Myanmar safety forces hearth on protesters after deadliest day since coup

March 15

Myanmar security forces fired on pro-democracy demonstrators on Monday killing five people, media and witnesses said, a day after dozens of protesters were shot dead and attackers torched several Chinese-financed factories in the city of Yangon.

Supporters of detained democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi marched again, including in the second city of Mandalay and western town of Hakha, where the rallies were peaceful, and in the central towns of Myingyan and Aunglan, where police opened fire, witnesses and media reported.

“One girl got shot in the head and a boy got shot in the face,” an 18-year-old protester in Myingyan told Reuters by telephone. “I’m now hiding.”

The Myanmar Now media outlet reported three people were killed there and two in Aunglan town.

The protesters took to the streets in defiance of the authorities, whose escalating use of violence resulting in dozens being killed on Sunday in the bloodiest day since the Feb. 1 coup.

The arson attacks on Sunday provoked China’s strongest comments yet on the turmoil gripping its Southeast Asian neighbour, where many people see China as supportive of the coup.

The Chinese embassy urged Myanmar’s ruling generals to stop violence and ensure the safety of people and property.

China’s Global Times newspaper said 32 Chinese-invested factories were “vandalised in vicious attacks” that caused damage worth $37 million and injuries to two Chinese employees.

Japan, which has long competed for influence in Myanmar with China, said it was monitoring the situation and considering how to respond in terms of economic cooperation.

The worst of Sunday’s bloodshed came in the Yangon suburb of Hlaingthaya where security forces killed at least 37 protesters after arson attacks on Chinese-owned factories, said a doctor in the area who declined to be identified.

Sixteen people were killed in other places, rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said, as well as one policeman.

Media said martial law had been imposed in Hlaingthaya and several other districts of Yangon, and in parts of Mandalay.

The latest deaths bring the toll from the protests to about 140, based on a tally by the AAPP and the latest reports.

A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.

In an apparent bid to suppress news of the turmoil, telecoms service providers were ordered to block all mobile data nationwide, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.

Telecom Telenor said in a statement “mobile internet was unavailable”.

The army said it took power after its accusations of fraud in a Nov. 8 election won by Suu Kyi’s party were rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised to hold a new election, but has not set a date.


Suu Kyi has been detained since the coup and faces various charges, including illegally importing walkie-talkie radios and infringing coronavirus protocols. Last week, a charge related to accepting illegal payments was added to the list.

She was due to face another virtual court hearing on Monday but her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters the session could not go ahead because the internet was down which meant no video conferencing. The next hearing will be on March 24, he said.

Western countries have called for Suu Kyi’s release and condemned the violence and Asian neighbours have offered to help resolve the crisis but Myanmar has a long record of rejecting outside intervention.

Tom Andrews, the United Nations human rights investigator on Myanmar, appealed for U.N. member states to cut the supply of cash and weapons to the military.

“Heartbroken/outraged at news of the largest number of protesters murdered by Myanmar security forces in a single day.

Junta leaders don’t belong in power, they belong behind bars,” he said on Twitter.

Myanmar’s oldest ethnic minority insurgent group, the Karen National Union, which signed a ceasefire with the army in 2012 after decades of fighting, also condemned Sunday’s violence and said it fully supported the demonstrators.

China’s embassy described the situation as “very severe” and urged authorities to “stop all acts of violence, punish the perpetrators … and ensure the safety of life and property of Chinese companies and personnel”.

Anti-Chinese sentiment has risen since the coup, with opponents of the army takeover noting Beijing’s muted criticism compared with Western condemnation.

China’s Global Times newspaper blamed instigators for the arson and called for their punishment. It said China was trying to promote a peaceful settlement of the crisis.

Protest leader Thinzar Shunlei Yi said Myanmar people did not hate their Chinese neighbours but China’s rulers had to understand the outrage felt in Myanmar over their stand.

“Chinese government must stop supporting coup council if they actually care about Sino-Myanmar relations and to protect their businesses,” she said on Twitter. Reuters

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