Myanmar military targets railway workers

Demonstrators against Myanmar’s military takeover returned to the streets Thursday after a night of armed intimidation by security forces in the country’s second biggest city.

The police rampage in a Mandalay neighborhood where state railway workers are housed showed the conflict between protesters and the new military government is increasingly focused on the businesses and government institutions that sustain the economy.

State railway workers on Sunday had called a strike, joining a loosely organized Civil Disobedience Movement that was initiated by medical workers and is the backbone of the resistance to the February 1 coup that ousted the elected civilian government.

“Many workers and citizens of Myanmar believe that CDM is very effective for making the junta fail,” said a labor activist who spoke on condition of anonymity for his own safety. “That’s why health, education, transportation, different government departments and banks’ employees are participating in CDM together.”

The railway strike has received support from ordinary citizens who have placed themselves on railroad tracks to stop trains the military has commandeered.

The efforts by Mandalay residents to block a rail line on Wednesday apparently triggered the retaliation that night.

Less than an hour after the 8 p.m. start of the nightly curfew, gunshots were heard as more than two dozen men in police uniforms, shields and helmets, marched in tight formation by the railway workers’ housing. Numerous videos posted on social media showed muzzle flashes as shots were heard, and some were shown shooting slingshots and throwing rocks at buildings. Cadence calls of “left, right, left, right” can be heard along with shouts of “shoot, shoot.”

Several reports included photos of people with small wounds, which were claimed to have been caused by rubber bullets. Some unconfirmed reports said several railway workers were arrested.

The junta has said it took over — preventing Parliament from convening and detaining the nation’s elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others — because the November election was tainted by voting irregularities. It replaced the election commission that affirmed Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide and says it will hold a new election in a year’s time.

The Biden government has imposed new U.S. sanctions on Myanmar because of the coup, and the United Nations and other nation’s governments have called for Suu Kyi’s elected government to be restored.-AP

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