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Myanmar police raid church as pro-democracy protests continue

Churches in Myanmar have been drawn into the violent crackdown against pro-democracy protesters.

On Tuesday military and police ramped up use of tear gas and rubber bullets against citizens demonstrating the February overthrow of the government.

By Wednesday morning, deaths across the nation began to mount.

According to Associated Press reports, the demonstrators regrouped after each volley and tried to defend themselves with barricades as standoffs between protesters and security forces intensified.

Security forces are believed to have killed at least 18 people over the weekend in the harshest crackdown on civilians since the February 1 coup. They reportedly have been making mass arrests and firing into the crowds.

The news website Myanmar Now reports police broke through the gate at a Kachin Baptist Church in Lashio on Monday. Four Kachin Baptist ministers were among 10 people arrested at the church after police forced their way in while chasing fleeing protesters who had been given sanctuary there.

Church officials said that around 30 police officers raided the church after crashing the front gate in a police vehicle.

“A total of 10 people were taken away. They beat up non-protesters as well as protesters after they crashed through our gate with their car. They destroyed the doors as well,” said Sin Wah Aung, an official at the church in the northern Shan state town.

Witnesses said police assaulted everyone inside, adding that three gunshots were fired during the attack.

Requests to meet with the detainees have been denied, Sin Wah Aung said, adding that they have reportedly been subjected to further beatings since being taken into custody.

Despite the forceful crackdown against them, demonstrators continue to flood the streets. Hundreds, many wearing construction helmets and carrying makeshift shields, gathered in Myanmar’s largest city of Yangon, where a day earlier police had fired repeated rounds of tear gas. They tried to form barricades against police with bamboo poles and debris, and chanted slogans, and sang songs at the police lines.

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The protesters even threw banana peels onto the road in front of them in an effort to slow any police advance against them. Many believe police are increasingly trying to provoke a violent reaction from the protesters in order to discredit them and justify an even greater crackdown.

The country’s newly appointed Special Envoy to the United Nations has branded the military government as terrorists.

“The whole world must understand the nature of these dictators’ illegal regime, that they have been terrorizing. They are like a terrorist group now,” said Dr. Sasa, who was appointed by members of Myanmar’s now-disbanded civilian parliament. “They are terrorists within the state. State-sponsored terrorists. They are terrorizing the people of Myanmar. It is very, very simple.”

In his first television interview with an American news organization, Sasa told CBN News that Myanmar’s military has turned against its own people.

“It’s very sad, they have declared war on the people of Myanmar in a very aggressive way,” he said.

Sasa, a medical doctor, humanitarian, and well-known evangelical Christian leader, appealed to his huge Facebook following to send him evidence of the military’s human rights violations and abuses.

“It’s really for us to submit all those evidence and proof to the United Nations Human Rights Council, also the U.N. Security Council, to build up the maximum pressure against this brutal military regime,” Sasa told CBN News.

“I would really appreciate it if our brothers and sisters around the world pray for my country in this time of troubles,” Sasa urged viewers around the world while speaking from an undisclosed location.

Sasa’s appointment as Myanmar’s United Nations Special Envoy is not recognized by the military junta.

“Are you concerned for your life, are you considered you might be arrested?” CBN News asked Sasa during the interview.

“Definitely, they will do anything to harm us,” Sasa responded. “They have issued several notifications, threatening us {but} I’m appointed by the people of Myanmar, therefore I will represent the people of Myanmar till the end.”

–Wire services and CBN News.