Myanmar police fired on protesters around the country on Sunday and at least 18 people were killed in the worst violence since the Feb 1 military coup, the United Nations said, calling on the international community to act to stop the repression.
Crowds of demonstrators came under fire in various parts of Yangon after stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up their protests, Reuters is reporting.
Across the country, protesters wearing plastic work helmets and with makeshift shields faced off against police and soldiers in battle gear, including some from units notorious for tough crackdowns on ethnic rebel groups in Myanmar’s border regions.
“Severe action will be inevitably taken” against “riotous protesters”, the state-run Global New Light Of Myanmar said. The army had previously shown restraint but could not ignore “anarchic mobs”.
“Police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force that – according to credible information received by the UN Human Rights Office – has left at least 18 people dead and over 30 wounded,” the UN human rights office said.
Among at least five killed in Yangon was internet network engineer Nyi Nyi Aung Htet Naing, medics said. A day earlier he had asked on Facebook how many dead bodies it would take for the United Nations to take action.
“The secretary-general urges the international community to come together and send a clear signal to the military that it must respect the will of the people of Myanmar as expressed through the election and stop the repression,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing said last week authorities were using minimal force but at least 21 protesters have now died.
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.
While some Western countries have imposed limited sanctions, the generals have traditionally shrugged off diplomatic pressure.