A post-coup crackdown by Myanmar’s military seemed to intensify Monday as security forces revoked the licenses of five independent press companies prior to a late-night standoff that watched countless youthful protesters trapped in Yangon.
Army junta forces had cornered hundreds of men and women in Sanchaung township, at the nation’s largest city, and threatened to move door to door to hunt them down, Reuters reported. Police fired guns and used stun grenades because protesters sought refuge in neighboring buildings.
Local media reported 27 individuals were detained in Sanchaung Monday night. CNN couldn’t independently confirm whether any protesters were arrested.
The move sparked appeals against the US, UK and United Nations for police and military to let about 200 barricaded protesters to leave the area. Thousands of people turned out in neighboring streets and districts in solidarity and defiance of a night curfew.
At the early hours of Tuesday morning, activists said the trapped protesters could depart the Sanchuang district following security forces left along with also a curfew lifted. Military trucks and security forces were seen leaving approximately two a.m. and protesters started exiting after 4 a.m. Volunteers were on standby to provide the fleeing protesters free rides home.
Myanmar has been thrown into turmoil because the army seized power in a February 1 coup, detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and forming a new junta to conduct the nation. For more than a month, protesters across Myanmar have turned out daily in their thousands to resist military principle. Officials have reported extrajudicial killings and nighttime raids, while footage and photographs show police and the army shooting dead anti-coup protesters and beating detainees. At least 54 people have died in crackdowns on protests, such as many teens and young people, as stated by the UN.
In Sanchaung on Monday, protesters had turned out to celebrate International Women’s Day and”fly” their own Htamains (sarongs) within their anti-junta movement.
Activist Maung Saungkha said there were cat and mouse exchanges through the afternoon between police and protesters, who had run in to buildings to hide as security forces attempted to disperse them. Around 6 p.m., 200 youthful protesters recognized police had barricaded them right into a small area and refused to allow them — or anyone else — leave, he said.
“Three streets were blocked by soldiers and police. Even though the owners of this building were ordinary people who live in Sanchaung, these people weren’t permitted to go out,” he said.
People were fearful and heard security forces shout they would come building to building to arrest them, he explained.
The building Maung Saungkha was hiding in had an emergency escape exit so he was able to leave the area. But many of his friends remained trapped until the early hours.
“I felt guilty all night,” said Maung Saungkha, from demonstration team General Strike Committee of Nationalities, which represents ethnic minorities. “I feel like I’m not only responsible for myself but also my coworkers.”
He believes security forces only backed off due to pressure from the UN and global embassies, which called for the release of protesters.
The British Embassy in Myanmar tweeted that it was conscious of this”ongoing scenario in Sanchaung” and advocated”the security forces to allow all civilians to leave immediately without danger of arrest or violence.”
DVB’s operations manager in Yangon, Toe Zaw Latt, stated the order supposed they were no longer formally recognized as media organizations nor permitted to broadcast or release on any platform.
“That is not going to stop us” Toe Zaw Latt said.
Mizzima also continued to broadcast pictures of the protests on its own YouTube channel Tuesday. On Monday, the group confirmed on its site that the military revoked its permit.
DVB was among many media organizations forced to run outside the nation for decades under military rule. Formed in 1992 by democracy activists, the organization conducted its operations from Oslo, Norway, relying on a network of underground terrorists in Myanmar along with a bureau in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that provided a window to what was among the world’s most-isolated states.
Once the military started opening Myanmar in 2011 under the quasi-civilian rule of Thein Sein and embarked on a series of reforms, including abolishing pre-publication censorship, exiled media groups cautiously began returning to the country.
“From the beginning, our strategy was a’one foot in one foot outside’ situation, as we trusted army. And military never trusted independent media.
Paul Donowitz, Myanmar Campaign Leader at rights group Global Witness, said the press crackdown showed the military was”trying to return the nation to its darkest times.”
Independent reporting is all the more important in the present context, helping to counter the military’s misinformation campaigns and supply the public and activists with objective accounts of what’s going on in the wake of the coup,” he said.
Once the military took charge of the country last month, one of coup leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s first acts would be to pull the plug on separate TV channels. Since that time, journalists were among the 1,857 individuals arrested by junta forces — one of both DVB reporters.
“There will clearly be targeting of journalists on the floor and we expect more arrests. Our main concern is how do we handle our employees safety. At the same time, we need to report,” Toe Zaw Latt stated.
Going back into exile may be a chance, he said, but for now DVB will keep track of every stage they could. “The coup cant stop our (reporting)… there is not any way we’re going to stop right now,” he said.