Myanmar police fire rubber bullets at coup protesters in crackdown


The United Nations on Tuesday voiced “strong concern” over the bloodshed in Myanmar as police fired rubber bullets during a demonstration in the capital Nay Pyi Taw, as thousands defied a ban on protests.

According to reports, numerous demonstrators have been injured, some of them seriously, by security forces in connection with the current protests across the country, with one woman hospitalised with a critical head injury.

“I call on the Security Forces to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” Ola Almgren, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, said.

“The use of disproportionate force against demonstrators is unacceptable.”

Police have fired rubber bullets, while water cannon and tear gas have also been used against protesters. But news agencies have also quoted doctors as saying they had seen wounds from live bullets.

Despite a ban on large public gatherings and night-time curfews imposed in some cities, with military leader Min Aung Hlaing warning that no-one is above the law, protesters defied the order and went out on the streets to demonstrate.

The demonstrators are demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, along with senior leaders of her National League for Democracy Party (NLD) who were arrested when the military seized power and declared a year-long state of emergency on February 01.

Tuesday was the fourth consecutive day of protests. In the evening, the NLD said its party headquarters in Yangon had been “raided and destroyed” by the military.

In its first acknowledgement of the protests, Myanmar’s state TV said police had also been injured while trying to disperse “aggressive” protesters. It said a police truck was destroyed in the city of Mandalay.

Earlier on Tuesday, police began using water cannon against protesters in Nay Pyi Taw – but the crowd refused to retreat.

“End the military dictatorship,” people yelled. Some threw projectiles at police, witnesses said.

Warning shots were eventually fired into the air, before rubber bullets were fired at protesters.

According to BBC Burmese, who spoke to an unnamed medical officer from a Nay Pyi Taw hospital, one woman suffered a serious head injury and another demonstrator had chest injuries. It is not yet clear how exactly they were wounded.

Reuters news agency spoke with a doctor who said X-rays indicated live ammunition had been used against the woman.

AFP also quoted an emergency room doctor who believed the military was using live rounds, citing injuries to a 23-year-old man and a 19-year-old.

“We believe they are actual bullets because of the wounds and their injuries,” the doctor said.

On Monday, Gen Min Aung Hlaing gave his first televised address since the coup. He insisted the seizure of power was justified due to “voter fraud”, accusing the electoral commission of failing to investigate irregularities over voter lists in November’s election.

Gen Min Aung Hlaing promised new elections overseen by a new “reformed” election commission, and said the military would hand power to the winner.

He also said his rule would be “different” from what was effectively a 49-year military grip on power that ended in 2011. He spoke of achieving a “true and disciplined democracy”, a phrase that drew scorn from some opponents of the coup on social media.

On Tuesday, New Zealand announced that it would be suspending all high-level contact with Myanmar and imposing a travel ban on its military leaders.

It was the first major international move to isolate Myanmar’s military since it took power.

The US also called for freedom of expression to be upheld. “We strongly condemn violence against demonstrators,” a spokesman for the state department said. (Source: BBC)