Security forces fire tear gas to disperse anti-coup protesters in Yangon, Myeik and Dawei as the escalation of violence puts pressure on the world community to act to restrain the junta.

Anti-coup demonstrators wearing helmet and face mask march during a protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, March 6, 2021.
Anti-coup demonstrators wearing helmet and face mask march during a protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, March 6, 2021. (AP)

Security forces in Myanmar have again used force to disperse anti-coup protesters, a day after the UN special envoy urged the Security Council to take action to quell junta violence that this week left about 50 peaceful demonstrators dead and scores injured.

Fresh protests were reported on Saturday morning in the biggest city of Yangon, where stun grenades and tear gas were used against protesters. On Wednesday, 18 people were reported killed there.

Protests were also reported in Myitkyina, the capital of the northern state of Kachin, Myeik, in the country’s far south where police fired tear gas at students, and Dawei in the southeast where tear gas was also used.

Other places included Kyaikto, in the eastern state of Mon, Loikaw, the capital of Kayah state in eastern Myanmar, and Myingyan, a city where one protester was killed on Wednesday.

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Anti-coup protesters wearing helmet and face mask gather during a protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, March 6, 2021.
Anti-coup protesters wearing helmet and face mask gather during a protest in Mandalay, Myanmar, March 6, 2021. (AP)

The escalation of violence has put pressure on the world community to act to restrain the junta, which seized power on February 1 by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. 

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party led a return to civilian rule with a landslide election victory in 2015, and with an even greater margin of votes last year. 

It would have taken a second five-year term of office last month, but instead she and President Win Myint and other members of her government were placed in military detention.

Large protests have occurred daily across many cities and towns. Security forces responded with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests. 

At least 18 protesters were shot and killed last Sunday and 38 on Wednesday, according to the UN Human Rights Office. More than 1,000 have been arrested, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

UN envoy calls for Security Council actions

UN special envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener said in her briefing to Friday’s closed Security Council meeting that council unity and “robust” action are critical “in pushing for a stop to the violence and the restoration of Myanmar’s democratic institutions.”

“We must denounce the actions by the military,” she said. “It is critical that this council is resolute and co herent in putting the security forces on notice and standing with the people of Myanmar firmly, in support of the clear November election results.”

She reiterated an earlier appeal to the international community not to “lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime that has been forcefully imposed and nothing but chaos has since followed.”

The Security Council took no immediate action. Council diplomats said Britain circulated a draft presidential statement for consideration, a step below a legally binding resolution.

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Four demands

The army took power over allegations of fraud in last year's election which had been dismissed by the electoral commission. It has promised to hold a new election at an unspecified date.

That plan is rejected by protesters and by a group representing lawmakers elected at the last election that has begun to issue statements in the name of a rival civilian administration.

On Friday, it listed four demands – the end of the junta, the release of the detainees, democracy and the abolition of the 2008 constitution which left significant political representation and control in the hands of the military.

Instead, it said Myanmar should have a federal constitution – an appeal to the ethnic groups in the country's borderlands which have chafed under domination of the Bamar majority both under the military and Suu Kyi's party.

On Friday, thousands of people rallied in the southeastern Karen state, accompanied by fighters from the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the ethnic armed groups engaged in long-running wars.

During the rally – the strongest indication yet of support for the anti-coup movement from one of the country's myriad ethnic armed groups – KNU troops flashed the three-finger salute popularised by protesters and handed out water bottles.

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Source: Reuters