Armored vehicles dispatched to major Myanmar cities following mass protests

An armored vehicle drives past the Sule Pagoda after days of mass protests against the military coup in Yangon on February 14, 2021.

– | AFP | Getty Images

Security forces in Myanmar deployed with armored vehicles in major cities and cut off Internet access Monday after protests over this coup, and the detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi dragged hundreds of thousands out into the streets.

Suu Kyi’s detention due to illegal importation of six walkie-talkie radios expires Monday. Her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, could not be reached for comment on what should happen.

Police opened fire to disperse demonstrators at a power plant in northern Myanmar Sunday during a ninth day of anti-kupp demonstrations against kupet Feb. 1, which derailed the southeastern country cautious transition to democracy.

In addition to mass protests around the country, the military rulers are facing a strike by government workers, which is part of a civil disobedience movement that paralyzes many of the government’s functions.

Soldiers were sent to power plants in northern Kachin, leading to a confrontation with protesters, some of whom said they believed the army intended to cut off power.

Security forces fired to disperse protesters outside a facility in Kachin’s capital Myitkyina, showing footage directly on Facebook, though it was not clear whether they used rubber bullets or live fire.

On Sunday night, armored vehicles appeared in the commercial capital of Yangon, Myitkyina and Sittwe, the capital of the state of Rakhine, the first major rollout of such vehicles across the country since the coup.

On Monday, more than a dozen police trucks carrying four water cannon vehicles were dispatched near the Sule Pagoda in Yangon, which has been one of the largest protest centers in the commercial capital.

The government and the army could not be reached for comment.

Shortly after midnight, Myanmar residents reported an Internet outage. All four telecommunications networks were inaccessible from 1 p.m. 1 Monday (1830GMT), they said. In the early days after the coup, the Internet was cut across the country.

Western embassies – from the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and 11 other nations – issued a statement late Sunday urging security forces to “refrain from violence against protesters and civilians protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government.”

The US Embassy in Myanmar has urged former US citizens to “shelter in place”, citing reports of military movements in Yangon. It also warned that there was a possibility of telecommunications disruptions overnight between 1 p.m. 1:00 and 9:00

“Internet shutdown in #Myanmar is now in effect again across all major carriers, reportedly until 9am,” Alex Warofka, product policy leader for human rights and freedom of expression on Facebook, said in a post on Twitter after the Internet went down .

“Hope everybody stays safe tonight in the middle of a lot of reports on military activity. #KeepItOn.”

Civil disobedience

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Myanmar’s military and police to ensure that the proper peaceful assembly was respected and protesters were not subjected to reprisals, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a statement on Sunday.

“Continuous arrests of political leaders, officials, civil society actors and media representatives are deeply worrying, as are the restrictions on Internet and communications services,” he said.

In the latest signs of disruption from workers, the Department of Civil Aviation said in a statement that many employees had stopped coming to work since February 8, causing delays in international flights.

A pilot who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation said hundreds of employees from the department struck. Soldiers surrounded the international airport in Yangon late Sunday night, he said.

Trains in parts of the country also stopped running after staff refused to go to work, local media reported.

The junta has ordered officials to return to work and threaten action. The Army has carried out nightly mass arrests and on Saturday gave itself great powers to detain people and seek private property.

Richard Horsey, a Myanmar-based analyst with the International Crisis Group, said the work of many government departments had effectively stopped.

“This has the potential to also affect vital functions – the military can replace engineers and doctors, but not the electricity grid and central bankers,” he said.

At least 400 people have been detained since the coup, said the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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