Myanmar security forces kill two anti-coup protesters

8 March 2021, 12:14

Anti-coup protesters discharge fire extinguishers to counter the impact of the tear gas fired by police during a demonstration in Naypyitaw, Myanmar
Myanmar. Picture: PA

The victims were reportedly shot in the head during anti-coup protests in Myitkyina in Kachin State.

Security forces have shot dead two people in northern Myanmar, local media reported, as the military government continued its attempt to stamp out opposition to its February 1 coup.

The Irrawaddy newspaper said the victims were shot in the head during anti-coup protests in Myitkyina in Kachin State.

Graphic video on social media showed protesters in the street backing away from tear gas, responding with rocks, then fleeing after a fusillade of what seemed to be automatic gunfire.

Demonstrators hurriedly carried away a number of casualties, including one apparent fatality, a person who had clearly sustained a severe head wound.

Protesters march with makeshift shields on a main road during a demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar
Protesters march with makeshift shields on a main road during a demonstration in Mandalay (AP)

A second body was seen a little later, on a stretcher, his head covered with a cloth.

To date, the government’s violent crackdown has left more than 50 protesters dead.

At least 18 people were fatally shot on Sunday last week and 38 on Wednesday, according to the UN Human Rights Office.

Security forces also clamped down on anti-coup protesters elsewhere on Monday, firing tear gas to break up a crowd of around 1,000 people who were demonstrating in the capital Naypyitaw.

The protesters deployed fire extinguishers to create a smoke screen as they fled from authorities.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters marching in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city, dispersed on their own amid fears that soldiers and police were planning to use force to break up their demonstration.

Large-scale protests have occurred daily across many cities and towns in Myanmar since the country’s military seized power, and security forces have responded with ever greater use of lethal force and mass arrests.

The coup and its violent aftermath have led foreign governments and international organisations to impose measures against Myanmar’s military leaders.

Anti-coup protesters flash a three-fingered sign of resistance during a demonstration in Naypyitaw, Myanmar
Anti-coup protesters flash a three-fingered sign of resistance during a demonstration in Naypyitaw (AP)

In the latest example, Australia suspended its defence co-operation with Myanmar and is redirecting humanitarian aid in the country because of last month’s military takeover of the government and the ongoing detention of an Australian citizen.

Australian foreign minister Marise Payne said on Monday that diplomats and relatives had only been able to contact economic policy adviser Sean Turnell twice by phone since he was detained in early February.

She described the access as “very limited consular support”.

Australia announced late on Sunday that it had suspended a defence training programme with Myanmar worth about 1.5 million Australian dollars (£830,000) over five years.

The programme had been restricted to non-combat areas such as English-language training.

Australian humanitarian aid will be directed away from Myanmar government and government-related entities.

Instead it will focus on the immediate humanitarian needs of the most vulnerable and poor in Myanmar, including the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities, Ms Payne said.

On Sunday, police occupied hospitals and universities and reportedly arrested hundreds of people involved in protesting against the military takeover.

Protesters are dispersed as police fire tear gas during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar
Protesters are dispersed as police fire tear gas in Yangon (AP)

In Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, gunshots from heavy weapons rang out for a second straight night in several neighbourhoods after the start of an 8pm curfew.

The sounds of what apparently were stun grenades could also be heard on videos posted on social media.

The purpose for security forces using such weapons when protesters had left the streets appeared to be part of a strategy to strike fear in anyone who might think about defying the authorities.

In a similar vein, many filmed incidents of police and soldiers in plain view showed them savagely beating protesters they had taken into custody.

Some of the shooting was heard near hospitals, where reports said neighbourhood residents sought to block the entry of police and soldiers.

Security forces have often targeted medical personnel and facilities, attacking ambulances and their crews.

Members of the medical profession launched the Civil Disobedience Movement, which is the nominal co-ordinator of the protests, frequently hailed on demonstrators’ signs by its CDM initials.

Taking over hospitals would allow the authorities to easily arrest wounded people presumed to be protesters.

Anti-coup protesters flash a three-fingered sign of resistance during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar
Anti-coup protesters during a demonstration in Yangon (AP)

Meanwhile, a Canadian-Israeli lobbyist hired by Myanmar’s junta has said the ruling generals want to get out of politics and shift the nation away from China after they grabbed power in the widely condemned coup against the nation’s civilian government.

Ari Ben-Menashe, who previously represented Sudan’s military leader and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, spoke to the Associated Press on Sunday from the US after returning from his second trip in the past month to Myanmar.

He said he was confident he can persuade the Biden administration to lift sanctions imposed on Burmese military leaders who directed the coup last month that deposed and detained Myanmar’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

He said the US and others in the West have reduced Myanmar’s political conflict to a black and white tale of military repression against pro-democracy activists that ignores the fraudulent exclusion of millions of minorities from voting in last year’s election.

By Press Association