Myanmar saw its bloodiest day of crackdown on anti-coup protesters on Wednesday, Mar. 3, with at least 38 deaths, according to the United Nations (UN), AFP reported.
Despite growing international condemnation, most significantly from the United States, the military government had continued to carry out violent crackdowns in several towns and cities in Myanmar.
Live rounds fired with little warning
Security forces had fired live rounds with little warning, witnesses said, with the military appearing more determined than ever to stamp out protests against the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the democratically-elected government led by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
Reuters reported that Ko Bo Kyi, joint secretary of Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners rights group, said earlier that the military had killed at least 18 people. However, the death toll had risen significantly by the end of the day.
Witnesses saw at least eight people killed in Yangon. A protester, Kaung Pyae Sone Tun, 23, told Reuters that he had laid down on the ground as there had been "so much continuous firing".
Citing the Monywa Gazette, Reuters reported that six people had been killed in the central town of Monywa. More protesters were killed in the second-biggest city Mandalay, the northern town of Hpakant and the central town of Myingyan.
According to Save the Children, an international non-governmental organisation, the death toll included four children, one of whom was a 16-year-old boy who had been shot dead by a soldier on a passing convoy. The soldiers later drove away with his body.
Angel, 19, wore a T-shirt that read 'Everything will be OK' as she joined anti-coup protesters in Myanmar. She was killed by a shot to the head as she fought for a tentative democracy in which she had proudly voted for the first time last year. Read more: https://t.co/EGIGQ2niET pic.twitter.com/Y9q75P0xJS— Reuters Pictures (@reuterspictures) March 3, 2021
Youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app: “It’s horrific, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings.”
UN: "Strong measures" needed
UN envoy to Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener urged UN member states to take "very strong measures" in keeping dialogue open, warning that if not, judging from past history, the army might "use its own roadmap".
She added that in discussions with the military junta, although she warned that the UN might take “strong measures” against the generals, they had responded that they were "used to sanctions".
They had also dismissed further threats of isolation from the UN, saying they "have to learn to walk with only few friends".
She noted, however, that while the army was successful in previous crackdowns, their "textbook actions" would not work today as they now face "young people who lived in freedom for 10 years".
Demonstrations have continued despite escalating force from the military.
According to the UN, more than 1,200 people are currently under detention, with many families still not knowing where their loved ones are or the condition they are in.
The real number is suspected to be higher, AFP reported. State-run media confirmed that more than 1,300 people were arrested on Sunday (Feb. 28) alone.
While Asean members met on Tuesday (Mar. 2) for a virtual foreign ministers' meeting on Myanmar, no breakthrough has thus far been made.
Despite being united in a call for restraint, only four members -- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore -- called for the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees.