At least 18 killed in Myanmar as security forces open fire

Over 30 injured amid crackdown from Saturday on rallies across the country

Protesters taking cover during a clash with riot police officers in Yangon yesterday. Myanmar police and soldiers moved quickly yesterday to stamp out protests across the nation, firing live bullets at demonstrators in Yangon and other cities when st
Protesters taking cover during a clash with riot police officers in Yangon yesterday. Myanmar police and soldiers moved quickly yesterday to stamp out protests across the nation, firing live bullets at demonstrators in Yangon and other cities when stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up the crowds. PHOTO: REUTERS

Violence broke out across Myanmar yesterday in the bloodiest day so far in weeks of demonstrations since the military seized power from the democratically elected government on Feb 1.

At least 18 people were killed and over 30 wounded, said the United Nations human rights office, as Myanmar security forces used live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas on protesters in various cities where rallies formed yesterday.

Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets in the past month in defiance of military rule that was reimposed when the military seized power and detained state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and members of her National League for Democracy party. The reason given for the coup, led by military chief Min Aung Hlaing, was alleged voter fraud in a November election last year that the party won by a landslide.

The authorities began the crackdown on Saturday, after weeks of largely peaceful protests and strikes, also known as the civil disobedience movement (CDM), that have seen civil servants, doctors and teachers protesting against the coup.

Yesterday, Myanmar police and soldiers moved quickly to stamp out protests that spanned the nation, firing live bullets at demonstrators in the main city of Yangon and other cities when stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up the crowds.

Deaths were also reported in cities like Dawei and Mandalay.

At least four protesters were killed in Dawei in southern Myanmar, military-run station Mya-wady TV reported. The Myanmar Now said at least two were killed in Mandalay, the second-largest city, where police reportedly used water cannon to disperse rallies. At least three died in Yangon yesterday, a doctor with the CDM Doctors Network, who declined to be named, told Bloomberg.

Images on social media showed bloody pavements and several wounded or dead, lying on the streets or being tended to by fellow protesters and medical staff, or being hauled away by the authorities.

In footage on Twitter, protesters were seen fleeing in panic as security forces charged and fired at them on the streets of Dawei.

In Yangon, protesters set up barricades and wielded homemade shields to defend themselves as police used tear gas to break up some rallies, according to local news outlet Mizzima News. "If they push us, we'll rise. If they attack us, we'll defend. We'll never kneel down to the military boots," protester Nyan Win Shein told Reuters.

Police also broke up protests in other towns, including Lashio in the north-east and Myeik in the deep south, reported Reuters.

State-run MRTV television said more than 470 people had been arrested on Saturday when police launched the nationwide crackdown. It was not clear how many were detained yesterday.

UN human rights office spokesman Ravina Shamdasani said yesterday that the police detained at least 85 medical workers and students and seven journalists, who were at the rallies.

She added: "Over 1,000 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in the last month - some of whom remain unaccounted for - mostly without any form of due process, simply for exercising their human rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly."

Last month, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said there should be no violence against unarmed civilians, and that live rounds should not be fired on them under any circumstances.

Singapore MPs are expected to raise the issue of developments in Myanmar today, when Parliament debates the budget for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2021, with the headline At least 18 killed in Myanmar as security forces open fire. Subscribe