Riot police in Myanmar yesterday dispersed hundreds of protesters who have rallied daily in the country’s largest city against a military junta that toppled civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In some cities, security forces have steadily increased their use of force, but in Yangon, authorities have exercised restraint, largely relying on barricades and troop presence to prevent gatherings around city landmarks and embassies.
Protesters have bypassed restrictions by moving fluidly through the city, organizing around central junctions Hledan and Myaynigone.
However, riot police yesterday advanced on the demonstrators, who were mostly sitting and chanting pro-democracy slogans, and warned them to disperse.
At least two people were arrested after officers cleared the busy traffic artery.
One was Yuki Kitazumi, a Japanese freelance reporter.
“According to eyewitnesses, he was beaten on the head by a baton, but he was wearing a helmet,” Kitazumi’s assistant, Linn Nyan Htun, wrote on Facebook, adding that he had reached out to the Japanese embassy.
A police officer denied that Kitazumi was beaten, but confirmed that the journalist had been detained at a local police station and would be released after giving a statement.
On a smaller residential street off Myaynigone, some demonstrators assembled makeshift barricades, using barbed wire and stacked tables to halt police.
Wearing hard hats, protesters shouted the regular anti-junta refrain: “Failure to the dictatorship is our cause, our cause.”
Uptown off Hledan junction, demonstrators sprinted away as police warned: “If people do not disperse, we will have to disperse by force.”
Protester Nyo Hlaing ran into a nearby house to hide, telling reporters that police had deployed stun grenades.
“We had to run,” Nyo Hlaing said, adding that some protesters retaliated by shooting projectiles using slingshots at the police.
Reporters on the ground heard several stun grenades detonate and saw police arrest more people.
As police searched some apartments, residents around Hledan protested by banging pots and pans.
Back on the main traffic junction, officers allowed buses and other vehicles to pass.
Some passengers flashed a three-finger salute — a symbol of resistance borrowed from Thailand’s pro-democracy movement.
Meanwhile, the World Bank halted payments to projects in the country, while Facebook banned the military.
The bank has halted the payments on withdrawal requests that were made after the coup, the bank said in a letter to the Burmese Ministry of Finance.
World Bank president David Malpass last week said that it was taking an “extra cautious” approach to Myanmar, but was continuing to execute past projects, including emergency COVID-19 relief.
Facebook said that due to the “deadly violence” since the coup, it had banned the Burmese military from using its platforms.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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