Myanmar violence continues to grow: live ammunition is used in demonstrations
Disproportionate police response receives international criticism
by: Mark Maciej Wiech
Recent days brought increased tension between the security forces and protesters after the Myanmar military staged a coup, overthrowing the ruling National League for Democracy and detaining its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Guardian reports that an estimated 100,000 people took to the streets of the country’s largest city, Yangon, on Wednesday the 10th of February, following the most violent day of protests thus far. Apart from Yangon, the demonstrations were said to be held in the capital Naypyitaw, and multiple other cities and towns.
Photo is an illustration, it was taken during a protest in the previous years, not now.
There are reports of multiple civil servants and policemen joining the protesters. Forty police officers were said to take part in the demonstration in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State in eastern Myanmar, following about 20 others that switched sides the day before, as hundreds of government workers marched into the capital.
On the previous day, the nation-wide demonstrations were met with increased violence from the police forces, and
the first-time use of rubber bullets as well as live ammunition that was fired into the air.
Multiple people were reported to be injured. with the first reported serious casualty being 19-year-old Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing who was shot in the head on Tuesday, February 9, prompting a new outcry of rage across the country. Struck by a live round, the young woman is in a critical condition with doctors deeming her injury “fatal.” In a statement, the military insisted that the security forces deployed only non-lethal weapons and announced a police investigation.
Four police officers were also said to be injured in the effect of clashes with protesters.
The use of disproportionate force by police was recently condemned by Ola Almgren, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, who described it as “unacceptable” and “[called] on the Security Forces to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The coup prompted significant criticism from the western international community, notably the US and United Nations. US State Department’s Ned Price repeated on February 9th the call for the Myanmar military to step back, and vowed that the US is looking forward to ensuring that “those responsible for this coup do face significant consequences.”
The UN Security Council, in a press statement from February 4, expressed “deep concern at the declaration of the state of emergency imposed in Myanmar” and called the military to release all detainees. Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the detention of Myanmar’s political leaders and expressed his “grave concern” regarding the military’s concentration of “legislative, executive and judicial powers”, in a statement from January 31.
Meanwhile, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in which Myanmar partakes, issued a statement on February 1st reiterating its commitment to ensuring political stability and pledging to “encourage the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.”
The commitment to maintaining good relations was repeated by the prime minister of Thailand, Prayuth Chan-Ocha after he revealed that the Myanmar junta leader contacted him to ask for help in supporting democracy.
Myanmar remains in disarray after the military staged a coup on February 1st detaining various political leaders, including the head of government, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the president, Win Myint. In response to the allegation of election fraud, the state of emergency was declared and all legislative, executive, and judicial powers were transferred to Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, for one year.
In the press statement by Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs from February 5th, the coup is claimed to be constitutional and preventing Aung San Suu Kyi from “the attempt to take the sovereignty of the Union by wrongful forcible means and to disintegrate national solidarity.”
The article is an entry to the 2021 Writing Competition of The Gaudie International.