(C) Reuters. Protesters set up a makeshift shield formation in preparation for potential clashes, in Yangon
(Reuters) – 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.
There were sporadic protests across Myanmar on Saturday and local media reported that police fired tear gas shells and stun grenades to break up a protest in the Sanchaung district of Yangon, the country’s biggest city. There were no reports of casualties.
Late at night, residents said soldiers and police moved into several districts of Yangon, firing shots.
They arrested at least three people in the 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 (NLD), but were unable to find him, a member of the now dissolved parliament, Sithu Maung, said in a Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) post.
Reuters was unable to reach police for comment. A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.
ARRESTS AND DEAD
Well over 1,500 people have been arrested under the junta, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group. This association and the United Nations say that more than 50 protesters have been killed.
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 the city of 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 also 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.
“There’s a real push to move towards the West and the United States as opposed to trying to get closer to the Chinese,” Ben-Menashe said. “They want to get out of politics completely… but it’s a process.”
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 U.N. investigators said had been carried out with “genocidal intent”.
Myanmar forces make night raids after breaking up protests