Myanmar police crack down on protests for second day; at least 18 dead

Demonstrators clashing with police during a protest in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb 28, 2021.
Demonstrators clashing with police during a protest in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb 28, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS
A riot police officer firing rubber bullets towards protesters during a demonstration in Yangon, on Feb 28, 2021.
A riot police officer firing rubber bullets towards protesters during a demonstration in Yangon, on Feb 28, 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS
Spent casings and projectiles are displayed after police launched a crackdown against protesters, in Dawei, Myanmar, on Feb 28, 2021.
Spent casings and projectiles are displayed after police launched a crackdown against protesters, in Dawei, Myanmar, on Feb 28, 2021.PHOTO: AFP
Protesters setting up makeshift barricades during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb 28, 2021.
Protesters setting up makeshift barricades during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb 28, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Riot police stand guard on a road during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 28, 2021.
Riot police stand guard on a road during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 28, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Riot police set up barricades on a road during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 28, 2021.
Riot police set up barricades on a road during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 28, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Demonstrators stand behind a barricade of waste containers as they face riot police during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 28, 2021.
Demonstrators stand behind a barricade of waste containers as they face riot police during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 28, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Demonstrators flashing the three-finger salute during a protest against the military coup, in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb 28, 2021.
Demonstrators flashing the three-finger salute during a protest against the military coup, in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb 28, 2021.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Violence broke out across Myanmar on Sunday (Feb 28) 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 on Sunday.

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.

On Sunday, 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 on Sunday, 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 on Sunday.


Protestors tending to an injured man, after police officers fired at demonstrators, in Yangon, Myanmar, on Feb 28, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

UN human rights office spokesman Ravina Shamdasani said on Sunday 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 on Monday (March 1), when Parliament debates the budget for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Medical staff hold shields as they march during a protest against the military coup in Yangon on Feb 28, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE