The United Nations has been urged to hear the 'desperate pleas' of Myanmar's pro-democracy protestors at a meeting of the Security Council on Friday.
Despite an increasingly brutal crackdown by the military authorities that has seen more than 50 people killed, protesters took to the streets again in towns around the country to denounce the February 1 coup.
In Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city, hundreds of engineers took to the streets crying 'free our leader' in reference to ousted State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been detained by the military since the first night of the takeover.
A 26-year-old male anti-coup protestor helping at barriers set up in the city to slow security forces died after being shot in the neck on Friday, according to medical officials.
The Security Council took up the escalating crisis and heard from the UN special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, who warned against any moves to grant legitimacy to the junta.
1/2 Young protesters in Yangon's Sanchaung Township stand their ground on Saturday morning, facing off against security forces' tear gas and stun grenades. pic.twitter.com/pQY6nSFt3M— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) March 6, 2021
It follows the deadliest day of the crackdown so far on Wednesday, when the United Nations said at least 38 people were killed as graphic images showed security forces firing into crowds and bloodied bodies dragged away.
Police fired tear gas at demonstrators in the southern city of Dawei while protesters in the commercial capital Yangon were defiant despite the danger. Protester Didi, 27, said: 'Scared, yeah, I'm very scared to stay on the frontline. But we believe in our comrades and we promise to protect each other if someone is injured.'
Burgener told the closed-door session: 'Your unity is needed more than ever on Myanmar. The repression must stop.'
The UN envoy said that she is receiving some 2,000 messages a day from Myanmar urging international action.
She said: 'The hope they have placed in the United Nations and its membership is waning and I have heard directly the desperate pleas - from mothers, students and the elderly.'
But diplomats said it was unlikely that the Security Council would approve any international measures against the junta such as a proposed global arms embargo.
The session called by Britain ended without any statement, although diplomats said consultations would take place next week on a proposed text.
British Ambassador Barbara Woodward said after the meeting: 'We'll be exploring further national sanctions and stand ready to consider possible measures under the UN Charter should the situation deteriorate further.
'Any further measures would require agreement from all Council members.'
She was alluding to objections by several Council members including Russia, India, Vietnam and especially veto-wielding China, historically the main partner of Myanmar's military.
China's ambassador, Zhang Jun, said his country wanted to be a 'friendly neighbour'. He told reporters: 'We don't want to see instability, even chaos in Myanmar.
'The messages and measures of the international community should be conducive for the parties in Myanmar to bridge differences and resolve problems, and avoid escalating tensions or further complicating the situation.'
In Myanmar's north, a number of people have crossed the border into India in a bid to escape the crackdown.
Indian police said nine people had crossed the 1,600-kilometre (1,000-mile) frontier - three of whom were police officers who had refused to take part in putting down protests.
The junta has sought to stop news of the crackdown getting out, choking the internet and banning Facebook, the most popular social media platform in the country.
Friday also saw many parts of the country hit by power cuts for several hours, though it was not clear that this was a deliberate measure in a country where infrastructure is sometimes unreliable.
Government agencies attributed the outage to a 'system breakdown'.
Footage earlier revealed the terrifying moment a solider took a potshot at a person in their apartment who was filming as the army went past.
The short clip shows a couple looking out of their apartment window before a soldier in uniform walks towards them, raises a shotgun and blasts their window, forcing them to duck down to avoid being hit.
The total death toll since the February 1 coup now stands at more than 50.
A clip from Mandalay captured a police officer escorted by soldiers carrying what appeared to be a protester's limp body off the streets on Friday, though the footage has not been independently verified.
Meanwhile officers in the largest city of Yangon opened fire with rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse thousands of activists who were joined on Friday by around 100 doctors wearing white coats.
Military-backed parties had been hammered at the election with Aung San Suu Kyi's party receiving some 80 per cent of the votes - a result that generals have claimed was fraudulent, without providing evidence.
They have announced a year-long emergency rule, pledging that fresh elections will eventually be held and the winner honoured, though few who lived through five decades of junta rule believe that will come to pass.
Near-daily protests have been taking place in the country since the coup as tens of thousands of people unite demand the return of democracy, despite increasing levels of violence.
After weeks of tense standoffs, police unleashed a bloodbath on Wednesday when officers in cities around the country opened fire on marchers largely without warning, leaving at least 38 dead.
It marked the single deadliest day since the coup, and raised fears that violence would intensify further.
On Thursday, the military saw fit to buzz the city of Mandalay with low-flying fighter jets in an attempt to intimidate marchers - who turned out none-the-less.
Faced with orders to open fire on their countrymen, it seems some officers decided to abandon their posts instead.
In India's Serchhip district, official Kumar Abhishek said eight people, including a woman and a child, had crossed the border and were being taken care of.
He said: 'We are anticipating that some more may come.'
Authorities were making preparations to house between 30-40 people, he said.
A federal Indian security official said that police crossing over had said they did not wish to carry out orders from the military to quell the protests.
'They alleged that there are human rights violations and they were asked to shoot at civilians,' the official said, also requesting anonymity.
The influx of such refuge-seekers, particularly police, puts India in a quandary because of New Delhi's close ties with the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw.
Over the last two years the Tatmadaw has mounted operations at India's request to flush out insurgents along the northeastern border. India, on its part, gifted Myanmar its first submarine last year.
'It's a little difficult situation for India because diplomatic balance is crucial,' the official said.
Braving bullets and tear gas fired by security forces, the Mya Taung protest column in Mandalay marched against the military regime on Saturday morning. The group rallies twice a day despite continuous crackdowns by the soldiers and police. #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar pic.twitter.com/kB8XXGejy2— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) March 6, 2021
The violence came as the junta lost a tug of war over leadership of its UN mission in New York and the United States unveiled new sanctions targeting military conglomerates after the deaths of dozens of civilian protesters.
Activists demanding the restoration of the elected government of veteran democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi held more demonstrations in several towns and cities on Friday, with a crowd of thousands marching peacefully through the second city of Mandalay.
'The stone age is over, we're not scared because you threaten us,' the crowd chanted.
A crowd also gathered in the town of Pathein, to the west of Yangon, a witness said.
On Thursday, police broke up rallies with tear gas and gunfire in several cities but their crackdown was more restrained than on Wednesday, when the United Nations said 38 people were killed in the bloodiest day of protests.
UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet demanded the security forces halt what she called their 'vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters.' Bachelet said more than 1,700 people had been arrested, including 29 journalists.
Singapore has been the most outspoken of Myanmar's neighbours and its foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, said it was a 'national shame' for armed forces to use weapons against their people.
He called on the military to seek a peaceful solution but acknowledged external pressure would have only a limited impact on the situation.
A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.
Adding to a sense of unease, electricity supplies were cut in many parts of the country on Friday. A utility official later said it was due to a system failure.
A clash over who represents Myanmar at the United Nations in New York was averted - for now - after the junta's replacement quit and the Myanmar UN mission confirmed that Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun remained in the job.
The junta fired Kyaw Moe Tun on Saturday after he urged countries at the UN General Assembly to use 'any means necessary' to reverse the Feb. 1 coup.
In Washington, it was unclear whether Myanmar's embassy was still representing the junta, after it issued a statement decrying the deaths of civilian protesters and called on authorities to 'fully exercise utmost restraint'.
One diplomat in the embassy resigned and at least three said in social media posts they were joining the civil disobedience movement of strikes against the military.
At least 19 Myanmar police officers have crossed into India fearing persecution for disobeying orders, an Indian police official said on Thursday.
Myanmar activists are calling for the release of Suu Kyi, 75, who was detained on the morning of the coup, and recognition of her November 8 election victory. They also reject the junta's promise to hold new elections at an unspecified date.
Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the election in a landslide but the military has refused to accept the result citing fraud. The election commission said the vote was fair.
Sources said that Myanmar's military rulers attempted to move about $1 billion held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York days after seizing power. U.S. officials froze those funds indefinitely, they said.
The US Commerce Department designated trading curbs on Myanmar's defence and interior ministries and two military conglomerates that control swathes of the economy, with interests ranging from beer to real estate.
But the measures are expected to have limited impact as the entities are not major importers.
The UN human rights investigator on Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, urged the Security Council - which meets to discuss the situation later on Friday - to impose a global arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions on the junta.
The United States has told China, which has declined to condemn the coup, that it expects it to play a constructive role. China has said stability is a top priority in its strategic neighbour.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.