Myanmar families hold funerals for crackdown victims, EU readies sanctions

Myanmar families hold funerals for crackdown victims, EU readies sanctions

Mourners at 18 year-old Khant Nyar Hein's funeral Mar 16, 2021
Mourners at 18 year-old Khant Nyar Hein's funeral on Mar 16, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

The families of dozens of people killed in demonstrations against military rule in Myanmar attended their funerals on Tuesday (Mar 16) as protesters again defied the security forces despite the mounting death toll.

Hundreds of mourners spilled onto the street at the funeral of medical student Khant Nyar Hein, who was killed in Yangon on Sunday, the bloodiest day in the weeks of protests that have followed a coup against the elected government on Feb 1.

"Let them kill me right now, let them kill me instead of my son because I can't take it any more," the student's mother was seen saying in a video clip posted on Facebook.

Mourners at 18-year-old Khant Nyar Hein's funeral Mar 16, 2021
18-year-old Khant Nyar Hein was shot dead on Mar 14, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

Three-finger sign at 18 year-old Khant Nyar Hein's funeral Mar 16, 2021
Medical students raise their hands, showing the three-finger salute at 18 year-old Khant Nyar Hein's funeral on Mar 17, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

Mourners, including many fellow medical students in white lab coats, chanted: "Our revolution must prevail."

In other developments on Tuesday, France said the European Union would approve sanctions against those behind the coup next Monday.

The military junta, meanwhile, charged the international envoy of the ousted government with treason for encouraging the civil disobedience campaign and calling for sanctions, army-run television said. The charges carry a possible death sentence.

At least one more protester was shot dead on Tuesday in the central town of Kawlin, a resident there said.

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Relatives of anti-coup protester victims wait outside the morgue for the return of their bodies at
Relatives of anti-coup protester victims wait outside the morgue for the return of their bodies at Thingangyun Hospital in Yangon, on Mar 15, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

READ: 149 dead, hundreds disappeared in Myanmar unrest - UN

More than 180 protesters have now been killed as security forces try to crush opposition to the generals who ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's civilian government and seized power themselves.

A total mobile internet shutdown made it difficult to verify information and the vast majority of people in Myanmar have no access to WiFi. A junta spokesman did not answer telephone calls to seek comment.

On Tuesday, a crematorium in Yangon reported 31 funerals, a mourner at one ceremony said. Some families told media the security forces had seized the bodies of victims, but they would still hold a funeral.

Relatives of anti-coup protester victims react outside the morgue at Thingangyun Hospital in Yangon
Relatives of anti-coup protester victims react outside the morgue as they wait for the return of their bodies at Thingangyun Hospital in Yangon, on Mar 15, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Stringer)

18 year-old Khant Nyar Hein's funeral Mar 16, 2021 (1)
A medical student show the three-finger salute at 18-year-old Khant Nyar Hein's funeral. (Photo: Naung Kham)

People held up pictures of Aung San Suu Kyi - Myammar's most prominent champion of democracy over three decades - and called for an end to the repression during a small protest in the southern town of Dawei on Tuesday, the Dawei Watch media outlet reported. There was no report of violence.

US CONCERN

The army said it took power after its accusations of fraud in a Nov 8 election won by the Nobel laureate's National League for Democracy (NLD) were rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised to hold a new election but has not set a date.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, has been detained since the coup and faces various charges including illegally importing walkie-talkie radios and infringing coronavirus protocols.

Martial law has been imposed in several districts of Yangon, Myanmar's commercial hub and former capital, and other places in the country.

"The military is attempting to overturn the results of a democratic election and is brutally repressing peaceful protesters," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a news conference in Tokyo.

The UN human rights office said "deeply distressing" reports of torture in custody had emerged and five people were known to have died in detention.

"We call on the military to stop killing and detaining protesters," its spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, said in Geneva.

18-year-old Khant Nyar Hein's funeral Mar 16, 2021
A fellow medical student at 18-year-old Khant Nyar Hein's funeral on Mar 16, 2021. (Photo: Naung Kham)

In a further indication of international dismay at the events in Myanmar, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the European Union would approve sanctions on the generals at a foreign ministers' meeting next Monday.

Those sanctions will suspend all budgetary support and target economic interests of individuals involved in the coup, he said.

Members of the ousted civilian government, who have set up a parallel administration, called on Total and other oil firms operating in Myanmar to suspend payments to the military-controlled state.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was appalled by the escalating violence at the hands of the military and called on the international community to help end the repression, his spokesman said.

A junta spokesman did not answer telephone calls to seek comment and Reuters could not independently confirm all the casualties.

READ: Global alarm grows as more protesters killed in Myanmar crackdown

READ: Chinese workers injured in Myanmar factory attacks, China's embassy says

CHINESE WARNINGS

China Global Television Network, an English-language international Chinese channel linked to the Communist Party, meanwhile warned against further attacks on Chinese-owned businesses after more than 30 factories in an industrial suburb of Yangon were torched on Sunday.

Beijing is viewed by the opposition movement as supportive of the military and unlike Western powers it has not condemned the coup.

"China won't allow its interests to be exposed to further aggression. If the authorities cannot deliver and the chaos continues to spread, China might be forced into taking more drastic action to protect its interests," CGTN said.

When asked what drastic action might mean, China's mission to the United Nations in New York referred Reuters to previous Chinese statements saying Mynamar authorities must take measures to protect Chinese nationals and businesses.

The three-finger salute, with a chimney in the background
The three-finger salute, with a chimney in the background. (File photo: Naung Kham)

China, along with Russia, has prevented the UN Security Council from denouncing the military's actions as a coup and in the past have shielded the Myanmar's authorities from any strong action by the body.

Also on Tuesday, the military charged the international envoy of the ousted government with treason, army-run television said.

It said that Doctor Sasa had encouraged a civil disobedience campaign, called for international sanctions and served as special envoy to the United Nations for an illegal organisation.

Sasa - who is not in the country - said he was proud to have been charged.

"These generals have committed acts of treason every day. Taking what they want for themselves, denying the people their rights and oppressing those that stand in their way," he said in a statement.

"I stand for freedom, I stand for federal democracy, I stand for justice for my country and I continue to call for an end to military brutality and bloody violence."

READ: 'Troubling' signs of Myanmar food price rises since coup: UN agency

READ: UN calls for reversal of Myanmar coup and condemns violence

The military ruled the former British colony for decades after a 1962 coup and cracked down hard on previous uprisings before beginning a tentative transition to democracy a decade ago.

That has now been derailed and instead the protests and a civil disobedience campaign of strikes are paralysing large parts of the economy.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday that poor families were struggling to feed themselves as price for rice, cooking oil and other staples rose.

"These rising food and fuel prices are compounded by the near paralysis of the banking sector, slowdowns in remittances, and widespread limits on cash availability," the WFP said.

Source: Reuters/ga/jt

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