Myanmar security forces violently dispersed anti-coup rallies around the country on Sunday. With reports that security forces shot and killed at least 18 people and wounded 30 others, this made it the deadliest day since the military ousted the sitting government in a coup on February 1.
The military junta ratcheted up its use of force over the weekend against the massive street protests. The demonstrators demand that the coup leaders yield power and release ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi along with President Win Myint and the members of Suu Kyi’s administration.
In the city of Yangon, one protester was killed with a bullet wound to the chest, while another, a woman taking part in a protest with a teacher’s union died, of a heart attack after police threw flash-bang grenades into the crowd.
Three more people were killed by gunfire in the southern city of Dawei and dozens injured when security forces opened fire on protesters. Two more protesters were killed by gunfire in the city of Mandalay.
Most of the police in Yangon used non-lethal means to disperse protesters as they fired tear gas and water cannons. Those means along with rubber bullets have been used prevalently. However, it now appears that the military coup leaders are turning more and more to lethal means to quell the protests and in videos shared on social media, gunshots could clearly be heard.
AP News reported that security forces began dispersing the crowd in the downtown Yangon area before the protest was even slated to begin.
“Police started shooting just as we arrived,” said Amy Kyaw, a 29-year-old primary school teacher said to one news outlet.
“They didn’t say a word of warning. Some got injured and some teachers are still hiding in neighbors’ houses.”
The protests against the military coup have been growing since the February 1 takeover. On early Sunday morning, police and security forces moved against protesters massing in Yangon near the Hledan Center intersection, which is a gathering spot for protests which then spread out over different areas of the city.
Videos shared via social media show the security forces attacking the protesters and arresting scores of people.
According to the independent Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, as of February 27, 854 people had been arrested, charged, or sentenced in relation to the coup, and 771 were being detained or sought for arrest. But the association also states that they believe hundreds more were arrested in Rangoon. Several journalists were also detained while reporting on the events of Saturday, February 27.
The coup leaders also fired Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s Ambassador to the United Nations on Saturday night for condemning the coup and its leaders. The military junta released a statement saying that Tun had “betrayed the country.”
However, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said that the UN was not aware of the diplomat’s firing and that Kyaw Moe Tun remained Myanmar’s representative for the time being.
On Friday, Tun had said that the UN Security Council and the international community should “use any means necessary to take action against the Myanmar military and to provide safety and security for the people of Myanmar.”