Authorities in Myanmar’s commercial capital Yangon arrested 15 people on Tuesday evening after breaking up an anti-junta protest calling on the United Nations to extend the tenure of the shadow National Unity Government’s (NUG) envoy to the world body.
A young man who took part in the protest march on Panbingyi Road in West Yangon’s Kyimyindine township told RFA Burmese that several members of the security forces in civilian clothes pulled up in five vehicles at around 4:30 p.m. and confronted his group.
“I can confirm [the identities of] those who were arrested and I’d say they are in a very dangerous situation,” said the man, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity due to security concerns.
“There were a lot of them in civilian clothes. They arrived in two taxis and three private cars, coming in from all four sides. I saw the guy who was arrested in front of me severely beaten, grabbed by the throat, and dragged away.”
The man said he was late to join in the march and “heard the sound of gunshots and screams” when he arrived, just as the protest was being broken up.
Those who were arrested were members of the Yay Bawai (Octopus) People’s Benevolent Youth Organization, Basic Education Young Students Association (Ah-ka-la-Central), Myanmar Labor Alliance, Burma Youth Network, Pyinnya Nandaw Private School Students’ Union, and the Owl Community, he said.
The protesters had been marching with banners calling on the U.N. to extend the tenure of NUG representative Kyaw Moe Tun, instead of replacing him with an envoy from Myanmar’s military regime, which came to power in a Feb. 1, 2021 coup that unseated the country’s democratically elected government.
In December, the U.N. Credentials Committee announced that it would indefinitely postpone the decision, allowing Kyaw Moe Tun to retain his seat, in what observers called a serious blow to Myanmar’s junta on the world stage.
On Wednesday, the leader of Yay Bawai, which organized the protest, confirmed to RFA that two men, two women, and a person identifying as gender non-binary were among those arrested from his group. He added that the detainees are being held at the Shwe Pyitha and Yay Kyi Aing interrogation centers.
The Confederation of Trade Unions of Myanmar (CTUM) announced on Wednesday that five of its members – two women and three men – were among those arrested.
A person who fled arrest told RFA that he saw a few men and some cars – including a Toyota Alphard – parked nearby before the protest started.
Soon after the protest began, people in civilian clothes came out of the cars and violently arrested the protesters, he said, adding that shots were fired and at least one protester was injured.
Reports by local media said that some journalists covering the protest were among those arrested on Tuesday, although RFA was unable to independently confirm the claim.
Tuesday evening’s protest took place on the same street where on Dec. 5 authorities arrested several anti-junta demonstrators after a military vehicle drove into the crowd, hitting several people.
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.