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Police in Myanmar raided the homes of protesting railway employees.

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Police in Myanmar raided the homes of protesting railway employees.
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Police in Myanmar raided the homes of protesting railway employees.

 

Myanmar security forces raided a neighborhood in the country’s largest city early Wednesday, which is home to state railway employees who have gone on strike to protest the military coup last month.

The Ma Hlwa Kone train station and housing for railway employees are located in Yangon’s Mingalar Taung Nyunt neighborhood, which has been cordoned off by police. Officers were seen blocking streets and what seemed to be people fleeing in photos and videos shared on social media. At least three arrests were confirmed, but confirmation could not be obtained immediately.

The raid comes just days after a number of Myanmar unions, including the Myanmar Railway Worker’s Union Federation, called for a nationwide strike. The strike will be part of a larger attempt to “completely shut down the Myanmar economy,” according to the statement.

After the Feb. 1 coup, which ousted elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government just as it was about to begin her second term, Myanmar has been roiled by demonstrations and other acts of civil disobedience. After five decades of military rule, the coup halted years of gradual progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.

Mass arrests and, at times, lethal force have been used by security forces. According to the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 60 protesters have been killed since the military takeover.

Authorities have also taken steps to stifle critical reporting on the crisis, including arresting journalists and shutting down media outlets.

Protests continued Wednesday in cities and towns across the region, including Yangon, Mandalay, Monywa, Dawei, and Myitkyina, despite security forces’ increasingly violent tactics.

State railway employees were among the first organized protest backers, and their strike began shortly after the coup.

Last month, police in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest district, attempted to intimidate railway workers by roaming through their housing area one night, shouting and firing guns at random.

The country’s new ruling junta, officially known as the State Administration Council, recognized the rail strike’s efficacy in a roundabout way.

In a Tuesday report on a junta meeting, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper quoted officials as saying that rail service between Yangon and Mandalay would resume “in the near future.”

It also acknowledged that the protest movement has had an impact on the banking sector.

After an 8 p.m. curfew, police marched through suburban neighborhoods in many towns, shooting weapons and stun grenades, and staging selective arrest raids.

More demonstrators died in detention after being arrested on Tuesday, according to reports. According to media reports and an activist who knew him, a school principal died of unexplained causes after being taken into custody by security forces.

An activist from Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party had previously died in custody. According to Human Rights Watch in New York, witnesses said his body had wounds consistent with torture.

More than 1,930 people have been arrested in connection with the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Several journalists have been detained, including Thein Zaw of The Associated Press, who has been charged with violating a public order statute that carries a three-year prison sentence.

Authorities raided the offices of Kamayut Media and detained its co-founder and editor-in-chief on Tuesday, continuing their assault on the media. Mizzima, an online news service, was also raided by the military. During the second raid, no one was arrested, but equipment was vandalized and property was taken away.

Five local media outlets — Mizzima, DVB, Khit Thit Media, Myanmar Now, and 7Day News — had their licenses revoked by the military government on Monday. All five had been covering the protests in great detail.

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