Myanmar Security Forces Confront Striking Railway Workers

Mass demonstrations against Myanmar’s military overthrow of the civilian government resumed again Thursday, hours after security forces confronted striking railway workers.

Amid the ongoing protests, Canada and Britain on Thursday imposed sanctions on members of Myanmar’s junta, following similar sanctions by the United States last week.

Britain said Thursday it would freeze assets and impose travel bans on three generals, while Canada said it would sanction nine.

“We, alongside our international allies, will hold the Myanmar military to account for their violations of human rights and pursue justice for the Myanmar people,” British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed the move.

In a tweet, he said: “We urge the international community to send a unified message to promote accountability. The Burmese military must restore the democratically elected government.”

Blinken joined his Japanese, Australian and Indian counterparts in the “Quad” group in calling for democracy to be restored in Myanmar, following virtual talks earlier in the day.

“We’ve all agreed on the need to swiftly restore the democratic system (in Myanmar),” and to strongly oppose all unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters.

International concern for Myanmar has been mounting since the military detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the ruling party on February 1.

The announcements Thursday came as roughly three quarters of Myanmar’s civil service was on strike, according to the United Nations.

Late Wednesday, security forces marched through a Mandalay neighborhood where state railway workers are housed. Witnesses say the forces fired on the striking workers with rubber bullets, slingshots and rocks.

The railway workers are among the scores of private and public sector employees and civil servants who joined the mass demonstrations against the coup by walking off their jobs, despite a military order to return to work and threats of action against them.

The junta issued arrest warrants Wednesday against a handful of celebrities, including actors and film directors, who are accused of violating a law prohibiting anyone from purposely trying to keep civilian employees or members of the military from their jobs.

The celebrities are accused of encouraging civil servants to take part in the protests.

They followed similar mass protests held earlier Wednesday in Yangon in response to the ouster of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the civilian government on February 1.” Reports say the Yangon protests were the largest in that city since the coup.

There were no reports of significant violence, but protesters continued the practice of blocking major thoroughfares with vehicles parked in the streets with their hoods raised while using engine trouble as an excuse.

The government briefly shut down internet services Wednesday for a fourth consecutive night.

The military has cited widespread fraud in last November’s general elections, won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy in a landslide, as justification for the takeover. Those claims were rejected by Myanmar’s electoral commission. The junta has declared a one-year state of emergency and promised to hold a new round of elections.

Suu Kyi has been under house arrest at her official residence in Naypyitaw since the coup. Authorities initially charged her with illegally possessing imported walkie-talkie radios without a license, a crime punishable by a maximum of three years in prison. A second charge was filed against her Tuesday for violating the country’s COVID-19 containment restrictions, an apparent legal maneuver that could keep her detained indefinitely.

President U Win Myint has also been under house arrest since the coup.

Source: Voice of America