JURIST EXCLUSIVE – Police in a district of Yangon, the old capital of Myanmar, opened fire on peaceful protesters Thursday in the second instance of armed violence by agents of the ruling military junta against unarmed protesters in less than a week. Last Saturday, police and soldiers opened fire on a crowd in Mandalay, killing several. Video from Yangon showed riot police moving on protesters in formation down a street, repeatedly discharging their weapons as the crowd fled. The crowd had gathered to oppose a newly appointed ward administrator. Local reports circulating on the Internet before connectivity was cut off by the military early in the morning Myanmar time for the twelfth night in a row claimed that multiple people were injured in the attack. Other reports indicated that house raids and multiple arrests followed the shootings. Earlier in the evening in Yangon, protesters had faced massed police in a temporary standoff as one protester kneeled in front of the police line.
A law student correspondent reporting for JURIST in Myanmar says that trouble began in Tar Hmway Township when
thugs were dropped by a car from the military side and they tried to mix in with the crowd who were protesting peacefully. The thugs carried sharp weapons and stabbed innocent people randomly on the streets. They threw rocks at people and beat people. The thugs are gathered by the juntas to pretend to celebrate and support the coup. They stabbed a man on his back. Also, they pushed people to trip and fall so that it would be easier to attack. Everyone had to run for life. More than 20 people were injured.
In this scenario, what are the POLICE doing? Their today’s action reclaims the fact that there will be no reconciliation between Myanmar people and Myanmar police ever. For all this time, the police were beating us with batons, shooting us with rubber and real bullets and with stone bows, blocking us in the streets, preventing us from going to safer places and getting medical care, attacking us with water cannon, pushing and shouting at us rudely, banging on our doors at night and kidnapping/arresting us. They’ve never stood up for civilians. But today, they stood up for the thugs who came to harm us. The police are protecting their thugs so that they can harm us easily as much as they want. They even removed the barriers to making ways for the thugs to join the crowd and begin their dirty mission. We’ve lost the last strand of hope that the police might stand up for us someday, join us and protect us.
Tonight, Yangon Taw Hmway is in great danger. Some protesters cannot go back to their homes yet. They’re now protected by the random houses in the streets. The police will arrest anyone on street. They start banging on every door to make them hand over the protestors. We, civilians have to protect ourselves and each other now. No one in this country is willing to protect us now. Without unity, we’re dead already. We only have us but we’re made of 54 million people.
Our correspondent, who was under fire herself in the Mandalay protest Saturday, adds:
That day at the harbor was the first time I’ve ever heard a gunshot in my life. We’re getting to realise the real meaning of “courage”. It’s not that we’re fearless. Despite fear, we move forward and do the right thing. I feel like I’m getting older for 3 years within these 25 days.
Earlier Thursday in Mandalay, law students led a march of over a thousand people protesting against the complicity of the Myanmar judiciary in the military coup that took place February 1, displacing the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Another of our law student correspondents writes:
We protest the judiciary sector and were chanting for them join the CDM [Civil Disobedience Movement[. As you know, under the Constitution, legislative, executive, and judicial bodies are three main pillars and it is really important to have separation of power and check and balance among these three pillars. However, now, most of the judges (90%) are neglecting current issues and just keep issuing remands and granting warrant for the detained and arrested peaceful protesters. They (judicial sector) think that the current crisis doesn’t concern them.
Actually, the judicial sector has always been the most corrupted sector in our country, and that’s why in our country people don’t help in law, do not believe in judicial officer. It has been a long time that there is weak rule of law system as a consequence of military administration…. They want to go back to dark era where they can corrupt as much as they like. We (all the law students) now do not want be a judge or law officer to serve for the country, if this sector will continue to be like this.