Police in Myanmar escalated their crackdown on demonstrators against this month’s military takeover, deploying early and in force on Saturday as protesters sought to assemble in the country’s two biggest cities and elsewhere.
Security forces in some areas appeared to become more aggressive in using force and making arrests, utilizing more plainclothes officers than had previously revealed themselves. Photos posted on social media showed that residents of at least two cities, Yangon and Monywa, resisted by erecting makeshift street barricades to try to hinder the advance of the police.
Myanmar’s crisis took a dramatic turn on the international stage at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Friday when the country’s UN ambassador declared his loyalty to the ousted civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi and called on the world to pressure the military to cede power.
There were arrests Saturday in Myanmar’s two biggest cities, Yangon and Mandalay, where demonstrators have been hitting the streets daily to peacefully demand the restoration of the government of Suu Kyi, whose National League for Democracy party won a landslide election victory in November. Police have increasingly been enforcing an order by the junta banning gatherings of five or more people.
Many other cities and towns have also hosted large protests against the Feb. 1 coup.
Police in Dawei, in the southeast, and Monywa, 135 kilometers (85 miles) northwest of Mandalay, used force against protesters. Both cities, with populations of less then 200,000 each, have been seeing large demonstrations.
Social media carried unconfirmed reports of a protester shot dead in Monywa. The reports could not immediately be independently confirmed but appeared credible, with both photos and identification of the victim. The reports from Monywa also said dozens or more people were arrested.
The military takeover reversed years of slow progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule. Suu Kyi’s party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but the army blocked Parliament from convening and detained her and President Win Myint, as well as other top members of her government.
At the General Assembly in New York, Myanmar’s UN ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, declared in an emotional speech to fellow delegates that he represented Suu Kyi’s “civilian government elected by the people” and supported the fight against military rule.
He urged all countries to issue public statements strongly condemning the coup, and to refuse to recognize the military regime. He also called for stronger international measures to stop violence by security forces against peaceful demonstrators.