Myanmar Security Forces Target Striking Railroad Workers’ Neighborhood

Myanmar security forces raided a Yangon neighborhood Wednesday where striking railway workers have been demonstrating as the protests against the country’s military regime entered its 36th consecutive day.   The striking workers have led a campaign of civil disobedience with other civil servants against the junta, which took power on February 1 after overthrowing the civilian government and detaining de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other high-ranking officials.  The railway workers joined an alliance of nine trade unions in Myanmar in a general strike Monday to back the anti-coup movement and pressure the junta. Military officials have claimed widespread fraud in last November’s general election, which the NLD won in a landslide, as justification for the takeover.  The allegations of fraud have been denied by Myanmar’s electoral commission.   More victims The anti-coup demonstrations have been staged across Myanmar despite the increasingly violent actions by security forces.  The independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners says at least 60 protesters have been killed and more than 1,900 people have been arrested since the coup.Anti-coup protesters use fire extinguishers to reduce the impact of teargas fired by riot policemen in Yangon, Myanmar, March 9, 2021.Among the dead are two members of Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, Zaw Myat Lin and Khin Maung Latt, both of whom died while in police custody.  Zaw Myat Lin died Tuesday after being arrested while trying to escape from a police raid in Yangon, according to reports from the Voice of Myanmar and other news outlets. Ba Myo Thein, a member of the upper house of parliament, which has been dissolved by the junta, said Zaw Myat Lin had been “participating continuously in the protests.” Zaw Myat Lin’s family was told to recover his body Tuesday but was not informed how he died, according to his friend and fellow activist Maung Saungkha. The first NLD official to die in custody was Khin Maung Latt, who had worked as a campaign manager for an NLD lawmaker, party lawmaker Sithu Maung confirmed to VOA’s Burmese service. He died after his arrest on Saturday night. People flash three-finger salutes as they attend a funeral of U Khin Maung Latt, 58, a National League for Democracy (NLD)’s ward chairman, in Yangon, Myanmar, March 7, 2021. Tun Kyi, spokesperson of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), told VOA Burmese that he accompanied the bereaved family to claim Khin Maung Latt’s body on Sunday and witnessed blood on his head, his fingers blackened and wounds on his back.   
Human Rights Watch said Khin Maung Latt’s injuries were consistent with torture. The deaths of the two NLD officials while in custody raise questions about whether the government is torturing and murdering detained protesters. 
The police and military have not responded to media requests for comment on the deaths. Bloody crackdownDuring the protests in Yangon, a standoff between coup protesters and security forces in Myanmar’s largest city ended without further bloodshed. 
Witnesses in Yangon said as many as 200 young people were cornered in the Sanchaung neighborhood Monday night as they escaped the clutches of security forces that have carried out an increasingly bloody crackdown against the demonstrations. A resident looks at a burning barricade, erected by protesters then set on fire by soldiers, during a crackdown on demonstrations against the military coup in Insein township in Yangon on March 10, 2021. (Photo by STR / AFP)The army fired guns and stun grenades as the students fled into buildings and homes in the district and threatened to launch a door-to-door search for the youths.   
News of the youths spread quickly on social media, prompting thousands of people to fill the streets of Yangon in defiance of a nighttime curfew to demand that security forces end the siege, chanting “Free the students in Sanchaung.” 
The students were able to leave shortly before dawn just hours after security forces left the area, but not before anywhere between 25 and 50 people had been arrested in Sanchaung after a house-to-house search. VOA Burmese Service contributed to this report. 

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