Yangon: Despite the international community’s calls for restraint, security forces are still escalating their lethality against anti-coup demonstrators. Residents in the area where the protests broke out in Myanmar’s largest city fled flat trucks and tuk-tuks on Tuesday.
Much of the country has been in uproar since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month, with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets to demand a return to democracy.
Police and soldiers have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to subdue crowds in near-daily crackdowns, along with blanket nightly internet shutdowns to stop protesters from mobilising.
Monday saw fresh violence by security forces in several cities, leaving at least 20 dead, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring group that has been tracking arrests and fatalities.
It was the deadliest day in the six weeks since the army dismissed the Suu Kyi government. AAPP reported that 74 people were killed on Sunday after the violent suppression of anti-coups across Myanmar.
Many of them died in the impoverished town of Hlaing Tharyar in Yangon, a garment production area in the commercial center of Yangon, where mainly Chinese-owned factories-some of which were razed to the ground on Sunday.
The military government responded by imposing martial law on the area and five other towns with a population of approximately 2 million, which is more than a quarter of the city’s population.
Anyone arrested there will face trial by a military court, sentenced from three years of hard work to execution.
Myanmar legal expert Melissa Crouch (Melissa Crouch) said that the martial law effectively controlled the military commanders, civilian administrators and judges bystanders.
“The use of martial law is extremely troubling and… represents a significant decline in the situation in Myanmar,” the University of New South Wales academic said.
By Tuesday morning, local media outlet The Irrawaddy published photos of residents fleeing the township, crowding onto flatbed trucks stuck in columns of snaking traffic.
Some carried their pets on the back of motorbikes, while others crammed their belongings in vinyl bags on tuk-tuks.
“Migrant workers from Hlaing Tharyar are fleeing back to their home states,” reported local outlet Democratic Voice of Burma.
“We can see the people on the roads for as far as one’s eye can see.”