Myanmar braces for new protests as junta's United Nations pick quits

Cornelia Mascio
Marzo 5, 2021

Following the latest violence, Mr Johnson wrote on Twitter: "I'm horrified by the escalation of violence in Myanmar and the killing of pro-democracy protesters".

In the main city of Yangon, police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse protesters who had been joined by about 100 doctors in white coats, witnesses said.

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet demanded the security forces halt what she called their "vicious crackdown on peaceful protesters".

Security forces have arrested almost 1,500 people since the start of the coup, with 1,200 of them still in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) monitoring group.

Singapore has been the most outspoken of Myanmar's neighbours and its foreign minister, Vivian Balakrishnan, said it was a "national shame" for armed forces to use weapons against their people. A utility official later said it was due to a system failure.

A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.

The junta fired Kyaw Moe Tun on Saturday after he urged countries at the UN General Assembly to use "any means necessary" to reverse the February 1 coup.

In Washington, it was unclear whether Myanmar's embassy was still representing the junta, after it issued a statement decrying the deaths of civilians protesting the coup and calling on authorities to "fully exercise utmost restraint".

France called for "the immediate end of the repression in Myanmar", and release of all those who are detained.

Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won elections in November past year by a landslide, a result that set the stage for the military's influence to be potentially diluted.

Junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has pledged to hold new elections but given no time frame. They face up to three years in jail. The election commission said the vote was fair, but the military has used media to make its case and justify the takeover.

European Union foreign ministers agreed last month to look into sanctions that could target businesses owned by the army, but ruled out any curtailing of trade preferences for Myanmar to avoid hurting the poorest workers in textiles.

"We know that we can always get shot and killed with live bullets but there is no meaning to staying alive under the junta so we choose this unsafe road to escape", activist Maung Saung Kha told Reuters. Some countries have already imposed or are considering their own sanctions.

The US Commerce Department announced on Thursday that it had added Myanmar's ministry of defense, ministry of home affairs, and two commercial entities related to the defense ministry to its trade blacklist.

He said, "so when it comes to China, our message has been very clear".

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