MANDALAY • In the worst violence yet in more than two weeks of demonstrations, at least two people were killed and dozens injured yesterday when police opened fire with live bullets at a rally against the military coup in Myanmar.
The live ammunition, along with rubber bullets and slingshot balls, were used to disperse hundreds of protesters who had gathered at a shipyard in the country's second-largest city Mandalay.
"Two people were killed," Mr Hlaing Min Oo, the head of a Mandalay-based volunteer emergency rescue team told Agence France-Presse.
"About 30 others were injured - half of the injured people were shot with live rounds."
Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) released a statement saying it was dismayed by reports of civilian casualties and urged security forces to exercise "utmost restraint".
"The use of lethal weapons against unarmed civilians is inexcusable," a spokesman said. "The authorities must prevent further violence and bloodshed."
Myanmar's military seized power on Feb 1 by ousting the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its civilian leaders, including its head Aung San Suu Kyi, who remains under house arrest.
The military claims the NLD's landslide election victory last year was fraudulent.
On Friday, a 20-year-old protester became the ensuing protests' first fatality after being shot in the head earlier this month at a rally in the capital, Naypyitaw.
That did not stop opponents of the coup to again take to the streets in several Myanmar cities and towns yesterday, with members of ethnic minorities, poets and transport workers among those demanding an end to military rule.
The New York Times said yesterday's shootings occurred as the authorities were trying to force workers back to their jobs at Yadanarbon shipyard in Mandalay, on the Irrawaddy River. They were among hundreds of thousands of labourers across Myanmar who have walked off their jobs to protest against the coup.
The police presence sparked fears among nearby residents that the authorities would try to arrest workers for taking part in the anti-coup movement.
Banging pots and pans, in what has become a signature gesture of defiance, protesters started yelling at the police to leave.
Some fired catapults at police, who responded with tear gas and gun fire. A volunteer doctor confirmed there had been two deaths: "One shot in the head died at the spot. Another one died later with a bullet wound to the chest."
The British embassy in Myanmar tweeted a call for the military to " stop all violence against peaceful protesters". "We stand by the people of Myanmar."
The European Union's foreign policy chief Josep Borrell warned that the bloc will "take appropriate decisions".
Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan met his Indonesian counterpart, Ms Retno Marsudi, in Singapore on Thursday and said they support a proposal to hold an informal Asean ministerial meeting on the issue.