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At least 38 dead as Myanmar forces open fire on anti-coup protesters

Click to play video: 'Myanmar coup: 18 dead in clashes between protesters, security forces, UN says' Myanmar coup: 18 dead in clashes between protesters, security forces, UN says
Myanmar coup: Clashes between protesters, security forces, UN says – Feb 28, 2021

Myanmar security forces opened fire on protests against military rule on Wednesday, killing at least 38 protesters in different parts of the country, the United Nations said Wednesday.

Police and soldiers opened fire with live rounds with little warning, witnesses said.

The bloodshed occurred one day after neighboring countries had called for restraint in the aftermath of the military’s overthrow of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“It’s horrific, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app.

The dead included four children, an aid agency said. Hundreds of protesters were arrested, local media reported.

“Today it was the bloodiest day since the coup happened on the 1st of February. We had today — only today — 38 people died. We have now more than over 50 people died since the coup started, and many are wounded,” United Nations special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, said in New York.

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It comes a day after neighboring countries called for restraint and offered to help Myanmar resolve the crisis.

A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

Schraner Burgener said that in conversations with Myanmar‘s deputy military chief Soe Win, she had warned him that the military was likely to face strong measures from some countries and isolation in retaliation for the coup.

“The answer was: ‘We are used to sanctions, and we survived’,” she told reporters in New York. “When I also warned they will go (into) isolation, the answer was: ‘We have to learn to walk with only few friends’.”

The U.N. Security Council is due to discuss the situation on Friday in a closed meeting, diplomats said.

“As of now, so-called military killed at least 18,” Ko Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, earlier said in a post on Twitter. Witnesses and media reported the death of at least nine people.

The security forces resorted to live fire with little warning in several towns and cities, witnesses said, as the junta appeared more determined than ever to stamp out protests against the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“It’s horrific, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app.

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A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

Read more: Police continue to crack down on Myanmar protests after talks to end coup stall

In the central town of Myingyan, where one teenaged boy was killed, protest leader Si Thu Maung, told Reuters police initially fired tear gas and stun grenades but quickly opened fire.

“They didn’t spray us with water cannon, no warning to disperse, they just fired their guns,” he said.

The heaviest toll was in another central town, Monywa, where five people — four men and one woman — were killed, said Ko Thit Sar, editor of the Monywa Gazette.

“We’ve confirmed with family members and doctors, five people have been killed,” he told Reuters.

“At least 30 people are wounded, some still unconscious.”

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Two people were killed in the country’s second-biggest city Mandalay, a witness and media reports said, and one person was killed when police opened fire in the main city of Yangon, a witness there said.

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At least 31 people have been killed since the coup.

The violence took place a day after foreign ministers from Southeast Asian neighbors urged restraint but failed to unite behind a call for the release Suu Kyi and the restoration of democracy.

“The country is like the Tiananmen Square in most of its major cities,” the Archbishop of Yangon, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, said on Twitter, referring to the suppression of student-led protests in Beijing in 1989.

Read more: Myanmar coup opponents welcome sanctions from Canada, Britain as protests continue

Security forces also detained about 300 protesters as they broke up protests in Yangon, the Myanmar Now news agency reported.

Video posted on social media showed lines of young men, hands on heads, filing into army trucks as police and soldiers stood guard. Reuters was unable to verify the footage.

‘CONTINUE THIS FIGHT’

Images of a 19-year-old woman, one of the two shot dead in Mandalay, showed her wearing a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK.”

Police in Yangon ordered three medics out of an ambulance, shot up the windscreen and then kicked and beat the workers with gun butts and batons, video broadcast by U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia showed. Reuters was unable to verify the video independently.

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Myanmar coup: Supporters of military, opponents clash as protests continue – Feb 25, 2021

Democracy activist Esther Ze Naw told Reuters that the sacrifices of those who died would not be in vain.

“We will continue this fight and win. We shall overcome this and win,” she said.

On Tuesday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to make a breakthrough in a virtual foreign ministers’ meeting on Myanmar.

While united in a call for restraint, only four members – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore – called for the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees.

“We expressed ASEAN’s readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner,” the ASEAN chair, Brunei, said in a statement.

Read more: Myanmar coup -- What led to the military seizing power

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Myanmar’s state media said the military-appointed foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin, attended the video conference and “apprised the meeting of voting irregularities” in a November election.

The military justified the coup saying its complaints of voter fraud in the Nov. 8 vote were ignored. Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide, earning a second term.

The election commission said the vote was fair.

Junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has said the intervention was to protect Myanmar’s fledgling democracy and has pledged to hold new elections but given no time frame.

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State television has said agitators were mobilizing people on social media and forming “illegal organizations.”

Suu Kyi, 75, has been held incommunicado since the coup but appeared at a court hearing via video conferencing this week and looked in good health, a lawyer said.

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She is one of nearly 1,300 people who have been detained, according to activists.

Ousted President Win Myint is facing two new charges, his lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, said, including one for a breach of the constitution that is punishable by up to three years on prison.

A former United Nations expert on Myanmar said on Wednesday foreign firms should suspend all business there to send a clear message to the military that its coup will hurt its people and ruin its economy.

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