03/06/2021, 13.42
MYANMAR
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As protests continue, junta resorts to violence and blackouts

by Francis Khoo Thwe

Demonstrations continue in Yangon, Lashio, Loikaw, Myitkyina, Dawei, Myeik, Kyaikto, and Myingyan. Police resort to tear gas, grenades, and beatings. The economy could come to a standstill. Withdrawing cash from ATMs has become difficult. Some foreign businesses are planning to leave. A total lockdown is possible as an extreme attempt to block protests, communications and social media platforms. The UN special envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, warns against providing legitimacy to the junta.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – As people continue their protest against the military coup, the junta tries to drench  demonstrations in blood, while cutting power supplies and social media platforms.

This is having serious consequences for the country’s economy, already affected by strikes and the actions of the Civil Disobedience Movement. The situation is such that some foreign business people have told AsiaNews that they plan to leave the country.

Since the coup took place on 1 February, at least 50 people have been shot dead or beaten to death in prison by security forces. Hundreds more have been wounded.

Yet protests continue in Yangon, Lashio, Loikaw, Myitkyina, Dawei, Myeik, Kyaikto, and Myingyan, despite attempts by police and soldiers to disperse crowds with tear gas, grenades, and beatings.

Protesting is an act of courage because soldiers in uniform or plainclothes stop people, arrest them, drive them away into cars and beat them. A lot of people don't leave home and fear roadblocks.

As a result of civil disobedience, banks and offices are closed, communications have been blocked or curtailed. Withdrawing cash from ATMs is a struggle.

Yesterday, blackouts affected parts of the country. For many, this is an extreme attempt to block communications and social media platforms, which are already shut down at night.

Some rumours have it that the military plans a two-week total lockdown to be announced in the next 48 hours, with restrictions on Internet, electricity, water, travel, and retail businesses. This would bring the economy to a standstill.

A foreign businessman said that "for now I continue to work from home. However, my family and I have our suitcases ready in case the lockdown intensifies."

China and several ASEAN countries, Myanmar's trading partners, are worried about the country’s stability and the impact of the crisis on trade relations.

China and Russia have so far avoided censoring the junta at the UN Security Council. UN special envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener yesterday warned the Council against providing legitimacy to the junta.

"The hope they (the people of Myanmar) have placed in the United Nations and its membership is waning and I have heard directly the desperate pleas -- from mothers, students and the elderly," she said.

"Your unity is needed more than ever on Myanmar... The repression must stop,” she added. However, the Security Council meeting ended without any joint statement.

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