Yangon | Plumes of smoke rose Wednesday from an industrial township of Rangoon, the scene of the highest tensions since the coup d’état with dozens of pro-democracy protesters killed in recent days.
Security forces burned down several homes from Tuesday to Wednesday, local media reported.
“We heard gunshots continuously,” a resident told AFP. “Very few people go out into the streets” for fear of being arrested.
Many people have been arrested in recent days in the economic capital, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (AAPP), especially in this poor suburb.
They are “not allowed to meet their relatives and their legal representatives, nobody knows where many of them are detained”, deplores the NGO which puts forward facts “of physical and mental torture”.
Hlaing Tharyar has been in chaos for four days.
On Sunday, several Chinese-owned factories were set on fire there.
The origin of the attacks has not been determined, but resentment against China has intensified since the February 1 coup, with some protesters saying Beijing does not have a strong enough stance on it. – vis-à-vis the putschist generals.
Shortly after the fires started, security forces deployed in large numbers, opening fire and killing dozens of pro-democracy protesters.
Martial law was enforced and many locals – many workers employed in textile factories – fled on Monday, cramming their belongings and pets into trucks, tuk-tuks or two-wheelers.
On Tuesday evening, protesters camped on a bridge, blocking the main roads in the neighborhood.
They erected barricades made of tires, wood, sandbags and bamboo sticks. Some were set on fire by security forces, causing thick black smoke in the mostly deserted streets.
Nearby, demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails at the police and the army, protecting themselves behind makeshift shields.
Over 200 civilians have been killed since the coup that overthrew the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Sunday was the deadliest day of repression with 74 protesters shot dead, mostly in Hlaing Tharyar.
Martial law was introduced in five other cantons and has affected two million inhabitants for nearly two million people.
Anyone arrested in these neighborhoods risks being returned to a military court, with a minimum sentence of three years of forced labor.