Myanmar’s military opened fire on protesting healthcare workers on Thursday, killing at least one bystander as the demonstrators fled for safety to a nearby mosque.
The country has been in uproar since the military seized power from civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb 1, triggering a massive uprising that the junta has sought to quell using lethal force.
But the movement remains undeterred, and protesters have continued taking to the streets this week – refusing to celebrate the Myanmar New Year holiday of Thingyan.
On Thursday in Myanmar’s second largest city of Mandalay, a demonstration by medical workers turned violent when soldiers opened fire on them, sending them running to the mosque.
“They were shooting everywhere… they were targeting the Sule mosque compound because people in there were hiding protesters,” said an eyewitness.
A 30-year-old man who lived in the compound was shot dead, and at least two others were injured, said a doctor who treated the wounded.
“The man who died was shot from the back and it penetrated through his chest,” he told AFP.
A medic who participated in the protest said he saw the arrest of six nurses and doctors during the crackdown.
“We lost contact with some medical team members as well,” he told AFP.
Myanmar’s healthcare workers have been at the forefront of a nationwide civil disobedience movement, refusing to return to work under a military regime – which has left the country’s hospitals unstaffed during a pandemic.
Civil servants from other sectors have followed suit, bringing the operation of the country’s banks, schools, railway operations, and businesses to a halt.
The junta has tried to force people back to work, and on Thursday, state-run media reported that at least 20 doctors participating in the movement will be charged for attempting to “deteriorate peace and stability”.
So far more than 700 civilians have been killed in anti-coup unrest, according to a local monitoring group, and more than 3,000 have been detained.
A well-known protest leader was arrested Thursday in central Monywa city – he was leading a demonstration by motorbike when a car rammed into him.
“Wai Moe Naing was arrested… I saw his motorcycle hit by the car from afar,” fellow activist Hein Zaw Win told AFP.
The leader had grown in prominence since the coup, shepherding the movement in the remote Sagaing region despite multiple lethal crackdowns from authorities.