Part of Myanmar’s largest city has been turned into a battle zone, with burning barricades and security forces firing at unarmed anti-coup protesters.
Traumatized residents have fled the industrial neighborhood in Yangon that has become one of the hotbeds of conflict in a national uprising against the military coup nearly seven weeks ago.
The junta has increasingly deployed force to quell the demonstrations, with more than 200 protesters reported to have been killed in the crackdown.
Sunday was the deadliest day since the coup, with a local monitoring group documenting the deaths of more than 70 people, most of them in Yangon’s industrial Hlaing Tharyar township, which has become the battle zone. .
On Sunday, the junta imposed martial law in Hlaing Tharyar and later in other protest municipalities, placing nearly 2 million people under the full control of military commanders.
The residents, many of them migrant workers, have since fled to their home states, piling their belongings and families into flatbed trucks and on the backs of motorcycles. Those who stayed reported scenes similar to the war.
“There were constant gunfire throughout the night and we couldn’t sleep,” one resident told AFP on Wednesday, adding that people were even worried about walking the streets for fear of being attacked by security forces.
Another resident, a medical student, said there was a heavy military and police presence in major parts of the municipality.
“They were checking cars, motorcycles and mobile phones of people who were walking on the streets,” he told AFP.
“If they detected something related to politics and the civil disobedience movement, they would arrest people,” he said, adding that authorities also threatened residents to remove barricades around the area.
Hard-line anti-coup protesters had camped out on a bridge leading to the municipality’s main roads Tuesday night, wearing helmets, gas masks and shields.
They had also erected barricades made of tires, wood, sandbags, and bamboo poles. Some of those barricades caught fire, causing dense black smoke to billow over the mostly deserted streets.
Some protesters threw gasoline bombs at security forces, but otherwise appeared defenseless as they hid behind makeshift shields.
In a residential area of a neighboring municipality, video images verified by AFP showed bursts of non-stop gunfire for approximately 15 seconds.
Information about arrests and violence has been pouring out of conflict areas on social media; the flow slowed due to the limitation of mobile data by the board.
Much of Myanmar has been unable to use its mobile internet since early Monday morning. The country is also subjected to a nightly internet shutdown for eight hours.
More than 200 people have died in anti-coup riots, according to the Political Prisoner Assistance Association, a local monitoring group.
But protesters continued to take to the streets on Wednesday, with local media broadcasting images of people marching through northern Hpakant and the central Sagaing region.
In Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, saffron-robed monks marched alongside protesters carrying the red flags of the Aung San Suu Kyi National League for Democracy party.
The United Nations again condemned the deaths in Myanmar on Tuesday, adding it was concerned about reports of torture and deaths of detainees.
“The death toll has skyrocketed over the past week in Myanmar, where security forces have been using lethal force increasingly aggressively against peaceful protesters,” the spokeswoman for the rights office of the Myanmar government told reporters. UN, Ravina Shamdasani.
“Deeply distressing reports of torture in custody have also emerged.”
The office had determined that “at least five deaths in custody have occurred in recent weeks,” he said, adding that “at least the bodies of two victims have shown signs of severe physical abuse indicating that they were tortured.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism