‘Myanmar should protect basic rights of protesters’

Diplomatic Correspondent

6 February, 2021 12:00 AM printer

Myanmar authorities should protect basic freedoms and immediately rescind police orders to arrest and use force against protesters, said Fortify Rights on Friday.

Following the military coup on February 1, the Mandalay District Police Commander’s Office issued an internal memorandum on February 3 instructing police to use riot-control weapons to shoot protesters of the military coup.

Since February 1, the military has arbitrarily detained scores of pro-democracy activists, protesters, and political opponents and blocked access to Facebook.

“The military’s drastic efforts to throttle any opposition to its putsch are fast returning the country to its darkest days of dictatorship,” said Ismail Wolff, Regional Director of Fortify Rights. “The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, information, and expression are fundamental and particularly critical in the current climate.”

The police memorandum, obtained by Fortify Rights and bearing the Mandalay District police commander’s office’s official seal and the signature of the police captain, instructs police officers to “fire” at protesters of the military coup.

The memo also instructs police to arrest protesters “on-site without needing to ask for approval” and to arrest doctors and nurses “if they protest outside the premises of a hospital”.

Fortify Rights independently confirmed the authenticity of the memo.

The military detained more than 140 people since Feb 1, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Most recently, on February 4, police arrested at least five protesters in Mandalay after they staged a public demonstration against the coup. Around 20 anti-coup protesters in Mandalay waved banners and chanted pro-democracy slogans, including “Release our arrested leaders now!”

The military junta also issued two directives this week ordering internet service providers and telecommunications companies to block Facebook and the use of virtual private networks (VPN), which protects user data and enables access to blocked websites.