Just after 6am on March 14, I watched monks and laypeople shuffle through the last remains of overnight fog to cross Hlaing River Road, in Yangon’s Hlaing Tharyar Township.
Behind them was a large barricade made of bamboo sheets and bags of cement, above which a red vinyl sign read: “If the blood of one Hlaing Tharyar resident hits the ground, one Chinese factory must burn.”
The protest camp was still empty, but around 7am a group of about 50 women arrived and began chanting pahtan, a Buddhist prayer for safety and good fortune.
It was a calm start to what would become a deadly day – one in which dozens of pro-democracy demonstrators would end up dead at the hands of the security forces.
I had only decided to come to Hlaing Tharyar the day before, after seeing photos of the large barricades and huge protests staged there on Facebook. Not wanting to go alone, I checked with some photographer friends, who agreed to join me.
We’d set out early to avoid traffic, crossing the Hlaing River at the Aung Zayar Bridge – the middle of the three bridges linking central Yangon and the industrial suburb of Hlaing Tharyar – shortly after dawn. We had no idea the next 24 hours would see us shot at, tear gassed, threatened by protesters, and forced to run for our lives, sneaking from one building to the next.
For now, though, the protest camp was still quiet, so we tried to grab some extra sleep in the car, which we’d parked on a side road. After about an hour, we were woken suddenly by the sound of someone tapping on the window. About 10 protesters had surrounded our car; when we opened the door, they asked why we were there and what we were doing. We said we were photojournalists, and explained apologetically that we were waiting for the protests to start.
They said that because our car was green and had black tinted windows, they had thought we were from the military. Although they were more curious than aggressive, we didn’t want to attract any more attention so we waited outside for the protests to begin.
Around 9:30am a large group had gathered at the protest camp, some of them carrying makeshift shields. When I tried to walk up to the camp on Hlaing River Road (also known as Nyaungdon Road) from the side street, a security guard stopped me, asking which media organisation I was from. Even after I explained, he continued to eye me with suspicion, but when I showed my press card he finally he let me proceed.
Original News >>> Frontier Myanmar ( https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/a-day-of-tragedy-and-terror-in-hlaing-tharyar/ )