In the most extensive crackdown in three weeks of nationwide protests against military rule, Myanmar Police on Saturday arrested hundreds of people, shooting and wounding at least one person.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power on February 1 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.
The coup, which stalled Myanmar’s progress toward democracy, has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets.
State television announced that Myanmar’s UN envoy had been fired for betraying the country, a day after he urged the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to reverse the coup that ousted Suu Kyi.
Police were out in force early on Saturday, taking up positions at usual protest sites in the main city of Yangon. Confrontations developed as people came out despite the police operation, chanting and singing. They scattered into side streets and buildings as police advanced, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and shooting guns into the air. “Police set upon some people with clubs”, witnesses said.
State-run MRTV television said more than 470 people had been arrested across the country. It said police had given warnings before dispersing people with stun grenades.
“People blocked the roads without reason. Among those arrested, we will scrutinize those who organize the protests and take tough action,” it said.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners rights group said it believed the number of arrests was higher, with at least 10 prison buses carrying 40 to 50 people each taken to the Insein Prison in Yangon.
Several journalists were among those detained, their media organisations and colleagues said.
“People are protesting peacefully but they’re threatening us with weapons,” said youth activist Shar Yamone. “We’re fighting to end to this military bullying which has been going on for generation after generation.”
One woman was shot and wounded in the central town of Monwya, local media 7Day News and an emergency worker said. 7Day and two other media organisations had earlier reported that she was dead.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities have been using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have died over the days of turmoil. The army says a policeman has been killed in the unrest.
Saturday’s violence came a day after Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun told the UN General Assembly he was speaking on behalf of Suu Kyi’s government and appealed for help to end the military coup.
MRTV television said he had been fired in accordance with civil service rules because he had “betrayed the country” and “abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador”.
However, the United Nations has not officially recognised the junta as Myanmar’s new government.