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Myanmar troops have killed at least 18 people in several towns.

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Myanmar troops have killed at least 18 people in several towns.

 

Security forces in Myanmar opened fire and made mass arrests on Sunday in an effort to suppress demonstrations against the military’s assumption of power, according to a United Nations human rights official who said he had “credible intelligence” that at least 18 people were killed and 30 injured.

That would be the highest single-day death toll among demonstrators demanding that Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government be returned to power after a February 1 coup. On Sunday, it is reported that 1,000 people were detained.

The United Nations Human Rights Office said in a statement that “deaths allegedly occurred as a result of live bullets fired into crowds in Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago, and Pokokku,” referring to several towns, adding that the forces have used tear gas, flash-bang explosives, and stun grenades.

“Independent journalists must be able to cover the news openly and without fear of retaliation. AP firmly opposes Thein Zaw’s unlawful detention,” said Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news. The arrest was also condemned by Myanmar’s Foreign Correspondents Club.

According to the Democratic Voice of Burma, there had been 19 confirmed deaths in nine cities in Myanmar as of 5 p.m., with another ten deaths unconfirmed. The privately owned media group broadcasts on satellite, digital terrestrial television, and the internet.

Five people died in Yangon and two in Mandalay, the country’s largest and second-largest towns, according to DVB.

It reported five deaths in Dawei, a much smaller city in southeastern Myanmar where tens of thousands of protesters have gathered almost every day since the coup. According to witnesses, the march on Sunday was also massive, and people were determined not to be forced off the streets.

Confirming protester deaths has been difficult due to the chaos and general lack of news from official media, especially outside of Yangon, Mandalay, and Naypyitaw. However, in many cases, images and video were published revealing the circumstances of the murders as well as horrific photos of the bodies.

Around 1,000 people were detained on Sunday, according to the independent Assistance Group of Political Prisoners, of whom 270 could be named. The total number of people arrested, convicted, or sentenced by the party since the coup now stands at 1,132.

Gunshots were heard almost immediately after the protests started in Yangon on Sunday morning, as police used tear gas and water cannons to clear the streets. On social media, images of shell casings from live ammunition used in assault rifles were shared.

According to early posts on social media, one young man was reported to have been killed. His body was photographed and videotaped lying on a pavement until he was carried away by other demonstrators.

Local media in Dawei confirmed that at least three people were killed during a protest march, which was backed up by photos and video. One injured man was photographed in the care of medical staff and posted on social media.
On Sunday, medics attend to a man in a street in Dawei, Myanmar, as seen in this picture from a film.

According to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, there had been eight confirmed accounts of killings related to the army’s takeover before Sunday.

According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the crackdown, calling the use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators and arbitrary arrests “unacceptable,” and expressed grave concern about the increasing number of deaths and serious injuries.

“The secretary-general calls on the international community to unite and send a strong message to Myanmar’s military that it must respect the people’s will as expressed in the election and end the repression,” Dujarric said.

The violence was also denounced by US leaders, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The United States is “alarmed” by the violence, according to White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, who stands in solidarity with Myanmar citizens “who continue to bravely express their demands for democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.”

Because of the coup, the US has imposed sanctions on Myanmar, and Sullivan vowed that “further costs would be imposed on those responsible” in the coming days.

After five decades of military rule, the February 1 coup overturned years of gradual progress toward democracy. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party was due to be re-elected to a second five-year term of office, but the army prevented Parliament from convening and detained her, President Win Myint, and other senior members of her government.

Medical students marched in Yangon on Sunday morning near the Hledan Center intersection, which has become a focal point for demonstrators who then disperse to other parts of the city.

Residents set up temporary roadblocks to slow the protesters’ advance, as seen in videos and pictures. Some protestors were able to return tear gas canisters to police. Residents in the neighborhood were pleading with police to free those who had been detained on the street and shoved into police vans to be driven away. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of people arrested.
Protesters in Yangon, Myanmar, carry shields during a rally against the military coup.

“The world is monitoring the Myanmar military junta’s actions and will keep them accountable,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch in New York. “Live ammunition should not be used to control or disperse demonstrations, and lethal force should only be used to protect life or avoid serious injury,” says the document.

On Saturday, security forces started using tougher methods, taking preventive steps to suppress demonstrations and making dozens, if not hundreds, of arrests. Soldiers have since joined the police force in larger numbers. Many of those arrested were taken to Insein Prison on Yangon’s outskirts, which has a tradition of housing political detainees.

As of Saturday, 854 people had been arrested, convicted, or sentenced in connection with the coup, according to the Assistance Organization of Political Prisoners, and 771 were being held or pursued for detention. Although the group announced 75 new arrests on Saturday, it is suspected that hundreds more people were apprehended in Yangon and elsewhere.

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