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Radio Free Asia

Protesters Paint Myanmar Streets Red as Junta Moves to Arrest Doctors

2021-04-14 -- Opponents of Myanmar's ruling junta splashed red paint and dye on buildings and streets across the country on Wednesday to symbolize the blood of hundreds of civilians killed by the regime, which searched houses in major cities to root out protesters and moved to arrest doctors who oppose the military takeover.

Protesters in multiple cities marked the second day of Burmese New Year with what they called they called a "Blood Campaign Against Dictatorship" the latest in a series of symbolic shows of resistance to the 10-week-old junta.

Previous demonstrations have featured auspicious numbers, flowers and shoes – all aimed at galvanizing protesters and honoring the more than 700 people killed since the Feb. 1 military coup deposed leader Aung San Su Kyi's civilian government.

Carrying placards saying "Dictators must not be allowed to rule the country," marchers dressed in red splashed blood-colored paint and protested in Yangon, Irrawaddy, Mandalay and Sagaing Regions as well as in Kayin and Mon states.

Unmoved by widespread opposition to the coup, security forces continued their onslaught with a mix of indiscriminate shooting at civilians, including many people who were not involved in protests, and deliberate efforts to round up protesters in their homes and punish doctors, rail workers and others who joined the nationwide Civil Disobedience Movement in support of street protests.

The Sagaing region city of Kalay, scene of fatal attacks on troops last week and the shooting deaths of some 30 civilians, soldiers shot at a group of five men who were carrying an oxygen cylinder for a patient at a medical clinic and wounded Aung Myint Shwe, 27, in the abdomen.

"As they were riding on motorbikes with the oxygen cylinder, the soldiers might have thought they were up to something," said a witness.

"First there were two shots and the men thought it was meant to scare them. Later on, a volley of gunfire erupted and this guy was hit in the belly and fell off the bike."

Residents said they heard gunfire every time motorcycles passed by, but protests went on without pause.

In Bago, also the scene of major bloodshed this month, a fire broke out at about early on Wednesday and destroyed three stalls in the compound of the Shwethalyaung Pagoda. A local resident said the junta's forces had previously occupied the compound but left before the fire.

Guest List Act

Moving to mop up opposition to the latest junta in a country that has been under harsh military rule for two thirds of its 73 years as an independent nation, authorities resurrected a repealed law requiring residents to report any guests and visitors.

Aung San Suu Kyi's government had repealed the Guest List Act in 2016 but the military regime reinstated it in February and authorities in Myanmar were enforcing with house-to-house checks, witnesses said.

"We've been asked to prepare guest lists since a few weeks ago. Forms had to be filled. They came to our ward a few days ago for inspection. Some were in uniforms and some were in plainclothes," said Ma Yin Yin, a resident of Yangon's Hlaingthaya township, where dozens of protesters were killed last month.

The draconian rule also applied to people staying in hospitals, residents said.

"I'm now at this hospital to stay with a family member who is receiving medical treatment. We were told yesterday by hospital staff that only one person can stay with the patient and that we need to bring household lists for registration," said a resident of Yangon, who declined to give his name or that of the hospital.

"Some people who had accepted the military and many who feel scared filed in guest lists and so those who didn't have become the minority," added the man.

"Many people have not complied with them and it could mean a lot of problems. Inspections of households could come in the middle of the night and people could get arrested straight away," he added.

The revised Guest List Law was stripped of requirement for a warrant and witnesses – leaving people subject to arrest at any time or place without a valid reason.

"In most authoritarian countries with lots of restrictions, this kind of action is to enable authorities to trace people's movements," said Khin Maung Zaw, a prominent lawyer. "It must be aimed at finding out if any strangers are in the neighborhood and who is at which location," he added.

Children and spouses taken hostage

Witness told RFA that authorities were arresting the spouses or children of wanted individuals when the target is not found at home.

Some 40 soldiers and police looking former political prisoner Bo Bo Han at his home in Aungban in Shan State, arrested his wife, Ei Ei Nyein, when they couldn't find him. Police confiscated his three personal computers, Wi-Fi equipment, and a CCTV camera, friends of the family told RFA.

Authorities also moved Wednesday to round up doctors, nurses and medical students who marched and joined strikes against the coup, charging 19 doctors from public hospitals in Naypyidaw and Tanintharyi regions and Shan state under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code for spreading dissent against the military, the junta said.

Most of the doctors who have been charged remained in hiding to avoid arrest.

Among them were doctors from the 1,000-bed People's Hospital in Naypyidaw who had treated Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, the first fatality since the military takeover. The doctors had produced an x-ray to refute military claims that the 20-year-old woman was hit by a rubber bullet and rejected a junta request to transfer her to a military hospital.

In Myitnge in the central Mandalay region, witnesses told RFA that six people were shot dead on Tuesday when troops fired on Ywa Thit Kyaung Monastery, where a protest leader was hiding, and marauded through the streets of the railway town.

Ko Zaw, 46, a resident of Yankin ward in Myitnge, was shot in the abdomen and died. He was survived by his wife and a disabled daughter, while Aung Chit Thu, a 30-year-old mason, was shot dead in the village, leaving a wife and a 3-year-old son behind.

"The bodies of the two men were hidden in nearby houses yesterday and wrapped in blankets. They were buried early this morning for fear of being grabbed by the military. They were not even given the prayers by monks," a railway employee neighbor of Aung Chit Thu's told RFA on condition of anonymity.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Myanmar human rights group based in Thailand, said that as of Wednesday, 715 people had been confirmed killed and 3,020 people were under detention by the military regime.

According to RFA data, more than 720 people have been killed by the military council in the country since the military coup on February 1, including at least 23 slain in Myingyan alone.

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane and Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.

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