Three fatalities in Dawei and one in Yangon, local media say, as military junta launches most aggressive crackdown so far
Police in Myanmar have fired tear gas, stun grenades and sprayed live ammunition into the air in an attempt to stamp out a major anti-coup rally, their most aggressive nationwide crackdown since the military seized power.
Four people have reportedly been killed in the violence, including three men in the southern town of Dawei, where at least 20 others have been injured according to Agence France-Presse. One man was also killed in Yangon, while several others were injured. Medics who had gone on strike in protest against the military coup went back to work in Yangon general hospital emergency department to treat the wounded.
Social media footage showed protesters in Yangon carrying bloodied people to safety, with one man filmed lying motionless on the road. It is not clear if the injured had been hit with live bullets, however live rounds were reportedly fired at Hledan Junction, a gathering point for people protesting against the 1 February military coup, and in Thaketa township in the city.
Elsewhere in downtown Yangon, a group of around 10,000 protesters, one of several marches in the city, were met with tear gas.
“We were part of an engineers march,” said a protester who was among the crowd, and who had taken refuge in a resident’s house. “Police started firing [tear gas] at us at about 9am. We all ran in different directions. I don’t know what to do now. I will wait here for a while and see. It’s really bad, it was scary.”
Many of those taking to the streets wore gas masks, hats and goggles for protection, following an increasingly violent response by police on Saturday, when teargas and rubber bullets were used to disperse crowds. According to state-run MRTV television, more than 470 people were arrested at Saturday’s protests.
On Sunday, residents rushed to build makeshift road blocks, ripping up pavement slabs and assembling bins to prevent police from charging. On top of a pile of rubble used to seal off a road, protesters had laid a poster of Aung San Suu Kyi, with the words: “She is our only belief.”
A teacher in Yangon said she woke up to texts from her students saying goodbye in the event that they are killed in the protests. “One messaged me and thanked me for my support over the years, ending with ‘we love you, bye for now’ while taking cover from police fire,” she said.
She added that a doctor friend, who had retired to raise her children, “put her white coat back on to save lives today with other doctors”.
Social media footage showed medics in white lab coats fleeing as the police threw stun grenades outside a medical school in the city.
“We are here to protect people,” said a student in downtown Yangon, who carried a thin shield made from a water tank. “We think the military will come from Sule [pagoda]. Where ever people need to be protected, we will go. This is for our future. We have to win.”
The military has faced huge public opposition after it seized power from the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi this month, detaining her and other politicians from her party, National League for Democracy. It has accused the NLD, which won last year’s election, of voter fraud, a claim that has not been substantiated.
The military, which previously ruled the country for half a century, has promised to hold elections in one year’s time. Protesters are unconvinced by such pledges and have demanded the release of their elected leaders.
Over the past three weeks rallies have been held in towns and cities across the country, at times with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets. Meanwhile, a national strike, which has drawn support from doctors, engineers, railway workers and farmers, has brought the country to a standstill, paralysing the military junta.
On Friday night Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, gave an emotional address calling for international action to restore democracy and protect the people. By Saturday evening, MRTV, a Myanmar state-run television channel, announced he had been dismissed from his post, stating that he had abused his power and misbehaved by failing to follow the instructions of the government.
Aung San Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since the coup, and her lawyer has said he has been unable to meet with her. She is accused of illegally importing walkie-talkies and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus restrictions. Her next court hearing is expected to be held on Monday. If convicted of the charges, she may be prevented from running in future elections.
News – Myanmar: four reported dead as police fire on pro-democracy protesters