Myanmar police fired on protesters around the country on Sunday in the bloodiest day in weeks of demonstrations against a military coup. At least 18 people were killed, the UN human rights office said.
Myanmar police fired on protesters around the country on Sunday in the bloodiest day in weeks of demonstrations against a military coup, with the UN human rights office claiming at least 18 people have been killed.
Police were out in force early and opened fire in different parts of the biggest city of Yangon after stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up crowds. Soldiers also reinforced police.
Several wounded people were hauled away by fellow protesters, leaving bloody smears on pavements, media images showed. One man died after being brought to a hospital with a bullet in the chest, said a doctor who asked not to be identified.
“Police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force that – according to credible information received by the UN Human Rights Office – has left at least 18 people dead and over 30 wounded,” the UN human rights office said.
Fearing a ‘blood bath’
Speaking to FRANCE 24 from Bangkok, Thailand, the Sunday Times’ Asia correspondent Philip Sherwell said that Sunday marked “the bloodiest day of this month-long uprising against the coup”.
Sherwell said that the military’s previous resistance to crack down on protesters had vanished over the weekend. “That’s over. Yesterday they arrested hundreds of people, and today they’ve gone in very early and violently with tear gas and stun guns and clearly this is now reaching a tipping point.”
Sherwell said the “humiliating scene” the army suffered on Friday when the country’s envoy to the United Nations condemned the coup, had spurred on both the army’s crack-down tactics, as well as demonstrators’ determination to continue to protest.
“The junta is seeing a paralysing disobedience movement,” he said, warning there is great fear that the army will eventually respond in such force reminiscent of the 1988 “blood baths” following the 8888 pro-democracy uprisings and in which thousands of people were killed.
“These protesters are not going anywhere. They believe this is their time. They have to maintain the momentum and they’re galvanised and fueled by how this crackdown is being conducted.”
The crackdown would appear to indicate determination by the military to impose its authority in the face of widespread defiance, not just on the streets but more broadly in the civil service, municipal administration, the judiciary, the education and health sectors and the media.
“The Myanmar security forces’ clear escalation in use of lethal force in multiple towns and cities … is outrageous and unacceptable,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.
Hundreds of protesters refused to leave the streets by early afternoon in Yangon. Many set up barricades while others chanted slogans and sang protest songs.
“If they attack us, we’ll defend. We’ll never kneel down to the military boots,” said Nyan Win Shein from one Yangon protest.
Early in the day, police swooped to disperse a teachers’ protest with stun grenades, sending the crowd fleeing. One teacher, Tin New Yee, died of a suspected heart attack, her daughter and a fellow teacher said.
Police also hurled stun grenades outside a Yangon medical school sending doctors and students in white lab coats scattering. A group called the Whitecoat Alliance of medics said more than 50 medical staff had been arrested.
State-run MRTV television said more than 470 people had been arrested on Saturday when police launched the nationwide crackdown. It was not clear how many were detained on Sunday.
Youth activist Esther Ze Naw said earlier people were battling the fear they had lived with under military rule.
“It’s obvious they’re trying to instill fear in us by making us run and hide,” she said. “We can’t accept that.”
The police action came after state television announced that Myanmar’s UN envoy had been fired for betraying the country for urging the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to reverse the coup.
The ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, remained defiant. “I decided to fight back as long as I can,” he told Reuters in New York.
While Western countries have condemned the coup and some have imposed limited sanctions, the generals have traditionally shrugged off diplomatic pressure. They have promised to hold a new election but not set a date.
Suu Kyi’s party and supporters said the result of the November vote must be respected.
Suu Kyi, 75, who spent nearly 15 years under house arrest, faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols. The next hearing in her case is on Monday.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)