NEW YORK/YANGON: The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday condemned the violence used by Myanmar’s military against peaceful anti-coup demonstrators as authorities swooped on striking workers in the Southeast Asian country.
The nation has been in turmoil since the military ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month, triggering daily protests around the country to demand the return of democracy.
Security forces have responded with an increasingly brutal crackdown involving tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets, as well as isolated incidents of live rounds.
The statement saying the Security Council “strongly condemns the use of violence against peaceful protesters”, was the second time in just over a month that its 15 members, including China, spoke in unison on Myanmar’s crisis.
In Myanmar thousands of government workers have been participating in a civil disobedience movement aimed at choking state institutions and paralysing the economy.
The movement has resulted in hospital disruptions, bank closures and empty ministry offices.
Hundreds of soldiers and police were deployed to Ma Hlwa Gone railway station and its staff housing compound, where about 800 workers were participating in strike action.
“Around 300 security personnel are blocking the road searching for the people who are involved in the civil disobedience movement,” a 32-year-old woman who lives at the site said.
“I escaped, but there were many left, I am worried about the remaining workers. I just hope they don’t arrest the people, if they do it is troubling because they could beat and kill them.”
There was a heavy police presence in Yangon’s central San Chaung township on Wednesday following chaos two nights ago when security forces sealed off a block of streets, confining around 200 anti-coup protesters before searching apartments.
State media reported the arrest of seven protesters for allegedly insulting religion by hanging pictures of a monk on female longyis or sarongs on Monday.
Protesters have been hanging longyis to play on security forces’ fears of Myanmar traditions that say women’s lower parts and garments that cover them can sap men’s power.
That followed another restless night in parts of Yangon on Tuesday, with security forces setting fire to protesters’ makeshift barricades in Thingangyun township, according to a 26-year-old resident who accused authorities of trying to incite fear.
There were also tense scenes in the North Okkalapa area as about 100 protesters were arrested.
“Some of them were severely beaten, but the people are still continuing their protest,” a local rescue worker said.
A live video stream showed people coughing and washing their faces after tear gas was deployed and there were reports of gunfire.
“A girl was wounded in her pelvic area by gunshot and she was taken to her home because the hospital is occupied by the security forces,” a rescue worker said.
The US and British embassies in Yangon said there were reports of innocent students and civilians being surrounded by security forces in North Okkalapa.
“We call on those security forces to withdraw from the area, release those detained, and allow people to depart safely,” the US embassy said on Twitter.
The coup and crackdown have triggered international condemnation, with growing demands for the generals to relinquish power and release political prisoners.
In the latest diplomatic effort, the French ambassador visited Yangon’s Insein prison on Wednesday.
“I went… to meet the parents of hundreds of students and peaceful protesters arbitrary detained,” Christian Lechervy wrote on Facebook.