Myanmar security forces raid houses of protesting railway workers

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Anti-coup protesters retreat from the frontlines after discharging fire extinguishers towards a line of riot policemen in Yangon, Myanmar Wednesday, March 10, 2021. (AP Photo)

Myanmar security forces on Wednesday raided a neighborhood in the country’s largest city that houses state railway workers who have gone on strike to protest last month’s military coup.

Police sealed off the Mingalar Taung Nyunt neighborhood in Yangon where the Ma Hlwa Kone train station and housing for railway workers are located. Photos and video on social media showed officers blocking streets and what was said to be people escaping.

At least three arrests were reported, but couldn’t immediately be confirmed. There was no apparent resistance to the raid, and local media reported that the authorities forced at least some residents from their homes.

Later Wednesday, police fired warning shots, tear gas, stun grenades and live rounds in other areas of Yangon to disperse protesters. In North Okkalapa, press and social media reports said at least 200 people were arrested. About 400 young people who were detained in mass arrests a week ago are believed to still be behind bars.

The raid on rail workers comes just days after several Myanmar unions, including the Myanmar Railway Worker’s Union Federation, issued a joint call for a nationwide work stoppage. They said the strike would be part of a broader effort for “the full, extended shutdown of the Myanmar economy.”

Despite the increasingly violent tactics of security forces, protests continued Wednesday in cities and towns across the country, including Yangon, Mandalay, Monywa, Dawei, Myitkyina, Myitkyina, Bago, Kalaw and Myingyan. Some were met with police force, while others were brief and violence-free.

Riot police in Dawei fired tear gas, forcing marchers to disperse and hide. There were also reports of the use of rubber bullets. No injuries have been confirmed.

A leading organizer of protests in the small southern city was arrested Wednesday morning, according to the local Dawei Watch news service.

Dawei has become a hotspot for anti-coup protests and has experienced heavy police crackdowns, with up to five deaths.

In Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, Buddhist monks joined about 1,000 demonstrators marching through the streets near their monastery. They carried a banner that read “Demonstrating Peacefully.” The march ended before security forces could confront them.

Myanmar has been roiled by protests and other acts of civil disobedience since the Feb. 1 coup that toppled elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government just as it was to start its second term. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.

Security forces have responded with mass arrests and at times lethal force. At least 60 protesters have been killed since the military takeover, according to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

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