MYANMAR ANTI-COUP PROTESTS CONTINUE DESPITE BLOODY CRACKDOWN
Police in Myanmar’s biggest city fired tear gas Monday at defiant crowds who returned to the streets to protest last month’s coup, despite reports that security forces had killed at least 18 people a day earlier, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The protesters in Yangon were chased as they tried to gather at their usual meeting spot at the Hledan Center intersection. Demonstrators scattered and sought in vain to rinse the irritating gas from their eyes, but later regrouped.
But UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the use of lethal force against peaceful protesters and arbitrary arrests “unacceptable,” said U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
“Words of condemnation are necessary and welcome but insufficient. The world must act. We must all act,” the U.N.’s independent expert on human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said in a separate statement.
The army has leveled several charges against Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi — an apparent effort by the military to provide a legal veneer for her detention and potentially to bar her from running in the election the junta has promised to hold in one year.
On Monday, Suu Kyi made a court appearance via videoconference and was charged with two more offenses, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told reporters. Accused of inciting unrest, she was charged under a law that dates from British colonial days and has long been criticized as a vaguely defined catch-all statute that inhibits freedom of expression.
That charge carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison. The other charge from Monday carries a one-year sentence. Following her detention on the day of the coup, the 75-year-old Suu Kyi was initially held at her residence in the capital of Naypyitaw, but members of her National League for Democracy party now say they don’t know where she is.
Among the arrests made Sunday, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners was able to identify about 270 people, bringing to 1,132 the total number of people the group has confirmed has been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup.
Thein Zaw, an AP journalist, was taken into police custody on Saturday morning while providing news coverage of the protests.
He remains in police custody. The AP called for his immediate release.
“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution. AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw,” said Ian Phillips, the AP’s vice president for international news.
According to information collected by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners and local media reports, at least seven other journalists were detained over the weekend — all of whom work for local media. At least another 13 have been detained since the coup.