Since the beginning of February, more than 50 people have become victims of the brutal suppression of protests by opponents of the coup in Myanmar: 38 people died on Wednesday, according to the UN special envoy for Myanmar. Protesters and observers say police have broken up the protesters more violently.
“The major cities in the country are like Tiananmen Square,” Yangon Archbishop Cardinal Charles Maung Bo tweeted, comparing it to the 1989 crackdown on student protests in Beijing.
UN Secretary General’s special envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner-Burgener called Wednesday the “bloodiest” day for the country since the military coup in early February.
Observers, protesters, and journalists have noted that police actions have become more aggressive since the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting on Tuesday. The meeting was attended by the military-appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar. According to the country’s state media, he “exchanged views on regional and international issues.”
ASEAN foreign ministers unanimously called on the military government of Myanmar to stop firing at protesters but did not agree on the release of the country’s civilian leaders, including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Vin Myin. Only four of ASEAN’s ten member countries — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore — have called for freedom and the restoration of a democratically elected government, Reuters reported.
However, 10 countries participating in the regional group have a tradition of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. A statement following the meeting was made by the representative of Brunei, the ASEAN Chairman in 2021, calling for an end to the violence and the start of negotiations with a view to reaching a peaceful settlement. This was not a joint statement by the group.
Demonstrations organized by the Civil Disobedience Movement are taking place in many major cities in Myanmar. Among the dead and wounded on Wednesday in the cities of Mandalay and Monica, there are many with bullet wounds to the chest and head, according to the BBC’s Southeast Asia correspondent, suggesting that soldiers and police were shooting to kill.
On the same day, in the country’s largest city, Yangon, the police gathered residents of one of the districts, lined them up, forcing them to put their hands on their heads, and took them away in trucks. A protest leader in Mingyan told Reuters that the police first fired tear gas and flash bangs and then fired live ammunition.
“They didn’t send water cannons at us to disperse, they just opened fire,” he says. Two teenagers were killed in Mingyan, the Press Trust of India reported.
The UN Security Council is expected to hold a closed meeting on the situation in Myanmar on Friday, March 5. Great Britain asked for a meeting. Coordinating UN actions will be difficult, however, as the two permanent members of the Security Council, China, and Russia, will almost certainly exercise veto power. Some countries have introduced or are considering imposing their own sanctions on Myanmar.
Police actions show that the military government is ignoring calls for a peaceful resolution of the situation. The military forces that have seized power in the country are going to suppress the movement of civil disobedience in order to achieve recognition of legitimacy by the international community.
Protesters over the past month have used a variety of resistance tactics, from traditional marches to musical performances outside foreign embassies, from strikes to building barricades and blocking roads. One of the protests even involved elephants with their drivers. In recent days, protesters have used smoke grenades and fire extinguishers to prevent police from seeing where to shoot.
“We will continue to fight for those who died. We will win,” a protest activist told Reuters in an interview.