Myanmar security forces kill nine as Indonesia, envoys call for end to violence

Reuters
Yangon, Myanmar Published: Mar 19, 2021, 09:31 PM(IST)

Riot police officers detain a demonstrator during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Police and soldiers have used increasingly harsh tactics to suppress demonstrations since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on February 1

Security forces killed at least nine opponents of Myanmar's military junta on Friday, a funeral service and media said, as Southeast Asian countries urged an end to the violence and Western ambassadors condemned what they called the army's "immoral, indefensible" actions.

Police and soldiers have used increasingly harsh tactics to suppress demonstrations since the military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on February 1. But crowds of protesters turned out again on Friday.

Also read| BBC's Myanmar journalist goes missing as crackdown on dissent continues

Security forces opened fire in the central town of Aungban as they tried to clear a protesters' barricade, media and a witness reported.

"Security forces came to remove barriers but the people resisted and they fired," the witness, who declined to be identified, said by telephone.

An official with Aungban's funerary service told Reuters eight people were killed, seven on the spot and one wounded person who died after being taken to hospital.

The spokesman for the junta was not immediately available for comment but has previously said security forces have used force only when necessary.

One protester was killed in the northeastern town of Loikaw, the Myanmar Now news portal said. One person was shot and killed in Myanmar's main city Yangon, social media posts showed. Reuters could not confirm that death.

Police ordered people in some Yangon neighbourhoods to dismantle barricades and have been hunting for protest leaders, residents said. Parts of Yangon are under martial law.

Demonstrators were also out in the second city of Mandalay, the central towns of Myingyan and Katha, and Myawaddy in the east, witnesses and media reported.

Ambassadors of Western countries condemned the violence as "immoral and indefensible", in particular in Yangon's Hlaing Tharyar industrial district, where dozens were killed over several days after Chinese-owned garment factories were torched last weekend.

"Internet blackouts and suppression of the media will not hide the military's abhorrent actions," they said in a statement.

The total number of people killed in weeks of unrest has risen to at least 234, based on a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.

The army has defended its takeover, saying its accusations of fraud in a Nov. 8 election swept by Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party were ignored by the electoral commission. It has promised a new election but not set a date.

Suu Kyi, 75, faces accusations of bribery and other crimes that could see her banned from politics and jailed if convicted. Her lawyer says the charges are trumped up. The Nobel peace laureate, who has campaigned for democracy in Myanmar for three decades, is being held at an undisclosed location.

'NO MORE VICTIMS'

Stepping up the international pressure on the generals, Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for an end to the bloodshed.

In some of the strongest comments yet by a regional leader on the crackdown, Jokowi, as the president he is known, said he would ask Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the current chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to call an urgent meeting.

"Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar be stopped immediately so that there are no more victims," Jokowi said in a virtual address.

"The safety and welfare of the people must be the top priority. Indonesia also urges dialogue, that reconciliation is carried out immediately to restore democracy, to restore peace and to restore stability in Myanmar."

Brunei's foreign ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Backing Indonesia's call for a meeting, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he was appalled by the persistent use of lethal violence against unarmed civilians in Myanmar.

"The military leadership in Myanmar is strongly urged to change its course, and choose a path towards peaceful solutions," Muhyiddin said in a statement.

Philippine foreign minister Teodoro Locsin said on Twitter that ASEAN "has to act. Because passivity is complicity; and silence gives consent."

The 10 ASEAN countries have long held to the principle of not commenting on each other's internal affairs, but the Myanmar crisis seems to be forcing a reassessment of that.

The coup leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, took part in a video conference with regional defence chiefs on Thursday, his first international engagement since seizing power.

At the meeting, the head of Indonesia's armed forces, Hadi Tjahjanto, expressed concern over the Myanmar situation, the Indonesian military said.

Singapore's military chief, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, also expressed "grave concern" and urged Myanmar to avoid lethal force, the Singapore defence ministry said.

INTERNET RESTRICTIONS

Three international aid agencies criticised the military for occupying educational facilities and hospitals. More than 60 schools and universities had been taken over, a serious violation of children's rights, Save the Children, UNESCO and UNICEF said in a joint statement.

Teachers were beaten in at least one incident, they said.

Authorities have tightened restricted on internet services, making information increasingly difficult to verify, and also clamped down on private media.

The U.N. human rights office said this week about 37 journalists had been arrested so far. Two more were detained in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Friday while covering a hearing for an arrested member of Suu Kyi's party, said the Mizzima news portal, the former employer of one of them, Than Htike Aung.

The other detained reporter was Aung Thura of the British Broadcasting Corp. The BBC said they were taken away by unidentified men and it called on authorities to help find its accredited journalist and confirm he was safe.

Read in App