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Myanmar junta spurns UN appeal, kills more protesters

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MANDALAY: Spurning an appeal by the United Nations to stop using lethal force against peaceful demonstrators, security forces in Myanmar on Thursday fatally shot at least 10 people protesting against last month’s military coup.

The military also lodged a new allegation against Aung San Suu Kyi, the elected leader it ousted on Feb 1. It charged at a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that in 2017-18 she was illegally given $600,000 and gold bars worth slightly less by a political ally, former Yangon Division’s chief minister Phyo Min Thein.

Military spokesman Brig Gen Zaw Min Tun said Phyo Min Thein had admitted giving the money and gold to Suu Kyi, but presented no evidence.

The accusation was clearly aimed at discrediting Suu Kyi, and perhaps charging her with a serious crime. She and President Win Myint are both being detained on less serious allegations.

Local press reports and posts on social media on Thursday said six of the protesters were killed in Myaing, a town in the central Magway Region, and one each in Yangon, Mandalay, Bago and Taungoo. In many cases, photos of what were said to be the bodies of the dead were posted online.

Security forces have attacked previous protests with live ammunition as well, leading to the deaths of about 60 people. They have also employed tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons and stun grenades. Many demonstrators have been brutally beaten.

In New York, the UN Security Council on Wednesday unanimously called for a reversal of the military coup and condemned the violence against peaceful protesters. It also called for utmost restraint by the military.

A presidential statement approved by all 15 council members was formally adopted at a virtual meeting. The British-drafted statement called for the immediate release of government leaders including Suu Kyi and Win Myint. It supported the country’s democratic transition and stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions.

The human rights group Amnesty International issued a report saying Myanmar’s military is using increasingly lethal tactics and weapons normally seen on the battlefield against peaceful protesters and bystanders across the country.

The London-based group said its examination of more than 50 videos from the crackdown confirmed that security forces appeared to be implementing planned, systematic strategies including the ramped-up use of lethal force. Many of the killings documented amounted to extrajudicial executions. “These are not the actions of overwhelmed, individual officers making poor decisions. These are unrepentant commanders already implicated in crimes against humanity, deploying their troops and murderous methods in the open,” Joanne Mariner, its director of crisis response, said in a statement.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2021


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