At least 8 protesters killed in Myanmar

At least 8 protesters killed in Myanmar

Citizens continue to defy junta curfews to rally against military regime

The sister of Saw Pyae Naing, who was shot dead by live rounds during a demonstration against the military coup, grieves over his body at a makeshift medical centre in Mandalay on Saturday. (Stringer via AFP)
The sister of Saw Pyae Naing, who was shot dead by live rounds during a demonstration against the military coup, grieves over his body at a makeshift medical centre in Mandalay on Saturday. (Stringer via AFP)

YANGON: At least eight people were killed in Myanmar on Saturday as security forces opened fire on protesters, including those who continue to defy a nighttime curfew to demonstrate against last month’s coup, local media reported.

Three men died in the outskirts of Yangon early Saturday morning, while another three protesters were killed in Mandalay later in the day, local media reports said, adding that all died from gunshot wounds.

Two people in Yangon were shot when security forces opened fire to disperse groups of people in Thaketa township, demanding the release of protesters who had been beaten, arrested and taken into custody. The third was killed in Hlaing township, where shots were fired at groups of people who confronted the police and soldiers conducting nighttime raids at targeted households in the neighborhood, according to local reports.

In Mandalay, two men and a woman were killed when security forces, reportedly using live ammunition, cracked down on protesters staging a sit-in demonstration Saturday morning. One person was killed in Pyay, about 140 kilometres south of the capital Nay Pyi Taw, and another in Chauk, in north-central Myanmar.

Meanwhile, the leading independent news website The Irrawaddy, which has been a constant critic of the military’s involvement in politics, said on Saturday that it has been accused of inciting social unrest by reporting false news.

It is the first time that a media organisation, not an individual reporter, has faced such accusations since the military takeover.

Large numbers of protesters have taken to the streets of Myanmar daily since the military seized power in the Feb 1 coup, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, despite the increasingly deadly posture taken by security forces to quiet the wave of protests.

At least 70 people have been killed by Myanmar security forces since February, a UN expert on human rights in the country said on Thursday, adding that arrests and detentions had risen beyond 2,000, with violence against protesters, including violence against people sitting peacefully in their homes, steadily increasing.

While the crackdown on demonstrations has mostly taken place in the daytime, security forces have been sighted patrolling streets at night and carrying out arrests.

Footage shared on social media late Friday showed police pulling three residents out on the streets of Thaketa township in Rangoon, beating them on the head and hauling them away.

“They are beating them without reason,” said the person who shot the footage, which has been verified by AFP.

Angry residents went to the police station to protest, and sounds of gunshots were heard hours later in the township, including by an AFP reporter.

“Security forces arrested three young men, and as we followed to get them back, they cracked down on us,” recounted a resident on Saturday, requesting anonymity.

“Two were killed — with one shot in his head and another one hit with a shot that penetrated his cheek to the neck,” he said, adding that they had to wait until the police stopped shooting to retrieve the bodies.

Stun grenades

Verified footage and video showed the bodies of the two men — both supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party — lying in their homes with flower petals scattered across them as their relatives mourned.

The local media outlets Democratic Voice of Burma and Khit Thit Media confirmed the deaths as well.

“Everyone said don’t go out, just stay at home … but he said he had to go out again because three kids were arrested in the police station,” said the wife of 37-year-old Si Thu, one of the deceased.

“We kept waiting for him to come back home,” she said, in tears.

Across town in Hlaing township, residents alarmed at the presence of police and soldiers in their neighbourhood left their homes to protest.

“Residents did not want them to come into the area at night to arrest people. … We wanted to drive them out,” one told AFP on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions, adding that residents deployed Molotov cocktails against security forces.

“Police and soldiers used stun grenades to disperse us. … Altogether four people were injured,” he said.

His account was confirmed by another resident who saw the melee, while AFP-verified footage shared on social media showed residents hiding behind cars as loud bangs could be heard before they retrieved a bleeding man shot in the head.

He was 18-year-old Aung Paing Oo, whose brother Wai Lin Kyaw confirmed he died hours later, after struggling to breathe through the night.

“The doctors could not do much for him as his head was burst,” he told AFP, sobbing.

‘Honour the fallen heroes’

Before the violence, hundreds defied a nightly 8pm curfew to hold candlelight vigils across the country, from the northern jade-producing city of Hpakant to the southern coastal hub of Myeik.

Near Yangon’s Hledan junction — which has for weeks been a hotspot for unrest — protesters carrying posters of Aung San Suu Kyi sat and prayed, holding their candles in the air to mourn those killed in anti-coup demonstrations.

“To break the curfew and to honour the fallen heroes,” activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told AFP.

“People were so fearful to go out after 8pm … so when that call comes out, it’s powerful.”

On Saturday morning, the funeral of Chit Min Thu — who died Thursday — was held in Rangoon, drawing a crowd who flashed the three-finger salute in a sign of resistance as his body was carried to the crematorium.

“The revolution must win,” said his wife, sobbing as the crowd around her chanted “May your soul rest in peace.”

A community leader connected to the ousted NLD government, Zaw Myat Linn, died on Tuesday during interrogation following his arrest, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.

But state-run media on Saturday said he “jumped” from a house and fell on a steel pipe, warning of severe action against those who describe his death in other ways.

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