Amnesty documents alleged atrocities against Myanmar protesters

An injured resident, who was shot with rubber bullets, is attended to by medical personnel in Yangon, on March 9, 2021.
An injured resident, who was shot with rubber bullets, is attended to by medical personnel in Yangon, on March 9, 2021.PHOTO: AFP
Volunteer medics help protesters wash their faces after security forces used tear gas to disperse people demonstrating against the military coup in Yangon, on March 9, 2021.
Volunteer medics help protesters wash their faces after security forces used tear gas to disperse people demonstrating against the military coup in Yangon, on March 9, 2021.PHOTO: NYTIMES

LONDON (AFP) - Security forces for Myanmar's military regime are using battlefield weapons on unarmed protestors and carrying out premeditated killings orchestrated by their commanding officers, Amnesty International said Thursday (March 11).

The human rights group collated graphic video clips posted on social media to document what it called a "nationwide killing spree" in the weeks since the military seized power on Feb 1.

"These Myanmar military tactics are far from new, but their killing sprees have never before been livestreamed for the world to see," Ms Joanne Mariner, Amnesty's director of crisis response, said in a new report.

"These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions," she said. "These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open."

Amnesty presented analysis of 55 videos recorded from Feb 28 to March 8 in cities across Myanmar, including Mandalay and Yangon.

In one Facebook clip, dated Feb 28 from the south-eastern city of Dawei, a soldier is seen handing his rifle to a police officer next to him. The policeman takes aim and shoots, before personnel around them erupt in apparent celebration.

The footage was recorded from a property above the street. In the background of the audio, women can be heard sobbing.

"Not only does this incident show a reckless disregard for human life, making sport of shooting live rounds at protesters, it also reveals deliberate coordination among security forces," Ms Mariner said.

Amnesty said some military units had been drafted in from restive ethnic-minority areas of Myanmar where many atrocities are said to have occurred, and also alleged extrajudicial executions of protestors.

'Deadly new phase'

Another clip, taken off Twitter from March 3, shows personnel leading a man towards a larger group of security forces in Yangon.

The man appears to be in custody and is offering no visible resistance when an officer beside him shoots him. He is left on the road, apparently lifeless, for several seconds before officers drag him away.

Amnesty also catalogued the use by security forces of firearms that are "completely inappropriate for use in policing protests", including light machine guns, sniper rifles and semi-automatic rifles.

"The weaponry deployed by the Tatmadaw (Myanmar armed forces) reveals a deliberate and dangerous escalation in tactics," Ms Mariner said. "Make no mistake, we are in a deadly new phase of the crisis."

Amnesty urged the UN Security Council to step in. On Wednesday it unanimously agreed on a statement condemning the military's use of violence against the peaceful anti-coup protesters.


A roadblock is set on fire by military personnel in Yangon, on March 10, 2021. PHOTO: EPA-EFE


Protesters hold homemade shields after tear gas was fired during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon, on March 8, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

It was the second time in just over a month that its 15 members - including China, a traditional ally of the former Burma - made a rare show of unity over Myanmar.

However, the statement does not use the word "coup" or mention the possibility of international sanctions if the generals do not halt their repression.

Earlier versions of the British-drafted resolution, under discussion since Friday, was more forthright but was blocked on Tuesday, with China, Vietnam, India and Russia opposed, diplomats said.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military ousted and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi last month, triggering daily protests around the country for the return of democracy.

Close to 2,000 people have been arrested and the death toll has climbed to more than 60.

A week ago, UN Special Rapporteur Thomas Andrews urged the Security Council to refer the regime to the International Criminal Court "to investigate and possibly prosecute atrocity crimes that have occurred".