At least 18 protesters have been killed and 30 wounded by police during demonstrations against a military coup in Myanmar, according to the UN.
The United Nations Human Rights Office said today that security forces had used lethal force in several locations throughout the country today.
They said: ‘Deaths reportedly occurred as a result of live ammunition fired into crowds in Yangon, Dawei, Mandalay, Myeik, Bago and Pokokku. Tear gas was also reportedly used in various locations as well as flash-bang and stun grenades.’
It comes a month after the military staged a coup on February 1, sparking mass protests across the nation.
There were reports of gunfire as police in Yangon, the biggest city, fired tear gas and water cannons while trying to clear the streets of demonstrators demanding that the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi be restored to power.
Photos of shell casings from live ammunition used in assault rifles were posted on social media, adding to evidence that live rounds were fired.
The UN said: ‘We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protestors.’
They added that security forces have ‘targeted an ever-increasing number of opposition voices and demonstrators by arresting political officials, activists, civil society members, journalists and medical professionals.
‘Today alone, police have detained at least 85 medical professionals and students, as well as seven journalists, who were present at the demonstrations.
‘Over 1,000 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in the last month – some of whom remain unaccounted for – mostly without any form of due process, simply for exercising their human rights to freedom of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly.’
Reports on social media identified one young man believed to have been killed in Yangon.
His body was shown in photos and videos lying on a pavement until other protesters were able to carry him away.
A violent crackdown also occurred in Dawei, a much smaller city in south-eastern Myanmar, where local media reported at least three people were killed during a protest march.
The fatalities could not immediately be independently confirmed.
Confirming reports of protesters’ deaths has been difficult amid the chaos and general lack of official news.
The February 1 army takeover reversed years of slow progress towards democracy after five decades of military rule.
Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party would have been installed for a second five-year term in office, but the army blocked parliament from convening and detained her and President Win Myint, as well as other top members of her government.
Today’s violence erupted early in the morning when medical students were marching in Yangon’s streets near the Hledan Centre intersection, which has become the gathering point for protesters who then fan out to other parts of the city.
Videos and photos showed protesters running away as police charged at them and residents setting up makeshift roadblocks to slow their advance.
Nearby, residents were pleading with police to release those they picked up from the street and shoved into police trucks to be taken away.
Dozens or more were believed to have been detained.
There was no immediate word on Yangon casualties.
Sounds of gunfire could be heard in the streets and there were what appeared to be smoke grenades thrown into the crowds.
The junta said it took power because last year’s polls were marred by massive irregularities.
The election commission before the military seized power coup had rejected the allegation of widespread fraud.
The junta dismissed the old commission’s members and appointed new ones, who on Friday annulled the election results.
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