Security forces in Myanmar arrested the leader of an anti-coup motorcycle rally Thursday after ramming him with an unmarked car, while police and military killed eight and arrested 30 protesters nationwide in the past 24 hours, sources in the country told RFA.
The 25-year-old Muslim activist Wai Moe Naing had been one of the most outspoken leaders of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) against the military’s seizure of power from the country’s democratically elected government on Feb 1.
As Wai Moe Naing and other motorcyclists rode together in protest in the city of Monywa in northwestern Sagaing region, he was rammed by an unmarked police car, according to friends and colleagues.
A local resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the motorcycle Wai Moe Naing was riding was purposely hit by a white civilian car.
“They were on their motorbikes. Suddenly there was a loud crash and when I looked, I saw some people coming out of the car with guns,” the woman said.
“So we closed our doors, but we could still hear the sounds of a beatdown outside. After a while we heard our neighbors saying they had taken Wai Moe Naing. I could see his light-blue motorcycle lying on the road. He always rode that one,” she said.
Video of the incident showed a black car swerving into motorbikes. The license plate for the car did not match the vehicle model listed in Myanmar’s vehicle database according to the Reuters news service.
The reason for the discrepancy between the video footage and the woman’s account regarding the color of the car was not immediately clear.
Another witness named Hein Zaw Win, a member of the protest committee in Monywa, told RFA that the car had been waiting on the road for Wai Moe Naing and his cohort to arrive.
“It came directly at his motorcycle. We were not able to see the men clearly, but Wai Moe Naing was able to get up after they hit him,” said Hein Zaw Win.
“There were about eight of them in civilian clothes. People nearby who saw it happen said he was beaten up before he was taken away. We hear he is being held in the Northwest Command Headquarters,” he said.
Six others on motorcycles who were accompanying Wai Moe Naing were able to escape.
Wai Moe Naing had been leading daily protests in Monywa since the first day of the coup. RFA was unable to confirm reports that he may have suffered life-threatening injuries in the attack.
Western embassies in Yangon condemned the ramming and arrest.
“This appalling act further demonstrates why the people of Myanmar do not accept the military regime. We call for the release of the more than 3,000 people detained by the regime, and we support the people striving for democracy,” the U.S. mission said in a statement.
Sweden said it was “closely following Wai Moe Naing’s case.”
“We urge that all detainees, including Wai Moe Naing, must be allowed proper health care and that all detainees’ human rights must be respected,” the Swedish embassy said.
In Chin state in the northwest, more than 1,200 anti-military activists have crossed the border into India to avoid violent crackdowns in the area, aid workers told RFA.
“Now all the young people are fleeing because there were inspections of household lists day and night. The authorities just come in and make arrests whenever they want,” a source who declined to be named told RFA.
“About two days ago, a friend from Matupi told me that they were looking for people who joined the CDM. Mainly health workers. The party leader and the youth who left earlier are doing whatever they can to support the residents of Matupi,” she said.
The source said some participants in the CDM were arrested while others ran across the border to the Indian state of Mizoram. Chin, Myanmar’s poorest state, also shares a border with Bangladesh.
“The anti-junta protests are no longer what they used to be like last month, but silent protests are continuing every day,” said the source.
Authorities have issued warrants for leaders of the anti-military protests in Chin. Local residents said police made at least 60 arrests in connection with anti-junta protests in Mindat, Hakha, Tiddim, Falam, and Htantalan townships.
On the night of April 9, the military and police raided the home of Kyain Dun Tain, a nurse from the Tiddim People’s Hosptial who had assisted injured participants in the CDM, arresting her and her brother.
A family member told RFA that Kyain Dun Tain had been charged with Section 505 (A) of Myanmar’s penal code for spreading dissent against the military, but her brother was later released.
“I was allowed to see them, but we couldn’t speak freely. They filed a case under Section 505 (a), but there isn’t a court here yet,” the family member said.
Another activist leader, Khaing Khant Lian, was arrested on April 9 in a clash with troops in Tiddim.
One of his family members told RFA, “He was arrested at around 11 p.m. on the 9th. When his friends called and told him that nurses had been arrested, he went out to protest but was arrested himself.”
“He’s now being held in an army camp and not allowed to see his family,” the family member said.
The military has issued warrants for 22 people in Chin state according to notices posted in public places, local residents told RFA.
Meanwhile in Myanmar’s second largest city Mandalay, security forces killed one protester and injured two others as they fled into the Sule Mosque compound at around 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Eyewitnesses told RFA that a military truck approached the mosque, frightening bystanders. Soldiers then shot at those who ran into the compound.
“I don’t know why they just stopped driving and shot into the compound. The victim was shot in the back and the bullet went right through his chest. He was a 30-year-old man,” a rescue volunteer told RFA.
It was the second time that junta forces attacked people inside a mosque in as many months.
In the commercial center Yangon, an early morning fire destroyed the Sein Yadanar Cinema in Kyeemyindine township.
“It’s the cinema near the Night Bazaar. That’s where the fire started. Some of the small shops next to the theatre were burned too,” an eyewitness told RFA.
RFA was not able to confirm how the fire started. The township was the site of another recent fire, when five buses parked in front of the School for the Blind went up in flames.
Five shot in Myitnge
In the Mandalay region’s Myitnge, five men were shot to death and 30 more were arrested at around 4 p.m. Wednesday, residents told RFA.
The residents said the military opened fire on a village where a protest leader was hiding. Two of the dead were identified as 46-year-old Ko Zaw and 30-year-old Aung Chit Thu, who was a mason. RFA was unable to confirm the identity of the other three as internet is unavailable in Myitnge and telephone service is inconsistent.
About 60 miles away in Myingyan, security forces shot in the abdomen 23-year-old Kyaw Ye Naing, who lived in the town’s 2nd Ward, a witness told RFA.
“They tried to arrest the young man just passing by on a motorcycle. He was shot as he tried to escape. They tied him up and dragged him to the front of the jail and they tortured him to death,” the witness said.
Another man in the town succumbed to wounds he received more than two weeks ago. Wednesday. Pyae Phyo Aung Tayokekyi, 25, had been shot in the groin on March 28.
In Myingyan’s 6th Ward, residents who were angry about Pyae Phyo Aung Tayokekyi’s death began to protest from behind makeshift barricades as junta forces fired at them.
According to an RFA tally, security forces have shot and killed more than 720 people since the Feb. 1 coup, including 24 from Myingyan.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Myanmar human rights group based in Thailand, said that as of Thursday, 726 people had been confirmed killed and 3,151 people were under detention by the military regime.
In Maha Aungmyay township in another part of the region, three members of the Nibbana Thukha Social Welfare Association were arrested Wednesday night. They are said to be held in the palace compound. A member of a charity group said they are trying to secure their release.
To date, at least 10 volunteers assisting protesters have been arrested in Mandalay.
In the city of Mandalay, police and military broke up a protest by health workers between 76th and 34th streets at about 9 a.m. Thursday. They arrested a nurse and a medical technician but RFA was unable to confirm further details.
A doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the protest was peaceful and that the soldiers began attacking only minutes after it began.
In the central-western Magway region’s Taungdwingyi township, more than 200 soldiers have been deployed to surround Pyin Chaung village since April 11. A resident of the village told RFA that protesters and more than 1,000 villagers have been forced to flee their homes for the nearby forest.
The villager said the soldiers ordered the villagers to return home or they would enter the forests armed with weapons and make arrests.
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