Yangon: The Burmese military government imposed martial law on two densely populated towns in Yangon on Sunday night. This was the deadliest day since the coup on February 1. At least 18 protesters were killed.
Sunday s violence brings the number of people killed in mass protests since the military wrenched civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power to around 100, though activists and rights groups believe it could be higher.
The junta has repeatedly justified its power grab by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November s elections, which Suu Kyi s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.
State-run media announced late Sunday that Yangon s massive Hlaing Tharyar township and the neighbouring Shwepyitha township will be placed under martial law.
The vast impoverished cities and towns are known as factory centers and garment factories.
The official television announcer said that the military government “delegated administrative and judicial martial law powers to the Yangon region commander to enforce security and more effectively maintain the rule of law and tranquility.”
In recent weeks, soldiers and police have recently suppressed demonstrators, demanding that they restore democracy, use tear gas, and fire rubber bullets and live ammunition to quell the anti-coup protests.
In the town of Hlaing Tharyar, police and soldiers clashed fiercely. Protesters brandished sticks and knives and hurriedly sought protection behind temporary roadblocks.
The protesters managed to rescue the demonstrators who were injured when the security forces opened fire, using the cut trash can as a protective cover, but the doctor said that all the goals could not be achieved.
“I can confirm 15 have died,” the doctor told AFP, adding that she had treated about 50 people and expects the death toll to climb.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group — which verifies arrests and fatalities since the coup — gave a higher death toll.
Residents hiding at home heard gunshots continuously throughout the day, while military trucks were seen driving through the smoky streets.
The United Nations envoy for Myanmar strongly condemned the bloodshed, stating that the international community, “including regional actors, must come together in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations.”
Special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said in a statement that she had heard “heartbreaking claims of murder, demonstrator abuse, and prisoner torture” from Myanmar contacts.
The ongoing brutality “severely undermines any prospects for peace and stability” in the country, she said.
Former colonial power Britain said it was “appalled” by the use of force “against innocent people.”
Calling for an “immediate cessation” of violence and a statement signed by the regime by British Ambassador Dan Chugg, with power returned to elected civilian officials.