YANGON, Myanmar (AP) – At least two people protesting last month’s military coup were shot and killed by security forces on Tuesday after a morning of peaceful marches in parts of Myanmar.
Dozens of their compatriots have been killed by security forces in recent days, and the UN has set the nationwide death toll at 149 since the February 1 coup that toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. .
The independent Political Prisoner Assistance Association said 183 people have died since the coup.
Violence was reported Tuesday in the largest city, Yangon, where casualties have been the highest. Police fired rubber bullets in several neighborhoods and one man was reported dead. Another murder was reported in the town of Kawlin, in the northwestern Sagaing region.
UN Human Rights Office spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said at least 11 people died on Monday, adding up to 57 deaths over the weekend. While there were many more reports of murders, he was unable to corroborate them.
“The killing of protesters, arbitrary detentions and allegations of torture of prisoners violate fundamental human rights and clearly defy the Security Council’s calls for restraint, dialogue and a return to the democratic path of Myanmar,” said the Secretary UN General António Guterres.
The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under a strict military regime that led to isolation and international sanctions.
Protesters in some areas have recently used tactics designed to prevent violent clashes. On Tuesday, social media reports said the pre-dawn candlelight marches were held in Mawlamyaing, in Mon State in southeastern Myanmar.
Another tactic has been to use signs as representatives of human protesters, placing them in lines in public places. This tactic was reported to have been used by a group of engineers in the second largest city, Mandalay, in central Myanmar.
More conventional peaceful protests of the kind that have occurred daily in Monywa and Ye-U in central Myanmar, Loikaw city in eastern Kayaw state, and Kalaw in southern Kayaw state took place without incident on Tuesday. Shan, also in the east.
To complicate efforts to organize further protests, as well as media coverage, cell phone internet service was cut off Sunday night, although access was still available via fixed broadband connections.
The mobile data service had been used to broadcast live video coverage of the protests, which often showed security forces attacking protesters. Previously it had been turned off only from 1 a.m. Until 9 a.m. M. For several weeks, without official explanation.
Sunday’s violence in Yangon, largely at the hands of the police, caused the highest death toll in a single day since the coup. Myanmar’s ruling junta declared martial law in much of the city.
The martial law announcements said that the board, formally called the State Administrative Council, acted to improve security and restore law and order, and that the Yangon regional commander has been entrusted with administrative, judicial and military powers in the area under your command. The orders cover six of the 33 municipalities in Yangon.
The greatest violence and most deaths were in Yangon’s Hlaing Thar Yar Township, an industrial zone with many factories supplying the garment industry, one of Myanmar’s main sources of export earnings. Several factories, many of which are Chinese-owned, were set on fire Sunday by unidentified people, drawing ire from Beijing.
Thousands of township residents in cars, taxis, trucks, motorcycles and on foot clogged roads outside the area on Tuesday. Some sought security, while others no longer have jobs.
Protesters in the past week have responded to increased police violence by taking a more aggressive approach to self-defense, burning tires on barricades and backing off when they can against attacks.
The Committee Representing Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw, made up of elected members of Parliament who were not allowed to take their seats, said on Sunday that the general public has a legal right to self-defense against security forces.
The CRPH, which operates clandestinely within the country and with representatives abroad, has established itself as a shadow government claiming to be the only legitimate representative body for the citizens of Myanmar. It has been declared a traitorous illegal organization by the board.
State television MRTV announced Tuesday night that a prominent CRPH figure, known as Dr. Sasa, was charged with high treason, which carries the death penalty.
Sasa, a doctor who uses a single name, is a member of the Chin ethnic minority and was appointed special envoy of the UN by the CRPH, is accused of provoking an internal conflict and acting against the junta, which claims to be the only legitimate one. governing body despite having overthrown an elected government.
Sasa is the public face of Myanmar’s resistance in the international arena, although he is reportedly in hiding. He has spoken frequently with the international press via videoconference. He has also connected by video with foreign diplomats, UN officials and other opponents of the junta, including members of ethnic minorities who maintain their own guerrilla armies.
The state newspaper Global New Light of Myanmar reported that the head of the board, Major General Min Aung Hlaing, told his colleagues that the protests have turned into “riots and violence.”
At a Monday meeting of the board in the capital Naypyitaw, Min Aung Hlaing was quoted as saying that the military was helping the police “as a rearguard in the required places to resolve difficulties and obstacles.”
“Although there have been fewer protests, violent acts emerged in some areas, such as the burning of public property and factories. So the security forces had to handle the situation very hard, ”according to the account. “The protesters raided police stations and administrative offices and burned factories. Meanwhile, the shooting had to disperse the protesters, resulting in the death of some security forces and protesters. “
Virtually all independent accounts blame the security forces for initiating acts of violence against unarmed protesters.
Many protesters have called for foreign intervention to help them under the Responsibility to Protect doctrine – R2P – devised to address issues such as genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.
The UN and other regional bodies and nations have urged that steps be taken to reconcile the protesters and the military and end the violence. Several Western nations applied sanctions against the generals and their trade connections, but the board is confident it can withstand the pressure, especially with China as a diplomatic ally that can block coordinated UN action and offset aid and investment deficits.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in Tokyo to speak with Japanese officials, explained that Washington wants to promote democratic principles in Myanmar, as it does elsewhere.
“We believe in democracy and human rights, the rule of law, because we have seen how our own countries are stronger, because we adhere to those values and because they are threatened in many places, including this region,” he said. saying. “In Burma, the army is trying to overturn the results of a democratic election and is brutally cracking down on peaceful protests.” The United States calls Myanmar by its old name, Burma, which was changed by an earlier military regime.
Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said after his bilateral meeting with Blinken that they shared “great concern” about the situation in Myanmar, especially the attacks on peaceful demonstrations.
“There have been victims among the civilian population and we are very concerned about development,” he said, adding that they demand that Myanmar immediately release Suu Kyi and restore a democratic system.
Associated Press writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed.