A day after neighboring countries called for restraint and offered to help Myanmar emerge from the coup crisis, security forces opened fire on protesters and killed at least 18 people on Wednesday , bringing the death toll to 40. during the protests.
According to testimonies and the suppressed local press, the police fired without warning and seemed more determined than ever to end the protests against the military junta which took power on February 1.
“They walked towards us and fired tear gas. They walked again and used some great grenades. Then they hit us with water cannons and, without warning to disperse, they just fired their weapons, ”said Si Thu Maung, one of the leaders of the protests in Myingyan town, the agency said. Reuters press release.
A teenager was killed in Myingyan, but the highest number of casualties on Wednesday was recorded in Rangoon, the country’s largest city, where at least eight people have died as a result of police crackdown.
“It’s horrible, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi said.
In Monywa, medics and rescuers confirmed the deaths of six other people. At least 30 were injured after being targeted by city police, according to a local press investigation. Other deaths have been confirmed in Mandalay and Hpakant.
“The country is like Tiananmen Square in most of its big cities,” said Rangoon Archbishop Charles Maung Bo, referring to the massacre of students protesting in Beijing in 1989.
According to the Burmese Association for the Protection of Political Prisoners, there are currently more than 1,300 detainees, including 34 journalists. Of these, 19 are still in prison and six have been accused of violating a public order law recently amended by the military junta.
According to the lawyer for Thein Zaw, an Associated Press photographer detained last Saturday in Rangoon while covering a demonstration, the amended law now covers anyone who “scares the public, spreads false information or incites to disobedience and disloyalty “to the authorities. The sentences can go up to three years in prison.
Security forces also arrested around 300 protesters in Rangoon on Wednesday. A video posted on social media by the Myanmar Now news agency shows lines of men, hands on their heads, boarding army trucks as police and soldiers stand guard.
“Sad news of the bloody clashes and the loss of life. I call on the authorities involved for dialogue to prevail over repression,” Pope Francis said Wednesday in a Twitter post.
Earlier, the Catholic leader reiterated a call for peace, asking the international community “that the hopes of the people of Myanmar are not stifled by violence”.
At the end of his general audience, Francisco also addressed the military who now rule the country, asking “for dialogue to prevail over repression and harmony over discord” and saying that the young Myanmars deserve a future. “where hatred and injustice give way to meeting and reconciliation.”.
The pontiff’s demands joined those of several world leaders who made critical statements to the military in Myanmar. Previously limited to treating the coup as an internal Myanmars affair, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) brought together representatives from its member countries to discuss the crisis, but did not not been able to reach consensus and concrete progress.
Although the rhetoric against violence was reiterated, only four of the ten members, for example, called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s state councilor who was ousted on February 1 – one of the main demands of the demonstrators who took to the streets of the country daily.
Suu Kyi was arrested during the seizure of power with the main leaders of his party, the National League for Democracy (LND). She now faces four criminal charges. The first two, presented in the week of the coup, were the illegal importation of six walkie-talkies and an alleged violation of protocols to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
This week, the adviser received two more charges: one for allegedly violating a telecommunications law that stipulates licenses for the equipment, and another for publishing information that could “scare or alarm. », A practice opposed by the penal code dating from the colonial period.
The LND won 83% of the vote and won 396 of the 476 seats in parliament in Myanmar’s 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 Union for Solidarity and Development party won only 33 seats.
The military tried to use alleged election fraud charges to justify the seizure of power. 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 protesters of inciting violence.
CHRONOLOGY OF THE POLITICAL HISTORY OF MYANMAR
1948: Former British colony, Myanmar becomes an independent country 1962: General Ne Win abolishes the 1947 Constitution and establishes a military regime 1974: Beginning of the first post-independence Constitution 1988: The violent repression of demonstrations against the military regime generates international critics 1990: National League for Democracy (LND), in opposition to the regime, wins the first multiparty election in 30 years and is prevented from taking power 1991: Aung San Suu Kyi, of the LND, wins the Nobel Prize of the peace 1997: US and EU impose sanctions on Myanmar for human rights violations and failure to respect 2008 election results: Assembly approves new Constitution 2011: Thein Sein, general retired, is elected president and the military regime is dissolved 2015: The LND obtains the majority in both houses of Parliament 2016: Htin Kyaw is elected the first civilian president since the co up of State of 1962 and Suu Kyi assumes the post of State Councilor, equivalent to that of Prime Minister 2018: Kyaw resigns and Win Myi nt assumes the 2020 presidency: in the legislative elections, the LND obtains 83% of the votes and defeats pro-military party 2021: army alleges electoral fraud, arrests LND leaders and seizes power with new coup