Wed, 14 Apr 2021

Crowds Again Protest Myanmar Coup, Defy Crackdown

Voice of America
02 Mar 2021, 09:05 GMT+10

Protesters in Myanmar marched in several cities Monday in defiance of a deadly crackdown on demonstrators Sunday.

Security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades Monday to disperse demonstrators in Yangon, a day after 18 people across Myanmar were killed and more than 30 others were injured in the deadliest day of demonstrations since the February 1 military coup, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office.

In the southeastern city of Dawei, where several people were reported killed Sunday, protesters returned to the streets on Monday, but in fewer numbers.

FILE - Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi waits for the arrival of her delegation before the Japan Myanmar Summit. FILE - Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi waits for the arrival of her delegation before the Japan Myanmar Summit meeting in Tokyo, Japan, Oct. 9, 2018.

Also on Monday, Myanmar's ousted de-facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, appeared via videoconference at a court in the capital, Naypyitaw. It was her first public appearance since she and other members of Myanmar's civilian government were removed from office and detained by the military.

A lawyer for the 75-year-old leader said she looked well. The lawyer said prosecutors charged her with two new crimes during the court session: attempting to incite public unrest and violating a section of the telecommunications law regarding operating equipment without a license.

Suu Kyi was already charged with illegally importing and using six unregistered walkie-talkie radios found during a search of her home, and for breaking the country's natural disaster law by holding public gatherings in violation of COVID-19 protocols.

The United States and other Western nations have demanded her release, as well as her lieutenants, and called on the junta to restore power to the civilian government.

Demonstrators take shelter behind a barricade and some vehicles as riot police officers stand in front of them during a protest... Demonstrators take shelter behind a barricade and some vehicles as riot police officers stand in front of them during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar, March 1, 2021.

In another development Monday, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said during an address on state television that protest leaders and "instigators" would be punished. He said the army is also investigating financial abuse by the civilian government.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the recent killings of protesters in Myanmar, also known as Burma, "represent an escalation" of the situation there and said the Biden administration was preparing "further costs on those responsible."

In a tweet on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, "We condemn the Burmese security forces' abhorrent violence against the people of Burma & will continue to promote accountability for those responsible."

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Monday that Britain is also considering further actions against Myanmar.

"We'll continue to look at how we hold individual members of the regime to account," he told reporters in London. "We're also looking at businesses from this country doing business with any of the firms in Myanmar that are controlled by the military."

Witnesses to Sunday's protests say police used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and in some cases, live ammunition in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city. According to The Associated Press, photos of shell cases from live ammunition were posted on social media. Media videos show demonstrators dragging the injured away from the protests, leaving bloody smears on the pavement.

Police also aggressively sought to break up protests in other cities, including Mandalay and Dawei.

"Throughout the day, in several locations throughout the country, police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations using lethal force and less-than-lethal force," said a statement from U.N. human rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.

The statement called on the military to "immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters."

Later Sunday, Tom Andrews, U.N. special rapporteur, released a statement that listed options for U.N. member states and the security council to take action.

"As the military junta of Myanmar ratchets up its violence against the people, I believe it is imperative that the international community ratchet up its response," Andrews said.

Among the options laid out in his statement are a global arms embargo, sanctions against businesses owned or controlled by the junta, and the convening of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the issue. On sanctions, Andrews urged countries that have already established some to "immediately consider more."

Popular protests have been staged across Myanmar daily since the military overthrew the civilian government, claiming widespread fraud in last November's election, which Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy Party won in a landslide.

The European Union condemned the military violence against protesters Sunday, calling the shooting of unarmed citizens a "blatant disregard for international law."

"The military authorities must immediately stop the use of force against civilians and allow the population to express their right to freedom of expression and assembly," EU Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a statement.

People attend the funeral of a woman who was shot dead yesterday while police were trying to disperse an anti-coup... People attend the funeral of a woman who was shot dead Feb. 28, 2021, while police were trying to disperse an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar, March 1, 2021.

Last week, Min Aung Hlaing said the military was using "minimal force" to deal with protests. But at least 21 protesters have been confirmed killed during demonstrations, and the army has said one police officer has been killed.

The junta has declared a one-year state of emergency. Min Aung Hlaing has pledged that new elections will be held to bring about a "true and disciplined democracy" but did not specify when they would take place.

Myanmar's electoral commission denied the military's claims of election fraud.

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