Yangon, Myanmar – Security forces in Myanmar made mass arrests and appeared to use lethal force on Sunday as they stepped up efforts to end protests a month after the military coup. At least four people were reportedly killed.
There were reports of gunfire when police in Yangon, the country’s largest city, fired tear gas and water cannons while attempting to clear the streets of protesters demanding the restoration of power to the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Photos of live ammunition shell cases used in assault rifles have been posted on social media.
Reports on social media of the name of a young man believed to have been killed in Yangon. His body was shown in photos and videos that were laid on a sidewalk until other demonstrators could carry him away.
Violence also occurred in Dawei, a much smaller town in southeast Myanmar. Local media reported that at least three people were killed in a protest march. The deaths could not be independently confirmed immediately, despite photos posted on social media showing a wounded man in the care of medical staff and later lying in a bed under a blanket with flowers on it.
Given the chaos and the general lack of news from official sources, it was difficult to confirm reports of protesters’ deaths.
As of Sunday, there were eight confirmed reports of murders related to taking over the army, according to the Independent Political Prisoners Aid Association.
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The February 1 coup reversed years of slow progress towards democracy after five decades of military rule. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy Party would have been installed for a second term of five years, but the army prevented parliament from convening and arresting it and President Win Myint and other senior members of Suu Kyi’s government.
Sunday violence broke out early in the morning as medical students marched on Yangon’s streets near the Hledan Center intersection, which has become a meeting place for protesters who then spread to other parts of the city.
Videos and photos showed protesters running away as police attacked them and local residents setting up temporary roadblocks to slow their advance. Some protesters managed to throw tear gas canisters back at the police. Nearby, residents asked the police to release those who picked them up from the street and pushed them into police cars to take them away. Dozens or more were believed to have been detained.
Protesters gathered later on Sunday and security forces continued to track them in several parts of the city.
There was no immediate word about the victims in Yangon. Gunshots could be heard in the streets and smoke grenades appeared to have been thrown into the crowd.
“The marked escalation of the Myanmar security forces in the use of lethal force in several cities across the country in response to mostly peaceful anti-coup protesters is outrageous and unacceptable and must be stopped immediately,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch based in New York. “Live ammunition should not be used to control or disperse protests, and lethal force can only be used to save life or prevent serious injury.”
“The world is watching the actions of the military junta in Myanmar and will hold them accountable,” he said.
On Saturday, security forces began using rougher tactics, taking preventive measures to break off protests, and making numerous, if not hundreds, of arrests. A large number of soldiers have also joined the police. Many of the detainees were taken to Insein Prison on the northern outskirts of Yangon, which was historically notorious for holding political prisoners.
According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, as of Saturday 854 people had been arrested, charged or convicted in connection with the coup, and 771 had been arrested or called for arrest. The group said that while they documented 75 new arrests, they understood that hundreds of other people were also picked up in Yangon and elsewhere on Saturday.
MRTV, a state television broadcaster in Myanmar, aired an announcement from the State Department on Saturday night that the country’s ambassador to the United Nations had been dismissed for abusing his power and behaving badly by not following government orders and ” betrayed ”It.
Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said in an emotional speech at the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday that he represents Suu Kyi’s “popularly elected civil government” and supports the fight against military rule.
He called on all countries to issue public statements condemning the coup and refusing to recognize the military regime. He also called for stronger international action to stop violence by the security forces against peaceful demonstrators.