At least 18 demonstrators died and several were wounded on Sunday (28) in Myanmar, during actions by security forces which violently dispersed several acts, on the most violent day of the demonstrations against the military coup of February 1 .
Myanmar has been in chaos since the military seized power and arrested elected head of government Aung San Suu Kyi and much of his party leadership, alleging fraud in the November election won by his party.
The coup, which put an end to attempts at democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, drew hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets and was condemned by Western countries.
But the protests are being suppressed in an increasingly bloody manner, with tear gas, water jets, rubber bullets and, in some cases, deadly ammunition.
On Sunday, three men died during a protest in the southern town of Dawei, where 20 people were also injured, according to emergency teams and the local press.
The victims died after being “hit by deadly bullets,” Pyae Zaw Hein, a volunteer rescuer, told AFP. The injured were hit by rubber bullets, he said, before warning of the possibility of “more casualties as we continue to receive injuries.”
Two other 18-year-olds have died in the town of Bago, according to emergency teams. The deaths were confirmed by the local press, north of Yangon.
A sixth person has died in Yangon, a former civilian deputy overthrown by the army, Nyi Nyi, reported on Facebook. The victim was a 23-year-old man who was shot and killed.
As of Sunday, five deaths had been reported among protests since the coup. The army says a police officer died trying to break up a protest.
“The sharp escalation in the use of lethal force in several cities across the country is scandalous and unacceptable, and should end immediately,” condemned Phil Robertson, deputy director of the Asia division at Human Rights Watch.
Many countries have also condemned the crackdown. The United States and the European Union denounced the violence of the security forces and declared that the military junta must step down.
In Yangon, security forces quickly dispersed a protest on Sunday. “The police started shooting as soon as we arrived,” Amy Kyaw, a 29-year-old teacher, told AFP.
Images posted live on social media showed security forces using tear gas against crowds in Yangon and water jets in the northernmost town of Mandalay.
In Myityina (north), security forces attacked a journalist, who was arrested.
On Saturday (27), the security forces also responded with violence during several demonstrations, generally peaceful.
At least three journalists were arrested: a photographer from the US agency Associated Press and a cameraman and photographer from two Burmese agencies, Myanmar Now and Myanmar Pressphoto.
More than 850 people have been arrested, accused or sentenced for participating in the protests, according to the NGO helping political prisoners AAPP.
The numbers are expected to rise soon after state press reported 479 arrests on Saturday.
Aung San Suu Kyi, winner of the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize, has not been seen in public since her arrest.
She is under house arrest in Naypyidaw, the country’s capital, accused of illegally importing walkie-talkies and violating restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The second (1st), she will attend a hearing to answer these accusations.
Also on Saturday, the military junta sacked the country’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, who a day earlier had defended an end to the military coup and called for “vigorous action by the United Nations. international community to end the oppression of the innocent. and give power back to the people ”.
UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said the organization had not been officially informed of the diplomat’s dismissal.
The military attempted to use alleged fraud charges in the election to justify its takeover. The military also added to the narrative the argument that the country’s electoral commission used the coronavirus pandemic as a pretext to prevent a fair campaign.
They also claim to have acted in accordance with the Constitution and that the majority of the population supports their conduct, accusing the demonstrators of incitement to violence.
General Min Aung Hlaing, who took control of the country with the coup, declared a state of emergency on February 1 that is expected to last for a year. “We will implement a true multiparty democracy,” said the new regime, adding that power will be transferred after “the holding of free and fair general elections”.
The promise, though repeated, is viewed with skepticism by opponents of Myanmar and international observers.
The LND, Suu Kyi’s party that has ruled the country since 2015, won 83% of the vote and won 396 of the 476 seats in parliament in the latest elections, held in November last year. The legend, however, was prevented from taking over when the coup was implemented on the day the new legislature was inaugurated. The military-backed Solidarity and Development Union party won only 33 seats. We are a family business.
Myanmar has a violent record of reactions to protests. In the 1988 uprising, more than 3,000 protesters were killed by the country’s security forces in acts against the military regime – the country lived under a dictatorship from 1962 to 2011.