Burmese authorities arrest country’s best-known comedian amid ongoing crackdown

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Burmese authorities arrest country’s best-known comedian amid ongoing crackdown



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Burmese authorities on Tuesday arrested the country’s best-known comedian as they continue to crack down on those they accuse of helping to 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 Facebook page. Zarganar, 60, is an acerbic satirist who has been in and out of prison since taking part in a failed 1988 popular uprising against a previous military dictatorship. He is also well known for his social work, including organizing assistance to victims of Cyclone Nargis in 2008.

Over the past week, Myanmar’s ruling junta issued arrest warrants for around 100 people active in literature, film, theater, music and journalism, accused of broadcasting information affecting the stability of the country and the rule of law. It was not immediately clear what Zarganar, real name Maung Thura, had been accused of.

Many ordinary 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 guns on Tuesday to interrupt a march by medical workers who continued to defiantly protest almost daily against the coup. of February 1, which toppled the elected government of Aung San. Suu Kyi.

The military takeover delayed Myanmar’s gradual return to democracy after five decades of military rule.

Anti-coup protesters throw red paint on a street during a demonstration in Yangon. Threats of deadly violence and arrests of protesters have failed to quell daily protests across the country. (The Associated Press)

A participant who asked to remain anonymous for his own safety told The Associated Press that doctors, nurses and medical students were attacked as they gathered around 5 a.m. local time by the security forces who also used cars to pass protesters on motorcycles. The online news site The Irrawaddy reported that four doctors had been 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 to Political Prisoners, which monitors victims and arrests. The group says 2,728 people, including Suu Kyi, are in detention.

WATCH | Growing concerns that unrest in Myanmar could erupt into civil war:

Two months after the military coup in Myanmar and the protests that followed, more than 500 people have died and some fear the situation could escalate into civil war. 2:00

Boycott of the New Year celebration in preparation

United Nations spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said UN officials in Myanmar were “deeply concerned” about the impact of the continued violence on the country’s health system, reporting at least 28 attacks on hospitals and health workers since February 1.

And they are also concerned about violence against the education system, reporting seven attacks on schools and school staff since the coup, he said.

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

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

In leaflets and social media posts, they implore people not to hold Thingyan celebrations, saying it would be disrespectful to the “fallen martyrs” to profit from the festival.

Anti-coup protesters hold signs reading “Rain Strike” as they use umbrellas during a drizzle while participating in a protest in Yangon. (The Associated Press)

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

No date was given in the announcement, published during a visit to Brunei by Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. He and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah said they “have expressed grave concern over the current crisis in Myanmar and the growing death toll.”

Indonesian President Joko Widodo proposed a summit on Myanmar last month.

It was unclear whether ASEAN leaders would attend in person or via video, or if Myanmar, one of the group’s 10 members, would attend.

WATCH | What will it take to end the violence in Myanmar?

Maung Zarni, Founder of Forces of Renewal Southeast Asia, says the international community cannot depend on the United Nations Security Council to intervene in the Myanmar crisis due to the respective interests of China and Russia in the country . 1:21

Military offensives in border regions

The Burmese junta has also fought in some border areas where ethnic minority groups maintain their own armed forces.

Several large groups, including the Karen and Kachins, have expressed solidarity with the anti-coup movement and pledged to protect protesters in the territory they control.

The Kachins, located in the north of the country, engaged in fighting with government forces, but the Karen in the east suffered most of the junta’s military assault.

The area where the Karen National Union reigns was the subject of airstrikes by the Burmese army from March 27 to Monday, said David Eubank of the Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian organization that has provided medical assistance for many years. to Karen villagers. Burma is another name for Myanmar.

Eubank said his group verified that 14 civilians were dead and more than 40 were injured in the airstrikes. He said on Tuesday that the Burmese army was mounting a ground offensive in Karen territory, driving villagers from their homes and increasing the number of internally displaced people in the area to more than 20,000, many of whom are to be hiding in settlements. caves or the jungle and are desperate. need food and other necessities.

“The situation now appears, from our perspective, to be all-out war to the end,” Eubank wrote in an emailed message Monday.

Barring a miracle, the Burmese military will not hold back in their attempt to crush the Karen and any other ethnic group that opposes them, just as they did not hesitate to kill their own Burmese people in the towns and plains of Burma. . ”

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