Myanmar security forces have deployed armoured vehicles in major cities and cut internet access as the military junta which overthrew the government seeks to clamp down on protesters.
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets over the weekend to protest this month’s coup and the detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Police opened fire to disperse protesters at a power plant in northern Myanmar on Sunday (local time) during a ninth day of anti-coup demonstrations against the military coup, which derailed the Southeast Asian country’s tentative transition to democracy.
As well as mass protests, the military rulers face a strike by government workers, part of a civil disobedience movement that is crippling many of the functions of government.
Soldiers were deployed to power plants in the northern state of Kachin, leading to a confrontation with demonstrators, some of whom said they believed the army intended to cut off the electricity.
The security forces fired to disperse protesters outside one plant in Kachin’s state capital Myitkyina, footage broadcast live on Facebook showed, although it was not clear if they were using rubber bullets or live fire.
‘Social media is very quiet now’
On Sunday evening, armoured vehicles appeared in Yangon, Myitkyina and Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, the first large-scale rollout of such vehicles across the country since the coup.
On Monday, more than a dozen police trucks with four water cannon vehicles were deployed near the Sule Pagoda in Yangon, which has been one of the main centres for protests in the commercial capital.
Shortly after midnight, residents in Myanmar reported an internet outage. All four telecommunications networks were inaccessible from about 1am on Monday, they said. In the early days after the coup, the internet was cut across the country.
Burmese-American journalist Aye Min Thant has spent the last two weeks live tweeting the coup from inside Myanmar.
“The internet blackout is real. Neither my Wi-fi nor my Myanmar sim card allow me to connect to the internet anymore. At least 2 journalists have been arrested so far tonight. Social media is very quiet now,” she tweeted ON Monday.
While much of the online activity in the country has gone dark, there were still some people able to get online, with those on the borders able to connect using foreign cell towers while international roaming was working with some foreign SIM cards, she said.
West calls for restraint from security forces
Western embassies – from the European Union, the UK, Canada and 11 other nations – on Sunday called on security forces to “refrain from violence against demonstrators and civilians, who are protesting the overthrow of their legitimate government”.
The US embassy in Myanmar earlier urged American citizens to “shelter in place”, citing reports of the military movements in Yangon.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Myanmar’s military and police to make sure the right to peaceful assembly was respected and demonstrators were not subjected to reprisals.
In the latest sign of disruption by workers, the Department of Civil Aviation said many staff had stopped going to work since February 8, causing delays to international flights.
Trains in parts of the country also stopped running after staff refused to go to work, local media reported.
The junta has ordered civil servants to go back to work, threatening action. The army has carried out nightly mass arrests and on Saturday gave itself sweeping powers to detain people and search private property.
At least 400 people have been detained since the coup, the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.
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