety of the three, who are aged 65, 17 and 14, the family member said.

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