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Myanmar forces make night raids after breaking up protests

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    Reuters

Yangon, Myanmar   /   Sun, March 7, 2021   /   09:25 am
Myanmar forces make night raids after breaking up protests Police beat a protester as they detain him during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on March 6, 2021. (Agence France Presse/STR)

Myanmar security forces fired gunshots as they carried out overnight raids in the main city Yangon after breaking up the latest protests against last month's coup with teargas and stun grenades.

The Southeast Asian country has been plunged into turmoil since the military overthrew and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1. Daily demonstrations and strikes have choked business and paralysed administration.

More protests were planned on Sunday after local media reported that police fired tear gas shells and stun grenades to break up a protest in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city, on Saturday. There were no reports of casualties.

The General Strike Committee of Nationalities protest group said protests would be held in Yangon, the second city of Mandalay and Monywa, also centres for protests in which the United Nations says security forces have killed more than 50 people.

Into the early hours of Sunday, residents said soldiers and police moved into several districts of Yangon, firing shots. They arrested at least three in Kyauktada Township, residents there said. They did not know the reason for the arrests.

"They are asking to take out my father and brother. Is no one going to help us? Don't you even touch my father and brother. Take us too if you want to take them," one woman screamed as two of them, an actor and his son, were led off.

Soldiers also came looking for a lawyer who worked for Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy but were unable to find him, a member of the now dissolved parliament, Sithu Maung, said in a Facebook post.

Reuters was unable to reach police for comment. A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.

Well over 1,700 people had been detained under the junta by Saturday, according to figures from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group. It did not give a figure for overnight detentions.

"Detainees were punched and kicked with military boots, beaten with police batons, and then dragged into police vehicles," AAPP said in a statement. "Security forces entered residential areas and tried to arrest further protesters, and shot at the homes, destroying many."

Myanmar authorities said on Saturday they had exhumed the body of 19-year-old Kyal Sin, who has become an icon of the protest movement after she was shot dead in Mandalay on Wednesday wearing a T-shirt that read "Everything will be OK".

State-run MRTV said a surgical investigation showed she could not have been killed by police because the wrong sort of projectile was found in her head and she had been shot from behind, whereas police were in front.

Photographs on the day showed her head turned away from security forces moments before she was killed. Opponents of the coup accused authorities of an attempted cover-up.

The killings have drawn anger in the West and have been condemned by most democracies in Asia. The United States and some other Western countries have imposed limited sanctions on the junta. China, meanwhile, has said the priority should be stability and that other countries should not interfere.

Protesters demand the release of Suu Kyi and the respect of November's election - which her party won in landslide but which the army rejected. The army has said it will hold democratic elections at an unspecified date.

Israeli-Canadian lobbyist Ari Ben-Menashe, hired by Myanmar's junta, told Reuters the generals are keen to leave politics and seek to improve relations with the United States and distance themselves from China.

He said Suu Kyi had grown too close to China for the generals' liking.

Ben-Menashe said he also had been tasked with seeking Arab support for a plan to repatriate Rohingya refugees, hundreds of thousands of whom were driven from Myanmar in 2017 in an army crackdown after rebel attacks.

Junta leader and army chief Min Aung Hlaing had been under Western sanctions even before the coup for his role in the operation, which UN investigators said had been carried out with "genocidal intent".

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