YANGON, March 2: Demonstrators in Myanmar took to the streets again on Tuesday to protest last month’s seizure of power by the military, as foreign ministers from Southeast Asian countries prepared to meet to discuss the political crisis. Police in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, used tear gas against the protesters.
The planned special meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations comes in the wake of worsening violence in Myanmar. The country’s new military rulers over the weekend escalated their use of deadly force and mass arrests to try to quash protests against the February 1 coup that ousted the elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
The UN said it believed at least 18 people in several cities were killed on Sunday when security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrating crowds. Funerals were being held Tuesday for several of the victims.
The authorities also detained more than 1,000 people over the weekend, according to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Those detained included at least seven journalists, among them Thein Zaw of The Associated Press. At least two dozen journalists have been detained since the military’s takeover.
Hundreds of protesters gathered on Tuesday in the Hledan area of Yangon, where a day earlier police had fired repeated rounds of tear gas canisters. The protesters, many of whom wore construction helmets, dragged bamboo poles and debris to form barricades to impede any attempt to rush forward and make arrests, and chanted slogans and sang songs at the police lines.
Tear gas was used again Tuesday. The demonstrators hundreds of mainly young people fled in panic but soon returned to their barricades.
Protesters also took up their flags and banners and assembled to march through the streets of Dawei, a small city in southeastern Myanmar that has seen almost daily large demonstrations against the coup.
Some of them also carried metal shields, an apparent response to the possible use of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets by police. On Sunday, Dawei was the scene of a violent crackdown, with up to five people killed when security forces shot into a large crowd of demonstrators. – PTI