Martial law in 4 more Yangon townships
KOLKATA: Myanmar’s military-dominated State Administration Council (SAC) has imposed martial law with shoot-to-kill orders on four more townships in country’s commercial hub of Yangon.
The martial law was imposed in North Dagon, South Dagon, Dagon Seikkan and North Okkalapa townships late Monday, according to the announcement of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services.
The Council gave the administrative and judicial power to the commander of Yangon region to ‘perform security, maintain the rule of law and tranquility’, the announcement said. On Sunday, martial law had been imposed on the Hlaingthaya and Shwe Pyi Thar townships of Yangon.
The promulgation of martial law followed spiralling violence against Chinese-financed factories and business interests with Beijing calling on the Myanmarese generals to take strong measures to protect Chinese lives and property and punish those attacking them. Thirty-two Chinese-financed factories and business establishments have been set on fire since Sunday as angry crowds roamed the streets of Yangon, Mandalay, Bago and other cities flaunting placards, saying “Myanmar military coup, Made in China” .
Burmese social media were flooded with anti-Chinese rants with netizens blaming Chinese “backing” for the February 1 military takeover. Some even threatened to burn down the oil and gas pipeline connecting Yunnan province with the Kyaukphyu port built by China on Myanmar’s Rakhine coast.
This has alarmed China with Beijing saying it was “very concerned” for the safety of its citizens in Myanmar on Monday, after the Chinese factories were attacked amid a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Yangon.
Chinese state media said 32 factories in Myanmar’s commercial heart of Yangon were attacked on Sunday, causing $37 million in damage and leaving two employees injured as security forces launched a bloody crackdown on protesters which left dozens dead.
The Chinese Embassy in Yangon has accused protesters of attacking the factories.
Taiwan, alarmed by these attacks, has asked its businesses to fly the island’s flag and put up identification making clear they are “different China”. The Taiwan trade office in Yangon said it was in touch with all their businesses after pro-democracy protesters mistakenly attacked a Taiwanese business establishment on Sunday.
Many in Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement believe China has sided with the army since a February 1 coup took out the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi. China is a key investor in Myanmar and has bet big on its strategic importance to its Belt and Road Initiative, a sweeping infrastructure project.
Describing the attacks on Chinese factories and businesses as “nasty”, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged Myanmar to take actions to “resolutely avoid a recurrence of such incidents”. China “is very concerned about the impact on the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel… Rhe actions of these outlaws are not in the interests of Myanmar and its people”, he said.
Zhao said Myanmar security forces had reinforced the area around the factories.
“China will continue to urge Myanmar to take concrete steps to stop all acts of violence and bring the perpetrators to justice and ensure the safety of Chinese people’s life and property,” he told reporters in Beijing. The violence against Chinese interests has rattled because Beijing has invested billions of dollars in projects to Myanmar as a partner in its strategic ambitions for Asia.
A natural gas pipeline to a mega-port off Rakhine state is set to give China access to the Indian Ocean. But a social media campaign by Myanmar’s protest movement has urged citizens to rally against the Chinese pipeline, which crosses the country.
The Myanmar public has pushed back at Chinese investments before, with lingering suspicions over its aims and the conditions under which it employs local workers in Chinese factories.
China has called for a “de-escalation” of the situation in Myanmar, which has left more than 130 protesters dead in several weeks of violent military crackdown. The international community pleaded for restraint after at least 11 more anti-coup protesters were killed on Monday. The UN, the US, China and the UK all condemned the violence, which the UN said has claimed the lives of at least 138 “peaceful protesters”, including women and children, since February 1.
“The junta has responded to call for the restoration of democracy in Burma with bullets,” State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters Monday, using the old name for Myanmar and labelling the Sunday-Monday attacks “another new low”.
“The US continues to call on all countries to take concrete actions to oppose the coup, and escalating violence,” she added. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called for the international community “including regional actors, to come together in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations”, his spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Monday.
UN envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener also condemned Sunday’s bloodshed, while the country’s former colonial ruler Britain said it was “appalled” by the use of force “against innocent people”.