NAYPYITAW, Myanmar: Security forces have opened fire on anti-coup protesters in several cities and towns in Myanmar, killing at least six people and wounding several more.
Two people were killed in the second biggest city of Mandalay on Wednesday while at least four others were killed in the town of Monywa in the central Sagaing region, witnesses said.
A doctor told media persons that one protester was shot in the chest in Mandalay while another, a 19-year-old young woman, was shot in her head.
The Frontier Magazine also reported the killing, saying police first used tear gas and rubber bullets at a crowd numbering in the thousands in Mandalay. They opened fire later when the crowd re-grouped at the same place and resumed their sit-in protest, the publication said.
Myanmar has been in chaos since February 1, when the military seized power in a coup and detained much of the country’s civilian leadership, including leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military justified the takeover with unsubstantiated claims of fraud in the November 2020 election that returned Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) to power. The power grab has triggered widespread international condemnation as well as nationwide demonstrations demanding a return to civilian rule.
In the town of Monywa, a rescue worker said his team handled the dead bodies of four people and contacted their families. The Monywa Gazette, a local news outlet, put the death toll at five people.
There were also reports of live fire and injuries in the main city of Yangon, where security forces arrested 300 people and “violently beat up” some protesters, according to the Myanmar Now website.
Video posted on social media showed long lines of young men, hands on heads, filing into army trucks as police and soldiers stood guard.
Police and soldiers also blocked off the Hledan Centre junction and fired tear gas at demonstrators in Yangon’s Sachaung area, but the crowds regrouped minutes after dispersing, Myanmar Now reported.
Protests also took place in the central towns of Monywa, Myingyan and Magway. The Monywa Gazette reported five people were wounded when security forces fired live ammunition there.
There was no immediate comment from Myanmar’s military.
The killings came as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to make a breakthrough in a virtual foreign ministers’ meeting on Myanmar.
While united in a call for restraint, only four members – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore – called for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees.
In New York, Myanmar’s ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun insisted that he remained the country’s legitimate representative after the military authorities sent a letter to the global body saying that the envoy had been dismissed from his post and that his deputy was now in charge.
The dismissal came after Kyaw Moe Tun made an emotional plea to a UN General Assembly meeting on Friday, calling for “the strongest possible action from the international community” to restore democracy to the country.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed on Tuesday that the UN received two “contradictory” letters and is reviewing them to see who is the UN ambassador and whether the assembly’s Credentials Committee will get involved.
1/ Two peaceful protesters, a man and a woman, have been shot dead by security forces in Mandalay, and another person has been critically injured. A doctor who treated the wounded has confirmed these casualties to a Frontier reporter. #WhatsHappeninglnMyanmar pic.twitter.com/hXqZUL1k8C
— Frontier Myanmar (@FrontierMM) March 3, 2021
“We are in a very unique situation we have not seen in a long time,” Dujarric said. “We are trying to sort through all the legal, protocol and other implications” and are “trying to resolve things as quickly as possible from our end”.
The letter from Kyaw Moe Tun, sent on Monday to General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir with a copy to the secretary-general, said President Win Myint and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi appointed him last year and that they remained lawfully elected to their roles.
“The perpetrators of the unlawful coup against the democratic government of Myanmar have no authority to countermand the legitimate authority of the president of my country,” Kyaw Moe Tun said in the letter.