2/2 © Reuters. Protest against the military coup in Yangon 2/2
(Reuters) – Security forces fired into the air and used tear gas to break up anti-junta protests in Myanmar’s two largest cities on Wednesday, witnesses said, a day after a regional diplomatic push to help end to the crisis of a month it will advance little. . Foreign ministers of Southeast Asian neighbors urged restraint but did not join in calling on the military to release the leader of the ousted government, Aung San Suu Kyi, and restore democracy. At least 21 people have died since a military coup on February 1 ended Myanmar’s tentative advance towards a democratic civilian government. “Oh my eyes, it hurts,” yelled a woman in a teacher’s uniform as she and other protesters dispersed through a cloud of tear gas in Mandalay, according to live video. The overthrow of Suu Kyi’s government has sparked nationwide protests and international consternation. An activist in Chin state said that strikes were taking place in almost all of its municipalities. “Our goal is to show that no one in this country wants a dictatorship,” Salai Lian told Reuters from the western state. A group tracking the arrests said dozens more people may have been detained Tuesday, including a protest organizer who it said was abducted at gunpoint by security men in unmarked cars. Ousted President Win Myint faces two new charges, said his lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, including one for a constitutional violation punishable by up to three years in prison. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) made no progress at a virtual meeting of foreign ministers on Myanmar on Tuesday. Although united in a call for restraint, only four members – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore – called for the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees. “We express ASEAN’s readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive way,” ASEAN President Brunei said in a statement. Myanmar’s state media said the army-appointed foreign minister attended the ASEAN meeting where they “exchanged views on regional and international affairs” but did not mention the focus on Myanmar’s problems. He said that Wunna Maung Lwin “informed the meeting of the voting irregularities” in the November elections. ‘NO MORE WORDS’ The military justified the coup by saying that their complaints of electoral fraud in the November 8 elections were ignored. Suu Kyi’s party won overwhelmingly, obtaining a second five-year term. The electoral commission said the vote was fair. The leader of the board, General-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, has said that the intervention was to protect Myanmar’s fledgling democracy and has pledged to hold new elections, but without a time frame. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in an interview on Tuesday that the coup was a “tragic” step backward for Myanmar and that the use of deadly force by its security forces was “disastrous”. ASEAN’s attempt to find a way out of the crisis has drawn criticism from within Myanmar, with concerns that it would legitimize the junta and not help the country. “No more words, action,” activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters in a message when asked about the ASEAN effort. He called for sanctions on companies linked to the army. The Tuesday night news bulletin on Myanmar’s state television said the rioters were mobilizing people on social media and forming “illegal organizations.” He said tear gas and stun grenades were used to disperse crowds in Yangon and 12 rioters were arrested. After dark in parts of Yangon, people flocked to their balconies to chant anti-military slogans, including “the revolution must triumph.” Others pounded pots and pans in a nightly ritual of defiance. Ye Myo Hein, a researcher and founder of the Center for Burma Studies, said that security forces had fired to dissuade people from participating. “Afterward, a barrage of pans and drum beats filled the air,” Ye Myo Hein posted on Facebook (NASDAQ :). Suu Kyi, 75, has been held incommunicado since the coup, but appeared at a court hearing by video conference this week and looked in good health, a lawyer said. She is one of nearly 1,300 people who have been detained, according to activists, including six journalists in Yangon, one of whom works for the Associated Press, who have called for her release. Myanmar’s representative to the United Nations, who was appointed by Suu Kyi and denounced the coup last week, has filed a claim as the legitimate representative, according to letters seen by Reuters, despite being fired by the board last week.