Bloodiest Day! 38 People Killed by Security Forces in Myanmar

Published March 4th, 2021 - 07:19 GMT
A soldier stands next to a detained man
A soldier stands next to a detained man during a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay on March 3, 2021. STR / AFP
'They fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds,' a volunteer medic on the scene, adding that at least 10 people were injured.

At least 38 people have been killed by security forces in Myanmar after they opened fire on pro-democracy across the country, in the 'bloodiest' day since the military coup last month.

The heavily armoured police and military have gunned down the protesters and fired tear gas at crowds in an attempt to quell the demonstrations, leaving more than 50 dead since the coup on 1 February. 

Horrific video footage has emerged of police lining up three paramedics who had helped protesters in a row outside their ambulance before beating them in the city of Yangon. 

The helpless medics were surrounded by at least a dozen police officers who were kicking and punching them and even hitting them with their guns as they tried to cower away from the violence. 

Videos from Wednesday also showed security forces firing slingshots at demonstrators and chasing them down.

Among those killed on Wednesday was 19-year-old Angel, also known as Kyal Sin, after she was shot in the head in Mandalay. 

First police had sprayed Angel and fellow protesters with tear gas. Then the bullets came. 

Pictures taken before she was killed show Angel lying down for cover beside a protest banner, with her head slightly raised. 

During the protest, she wore a T-shirt with the phrase 'everything will be OK' on it. The saying has since gone viral on social media as users posted it in defiance.   

Dozens were injured in skirmishes with the police, medics added, while journalists were arrested for covering the coup and charged under security laws.

The numbers of demonstrators flooding the streets of cities across the country has  remained high even as security forces have repeatedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse the crowds, and arrested protesters en masse. 

Myanmar has been in chaos since February 1 when the military launched a coup and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, ending the country's decade-long experiment with democracy and sparking daily mass protests.

International pressure is mounting - Western powers have repeatedly hit the generals with sanctions - and Britain has called for a United Nations meeting on Friday.

But the junta has ignored the global condemnation, responding to the uprising with escalating brutality, and security services used lethal force on demonstrators again on Wednesday.

'Only today, 38 people died,' UN envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener told reporters on Wednesday, adding that more than 50 people have died in total since the military takeover, with many more wounded. 

'Today was the bloodiest day since the coup happened,' she added, without providing any further details, including a breakdown of the deaths. 

She called for the UN to take 'very strong measures' against the generals, adding that in her conversations with them, they had dismissed the threat of sanctions.

'I will keep going on, we will not give up,' she said.

Burgener added that she receives some 2,000 messages per day from people inside Myanmar, many 'who are really desperate to see action from the international community.' 

The violence left the United States 'appalled and revulsed,' State Department spokesman Ned Price said, telling reporters: 'We call on all countries to speak with one voice to condemn the brutal violence by the Burmese military against its own people.'

He singled out China, a frequent US adversary that Myanmar's military has historically considered its main ally.

'China does have influence in the region. It does have influence with the military junta. We have called upon the Chinese to use that influence in a constructive way, in a way that advances the interests of the people of Burma,' Price said, using another name for Myanmar.

And he said the United States, which has imposed sanctions on junta leaders, was looking at further actions. 

Earlier, AFP recorded at least 17 deaths across Myanmar on Wednesday, with Monywa in the central Sagaing region registering at least seven, according to a doctor.

Medics also said they saw two other individuals being dragged away by security forces but could not confirm if they had died. 

Demonstrations also continued across Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, on Wednesday, with protesters using makeshift tyre and barbed wire barricades to block major roads. 

At least six demonstrators died in Yangon, according to a rescue worker and local journalist.

In downtown Pansodan Road, near the famed Sule pagoda intersection, protesters pasted print-outs of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing's face on the ground - a tactic aimed at slowing down security forces who will avoid standing on the portraits. 

In San Chaung township, which has been the site of intense clashes in recent days, tear gas and fire extinguisher clouds filled the streets as riot police confronted protesters.

In Mandalay, Myanmar's second-largest city, two demonstrators were killed, a doctor confirmed to AFP, adding that one of the victims aged 19 - now revealed to be Angel - was shot in the head.

Another 19-year-old protester died after being shot in Salin. 

'They shouldn't have used such lethal force against the peaceful protesters,' said his friend Min Pyae Phyo, through tears. 'I won't forget and forgive them the rest of my life.' 

A protest in the central city of Myingyan also turned deadly, as security forces confronted protesters in hard hats crouching behind red home-made shields emblazoned with the three-finger salute - a symbol of resistance for the anti-coup movement.   

'They fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and live rounds,' a volunteer medic on the scene, adding that at least 10 people were injured.

Thet Thet Swe, from Myingyan rescue clinic, confirmed a young man was shot in the head and died. Several medics confirmed this. 

'Zin Ko Ko Zaw, a 20-year-old was shot dead on the spot and my team treated 17 injured people,' a second rescue team member told AFP.

There were also chaotic scenes at North Okkalapa - a civil society health clinic confirmed 19 injured people had arrived for medical treatment.

'Some got hit with rubber bullets, some fell down and some were beaten. We had to transfer one man to hospital for a operation because a rubber bullet hit his head. We do not have a surgeon here,' an official told AFP.

Local media in northern Kachin state also reported similar scenes of violence. 

In Dawei Wednesday, one gunshot victim from Sunday, when 18 people were killed across the country, was cremated.

Mourners held floral wreaths and portraits of Lwin Lwin Oo, 33, as coffin bearers were flanked by hundreds chanting: 'We are united... Democracy is our cause.'   

The intensifying standoff is unfortunately familiar in a country with a long history of peaceful resistance to military rule - and brutal crackdowns. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule. 

Wednesday's violence came after the foreign ministers of Southeast Asian nations - including Myanmar's junta representative Wunna Maung Lwin - discussed the crisis at a virtual meeting.

After the talks Indonesia's Retno Marsudi expressed frustration over the junta's lack of cooperation, and Singapore condemned the use of lethal force.

The violence on Wednesday also came on the heels of news that six Myanmar journalists would be charged under a law prohibiting 'causing fear, spreading false news, or agitating directly or indirectly a government employee', according to their lawyer Tin Zar Oo.

Among them is Associated Press photographer Thein Zaw, who was arrested Saturday as he covered an anti-coup demonstration in Yangon. Video emerged on Wednesday of him being held in a chokehold by police as he was handcuffed.

The other five are from Myanmar Now, Myanmar Photo Agency, 7Day News, Zee Kwet Online News and a freelancer. They face up to three years in jail.

The junta amended the legislation last month, increasing the maximum sentence from two years to three years in jail. 

The United States called for their release and was 'forcefully making clear' that their detention was 'unacceptable,' Price said.

Burgener said that the generals had told her they would hold elections in 'one year.'

But she also said she had not been able to speak directly with the leaders since February 15, communicating only in writing since then.

She said she sent a 'long letter' directly to the army's number two Soe Win on Sunday but had not yet heard back, though she did receive information from the army daily.

And she said she had not yet been granted permission to visit the country.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group, more than 1,200 people have been arrested since the coup, with about 900 still behind bars or facing charges.

But the real number is likely far higher - state-run media reported more than 1,300 people were arrested on Sunday alone.   

State-broadcaster MRTV said Tuesday 511 detainees had been released in Yangon. 

Pope Francis on Wednesday urged Myanmar's military authorities to prioritise dialogue over repression.

'We are still getting sad news from Myanmar of bloody clashes with losses of human lives,' Francis said during his weekly audience.

'I would like to draw the attention of the involved authorities so that dialogue may prevail over repression and harmony over discord,' the 84-year-old Catholic leader said.

The international community should 'work so that the aspirations of the people of Myanmar are not stifled by violence', Francis said.

The pope has already spoken out on at least two occasions to voice solidarity with the people of Myanmar following the February 1 coup, and to call for the release of detained leaders.  

This article has been adapted from its original source.     

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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