03/20/2021, 13.14
MYANMAR
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A 20-year-old killed in Yangon, others wounded and arrested, while the junta’s show trials get under way

by Francis Khoo Thwe

Protests are reported today in Tarkata (Yangon), in the north of Shan State, in Dawei, Mandalay, Kyaukme, and Hpa-an. The NDL’s Win Htein is set to stand trial on charges of “sedition” and faces up to 20 years in prison. The wheelchair-bound 82-year-old militant is ill with respiratory problems, diabetes and prostate hyperplasia. His application for bail was refused. “We need democracy,” said the mother of a 17-year-old ethnic Chinese man who was killed.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – A 20-year-old man was killed yesterday afternoon by security forces deployed in South Dagon, a township near Yangon (picture 1). The young man, Myo Lai, was shot in the head as he and other protesters were pulling back. A 14-year-old boy was injured. At least 20 protesters and 10 local residents were arrested.

The list of those killed is getting longer. Several sources confirm that a 43-year-old man was killed yesterday in Loikaw, Kaya State; eight others were killed in Aungban  (Shan State). According to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP), 237 people have been killed since the military seized power in a coup d'état on 1 February.

Despite the bloodshed, protests continue (picture 2). Even today rallies and protests are underway in Tarkata (Yangon), in the north of Shan State, in Dawei, Mandalay, Kyaukme, and Hpa-an.

The trial of Win Htein

In an attempt to suppress the unrest, the junta has come up with new accusations against Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of last November's elections, and members of her party, the National League for Democracy (NDL). Many party members have been arrested in night raids.

Like during Stalinist or Maoist purges, the regime is preparing to eliminate any opposition. Yesterday, Myanmar Now announced that a hearing will be held on 2 April ahead of the trial of Win Htein, one of the NDL’s greatest supporters (picture 3).

He was arrested on 4 February, a few days after the coup began, for giving interviews to foreign media criticising the junta. This is why he will stand trial on charges of 'sedition' and faces up to 20 years in prison.

The wheelchair-bound 82-year-old militant is ill, with respiratory problems, diabetes and prostate hyperplasia.  His application for bail was refused.

The reactions of the UN and ASEAN

Yesterday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres again condemned the military’s brutal violence, calling for a “firm, unified international response”.

UN rapporteur Tom Andrews slammed the generals' ruthless attacks on the people. “The world must respond by cutting off their access to money and weapons. Now,” he said on Twitter.

In the international community, more and more leaders are coming out against the military regime and its violence. Following a speech by Indonesian President Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin also said he was  appalled by the continued use of lethal force against unarmed civilians.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “cannot afford to see our brotherly nation of Myanmar become so destabilised at the hands of a selected few, who seek to promote their own vested interests,” he said.

Philippine Foreign Minister, Teodoro Locsin, expressed identical concerns and called for some action by ASEAN, which is known however for its principle of “non-intervention in the internal affairs” of its  members.

China and democracy

On social media, China is the country most criticised for its “non-intervention”, and suspected of providing military aid and diplomatic support to the junta, a position Beijing has held for at least 50 years.

So far, China has said it is not satisfied with the tense situation in the country and is calling for a return to calm.

Last Sunday, Chinese-owned factories were set on fire in Hlaing Tharyar district; as a result, the Chinese Embassy called on the 'Myanmar authorities to impose effective measures to end all acts of violence'.

According to Chinese media, 32 factories were attacked, but local residents, interviewed by AP, noted that only five factories were actually affected.

In fact, many wonder how it is possible for protesters to set fire to buildings, as factories are surrounded by high walls monitored by security staff.

Meanwhile, Khant Nyar Hein, a 17-year-old young medical student (picture 4), was killed during a protest last Sunday. Khant was an ethnic Chinese. The police didn't even want to give the body to the family.

At the funeral, his mother condemned the violence of the military and in an appeal shouted: “My heart aches [. . .] Think about us, ordinary people. What we need is democracy, righteousness and freedom.”

Perhaps her appeal was also addressed to China.

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