Myanmar: Police fire rubber bullets at anti-coup protesters | News | DW | 27.02.2021
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Myanmar: Police fire rubber bullets at anti-coup protesters

Security forces launched a sweeping clampdown against Myanmar protesters after the country's UN envoy publicly broke ranks with the junta.

police run while holding shields as they attempt to disperse protesters taking part in a demonstration against the military coup

Police fired rubber bullets and detained protesters in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city

Activists in Myanmar said hundreds were arrested when security forces moved to break up protests across the country on Saturday. Police have fired rubber bullets and detained protesters at anti-coup rallies in Yangon and other several cities.

Speaking to the Reuters news agency, a representative of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said that detainees were taken to a prison outside Yangon.

"More than 10 prison buses went into Insein prison with about 40 to 50 people in a prison bus. They arrested many people in Monywa too. We are now trying to get the names of the people," he said.

UN ambassador fired after asking for help

The Saturday clampdown appeared to be the harshest since the military took power in early February. It follows a dramatic appeal from the country's UN ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, who publicly broke ranks with the ruling junta while addressing the UN General Assembly.

Watch video 03:13

'People in Myanmar always find a way to protest peacefully'

"We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup," he said on Friday.

He also urged his "brothers and sisters" in Myanmar to keep resisting.

"This revolution must win," he said in Burmese, flashing the three-finger salute adopted by the protesters.

On Saturday, Myanmar's state broadcaster reported Kyaw Moe Tun has been fired because he had "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn't represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador."

Protesters have been rallying across the country since the coup which toppled civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1. There were similar standoffs between the police and protesters on Friday.

Pro-democracy protesters are detained by riot police officers during a rally

Police arrested pro-democracy protesters as well as three journalists in Yangon

Protests in Yangon

In Myanmar's largest city, Yangon, on Saturday, police chased protesters and journalists from the Myaynigone junction.

Hundreds of ethnic Mon protesters had gathered there to commemorate Mon National Day and protest against the coup. They were joined by other ethnic minority groups.

Riot police arrived to clear the intersection, pursuing protesters and journalists who ran to hide in nearby buildings, news agency AFP reported. The police apparently set off stun grenades and fired shots into the air.

Three journalists were among those detained on Saturday.

"What are the police doing? They are protecting a crazy dictator," the protesters chanted.

Some protesters scattered into smaller residential streets and started building makeshift barricades out of barbed wire and tables to stop the police.

"We will try to find another way to protest — of course, we are afraid of their crackdown," a 23-year-old protester was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

"We want to fight until we win.

Riot police also broke up protests at Hledan intersection, another key rallying point for demonstrators.

Protesters hold rackets and blue homemade shields. They are wearing helmets.

Protesters came prepared with homemade shields to protect them from police violence

Nationwide protests 

Similar scenes played out in the second city of Mandalay and elsewhere, according to local media.

Local media reported that a woman died after being shot in the central town of Monywa. However, the circumstances of the shooting were not immediately clear.

A witness cited by Reuters said police in the town had fired water cannon as they surrounded a crowd of protesters. 

Military chief General Min Aung Hlaing has maintained that authorities are using minimal force to counter demonstrators. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have diedin recent demonstrations. The army has said a policeman was also killed.

Watch video 04:29

How should international community respond?

The military has said it staged the coup over voting irregularities in the November election that gave Suu Kyi's party a landslide win. The national election commission has rejected the allegation. 

The junta has also said that it will rule for a year under a state of emergency and then hold fresh elections. 

kmm/nm (Reuters, AFP, dpa)