Two protesters are shot dead in Myanmar as riot police open fire on crowd and world leaders condemn attack on anti-coup activists
- Riot police fired live ammunition into crowds of peaceful protesters in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Saturday
- Two people were hit by bullets and killed amid antic-coup demonstrations after two weeks of protests
- The UK foreign secretary said the UK was considering ‘further action’ as world leaders condemned the killings
- One victim was hit in the head while another was shot in the chest and died on his way to hospital
Two protesters have been shot dead in Myanmar as riot police opened fire on peaceful anti-coup demonstrators, according to local media.
Riot police fired live rounds in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, on Saturday, as crowds gathered to protest against the army takeover.
World leaders have condemned today’s shooting as ‘beyond the pale’ after local media reported two people were killed by riot police.
They said one victim was shot in the head and died at the scene while another was shot in the chest and died en route to hospital. Several other serious injuries were reported.
Much of the country has been in uproar since the military deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, with large street demonstrations seen in major cities and isolated villages alike.
Police charge forward to disperse protesters in Mandalay, Myanmar, as crowds gathered to protest the army coup
Demonstrators run from teargas fired by police during a protest against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, today
Protesters hold out bullet cartridges and ammunition for slingshots after security forces fired on demonstrators at a rally
Protesters have taken to the streets this month after the military took over and detained the nation’s leader following her party’s landslide victory in November’s elections.
Authorities have responded with increasing force, deploying troops against peaceful rallies and firing tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets, with isolated incidents of live rounds being used.
In Mandalay on Saturday, a shipyard raid turned violent after protesters trying to stop the arrest of anti-coup marine staff started flinging rocks.
Authorities retaliated by opening fire – sending demonstrators fleeing in fear.
In a video livestreamed on Facebook by a resident hiding nearby, continuous gunfire could be heard.
‘Two people were killed,’ said Hlaing Min Oo, the chief of a Mandalay-based volunteer emergency rescue team, adding that one of the victims, who was shot in the head, was a teenager.
The death toll was confirmed by another emergency worker on the scene, who declined to be named for fear of repercussions. ‘One under-18 boy got shot in his head,’ he told AFP.
Graphic video circulated on Facebook of the boy, splayed on the ground and bleeding from his head as a bystander placed a hand on his chest to feel for a heartbeat.
‘About 30 others were injured – half of the injured people were shot with live rounds,’ Hlaing Min Oo said, adding the rest had rubber bullet and slingshot wounds.
An injured man sits in an ambulance after police fired rubber bullets during the protest
The use of live rounds was also confirmed by doctors and other aides working on the ground. Local media reported more than a dozen people were arrested after the clash.
‘They beat and shot my husband and others,’ a resident told AFP in tears. ‘He was standing on the side and watching the protest but the soldiers took him away.’
A protester is led away after being detained by security forces
The clash in Mandalay comes as the country mourns the death of a 20-year-old anti-coup protester who was shot in the head last week in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.
On Saturday, thousands gathered at the main junctions of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city – though the crowds appeared smaller than in recent days.
‘I feel that the bullet that hit Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing’s head has also hit our heads,’ said protester Win Zaw, 46.
‘We cannot accept the police crackdowns because these are undisciplined, beyond our laws.’
Reacting to the Mandalay shooting, the European Union’s high representative and vice president Josep Borrell tweeted Saturday that he ‘strongly condemn(s) the violence’.
‘I urge the military and all security forces in #Myanmar to immediately stop violence against civilians,’ Borrell said, adding that EU ministers will discuss the events on Monday ‘to take appropriate decisions’.
Singapore, Myanmar’s largest investor, also said it was ‘dismayed’.
‘The use of lethal weapons against unarmed civilians is inexcusable,’ said a statement from its Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
‘If the situation continues to escalate, there will be serious adverse consequences for Myanmar and the region.’
The military regime has so far weathered a chorus of international condemnation, with the US, Britain and Canada all announcing sanctions targeting the country’s top generals.
The junta has justified its power seizure by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.
The foreign secretary said the UK will consider ‘further action’ against those ‘crushing democracy’ and ‘choking dissent’
An injured man is carried by rescue workers after protests against the military coup
People rinse their faces with water after tear gas was used to disperse a protest in Mandalay, Myanmar on Saturday
Police and soldiers are seen preparing to charge at demonstrators during protests against the military coup
The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said it was ‘deeply troubled’ by Saturday’s fatal shootings in Mandalay and the death of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing.
‘No one should be harmed for exercising the right to dissent,’ the embassy said in a statement on its Facebook page.
Dominic Raab said the UK will consider ‘further action’ against those ‘crushing democracy’ and ‘choking dissent’ following the two deaths.
The foreign secretary said: ‘The shooting of peaceful protesters in Myanmar is beyond the pale.
‘We will consider further action, with our international partners, against those crushing democracy & choking dissent.’
The UK on Thursday said it had imposed asset freezes and travel bans on three generals in Myanmar’s military regime in response to human rights violations.
Alongside the sanctions, the Government has put in place further safeguards to prevent UK aid money indirectly supporting the military government following this month’s coup.
New measures are also being taken to stop UK businesses working with Myanmar’s military.
Protesters took to the streets in cities and towns across Myanmar with members of ethnic minorities, poets, rappers and transport workers among those demanding an end to military rule and the release from detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others.
Crowds gathered to protest against the military coup, in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Saturday
Demonstrators run from teargas fired by police during a protest against the military coup
Riot police lined up as they prepared to face a crowd of peaceful protesters in Mandalay, Myanmar, on Saturday
A rescue worker checks an injured man after riot police fire into the crowds at a protest in Mandalay on Saturday
Tensions escalated quickly in Mandalay where police and soldiers confronted striking shipyard workers and other protesters.
Some of the demonstrators fired catapults at police as they played cat and mouse through riverside streets.
Almost 550 protesters are arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup in Myanmar
Nearly 550 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Around 500 are still behind bars and among those targeted have been railway workers, civil servants and bank staff who walked off their jobs as part of a civil disobedience campaign.
There have also been isolated reports of members of the security forces joining protests, including a soldier in remote Sagaing region whose participation went viral.
But on Saturday, the military’s information team released a video of the soldier sitting straight-backed against a wall, claiming he had been drunk.
‘They used me to ruin my life,’ soldier Than Lwin said of the protesters, in the confession-style video.
Authorities have maintained that dispersal methods against protesters are lawful, and a military spokesman said this week that one police officer had died in Mandalay after another clash there.
Suu Kyi – who has not been seen since she was detained in a dawn raid – has been hit with two charges, one of them for possessing unregistered walkie-talkies.
Her hearing is expected on March 1.
Police responded with tear gas and gunfire, and witnesses said they found the cartridges of both live rounds and rubber bullets on the ground.
‘Twenty people were injured and two are dead,’ said Ko Aung, a leader of the Parahita Darhi volunteer emergency service.
One man died from a head wound, media workers including Lin Khaing, an assistant editor with the Voice of Myanmar media outlet in the city, and a volunteer doctor said.
Ko Aung and the doctor said a second man was shot in the chest and died later of his wound. He was identified by relatives as Thet Naing Win, a 36-year-old carpenter.
‘They took away the body to the morgue. I cannot bring him back home. Although my husband died, I still have my son,’ his wife, Thidar Hnin, told Reuters by phone. ‘I haven’t been involved in this movement yet but now I am going to…I am not scared now.’
Several other injured protesters were carried away on stretchers by volunteer medics, their clothes soaked in blood.
Police were not available for comment.
A young woman protester, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, died on Friday after being shot in the head last week as police dispersed a crowd in the capital, Naypyitaw. It was the first death among anti-coup demonstrators.
The army said one policeman has died of injuries sustained in a protest.
State television MRTV’s evening news broadcast made no mention of the protests or casualties.
In the main city Yangon, residents again banged pots and pans in a nightly ritual in defiance of the coup.
Outside the U.S. Embassy in the city, dozens of protesters, mostly women, gathered at twilight for a candlelit vigil, singing anti-coup songs.
More than a fortnight of demonstrations and a civil disobedience campaign of strikes and disruptions show no sign of dying down. Opponents of the coup are sceptical of the army’s promise to hold a new election and hand power to the winner.
The demonstrators are demanding the restoration of the elected government and the release of Suu Kyi and others. They have also called for the scrapping of a 2008 constitution that has assured the army a major role in politics since nearly 50 years of direct military rule ended in 2011.
The army seized back power after alleging fraud in November 8 elections that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept, detaining her and others. The electoral commission had dismissed the fraud complaints.
Anti-coup protesters flash the three-fingered salute behind a road barricade made of drums in Mandalay
Police officers stand in front of people who protest against the military coup, in Mandalay, Myanmar
Nevertheless, the army says its action is within the constitution and is supported by a majority of the people. The military has blamed protesters for instigating violence.
Crowds also gathered on Saturday in the northern town of Myitkyina, the ancient capital of Bagan and in Pathein in the Irrawaddy river delta, pictures on social media showed.
The United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have announced limited sanctions, with a focus on military leaders. Several foreign governments have urged Myanmar’s military not to use force against protesters.
Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was already under sanctions from Western countries following the crackdown on the Rohingya. There is little history of Myanmar’s generals, with closer ties to China and to Russia, giving in to Western pressure.
Suu Kyi faces a charge of violating a Natural Disaster Management Law as well as illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios. Her next court appearance is on March 1.
Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 546 people had been detained, with 46 released, as of Friday.
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