Burma/Myanmar — Approximately 5,000 Buddhist protesters gathered in Mrauk U on Wednesday, protesting a ban on their freedom to gather in remembrance of the Kingdom of Arakan, which ended in 1784. This generally happens every year but was banned this year by the government. Reports are currently conflicting — some say they tried to enter government property forcefully, others (including the police) say officers began to shoot when rocks were thrown.
According to Channel NewsAsia, a military spokesperson said that the crowd escalated from protesting to throwing rocks and erecting their Rakhine state flag — when they did not comply to the orders that told them to disperse, they tried rubber bullets. When that didn’t work, they opened fire with live ammunition. “Seven people were killed and 13 injured,” he said. He says that 20 police officers were wounded in the event, though there have been no descriptions as to the nature of their injuries.
Historically speaking, this is in line with the Burmese police’s escalation of force. With some ethnic minorities, they don’t typically wait for dispersal and they don’t even give verbal warnings. However, in larger populated, more central areas they make these attempts at quelling the protests before turning to lethal fire. One of the most severe examples of this was the 8888 Uprising in 1988, which left thousands dead.
However, reports are still coming in and the nature of the violence is still unknown. The police have claimed that the number of protesters was in the hundreds, not the thousands.