UN human rights official says there is “credible information” of at least 18 people killed and 30 wounded on Sunday, making it the highest single-day death toll among demonstrators who have been protesting against the February 1st military coup.
Protesters are marching in Myanmar in defiance of a crackdown by security forces as calls grow for a more united international response in the aftermath of the worst violence against demonstrators since a coup one month ago.
Clashes took place in various parts of the country on Sunday and police opened fire on crowds in the biggest city of Yangon, after tear gas and warning shots failed to clear protesters demanding the restoration of Aung San Suu Kyi's government.
A UN human rights official said it had “credible information” that at least 18 people were killed and 30 were wounded.
Police with water cannon and military vehicles were mobilised at protest hotspots in Yangon on Monday, while demonstrators marched in Kale, in northwest Myanmar, holding up pictures of Suu Kyi and chanting "democracy, our cause, our cause".
Live video on Facebook showed a small crowd in hard hats gathered across a street in Lashio, Shan State, chanting slogans as police marched towards them.
"It has been one month since the coup. They cracked down on us with shootings yesterday. We will come out today again," prominent protest leader Ei Thinzar Maung posted on Facebook.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the army seized power and detained elected leader Suu Kyi and much of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party leadership on February 1, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.
Suu Kyi faces new charge in court, appears in good health
Having not been seen since her detention, Suu Kyi made her first public appearance as she attended a court hearing via video. She has been charged with illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols.
During Monday's hearing an additional charge was added to those filed against her after a coup a month ago, a lawyer for her said.
Lawyer Min Min Soe told Reuters Suu Kyi had requested to see her legal team during the hearing via video link. The additional charge is from the country’s colonial-era penal code, which prohibits publishing information that may "cause fear or alarm".
The coup, which brought a halt to tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, has drawn hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets and the condemnation of Western countries.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned what he called "abhorrent violence" by security forces, while Canada's foreign minister, Marc Garneau, said the military's use of lethal force against its own people "appalling". Both called for a united response.
Tom Andrews, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar said it was clear the junta's assault would continue so the international community should ratchet up its response.
He proposed a global arms embargo, more sanctions from more countries on those behind the coup, sanctions on the military's businesses and a UN Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court.
"Words of condemnation are welcome but insufficient. We must act," Andrews said in a statement.
"The nightmare in Myanmar that is unfolding before our eyes will get worse. The world must act."
As the junta ratchets up its brutal attacks against peaceful protesters in Myanmar, the world must ratchet up its response. Words of condemnation are welcome but insufficient. We must act. I'm releasing a statement today w options for UN member states & the UN Security Council. pic.twitter.com/q34vaaoYky— UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews (@RapporteurUn) February 28, 2021
People marked the deaths of demonstrators with red and white roses, circling with yellow, white and pink flowers the spot in front of a school where one protester was killed.
Small memorials were held for the victims, with candles lit in front of homes late on Sunday.
'We will never forgive you'
Some protesters called on Monday for destruction of surveillance cameras used by authorities, and shared pepper spray recipes on social media.
Others made metal shields for those on the front lines, who took on police and soldiers in full battle gear. Some of the security forces belonged to units notorious for tough crackdowns on ethnic rebel groups.
Along one road in Yangon, demonstrators taped to the ground hundreds of pictures of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, bearing the words "shame on you, dictator, we will never forgive you".
A committee representing lawmakers who won seats in the November election said at least 26 people were killed in the violence on Sunday, which Reuters was unable to verify.
"The excessive use of force and other violations committed by the military junta are being recorded and they will be held accountable," it said.
The military has not commented on Sunday's violence and police and military spokesmen did not answer calls.
In a post dated February 28, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar warned "severe action will be inevitably taken" against "anarchic mobs" that the military could not ignore, despite having previously shown restraint.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said at least 270 people were detained on Sunday, from a total 1,132 it said had been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup.
Some witnesses said they saw people beaten by police before being taken away on Sunday.
US Secretary of State Blinken on Sunday said the United States stood firmly with the people of Myanmar.
"(We) encourage all countries to speak with one voice in support of their will," he said on Twitter.
We condemn the Burmese security forces’ abhorrent violence against the people of Burma & will continue to promote accountability for those responsible. We stand firmly with the courageous people of Burma & encourage all countries to speak with one voice in support of their will.— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) February 28, 2021
Defiance of the coup has emerged not just on the streets but more broadly in the civil service, municipal administration, the judiciary, the education and health sectors and the media.
Activists across Asia held protests in support, with the rallying cry "Milk Tea Alliance" which first united pro-democracy activists in Thailand and Hong Kong.
While some Western countries have imposed limited sanctions, the generals have traditionally shrugged off diplomatic pressure. They have promised to hold a new election but not set a date.