Myanmar police have fired on protesters in the bloodiest day of weeks of demonstrations against a military coup, with at least seven people killed and several wounded, political and medical sources and media say.
A woman also died after police broke up a teachers’ protest with stun grenades in the main city of Yangon on Sunday, though the cause of her death was not known, her daughter and a colleague say.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the army seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership on February 1, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.
The coup, which brought a halt to tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, has drawn hundreds of thousands onto the streets and the condemnation of Western countries.
Pictures: In Mandalay, at least 6 people sustained injuries from gunshots. Here are the protest scenes in Mandalay, the second biggest city of Myanmar. #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar #2021uprising #myanmarcrackdown pic.twitter.com/rpvHpeMa8Q
— Myanmar Now (@Myanmar_Now_Eng) February 28, 2021
“Myanmar is like a battlefield,” the Buddhist-majority nation’s first Catholic cardinal, Charles Maung Bo, said on Twitter.
Police were out in force early on Sunday and opened fire in different parts of the biggest city of Yangon after stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up crowds. Soldiers also reinforced police.
Several wounded people were hauled away by fellow protesters, leaving bloody smears on pavements, media images showed. One man died after being brought to a hospital with a bullet in the chest, said a doctor who asked not to be identified.
Police also opened fire in the southern town of Dawei, killing three and wounding several, politician Kyaw Min Htike told Reuters from the town.
The Irrawaddy online media outlet reported one person had been killed in the second city of Mandalay, where police also cracked down, while a charity reported two dead in the central town of Bago.
— The Irrawaddy (Eng) (@IrrawaddyNews) February 28, 2021
Police were also forceful in the north-eastern town of Lashio and Myeik in the deep south, residents and media reported.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing said last week authorities were using minimal force to deal with the protests.
Nevertheless, at least 10 protesters have now died. The army says a policeman has been killed.
“The Myanmar security forces’ clear escalation in use of lethal force in multiple towns and cities … is outrageous and unacceptable,” Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of New York-based Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
Hundreds of protesters refused to leave the streets by early afternoon in Yangon. Many set up barricades while others chanted slogans and sang protest songs.
Early in the day, police swooped to disperse a teachers’ protest with stun grenades. One teacher, Tin New Yee, died of a suspected heart attack, her daughter and a fellow teacher said.
Police also hurled stun grenades outside a Yangon medical school, sending doctors and students in white lab coats scattering.
State-run MRTV television said more than 470 people had been arrested on Saturday after police launched the nationwide crackdown. It was not clear how many were detained on Sunday.
The police action came after state television announced that Myanmar’s UN envoy had been fired after he urged the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to reverse the coup.
But the ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, remained defiant, telling Reuters: “I decided to fight back as long as I can.”
While Western countries have condemned the coup and some have imposed limited sanctions. The generals have promised to hold a new election but not set a date.
Ms Suu Kyi, 75, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during military rule. She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols.
The next hearing in her case is set for Monday.