Myanmar Forces Raid Ruling Party Headquarters, Woman Shot in Anti-Coup Protests

Myanmar security forces raided the headquarters of deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling party on Tuesday, a party official said, as nationwide demonstrations against the military takeover turned bloody when police fired on a large crowd in the capital, wounding two protesters.

In a nighttime raid as anti-coup protests in Myanmar’s major cities entered their second week, military and police broke into the National League for Democracy (NLD) headquarters in Yangon and a nearby regional office, said Kyaw Wunna, a member of the NLD’s research team.

“Tonight around 9 p.m., a staffer who was monitoring the security cameras informed us that the police and soldiers got into our headquarters office and the regional office at the same time,” he told RFA. He said office CCTV footage showed police and army troops blocking surrounding streets as they broke in.

“Even if they wanted to search our offices, they could have done it during daytime when officials are present,” said Kyaw Wunna. “They are committing one lawless act after another.”

Earlier on Tuesday, protesters demanding the reinstatement of deposed Aung San Suu Kyi and her elected government defied a curfew and assembly ban imposed Monday and turned out for the fourth day of demonstrations following a mass protest rallies across the nation of 54 million people over the weekend.

Police used water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets to disperse the tens of thousands of mostly peaceful protesters in the capital Naypyidaw and Mandalay, the second largest city, injuring at least five demonstrators in the capital, sources said. Protesters responded by throwing rocks and other projectiles.

In Naypyidaw, a 20-year-old female protester was shot in the head and another person was hit in the chest after police fired about 60 shots into a crowd of demonstrators during a tussle over a police officer who had joined the protests, said a protester who heard the shots.

The woman, Mya Thwait Thwait Khine, “is now being treated in the special intensive care unit,” said a doctor at a 1,000-bed hospital in the capital who declined to be identified for security reasons.

“The injury is life-threatening. Her brain is not functioning due to the bullet wound,” he said, adding that the bullet was lodged in her head and that it would be extremely difficult to remove.

“Our medical analysis of the wound indicates that the shot was fired from very far away, but penetrated through her [motorbike] helmet and skull, so we believe it was a real bullet,” the doctor said. “Rubber bullets cannot inflict this kind of injury. The head CT scan also indicated that the bullet lodged in the brain was metal and not rubber.”

Naypyidaw’s military hospital earlier pressured the civilian hospital to transfer the injured protesters, but staff declined, he said.

First known bloodshed

Tuesday’s shooting, the first known bloodshed since the military takeover, followed a confrontation at a rally of as many as 100,000 protesters, including students and government workers, at the Thabyegon roundabout in Naypyidaw, where a young police officer climbed onto a building and called on fellow officers and all other government employees to join the civil disobedience movement.

“I want my fellow police officers to abandon their fears and stand by the side of the people,” the officer said. “They cannot use violence against us.”

“It is also important to get the support of the judicial sector and the General Administration Department,” he said. “Without them, our fight for democracy cannot be successful. We need to carry on these protests day after day until power is handed back to the people. The administrative machinery must come to a stop.”

Three police officers in Magway and one in Tanintharyi region joined protests there, with the latter officer arrested, sources said.

After a week of silence following the Feb. 1 putsch during which Aung San Suu Kyi and scores of officials were arrested, the junta on Monday issued curfew decrees, and coup leaders, Senior General Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing appeared on state television to repeat the election fraud claims the army has used to justify the military takeover.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog group, said that as of Monday, 170 people had been detained in relation to the military coup, with only 18 released. Most are politicians, it said.

Reported by Nayrein Kyaw and RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun and Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Surreal California: Ghost Towns and Sunsets


Hi Friends! Hope everyone is staying safe and sane during these crazy times. 🙂 Sunsets and ghost towns. I know. Very random pairing. There’s no theme here. haha Nope – it’s just photos that I took, which I happen to really like.  🙂 Or…maybe that’s the theme? Just find things you really like and enjoy them. Life’s fast. So, just […]

Coronavirus tracker: California reported 346 new deaths, but a continued drop in hospitalizations as of Feb. 8

Hospitalizations across the state continue the decline, marking on Monday, Feb. 8, a 47.9% drop in the number of people needing hospital care from a Jan. 6 high of 22,853.

There were 181 fewer hospitalizations on Monday, than there were the previous day, lowering the total number of hospitalizations to 11,904, according to end-of-day totals from California public health websites.

California communities reported 16,415 new cases of the coronavirus on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to 3,410,992, according to California public health websites.

The 14-day average of 15,596 daily new cases is down 63.3% from the Jan. 1 high of 42,468.

There were 356 new deaths reported Monday, for a total of 44,483 people in California who have died from the virus.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Johns Hopkins University, the World Health Organization, the California Department of Public Health, The Associated Press, reporting counties and news sources

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Thailand: Prominent Activists Held in Pre-Trial Detention


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Activists Somyot Pruksakasemsuk (left),  Parit Chiwarak (center), and Arnon Nampha (right) raise a three-finger salute, a symbol of resistance, at the Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand on Tuesday, February 9, 2021.
© 2021 AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit

(New York) – The Bangkok Criminal Court has denied bail requests and ordered four prominent democracy activists into pretrial detention on lese majeste charges, Human Rights Watch said today. The order could condemn them to detention for years until their trial is concluded.

On February 9, 2021, the attorney general indicted Arnon Nampha, Parit Chiwarak, Somyot Pruksakasemsuk, and Patiwat Saraiyaem for violating penal code article 112 on lese majeste (insulting the monarchy) charges for their onstage speeches during a September 19, 2020 political rally. Each accused faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The activists were also charged with sedition under penal code article 116, which carries a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

“To respond to persistent public protests, authorities are abusing Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law to aggressively clamp down on speech they don’t like,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Holding people in pretrial detention for peaceful expression portends a return to the dark days when people simply charged with this crime end up spending years in jail while their trials drag on interminably.”

The number of lese majeste cases in Thailand is rapidly increasing with no end in sight, Human Rights Watch said. After almost a three-year hiatus in which lese majeste prosecutions were not brought before the courts, in November 2020 Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha ordered Thai authorities to bring back lese majeste prosecutions as a response to growing criticisms of the monarchy by student protesters, civil society activists, and ordinary members of the public who call for democratic reforms. Since then, officials have charged at least 58 people with lese majeste crimes in relation to various activities at democracy rallies or their comments on social media. Past practice has repeatedly shown that Thai authorities, particularly the police, are unwilling to reject allegations of lese majeste, no matter how specious, for fear of being seen as disloyal to the monarchy.

In a statement on February 8 regarding the situation in Thailand, United Nations human rights experts said that lese majeste laws have no place in a democratic country. They also expressed serious concerns about the growing number of lese majeste prosecutions since November and harsh prison sentences meted out to some defendants, including an 87-year sentence (halved to 43 years since she pleaded guilty) on January 19 to a retired civil servant, Anchan Preelert. Unless the sentence is commuted, Anchan, who is 65 years old, will most likely spend the rest of her life in prison, Human Rights Watch said. The ruling has had a chilling effect on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which Thailand has ratified, encourages bail for criminal suspects. Article 9 states that, “It shall not be the general rule that persons awaiting trial shall be detained in custody, but release may be subject to guarantees to appear for trial.” Those denied bail need to be tried as expeditiously as possible, Human Rights Watch said.

The ICCPR protects the right to freedom of expression. General Comment 34 of the Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors compliance with the covenant, has stated that laws such as those for lese majeste “should not provide for more severe penalties solely on the basis of the identity of the person that may have been impugned” and that governments “should not prohibit criticism of institutions.”

“The Thai government should address the demands of critics and protesters instead of putting them in jail for long periods before they are tried on flimsy charges,” Adams said. “The authorities should immediately end their heavy-handed enforcement of the lese majeste law and engage in a dialogue with United Nations experts and others about amending the law to bring it into compliance with Thailand’s international human rights law obligations.”