Myanmar mourns, protests after crackdown's deadliest day yet

Myanmar mourns, protests after crackdown’s deadliest day yet


Yangon: Mourners gathered at the funeral of the deceased. The deceased was on the most tragic day of suppressing the coup protests in Myanmar last month. Demonstrators ignored the violence and returned to the streets on Sunday, urging them to demand the restoration of democracy.

A day earlier, security forces killed at least 114 people, including several children under 16, according to local media — a shocking escalation that prompted the U.N. rapporteur to accuse the junta of committing “mass murder” and to criticize the international community for not doing enough to stop it. There were reports that the violence continued Sunday.

At a funeral in Bhamo in the northern state of Kachin, a large crowd gathered to chant democracy slogans and raise the three-finger salute that has come to symbolize resistance to the military takeover. Family and friends were paying their respects to Shwe Myint, a 36-year-old who was shot dead by security forces on Saturday.

According to the broadcast and online news service Myanmar Democracy Voice, the military initially confiscated her body and refused to return her body until her family signed a statement that her death was not caused by them.

The mourners also used another funeral to express resistance. In Yangon, the country’s largest city, they flashed three fingers in salute as they pushed the coffin of a 13-year-old boy. Sai Wai Yan was shot dead by security forces while playing outside the house on Saturday.

The Feb. 1 coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government reversed years of progress toward democracy after five decades of military rule. It has again made Myanmar the focus of international scrutiny as security forces have repeatedly fired into crowds of protesters. More than 420 people have been killed since the takeover, according to multiple counts. The crackdown extends beyond the demonstrations: Humanitarian workers reported that the military had carried out airstrikes Sunday against guerilla fighters in the eastern part of the country.

The military government accused some demonstrators of violent use of Molotov cocktails from time to time, and said it was reasonable to use force to stop the so-called riots. On Saturday, some demonstrators in Yangon were seen holding bows and arrows.

Saturday’s death toll far exceeded the previous single-day high that ranged from 74 to 90 on March 14. The killings happened throughout the country as Myanmar’s military celebrated the annual Armed Forces Day holiday with a parade in the country’s capital, Naypyitaw.

“Today the junta of Myanmar has made Armed Forces Day a day of infamy with the massacre of men, women and very young children throughout country,” said Tom Andrews, the U.N.’s independent expert on human rights for Myanmar. “Words of condemnation or concern are frankly ringing hollow to the people of Myanmar while the military junta commits mass murder against them. … It is past time for robust, coordinated action.”

These calls were echoed by others. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was shocked by the killing of civilians, including children, and a group of defense ministers from 12 countries also condemned the violence.

The United Nations Special Adviser to the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wyrimou Endrito, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said: “The shameful, timid, and cruel actions of soldiers and policemen-they are fleeing from protests. Even young children who have not been spared-must stop immediately.”

However, it is not yet clear what action can be taken or how quickly it will be taken. The UN Security Council condemned such violence, but did not advocate concerted action against the military government, such as a ban on arms sales. Both China and Russia are major weapons suppliers to the Myanmar military and are politically sympathetic. As members of the Security Council, they will almost certainly veto any such moves.

If the Security Council is powerless, Andrews called for an emergency international summit. Many countries have already imposed some sanctions and threatened more, but it is not clear what further action the government will take. The human rights organization Amnesty International also criticized the indecision.

“U.N. Security Council member states’ continued refusal to meaningfully act against this never-ending horror is contemptible,” said Ming Yu Hah, the organization’s deputy regional director for campaigns.

At the same time, the protesters continued to rally on the streets of Myanmar. During a demonstration in Yangon, a small group of people passed through a residential area. The day before, they saw the police shooting at the demonstrators. The demonstrators responded with fireworks and Molotov cocktails, causing chaos. There were no accidents in the parade.

But there were reports on social media that more protesters were killed Sunday.

In addition to unleashing violence against demonstrators, the military is also continuing to battle ethnic Karen fighters in the country’s east. About 3,000 villagers from territory controlled by the Karen fled across the border to Thailand on Sunday after Myanmar military aircraft dropped bombs on a Karen guerrilla position, said workers for two humanitarian relief agencies.

The Karen National Union is one of more than a dozen ethnic organizations that have been fighting for decades to gain more autonomy from Myanmar’s central government.

The tension at the border comes as the leaders of the resistance to the coup are seeking to have the Karen and other ethnic groups band together and join them as allies. So far the ethnic armed groups have only committed to providing protection to protesters in the areas they control.

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