Five more killed as anti-coup demo continues in Myanmar

16 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

YANGON: At least five anti-coup protesters were killed across Myanmar on Monday as demonstrators returned to the streets after the deadliest day since the military seized power from civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, reports AFP.

At least 44 protesters were killed on Sunday as security forces cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrations, taking the death toll since the coup to more than 120, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.

Those killed on Monday were shot dead in two locations and witnesses said the junta was again using lethal force against protesters.

“Two men were killed because of gunshots and six others were injured,” a witness in Magway region’s Aunglan town told AFP, adding that one of the dead was shot in the chest.

“He was right besides me. Another one got shot in his head.”

The country has been in uproar since the putsch, with daily protests demanding a restoration of democracy despite the junta’s increasingly forceful attempts to quell dissent. The bulk of the earlier deaths on Sunday               

came from a clash in a garment-producing district in the capital Yangon where multiple Chinese-owned factories were razed, drawing a sharp rebuke Monday from Beijing, which urged Myanmar to “resolutely avoid a recurrence of such incidents”.

Despite the high death toll, protesters returned to the streets Monday but by afternoon fatalities were also reported in the central city of Myingyan.

“Three people, including a woman... with gunshots,” said a Myingyan resident, telling AFP that the youngest death was 19 years old.

At least 16 were injured, though “five are in a critical condition,” the resident said.

Both witnesses who spoke to AFP declined to be named for fear of repercussions.

News of the violence came out in the afternoon due to a block on mobile data networks across Myanmar—which also scuppered a scheduled video court appearance by Suu Kyi.

The court hearing for the Nobel laureate—who spent more than 15 years under house arrest during previous military rule—was scheduled for 10 am (0330 GMT) in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw, but it was postponed until March 24, her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP.

“There’s no court hearing because there’s no internet and the hearing is conducted by video conference... We cannot do video,” he said.

Myanmar authorities have throttled the internet every night for several weeks, normally restoring services in the morning, but monitoring service Netblocks said mobile data networks were kept offline Monday.

Suu Kyi faces at least four charges.

Military authorities have also accused her of accepting illegal payments—allegations her lawyer says are “groundless”. Suu Kyi’s postponed hearing came a day after violent clashes between security forces and protesters, and the torching of several Chinese-owned factories in a textile-producing district of commercial hub Yangon as many protesters believe Beijing is supportive of the coup.

Six Yangon townships were under martial law by morning—anyone arrested there faces trial by military tribunal rather than civilian courts, with sentences ranging from three years’ hard labour to execution.

Describing the incident as “nasty”, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian urged Myanmar Monday to take actions to “resolutely avoid a recurrence of such incidents”.