“They can shoot a young woman, but they can’t steal the hope and resolve of a determined people,” UN special rapporteur Tom Andrews said after reports of police using deadly force against protesters.
Protesters have returned to the streets of Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw after the most violent day yet in demonstrations against a coup that halted a tentative transition to democracy under elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In recent days police have stepped up their use of force deploying tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets on protesters.
But tens of thousands in Yangon were undeterred from hitting the streets on Wednesday, with many demonstrators wearing eye-catching costumes as part of a trend of creative strategies in contrast to the intimidation tactics used by authorities.
As well as half-naked men showing off their ripped biceps, there were women dressed as princesses and beauty queens in tiaras and sashes adding a touch of glamour to the march.
Others wielded brightly coloured parasols to keep the sun off.
Force against protesters
The sudden escalation of force against the demonstrations sweeping the country since last week's coup prompted a fresh chorus of international condemnation after officers fired live rounds at one rally in the capital Naypyitaw.
Two people were critically wounded in the incident – including one woman who was shot in the head.
Images depicting her in the moments after she was shot were by Wednesday appearing on a huge protest banner and had been widely shared online alongside expressions of grief and fury.
"They can shoot a young woman but they can't steal the hope and resolve of a determined people," UN special rapporteur Tom Andrews said on Wednesday.
The United States and United Nations condemned the use of force against protesters, who demand the reversal of the coup and the release of Suu Kyi and other detained leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) and activists.
"We cannot stay quiet," youth leader Esther Ze Naw told Reuters. "If there is blood shed during our peaceful protests, then there will be more if we let them take over the country."
Protesters were also hurt in Mandalay and other cities, where security forces used water cannon as well.
State media reported injuries to police during their attempts to disperse protesters, who were accused of throwing stones and bricks.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who himself first seized power in a coup, said on Wednesday he had received a letter from Myanmar's new junta leader asking for help to support democracy.
US reviews assistance to Myanmar
The US State Department said it was reviewing assistance to Myanmar to ensure those responsible for the coup face "significant consequences."
"We repeat our calls for the military to relinquish power, restore democratically elected government, release those detained and lift all telecommunication restrictions and to refrain from violence," spokesperson Ned Price said in Washington.
The United Nations called on Myanmar's security forces to respect people's right to protest peacefully.
"The use of disproportionate force against demonstrators is unacceptable," Ola Almgren, the UN representative in Myanmar, said.
The protests are the largest in Myanmar for more than a decade, reviving memories of almost half a century of direct army rule and spasms of bloody uprisings until the military began a process of withdrawing from civilian politics in 2011.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners recorded nearly 60 people arrested in various parts of Myanmar on Tuesday.
Party headquarters raided
Myanmar's army took power citing unsubstantiated allegations of fraud in a November 8 election that Suu Kyi's NLD party won in a landslide.
The electoral commission had dismissed the army's complaints.
Late on Tuesday, police raided the NLD's headquarters in Yangon during the hours of a military-imposed curfew.
The raid was carried out by about a dozen police personnel, who forced their way into the building in the commercial capital after dark, elected lawmakers said.
Suu Kyi's party had been due to start a second term on the day of the coup.
Alongside the protests, a civil disobedience movement has affected hospitals, schools and government offices. Staff from the Electricity and Power Ministry in Naypyitaw were among the latest to join the civil disobedience movement on Wednesday.
Protesters' demands now go beyond reversing the coup.
They also seek the abolition of a 2008 constitution drawn up under military supervision that gave the generals a veto in parliament and control of several ministries, and for a federal system in ethnically diverse Myanmar.
Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for campaigning for democracy and spent nearly 15 years under house arrest.
The 75-year-old faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkies and is being held in detention until February 15. Her lawyer said he has not been allowed to see her.
Suu Kyi remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority.