Two dead in Mandalay city on bloodiest day of Myanmar protests

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Two people were killed in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay, on Saturday when police and soldiers fired to break up protests against a February 1 military coup, rescue workers said on the bloodiest day ever. two weeks of demonstrations.

Protesters took to the streets of towns and villages in Myanmar with members of ethnic minorities, poets, rappers and transport workers among those calling for an end to military rule and the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others.

Tensions quickly escalated in Mandalay, where police and soldiers clashed with strikers and other protesters.

Some of the protesters fired catapults at police as they played cat-and-mouse on the riverside streets. Police responded with tear gas and gunfire, and witnesses said they found the rounds of live ammunition and rubber bullets on the ground.

“Twenty people were injured and two died,” said Ko Aung, a volunteer emergency service chief with Parahita Darhi.

A man died of a head injury, media workers said, including Lin Khaing, deputy editor of Voice of Myanmar media in the city, and a volunteer doctor.

Ko Aung and the doctor said a second man was shot in the chest and later died from his injury. He has been identified by relatives as Thet Naing Win, a 36-year-old carpenter.

“They took the body to the morgue. I can’t take him home. Although my husband is deceased, I still have my son, ”said his wife, Thidar Hnin, by telephone. “I haven’t been involved in this movement yet but now I’m going to… I’m not afraid now.

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Rescuers transport an injured man after Saturday’s protests in Mandalay, Myanmar, against the military coup. | REUTERS

Several other injured protesters were carried away on stretchers by volunteer medics, their clothes soaked in blood.

Police were not available for comment.

A young protester, Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, died Friday after being shot in the head last week as police dispersed a crowd in the capital, Naypyitaw, the first fatality among anti-coup protesters.

The army says a police officer died of injuries sustained during a protest.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has condemned “the use of lethal force”.

“I condemn the use of deadly violence in Myanmar,” Guterres wrote on Twitter. “The use of lethal force, intimidation and harassment against peaceful protesters is unacceptable.”

State Department spokesman Ned Price said the United States was “deeply concerned” by reports that security forces had fired at protesters and continued to detain and harass protesters and others.

“We are on the side of the Burmese people,” Price wrote on Twitter. Myanmar is also known as Burma.

Britain has said it will consider further measures against those implicated in the violence against protesters, and France’s Foreign Ministry has called the violence “unacceptable”.

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“The shooting at peaceful protesters in Myanmar is beyond pale,” British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said in a tweet. “We will consider new actions, with our international partners, against those who crush democracy and stifle dissent.”

The United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have announced limited sanctions since the coup, with a focus on military leaders.

The evening news broadcast on state television MRTV made no mention of the protests or the casualties.

In the main city of Yangon, locals once again banged pots and pans in a nighttime ritual in defiance of the coup. Outside the U.S. Embassy in the city, dozens of protesters, mostly women, gathered at dusk for a candlelight vigil, singing anti-coup songs.

More than a fortnight of demonstrations and a campaign of civil disobedience of strikes and disturbances show no sign of disappearing. Opponents of the coup are skeptical of the military’s promise to hold a new election and hand over power to the winner.

Protesters demand the restoration of the elected government and the release of Suu Kyi and others. They also called for the repeal of a 2008 constitution that secured the military a major role in politics for nearly 50 years of direct military rule that ended in 2011.

The military returned to power after alleging fraud in the Nov. 8 election that Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept aside, detaining her and others. The election commission dismissed the fraud complaints.

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Protesters gather outside the United States Embassy in Yangon on Saturday.  |  AFP-JIJI
Protesters gather outside the United States Embassy in Yangon on Saturday. | TBEN-JIJI

Nevertheless, the army says its action is in accordance with the constitution and that it is supported by a majority of the population. The army accused the protesters of inciting violence.

Crowds also gathered on Saturday in the northern city of Myitkyina, the former capital of Bagan and Pathein in the Irrawaddy Delta, images showed on social media.

Even before the coup, junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was already under sanctions from Western countries following the Rohingya crackdown. There is little history of Myanmar’s generals, with closer ties to China and Russia, giving in to Western pressure.

Suu Kyi faces a charge of violating a natural disaster management law as well as illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios. His next court appearance will be on March 1.

The Myanmar Political Prisoners Assistance Association said 546 people had been arrested, including 46 released on Friday.

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