YANGON, March 3: Myanmar security forces shot and killed at least eight people on Wednesday, according to accounts on social media and local news reports, as authorities extended their lethal crackdown on protests against last month’s coup.
Videos from various locations showed security forces firing slingshots at demonstrators, chasing them down and even brutally beating an ambulance crew.
Demonstrators have regularly flooded the streets of cities across the country since the military seized power on February 1 and ousted the elected government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Their numbers have remained high even as security forces have repeatedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse the crowds, and arrested protesters en masse.
The intensifying standoff is unfortunately familiar in the country with a long history of peaceful resistance to military rule – and brutal crackdowns. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.
According to the UN Human Rights Office, security forces killed at least 18 protesters on Sunday. On Wednesday, there were reports of eight more deaths in four different cities, including a 14-year-old boy.
Security forces have also arrested hundreds of people at protests, including journalists. On Saturday, at least eight journalists, including Thein Zaw of The Associated Press, were detained. A video shows he had moved out of the way as police charged down a street at protesters, but then was seized by police officers, who handcuffed him and held him briefly in a chokehold before marching him away.
He has been charged with violating a public safety law that could see him imprisoned for up to three years.
The escalation of the crackdown has led to increased diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar’s political crisis – but there appear to be few viable options.
The UN Security Council is expected to hold a closed meeting on the situation. – AP