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Radio Free Asia

Weekend Crackdowns Kill Six Protesters as Local Media Report 10 Soldiers Killed

2021-04-05 -- At least six people, including an 18-year-old, were killed in 24 hours of crackdowns on civilians by Myanmar security forces, witnesses said Monday, while an online news outlet reported that 10 soldiers died in weekend attacks by citizens in a remote town near the border with India.

Security forces in Mandalay burned a tattoo of deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi off the arm of a supporter of protests against the military junta that overthrew the country's elected government, witnesses said.

The Irrawaddy, an independent online news outlet, reported that in Tamu, a town in Sagaing region near the border with India, four soldiers died on Sunday when a grenade was thrown into a truck by residents after soldiers had fired on protesters building barricades.

The deaths followed the killing of six members of the security forces in Tamu's fire station Friday in an attack led by striking police officer Thang Hou Gin, who died in the attack, the Irrawaddy reported.

RFA could not confirm the accounts of the deaths in Tamu, which followed the deaths of four other soldiers on March 26, raising to 14 the number of soldiers killed in the past 10 days in the city of 44,000 people, the news outlet reported.

Authorities in Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city, shot and killed teenager Htet Htet Win as she rode with her husband on the back of a motorbike Sunday night, witnesses said. The couple was going home after work and was shot at about 9 p.m. during a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

In the same part of the city, security forces arrested a man and burned tattoos of deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and numeric symbols of the civil disobedience movement from his arms on Sunday, they said.

The man, who declined to give his name out of fear, said he had left his house to go for a walk when four soldiers and policemen sitting in the dark pounced on him.

"Then they forced me to take my shirt off, asked me where I was headed, and why I had the tattoos," he said.

When the man told security forces that he had gotten the tattoos free of charge, they said he could not have them, he recounted.

"So I said I would remove them, but they said they'd do it, and one guy held me while the others scorched the tattoos with a burning car tire," the man told RFA.

Gunfire in Pinlebu

Three civilians were killed by gunfire from military forces in the town of Pinlebu in northwestern Myanmar's Sagaing region around 10 p.m. local time Monday, residents said.

About 40 soldiers had been firing their weapons since 5 p.m. in the streets of the town, where young people set up barricades at the top of a road to resist the crackdown, they said.

The leader of the protest told RFA that a fire broke out near the township general administrator's office, and that tensions on both sides remained high. He also said that troops from the Kawlin military base were joining security forces to quell the protests.

Hundreds of people marched through Pinlebu Monday morning in protest against the military regime, according to local residents and social media posts. At least one person was killed and 10 others injured in clashes between security forces and protesters earlier today.

A man was killed and two others wounded in the town when police opened fire on locals who asked for the release of two protesters taken away earlier, witnesses said. One of the three shot in the melee later died of his wounds, they said.

Troops and police circled around Pinlebu in trucks and on motorcycles, arresting people on the streets.

An unidentified dead body that showed signs of abuse or torture was dropped off by police Monday morning near Taungpalu village in Sagaing region, residents told RFA.

"The body has no bullet wounds, but the face was all black and blue," said a volunteer media who saw the corpse. "The forearm was broken. Nobody knows who he was, and no claims have been made yet."

In Naypyidaw, a 25-year-old Muslim man from Shwe Phi ward was shot in the back and died Sunday afternoon when police opened fire on a group of protesters riding motorcycles. A volunteer team of medics took his body to a nearby hospital

Nine weeks after the Feb. 1 coup, protests continued in several other cities and towns across the country, including Kale, Khin-U, and Kanbalu in Sagaing region; Myingyan and Singu in Mandalay region; Hpakant in Kachin state, Muse in Shan state; Mottama and Paung in Mon state; and Bago, Bagan, and Yangon.

Karens dig bomb shelters

Ethnic Karens in Hpapun district of eastern Myanmar's Kayin state meanwhile are digging bomb shelters in the jungle to protect themselves from air strikes by the Myanmar military on villages in territory controlled by the rebel Karen National Union (KNU), citizen videos showed.

Myanmar's military has recently launched air strikes against the KNU — the first such attacks in decades on the ethnic armed organization, which is one of 10 rebel armies that have signed the government's nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA).

The aerial attacks have prompted thousands of Karen to flee their villages and seek refuge along the Thai border or inside Thailand, while others have holed up in the jungle.

Many ethnic Karens allegedly were forced back to Myanmar after trying to seek refuge in Thailand.

Three NCA non-signatory rebel armies issued a statement at the end of March, warning that they might let a temporary cease-fire with Myanmar forces lapse and fight to protect civilians from government forces.

Authorities release civilians

Eleven Yangon residents who were detained by authorities after speaking with CNN reporter Clarissa Ward on April 2 were released on Monday, relatives and friends of those detained told RFA. They were released after the military was questioned by CNN about the arrests, they said.

Yin Thet Tin, the relative of one of the detainees, said authorities did not beat the 11 men and women.

Ward spoke with the locals at the Sei Maing Gon market in Insein township and the Mingaladon market in Yangon under the supervision of military minders. But when Ward and her team left, those who talked to her were arrested by soldiers.

In a reply to an RFA inquiry, CNN said on April 3 that Ward was visiting Myanmar with the permission of the Myanmar Army and was traveling with military guards.

The detainees were released after three days of detention at the Shwepyitha interrogation center, where they refused to answer questions on security grounds about what they had been asked.

Authorities on Tuesday also released two Australian citizens who were placed under house arrest soon after the military coup, Reuters news agency reported. Matthew O'Kane and Christa Avery have been allowed to leave Myanmar without prosecution, the report said.

The two were working as business advisers in Yangon and were arrested by police at the airport on March 19.

Another Australian, Sean Turnell, an economic adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi, remains under arrest and has been charged under Section 3 of the colonial-era Official Secrets Act. The law created by the British colonial government in 1923 criminalizes the sharing of nearly all kinds of information held by the government.

Security forces raid media outlet

Armed police and Myanmar soldiers raided the office of The Hakha Post, a news outlet based in Hakha, Chin state, on April 3 and confiscated documents and three computers, according to a witness who declined to be named.

"On the 3rd at about 11:00 am, they broke down the door and went in and took three computers and some documents," the person said. "Nobody was there inside since the office had been closed for about two weeks."

Founded in January 2010, The Hakha Post presented news about Chin state in the Hakha Chin dialect and on Facebook.

The news outlet's editor-in-chief told RFA that The Hakha Post continued to operate for about two weeks after the coup, but later ceased publication of its newspaper and instead published articles on its Facebook page.

In early March, the military regime pulled the plug on several independent domestic news outlets, including 7Day News, Mizzima, Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), Myanmar Now, and Khit Thit Media, banning them from publishing, broadcasting, and transmitting messages via social media. Security forces raided the offices of three of them, confiscating computers and office equipment.

The Standard Time Daily, Myanmar's last independent daily newspaper, stopped publishing in mid-March, citing difficulties in getting news stories during the martial law period and concerns over the safety of its reporters.

As of Monday, 58 journalists have been arrested by authorities since the Feb. 1 coup, with 30 released, two of whom are out on bail.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Thailand-based Myanmar NGO, says that a total of 2,741 people have been detained by the military regime and 543 have been killed.

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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