Myanmar security forces continue deadly crackdown on coup protesters

Myanmar protesters still go out regardless of killings
Anti-coup protesters with makeshift shields stand during a rally in Yangon, Myanmar, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. Demonstrators in Myanmar took to the streets again on Wednesday to protest last month's seizure of power by the military. (AP Photo)

Security forces in Myanmar have shot dead at least seven people protesting against last month’s military takeover.

Four deaths were reported in Mandalay, the country’s second-biggest city, two in Pyay, a town in south-central Myanmar, and one in Twante, a suburb of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city.

Details of all seven deaths were posted on multiple social media accounts, some accompanied by photos of the victims.

The actual death toll is likely to be higher, as police apparently seized some bodies, while some of those injured in the crackdown suffered serious gunshot wounds that doctors and nurses working at makeshift clinics will be hard-pressed to treat.

Many hospitals are occupied by security forces, and as a result are boycotted by medical personnel and shunned by protesters.

The independent UN human rights expert for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said on Thursday that “credible reports” indicated security forces in the Southeast Asian nation had so far killed at least 70 people, and cited growing evidence of crimes against humanity since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Other unofficial but carefully compiled tallies put the total number of deaths since the coup at around 90.

Saturday’s killings did not faze demonstrators in Yangon who crowded a commercial area past the official 8pm curfew to hold a mass candlelight vigil and to sing about their cause.

The mostly young protesters rallied at an intersection where they usually gather for daytime protests.

After-dark rallies were also held in Mandalay and elsewhere.

Reports on social media also said three people were shot dead on Friday night in Yangon, where residents for the past week have been defying the curfew to come out onto the streets.

Two deaths by gunfire were reported in Yangon’s Thaketa township, where a protest being held outside a police station was dispersed.

A crowd had gathered there to demand the release of three young men who were seized from their home earlier on Friday night. Photos said to be of the bodies of two dead protesters were posted online.

The other reported fatality on Friday night was that of a 19-year-old man shot in Hlaing township.

Police had been aggressively patrolling residential neighbourhoods at night, firing into the air and setting off stun grenades in an effort at intimidation.

They have also been carrying out targeted raids, taking people from their homes with minimal resistance.

In at least two known cases, the detainees died in custody within hours of being taken away.

Another possible indication of heightened resistance emerged on Saturday with photos posted online of a railway bridge said to have been damaged by an explosive charge.

The bridge was described in multiple accounts as being on the rail line from Mandalay to Myitkyina, the capital of the northern state of Kachin. The photos show damage to part of a concrete support.

No-one took responsibility for the action.

In Washington on Friday, President Joe Biden’s administration announced it is offering temporary legal residency to people from Myanmar, citing the military’s takeover and ongoing deadly force against civilians.

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions.

Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party led a return to civilian rule with a landslide election victory in 2015, and an even greater margin of votes last year.

It would have been installed for a second five-year term last month, but instead Ms Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and other members of the government were placed in military detention.

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