At least 38 protesters have been killed after security forces opened fire in an area of its largest city, Yangon, in one of the bloodiest days yet in Myanmar since the military toppled the civilian government.
The military declared martial law in the area after Chinese businesses were attacked by protesters, armed with sticks and knives, who believe China is giving support to the Burmese military.
Myanmar has been racked by protests since the military coup on February 01 when the military leadership detained Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader and head of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party.
The NLD won a landslide in last year’s election but the military alleged there had been widespread fraud and promised new elections on an undetermined date.
Some of the ousted MPs have refused to accept last month’s coup and have gone into hiding while calling for continued street protest and civil disobedience.
In his first public address, their leader Mahn Win Khaing Than, urged protesters to defend themselves against the military crackdown during what he called a “revolution”.
“This is the darkest moment of the nation and the moment that the dawn is close,” he said, adding: “The uprising must win.”
At least 21 people were reportedly killed in Yangon on Sunday. Further deaths and injuries were reported elsewhere in the country. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group said the day’s death toll was at least 38.
Medical workers said the number of people killed in the Yangon area of Hlaing Tharyar was likely to rise, with dozens suffering gunshot wounds.
The junta has declared martial law in Hlaing Tharyar and neighbouring Shwepyitha after China said Chinese factories in the area had been targeted and demanded protection.
Beijing said people armed with iron bars, axes and petrol had set alight and damaged 10 Chinese facilities – mostly clothing production or storage factories – in Yangon. A Chinese hotel was also attacked.
On its Facebook page the Chinese embassy said some “factories were looted and destroyed and many Chinese staff were injured and trapped”.
The embassy urged Myanmar to “take further effective measures to stop all acts of violence, punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law and ensure the safety of life and property of Chinese companies and personnel in Myanmar”.
The military-owned Myawaddy Media reported that firefighters had been hindered in their response to the blazes by people blocking their routes.
Gunshots were heard throughout the day and military trucks were seen in the streets.
Demonstrators barricaded themselves in with sandbags, car tyres and barbed wire when security forces opened fire. Using makeshift shields, some were seen inching forwards to retrieve the injured.
One officer posted on social media that police were planning to use heavy weaponry.
“I will not have mercy on Hlaing Tharyar and they will fight back seriously too because there are all kinds of characters there,” the officer said in the subsequently deleted TikTok post.
“Three died in front of me while I was giving treatment. I’m sending another two to hospital. That’s all I can say at this moment,” one medic told AFP.
Several other deaths at the hands of the military were reported in other parts of Myanmar, including a young man shot dead by security forces in the northern jade-producing city of Hpakant, and a man and a woman killed in Bago to the north of Yangon.
Meanwhile, state TV said one police officer had been killed. Three more were injured by protesters throwing rocks and using catapults in the Bago region, MRTV said.
In total, more than 120 protesters have reportedly been killed during the crackdown, according to the AAPP monitoring group. (Source: BBC)