Myanmar coup: Police fire rubber bullets as protesters defy ban

3 weeks ago
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Police fire a water cannon at protesters rallying against the military coup and to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in Naypyitaw, Myanmar

Reuters

Police in Myanmar have fired rubber bullets during a demonstration in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, as thousands defied a ban on protests.

Water cannons and tear gas have also been used against protesters, who are standing against a coup that removed the elected government last week.

BBC Burmese has been told at least two protesters have been seriously injured.

The fourth day of consecutive protests is under way, despite new restrictions being introduced on Monday.

Both a ban on large public gatherings and night-time curfews have been instigated in some cities, with military leader Min Aung Hlaing warning that no-one is above the law.

Protesters in Myanmar have been demanding the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, along with senior leaders of her National League for Democracy Party (NLD). She was arrested when the military seized power.

The army has declared a year-long state of emergency and claimed, without evidence, that an earlier election was fraudulent.

How did the situation escalate?

Earlier on Tuesday, police began using water cannon against protesters in Nay Pyi Taw.

But the crowd withstood the barrage of water fired at them and refused to retreat, according to Reuters news agency.

“End the military dictatorship,” people yelled.

Warning shots were eventually fired into the air, before rubber bullets were fired at protesters.

According to BBC Burmese, who spoke to an unnamed medical officer from a Nay Pyi Taw hospital, two protesters are seriously injured, suffering from a head and chest wound respectively. It is not yet clear how exactly they were hurt.

Police fire a water cannon at protesters

Reuters

Another doctor in an emergency clinic said he had treated three patients with wounds suspected to be from rubber bullets. They have now been transferred to a main hospital, he told Reuters.

There are numerous unconfirmed reports of police officers crossing over to join protesters. In some areas, police also allowed demonstrators through their barricades.

The BBC’s South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head said it was clear officers were making a “more determined effort” to disperse protesters.

Previous protests against the country’s decades-long military rule, in 1988 and 2007, saw demonstrators killed.

What are protesters saying?

“We come here well aware of the ban over gatherings of more than five people,” one young male protester told BBC Burmese, as he gathered with others near a UN building in Yangon in a bid to boost international attention. “However, we come out because we have to protest until the president and Mother Suu are freed,” he added, referring to leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has not been heard from since being placed under house arrest.

A female protester, who also did not want to be named, said: “Young people have their future, so we can’t tolerate this… We will keep on fighting until we get our president and Mother Suu back, whatever it takes.”

She said young protesters wanted to avoid confrontations with military, as had been seen in the past.

Even though Ms Suu Kyi’s record on human rights has previously been criticised internationally, she remains very popular in the country. Her win in the 2020 election was confirmed by various overseas monitoring bodies.

How is the military reacting?

On Monday Gen Min Aung Hlaing give his first televised address since the coup a week earlier. He insisted the seizure of power was justified due to “voter fraud”, accusing the electoral commission of failing to investigate irregularities over voter lists in November’s election.

The commission had said there was no evidence to support claims of widespread fraud.

Ms Suu Kyi and various senior leaders from her National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including President Win Myint, were detained on 1 February.

Gen Min Aung Hlaing promised new elections overseen by a new “reformed” election commission, and said the military would hand power to the winner.

Protesters with image of coup leader

EPA

He also said his rule would be “different” from what was effectively a 49-year military grip on power that ended in 2011.

He spoke of achieving a “true and disciplined democracy”, a phrase that drew scorn from some opponents of the coup on social media.

Map of Myanmar

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On Tuesday, New Zealand announced that it would be suspending all high-level contact with Myanmar and imposing a travel ban on its military leaders.

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, also announced restrictions on aid that benefited the military.

It is the first major international move to isolate the military since they took power.

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BBC News – Asia

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