Police forces bolstered in Rangoon

Additional manpower is being allocated for police forces in Rangoon as the Burmese government prepares for elections in less than two months.

Burma’s most populous city has on several occasions in the past become the centre stage for mass outpourings of anger against the military junta, which is looking to place the country on lockdown as widely derided elections approach.

Observers claim that another set of protests like the September 2007 uprising is a possibility, although activist groups say they are still recoiling from the brutal crackdown that was launched on demonstrators.

A police official in Rangoon who asked not to be named told DVB that around 100 extra policemen in recent weeks had been added to various battalions in Hlawga, Shwe Mya Yar, Shwepyithar, Thanlyin-Kyauktan and Pyinmabin townships in the city, Burma’s economic hub and home to some 4.5 million people.

He said the bolstering was being done in preparation for the 7 November polls, and that the additional police were given “full combat gear”.

Moreover, DVB has learnt that a directive was sent by the Myanmar Police Force to battalions around the country to keep a close eye on party campaigning and to guard ballot stations.

Rangoon saw its worst instance of violence in nearly half a decade this year as nine people were killed by a spate of grenade attacks during the annual Buddhist new year festival, held in April. One man is facing murder charges for the attack.

Much of the build-up to the elections has been shrouded in controversy: DVB learnt yesterday that troops in the 500,000-strong Burmese army will vote in separate ballot stations to citizens, and have been ordered by the junta’s War Office to vote for the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) or else face reprisal.

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