Several protesters killed in Myanmar capital in overnight protests

WION Web Team
Yangon, Myanmar Published: Mar 13, 2021, 12:47 PM(IST)

Protests in Myanmar Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

On Saturday, activists called for more anti-coup protests on the death anniversary of Phone Maw, a student whose killing in 1988 sparked an uprising against the government.

At least three anti-coup protesters were killed overnight in Myanmar's largest city Saturday, as hundreds defied a curfew to hold vigils in honour of those killed since the military seized power.

The junta has deployed increasing use of force against daily protests since the February 1 coup, with more than 70 people killed according to the UN's top rights expert on the country.

But hundreds of thousands have continued to gather across the country to call for the release of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi -- who was detained in the February 1 putsch -- and a return to democracy.

On Saturday, activists called for more anti-coup protests on the death anniversary of Phone Maw, a student whose killing in 1988 sparked an uprising against the government. The calls for protests also came as the leaders of the United States, India, Australia and Japan vowed to work together to restore democracy in Myanmar where violence has escalated as authorities crack down on protests and civil disobedience.

The protesters were killed in police firing in the Tharketa district of Myanmar's commercial capital Yangon overnight. DVB News said police opened fire on a crowd that gathered outside the Tharketa police station demanding the release of people arrested. Local media Democratic Voice of Burma and Khit Thit Media confirmed the deaths as well. 

Posters spread on social media calling on people to come out on the streets to protest against the junta and to mark the death anniversary of Maw, who was shot and killed by security forces in 1988 inside what was then known as the Rangoon Institute of Technology campus. His shooting and that of another student who died a few weeks later sparked widespread protests against the military government known as the 8-8-88 campaign, because they peaked in August that year. An estimated 3,000 people were killed when the army crushed the uprising.

Suu Kyi emerged as a democracy icon during the movement and was kept under house arrest for nearly two decades. She was released in 2008 as the military began democratic reforms and her National League for Democracy won elections in 2015 and again in November last year.

Also read | Myanmar citizens in US offered temporary refuge from coup crackdown

On February 1 this year, the generals overthrew her government and detained Suu Kyi and many of her cabinet colleagues, claiming fraud in the November elections.

More than 70 people have been killed in the Southeast Asian nation in widespread protests since then, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group said.

Soldiers have been occupying hospitals and universities across Myanmar as they try to quash a civil disobedience movement that started with government employees such as doctors and teachers but has expanded into a general strike that has paralysed many sectors of the economy.

On Friday evening, large crowds gathered for evening vigils. In Yangon, the commercial capital, they lit candles in the shape of a three-finger salute, the symbol of the movement, while saffron-robed monks gathered outside a pagoda in the northern Sagaing region.

INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM

The US government has offered Myanmar citizens, stranded by the violence following the country's military coup, refuge in the United States under "temporary protected status."

"Due to the military coup and security forces' brutal violence against civilians, the people of Burma are suffering a complex and deteriorating humanitarian crisis in many parts of the country," Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, using Myanmar's former name, said on Friday.

UN human rights investigator Thomas Andrews has dismissed as "absurd" comments by a senior Myanmar official that authorities were exercising "utmost restraint".

Former colonial power Britain warned its citizens in Myanmar to leave, saying "political tension and unrest are widespread since the military takeover and levels of violence are rising".

South Korea said it would suspend defence exchanges and reconsider development aid to Myanmar because of the violence.

The Kremlin said Russia, which has close ties to Myanmar’s military, was concerned over the mounting violence and was "analysing" whether to suspend military-technical cooperation.

Earlier this week, the UN Security Council dropped language from a statement that condemned the army takeover as a coup due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam.

Poland's foreign ministry said a Polish journalist was arrested this week in Myanmar, the second foreign reporter to be detained. A Japanese journalist was briefly held while covering a protest.

(with inputs from agencies)

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