Security forces in Myanmar have again opened fire on anti-coup demonstrators, killing at least nine people in different parts of the country, despite calls by regional and other states on the Myanmarese junta to end the violence and restore democracy.
Security forces opened fire on protesters in the central town of Aungban as they tried to clear a barricade set up by the protesters on Friday, a witness told Reuters.
“Security forces came to remove barriers but the people resisted and they fired,” the witness told Reuters.
Eight people were killed, seven on the spot and one after being taken to hospital in the nearby town of Kalaw, according to an official with Aungban’s funerary service.
One protester was also killed in the northeastern town of Loikaw, local media said.
In the country’s biggest city, Yangon, police ordered people to dismantle barricades and have been hunting for protest leaders, according to residents.
Video on social media showed police forcing a man to crawl down on a street on all fours.
Local media reported that traffic was clogging up on a main highway going north out of the city as people were fleeing the city for rural areas.
“I am very worried that the worst will happen next because where I live… is very intense, with security forces taking people from the streets,” said a resident.
Protesters were also out in the second city of Mandalay, the central towns of Myingyan and Katha, and Myawaddy in the east on Friday, witnesses and the media reported.
Daily protests have been ongoing in the Southeast Asian country since the military ousted a civilian government and arrested de facto leader Aung Sung Suu Kyi and other political leaders in a coup d’état in early February.
Security forces, made up of police and military personnel, have since intensified the crackdown on dissent, including by shooting protesters.
The number of people killedin six weeks of unrest has now risen to at least 233, according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.
More than 2,200 people have also been detained, often during overnight raids.
The international community has repeatedly called for the release of the detained leaders and urged the restoration of the civilian government. It has also urged the junta to stop the use of lethal force against the anti-coup protesters.
The military regime has, however, defied global calls for restraint and maintained its use of lethal force.
Myanmar’s Asian neighbors, led by Indonesia, have offered to help find a solution to the crisis.
“Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar be stopped immediately so that there are no more victims,” Indoensian President Joko Widodo said in a virtual address.
“The safety and welfare of the people must be the top priority. Indonesia also urges dialog, that reconciliation is carried out immediately to restore democracy,” he added.
On Thursday, the head of Indonesia’s armed forces, Hadi Tjahjanto, also expressed concern about the crisis in Myanmar during a video conference with regional defense chiefs, which was also attended by Myanmar’s junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing.
That was Hlaing’s first international engagement since seizing power in the coup.
Singapore’s military chief, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, also expressed “grave concern” about the situation in Myanmar and urged the country’s junta to avoid using lethal force, according to the Singaporean Defense Ministry.
Across Myanmar’s border, in Thailand’s Tak Province, authorities said they were preparing shelters for an influx of displaced people.
“If many Myanmar people flow across the border because of an urgent case, we have prepared the measures… to receive them,” said the provincial governor, Pongrat Piromrat.
He said Tak Province would be able to support about 30,000 to 50,000 people.
Meanwhile, the ambassadors of a number of Western countries in a joint statement condemned the violence as “immoral and indefensible.”
“Internet blackouts and suppression of the media will not hide the military’s abhorrent actions,” they said.
Amnesty International said earlier that the military was using increasingly lethal tactics and weapons against peaceful protesters and bystanders.
The military has deployed battle-hardened troops — documented to have committed human rights abuses in conflict areas — to the streets, according to Amnesty.
The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, has also said the military’s “brutal response” to peaceful protests is “likely meeting the legal threshold for crimes against humanity.”