Four dead in Myanmar as police fire to break up protests as diplomatic effort stalls

Four dead in Myanmar as police fire to break up protests as diplomatic effort stalls
Four dead in Myanmar as police fire to break up protests as diplomatic effort stalls

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Protesters set off smoke grenades to block the view from snipers in Sanchaung, Yangon, Myanmar March 3, 2021, in this still image from a video obtained by Reuters. — Reuters pic

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YANGON, March 3 — Myanmar security forces opened fire killing four people during protests against the military coup today, witnesses and media reported, a day after a regional diplomatic push to end the month-long crisis made little headway.

Two people were killed during clashes at a protest in the second biggest city Mandalay, a witness and media reports said, and one person was killed when police opened fire in the main city of Yangon, a witness there said.

A fourth person was shot and killed in the central town of Myingyan, said student activist Moe Myint Hein, 25.

“They opened fire on us with live bullets. One was killed, he’s young, a teenage boy, shot in the head,” Moe Myint Hein, who was wounded in the leg, told Reuters by telephone.

A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

The latest violence came a day after foreign ministers from Southeast Asian neighbours urged restraint but failed to unite behind a call for the military to release ousted government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and restore democracy.

At least 24 people have been killed since the coup on Feb. 1, which ended Myanmar’s tentative steps towards democratic rule, triggering nationwide protests and international dismay.

The security forces also detained about 300 protesters as they broke up protests in Yangon, the Myanmar Now news agency reported. One activist said several protest leaders were among those taken away.

Video posted on social media showed long lines of young men, hands on heads, filing into army trucks as police and soldiers stood guard. Reuters was not able to verify the footage.

Protesters were also out in Chin State in the west, Kachin State in the north, Shan State in the northeast, the central region of Sagaing and the south, media and residents said.

“We’re aiming to show that no one in this country wants dictatorship,” Salai Lian, an activist in Chin State, told Reuters.

The Monywa Gazette reported five people were wounded in that central town when security forces fired live ammunition. There were unconfirmed reports of firing and injuries in another central town, Magway.

‘No more words’

Yesterday, 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 Suu Kyi and other detainees.

“We expressed Asean’s readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner,” the Asean chair, Brunei, said in a statement.

Myanmar’s state media said the military-appointed foreign minister attended the Asean meeting that “exchanged views on regional and international issues”, but made no mention of the focus on Myanmar’s problems.

It said Wunna Maung Lwin “apprised the meeting of voting irregularities” in November’s election.

The military justified the coup saying its complaints of voter fraud in the Nov. 8 elections were ignored. Suu Kyi’s party won by a landslide, earning a second five-year term. The election commission said the vote was fair.

Junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has said the intervention was to protect Myanmar’s fledgling democracy and has pledged to hold new elections but given no time frame.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Tuesday in an interview the coup was a “tragic” step back for Myanmar and the use of lethal force by its security forces was “disastrous”.

Asean’s bid to find a way out of the crisis has drawn criticism from inside Myanmar, with concern it would legitimise the junta and not help the country.

“No more words, action,” activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters in a message when asked about the Asean effort. She called for sanctions on businesses linked to the military.

Last evening’s news bulletin on Myanmar state television said agitators were mobilising people on social media and forming “illegal organisations”.

It said tear gas and stun guns grenades were used to disperse crowds in Yangon and 12 rioters were arrested.

Suu Kyi, 75, has been held incommunicado since the coup but appeared at a court hearing via video conferencing this week and looked in good health, a lawyer said.

She is one of nearly 1,300 people who have been detained, according to activists, among them six journalists in Yangon, one of whom works for the Associated Press, which has called for his release.

Ousted President Win Myint is facing two new charges, his lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, said, including one for a breach of the constitution that is punishable by up to three years on prison. — Reuters

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