Myanmar cracks down on clappers, citizen journalists


Yangon : In the ongoing crackdown on dissent in Yangon, where tens of thousands took to the streets in protests last week, military authorities have arrested people who merely clapped for the demonstrators or took pictures of the events, sources said Thursday.

Support TwoCircles

On Wednesday night, security personnel raided homes situated along Kyartawya Street, east of the Shwedagon Pagoda, and arrested scores of people who had allegedly given moral support to the monk-led peaceful demonstrations that rocked Yangon between Sep 18 to 26, informed sources said.

“Their crime was clapping and encouraging the monks,” said one observer.

The Shwedagon, Yangon’s most sacred shrine, was the springboard for the monks’ barefoot marches against the regime last month that ended in a brutal crackdown that left ten dead, according to the government. Others believe the death toll was much higher.

Several amateur photographers, including one who allegedly took a photo of a dead monk floating in the Yangon River that has been widely publicized, have also been detained, sources said.

Last month’s protests have been hailed by the Western press as a triumph for the Internet and citizen journalists, who managed to get photos and information out of the country despite the regime’s heavy clamp on news and newsmen.

But the new wave of journalism in Myanmar has not proven impervious to the regime’s old methods of suppressing news through terror and intimidation.

At least one Japanese photojournalist was shot dead point blank in the crackdown on demonstrators, and several Myanmar journalists were detained.

Security personnel have been raiding households in Yangon on a nightly basis since the regime began to crack down on the anti-military protests on Sep 26.

“I am very concerned about the fate of the detainees because their numbers are apparently quite high, and there is no outside body that is allowed to visit them,” said Finnish ambassador to Yangon Lars Backstrom.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been denied access to Myanmar’s prisons for several months.