At least seven people have been killed in Myanmar after security forces opened fire on anti-coup protesters, according to witnesses and local media, hours after the United Nations Security Council called on the military to “exercise utmost restraint” in its response to peaceful demonstrators.
Six people were killed in the central town of Myaing on Thursday when security forces fired on a protest, one man who took part in the demonstration and helped carry bodies to hospital, told Reuters by telephone. A health worker there confirmed all six deaths.
“We protested peacefully,” the 31-year-old man said. “I couldn’t believe they did it.”
One person was killed in the North Dagon district of Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, domestic media said. Photographs posted on Facebook showed a man lying prone on the street, bleeding from a head wound.
Myanmar has been in chaos since its military toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1. The power grab, just a decade after the end of 49 years of strict military rule, triggered huge protests nationwide. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group said security forces have killed more than 60 protesters and arrested 2,000 others in the ensuing crackdown.
The 15-member UN Security Council on Wednesday strongly condemned the violence against peaceful protesters, including women, youth and children. “The council calls for the military to exercise utmost restraint and emphasizes that it is following the situation closely,” it said in a statement,
Language that would have condemned the February 1 coup and threatened possible further action was removed from the United Kingdom-drafted text, due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam.
The Civil Disobedience Movement, a campaign group, said the latest killings demonstrate the need for a “stronger message” from the international community.
“Right after the UNSC produces a condemnation statement, the terrorist junta again murdered people in broad daylight. What kind of message does it send to UNSC?” the group said in a post on Twitter.
International community needs to send a stronger message. Right after UNSC produces a “condemnation” statement, the terrorist junta again murdered people in broad daylight. What kind of message does it send to UNSC?
— Civil Disobedience Movement (@cvdom2021) March 11, 2021
Amnesty International, meanwhile, accused the military on Tuesday of using an arsenal of battlefield weapons in its “killing spree” against protesters. In its Thursday report, the human rights group said the weapons include light machine guns, sniper rifles and semi-automatic rifles. It added that those involved in the shootings were “unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity” elsewhere in the country.
We verified more than 50 videos from the ongoing #MyanmarCoup crackdown.
Today we're releasing new research which shows the military deploying their murderous methods & troops to the country's cities & towns.#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar
*warning: graphic content* pic.twitter.com/SXxOkaMDDC
— amnestypress (@amnestypress) March 11, 2021
There was no immediate comment from the military. It has previously said it is acting with the utmost restraint in handling what it describes as demonstrations by “riotous protesters”, whom it accuses of attacking police and harming national security and stability.
Despite the crackdowns, protests were also staged in half a dozen other towns on Thursday, according to Facebook posts. In Yangon’s central Sanchaung township people had another sleepless night as security forces raided apartments searching for lost police weapons.
“They used sound bombs on every street,” said one resident. “We are asking friends who are outside of their homes not to come back here tonight because of the situation.” Overnight, people also defied a curfew to hold several more candlelit vigils in parts of Yangon and also in Myingyan, southwest of the second city of Mandalay.
The United States tightened sanctions on Myanmar on Thursday, announcing punishing measures on two adult children of Min Aung Hlaing, the army chief who led the coup. “The leaders of the coup, and their adult family members, should not be able to continue to derive benefits from the regime as it resorts to violence and tightens its stranglehold on democracy,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“We will not hesitate to take further action against those who instigate violence and suppress the will of the people.”
In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he hoped Wednesday’s Security Council statement would push the military to realise it “is absolutely essential” that all prisoners are released and that the results of a November election are respected.
The army has justified the coup by saying that the election, won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, was marred by fraud – an assertion rejected by the electoral commission. The military has promised a new election within a year, but has not set a date.