Yangon, a city under siege

Updated On: Jun 10, 2005

Bangkok- All passengers onboard a flight from Kawthaung to Yangonwere arrested because one of them was suspected to have carried a bomb. Internet access inMyanmarhas been further restricted with the upgrading of firewalls and the blocking of messages with certain keywords. Yangon, never a free city to begin with, is now a capital under siege, according to a report in the Bangkok Post.  

The ruling junta’s failure to arrest the people responsible for the May 7 bomb blasts in Yangonhas led the generals to tighten the screws in the capital.  Metal detectors have been installed at shopping malls and hotels. Roadblocks have been set up for every 30km along the roads out of Yangon

The regime has also stepped up its surveillance of the Internet, using the facilities of Bagan Cyber Tech, the company owned by the son of ousted intelligence chief, Khin Nyunt. Firewalls have been upgraded and messages, with keywords such as Karen National Union ethnic rebels and the government-in-exile NCUGB, have been blocked.  

Opposition political activists have borne the brunt of the military’s crackdown, with more than 600 pro-democracy politicians and students detained since the May bombings.   

The junta is also continuing its witch-hunt against the family and supporters of Khin Nyunt, who has been under house arrest since last October. His family members have been stripped of their wealth while 40 of his top officers and aides have been sentenced to more than 100 years in jail for economic crimes.     According to a foreign businessman with close links to the regime, a climate of fear now exists in Yangonlike never before.   “Everyone is too frightened to talk, businessmen are keeping quiet and several top policemen are lying low and trying to get upcountry for cover,” he said.   

Some residents in Myanmarhave likened the current atmosphere to the period before pro-democracy protests erupted in 1988.   A senior European diplomat in the capital said: “Burmamay be about to implode in the same way the authoritarian Eastern European regimes did more than a decade ago.”   

* Dark days amid relentless junta crackdown (Bangkok Post, June 8) – www.bangkokpost.com