News World Asia Myanmar police take off the gloves to halt pro-democracy protests

Myanmar police take off the gloves to halt pro-democracy protests

Protesters surrender in Yangon at the point of a gun. Photo: AP/Lynn Bo Bo
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Police are cracking down in Myanmar to prevent opponents of military rule gathering and one woman was shot and killed, according to media reports, after the country’s UN envoy urged the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to stop a February 1 coup.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.

Uncertainty has grown over Suu Kyi’s whereabouts, as the independent Myanmar Now website on Friday quoted officials of her National League for Democracy party as saying she had been moved this week from house arrest to an undisclosed location.

The coup has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters to Myanmar’s streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.

Being female and pregnant offers no protection against the regime’s enforcers. Photo: Twitter/WHIM

Police were out in force in the main city of Yangon and elsewhere on Saturday, taking up positions at usual protest sites and detaining people as they congregated, witnesses said. Several media workers were detained.

Three domestic media outlets said a woman was shot and killed in the central town of Monwya.

In Yangon, despite the police presence, people came out to chant and sing, then scatter into side streets as police advanced, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and firing guns into the air, witnesses said.

Similar scenes played out in the second city of Mandalay and several other towns.

Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities were using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have died. The army says a policeman was also killed.

At the UN General Assembly, Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said he was speaking on behalf of Suu Kyi’s government and appealed for “any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military and to provide safety and security for the people”.

“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup … and to restore the democracy,” he said.

Delivering his final words in Burmese, the career diplomat raised the three-finger salute of pro-democracy protesters and announced “our cause will prevail”.

UN special rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed as he watched the ambassador’s “act of courage”.

China’s envoy did not criticise the coup and said Beijing supported diplomacy by Southeast Asian countries.

But in more bad news for the generals who have traditionally shrugged off outside pressure, Australia’s Woodside Petroleum said it was cutting its presence in Myanmar over concern about rights violations and violence by the security forces.

Prime Minister Aung San Suu Kyi’s hasn’t been seen since troops dragged her away. Photo: Getty

A lawyer acting for Suu Kyi, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters he had also heard she had been moved from her home in the capital, Naypyitaw, but could not confirm it. Authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

The lawyer said he had been given no access to Suu Kyi before her next hearing on Monday.

Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi, 75, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during military rule. She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols.

The army has promised an election but not given a date. It has imposed a one-year state of emergency.