Myanmar security forces opened fire killing nine people during protests against the military coup on Wednesday, witnesses and media reported, a day after a regional diplomatic push to end the monthlong crisis made little headway.
Two people were killed during clashes at a protest in the country’s second-biggest city Mandalay, a witness and media reports said, and one person was killed when police opened fire in the main city of Yangon, a witness there said.
The Monywa Gazette reported five people were killed in that central town in police firing. One person was shot and killed in the central town of Myingyan, said student activist Moe Myint Hein, 25.
“They opened fire on us with live bullets. One was killed, he’s young, a teenage boy, shot in the head,” Moe Myint Hein, who was wounded in the leg, told Reuters by telephone.
The country has been in chaos since Feb. 1 when the military launched a coup and detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. At least 30 people have been killed since the coup on Feb. 1, which ended Myanmar’s tentative steps towards democratic rule, triggering nationwide protests and international dismay.
International pressure is mounting – Western powers have repeatedly hit the generals with sanctions – and Britain has called for a United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday. But the junta has ignored the global condemnation, responding to the uprising with escalating force, and security forces used lethal force on demonstrators again on Wednesday.
“They fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds,” a volunteer medic on the scene told Agence France-Presse (AFP), adding that at least 10 people were injured.
Demonstrations also continued across Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, on Wednesday, with protesters using makeshift tires and barbed wire barricades to block major roads and slow the police. In downtown Pansodan Road, near the famed Sule pagoda intersection, protesters pasted print-outs of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing’s face on the ground – a tactic aimed at slowing down security forces who will avoid standing on the portraits. In another San Chaung township, which has been the site of intense clashes in recent days, tear gas and fire extinguisher clouds filled the streets as riot police confronted protesters.
Sunday was the bloodiest day since the military takeover, with the U.N. saying at least 18 protesters were killed across the country.
Wednesday’s violence came after the foreign ministers of Southeast Asian nations – including Myanmar’s junta representative Wunna Maung Lwin – discussed the crisis at a virtual meeting. After the talks, Indonesia’s Retno Marsudi expressed frustration over the junta’s lack of cooperation.
Singapore – which is Myanmar’s largest investor – condemned the authorities’ use of lethal force, with Premier Lee Hsien Loong telling the BBC that it was “unacceptable.”
Authorities in Myanmar have charged The Associated Press (AP) journalist Thein Zaw and five other members of the media with violating a public order law that could see them imprisoned for up to three years, a lawyer said Tuesday. The six were arrested while covering protests against the Feb. 1 military coup in Myanmar that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The group includes journalists for Myanmar Now, Myanmar Photo Agency, 7Day News, Zee Kwet online news and a freelancer.
Lawyer Tin Zar Oo, who represents Zaw, said the six have been charged under a law that punishes anyone who causes fear among the public, knowingly spreads false news or agitates directly or indirectly for a criminal offense against a government employee, according to AP.
The law was amended by the junta last month to broaden its scope and increase the maximum prison term from two years. Zaw, 32, was taken into custody on Saturday morning in Yangon, the country’s largest city. He is reported to be held in Insein Prison in northern Yangon, notorious for housing political prisoners under previous military regimes.
According to the lawyer, Zaw was remanded into custody by a court and can be held until March 12 without another hearing or further action. The AP has called for his immediate release.
“Independent journalists must be allowed to freely and safely report the news without fear of retribution,” Ian Phillips, AP vice president for international news, said after the arrest. “AP decries in the strongest terms the arbitrary detention of Thein Zaw.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent, nonprofit organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, echoed the sentiments of Phillips.
“Myanmar authorities must release all journalists being held behind bars and stop threatening and harassing reporters for merely doing their jobs of covering anti-coup street protests,” said Shawn Crispin, CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative. “Myanmar must not return to the past dark ages where military rulers jailed journalists to stifle and censor news reporting.”
Zaw was arrested as police charged toward protesters gathered at an intersection in Yangon that has become a meeting point for demonstrators. Authorities escalated their crackdown on the protesters this past weekend, carrying out mass arrests and using lethal force.
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