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Myanmar: Snipers spotted on streets of Yangon, as neighbouring countries sound alarm

Myanmar’s intense crackdown intensified on Tuesday as snipers were seen on Yangon’s streets even as unarmed protesters defied the military to return for the demonstrations against the coup.

The neighbouring countries of the southeast Asian nation such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore suggested Myanmar not to use lethal force, avoid escalating tension and release political prisoners including Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Sunday, at least 18 people were killed and 30 were reportedly injured in the crackdown by the security forces resulting in severe international criticism. But that has not deterred the authorities and social media was flooded with pictures and videos of stun grenades and tear gas being used against protesters in Yangon.

The videos showed soldiers chasing the protesters and beating them while many protesters were seen wearing helmets to protect themselves, raising slogans and creating barricades to avoid arrests and confrontation.

On 1 February, Myanmar’s military had replaced the democratically-elected government in a coup and since then the protests demanding restoration of democracy and the release of Miss Suu Kyi and other leaders have not ceased.

On Tuesday, Myanmar’s elected parliamentary commission announced forming an interim government and appointed acting union ministers in an effort to discredit the military’s led regime.

While the violence continued unabated against the protesters, neighbouring countries such as Malaysia called for an unconditional release of Miss Suu Kyi and other Myanmar leaders including Myanmar’s president Win Myint who were detained last month.

It was Malaysia in 1997 that advocated for the inclusion of Myanmar in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN),  a regional intergovernmental organisation, despite objections from the international community.

Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong called the use of lethal force by Myanmar’s military against unarmed protesters “disastrous” and unacceptable. Mr Lee while calling for release of Ms Suu Kyi and suggesting the military to negotiate with her and her team to work out a peaceful way forward.

Speaking against the options of imposing sanctions against Myanmar, Mr Lee suggested against direct intervention stating outsiders have historically had very little influence on the situation in Myanmar.

"It will not be the military, or the generals who will hurt. It will be the Myanmar population who will hurt. It will deprive them of food, medicine, essentials, and opportunities for education. How does that make things better?" said Mr Lee while hoping that wisdom would prevail and the Myanmar military will realise that it will need to work out an arrangement with the civilian government.

On Monday, the US had warned Myanmar’s military rulers of more action in case the security forces continue to harm unarmed protesters.

“As the US assumes the UN security council presidency this month, it promises "intense discussions" on Myanmar. That should include pressing for a global arms embargo and sanctions on military businesses. Dare China to abandon the Myanmar people and veto,” tweeted Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

Additional reporting by agencies

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