YANGON: Myanmar security forces killed three people in the main city of Yangon on Monday (Mar 29), witnesses and media reported, as activists called on ethnic minority forces in the diverse nation to back their campaign against military rule.
After the bloodiest day since last month's military coup with 114 deaths on Saturday, thousands of people took to the streets in towns across the country, determined to show their opposition to the relapse into military rule after a decade of democratic reform.
A man was killed and several were wounded when security forces fired in one Yangon neighbourhood, media and a witness said.
"He was shot in the head," witness Thiha Soe told Reuters.
"They were shooting at everything on the road, even a Red Cross team. It's still going on as I'm speaking to you."
Police and a junta spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment. Myanmar's Red Cross said in a message it was checking the report.
Two people were killed in another Yangon district when security forces moved in to clear protesters' barricades, a resident said.
"We can confirm two were killed in our ward," said the resident of the South Dagon neighbourhood who asked to be identified as just Win.
"About 15 members of the security forces came and shot all around," said Win, adding that the security forces were using grenades to clear barricades.
Based on a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group, 462 civilians have been killed since the coup.
But despite the violence, crowds turned out in the central towns of Bago, Minhla, Khin-U, Pinlebu and Taze, Mawlamyine in the south, Demoso in the east and Hsipaw and Mytitkyina in the north, according to media and social media posts.
ARMED ETHNIC GROUPS CALL FOR HELP
The General Strike Committee of Nationalities, one of the main protest groups, called in an open letter on Facebook for ethnic minority forces to help those standing up to the "unfair oppression" of the military.
"It is necessary for the ethnic armed organisations to collectively protect the people," the protest group said.
Insurgents from different ethnic minority groups have battled the central government for decades over greater autonomy. Though many groups have agreed to ceasefires, fighting has flared in recent days between the army and forces in both the east and north.
Heavy clashes erupted on the weekend near the Thai border between the army and fighters from Myanmar's oldest ethnic minority force, the Karen National Union (KNU).
About 3,000 villagers fled to Thailand when military jets bombed a KNU area, killing three civilians, after a KNU force overran an army outpost and killed 10 people, an activist group and media said.
Tens of thousands of Karen have lived in camps in Thailand for decades and Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said he wanted Myanmar's latest problems to remain there.
"Please, let this be an internal problem. We don't want to have an exodus, evacuation into our territory but we will observe human rights too," Prayuth told reporters in Bangkok.
In Myanmar's north, fighting erupted on Sunday in the jade-mining area of Hpakant when Kachin Independence Army (KIA) fighters attacked a police station, Kachinwaves media reported.
There were no reports of casualties
At least six children between the ages of 10 and 16 were among those killed across Myanmar on Saturday, according to news reports and witnesses. Protesters call the victims "Fallen Stars".
On Sunday, mourners fled shooting by security forces at a service for 20-year-old student Thae Maung Maung in Bago near Yangon and there were no immediate reports of casualties, three people in the town told Reuters.
People in Mandalay surrounded a police station late in the evening on Sunday, accusing the security forces of arson after five houses burned down, residents said.
"While we are singing the revolution song for him, security forces just arrived and shot at us," a woman called Aye who was at the service said. "People, including us, run away as they opened fire."
UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar Tom Andrews said the army was carrying out "mass murder" and called on the world to isolate the junta and halt its access to weapons.
Foreign criticism and sanctions imposed by some Western nations have failed so far to sway the generals, as have almost daily protests around the country since the junta took power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the junta leader, said during a parade to mark Armed Forces Day on Saturday that the military would protect the people and strive for democracy.
Countries including the United States, Britain, Germany and the European Union again condemned the violence.
"It's terrible, it's absolutely outrageous," US President Joe Biden told reporters in Delaware. "Based on the reporting I've gotten an awful lot of people have been killed totally unnecessarily."
The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, called on the generals to stand down from what he called a "senseless path" of violence against their own people.
The top military officer from the United States and nearly a dozen of his counterparts said a professional military must follow international standards for conduct "and is responsible for protecting - not harming - the people it serves".
Myanmar's military took power saying that November elections won by Aung San Suu Kyi's party were fraudulent, an assertion dismissed by the country's election commission.
Aung San Suu Kyi remains in detention at an undisclosed location and many other figures in her party are also in custody.