Myanmar forces arrest comedian and break up doctors’ protest


YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – Myanmar authorities arrested the country’s best-known comedian Tuesday as they continue to crack down on people they accuse of helping incite nationwide protests against the February military coup.

Comedian Zarganar was taken from his home in Yangon by police and soldiers who arrived in two army vehicles, fellow comedian Ngepyawkyaw said on his own Facebook page. Zarganar, 60, is a sharp-tongued satirist who has been in and out of jail since he was actively involved in a failed 1988 popular uprising against a previous military dictatorship. He is also known for his social work, especially in the organization of assistance for victims of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Last week, the junta issued arrest warrants for some 100 people active in the fields of literature, film, theater arts, music and journalism accused of disseminating information that undermines the country’s stability and the rule of law. It was not immediately clear what Zarganar, whose real name is Maung Thura, has been charged with.

Many common protesters and activists are also arrested every day, according to numerous reports on social media.

In Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, security forces used stun grenades and fired weapons on Tuesday to disrupt a march by medical workers who have continued to protest defiantly almost every day against the February 1 coup that toppled to the elected government of Aung San. Suu Kyi. The army’s takeover of power delayed Myanmar’s gradual return to democracy after five decades of military rule.

One participant who asked to remain anonymous for his own safety told The Associated Press that doctors, nurses and medical students were attacked when they gathered around 5 a.m. by security forces who also used cars to collide with protesters on motorcycles. . The Irrawaddy online news site reported that four doctors were arrested.

At least 570 protesters and bystanders, including 47 children, have been killed in the crackdown since the takeover, according to the Association for Assistance for Political Prisoners, which monitors victims and arrests. The group says 2,728 people, including Suu Kyi, are in detention.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said UN officials in Myanmar are “deeply concerned” about the impact of the continuing violence on the country’s health system, pointing to at least 28 attacks on hospitals and health personnel since February 1. And they are also concerned about violence. against the education system, pointing to 7 attacks on schools and school personnel since the coup, he said.

“Medical volunteers are under attack and attacks on ambulances are preventing life-saving aid from reaching civilians injured by security forces,” Dujarric said.

Activists have started to organize a boycott of the official celebration of Thingyan, the country’s traditional New Year, which is usually a time for family reunions and joys.

In brochures and social media posts, they are imploring people not to celebrate any Thingyan celebrations, saying that it would be disrespectful to “fallen martyrs” to enjoy the festival.

The leaders of Brunei and Malaysia announced Monday that the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will meet to discuss the situation in Myanmar.

No date was given in the announcement, issued during a visit by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to Brunei. He and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said they “expressed serious concern about the current crisis in Myanmar and the increasing number of deaths.” Indonesian President Joko Widido had proposed a summit on Myanmar last month.

It was not reported whether ASEAN leaders would participate in person or by video, or whether Myanmar, one of the group’s 10 members, would attend.

The Myanmar junta has also been fighting in some border areas where minority ethnic groups maintain their own armed forces. Several major groups, notably Karen and Kachin, have expressed solidarity with the anti-coup movement and vowed to protect protesters in the territory they control.

The Kachin in the north of the country have clashed with government forces, but the Karen in the east have been the hardest hit by the junta’s military attacks.

The area dominated by the Karen National Union has been the target of airstrikes by the Myanmar military from March 27 to Monday, said David Eubank of Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian organization that for many years has provided medical assistance to the Karen residents. Burma is another name for Myanmar.

Eubank said his group has verified that 14 civilians were killed and more than 40 injured in the airstrikes. He said on Tuesday that the Myanmar military is organizing a ground offensive in Karen territory, driving villagers from their homes and increasing the number of displaced people in the area to more than 20,000, many of whom have to hide in caves. or the jungle and they are desperate. need for food and other necessities.

“The situation now appears, from our perspective, to be an all out war to the end,” Eubank wrote in an emailed message on Monday. “Unless there is a miracle, the Burmese army will not stop trying to crush the Karen and any other ethnic group that opposes them, just as they have not held back from killing their own Burmese people in the past. Burmese cities and plains. “

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