Myanmar security forces shoot dead 13 anti-coup protesters

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Mandalay, Myanmar

Myanmar security forces opened fire on protests against military rule on Wednesday, killing at least 13 people, witnesses and media reported, a day after neighbouring countries called for restraint and offered to help Myanmar resolve the crisis.

The security forces resorted to live fire with little warning in several towns and cities, witnesses said, as the junta appeared more determined than ever to stamp out protests against the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

“It’s horrific, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app.

A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment. The heaviest toll was in the central town of Monywa, where five people – four men and one woman – were killed, said Ko Thit Sar, editor of the Monywa Gazette.

“We’ve confirmed with family members and doctors, five people have been killed,” he told Reuters.

“At least 30 people are wounded, some still unconscious.” In the main city Yangon, witnesses said at least three people were killed when security forces opened fire with automatic weapons in the early evening.

“I heard so much continuous firing. I lay down on the ground, they shoot a lot and I saw two people killed on the spot,” protester Kaung Pyae Sone Tun, 23, told Reuters. He said several people were wounded and carried away.

Two people were killed in the country’s second-biggest city Mandalay, a witness and media reports said. Two people were killed in the northern mining town of Hpakant, a resident there said, and one person was killed in the central town of Myingyan.

At least 35 people have been killed since the coup. The violence came a day after foreign ministers from Southeast Asian neighbours urged restraint but failed to unite behind a call for the release Suu Kyi and the restoration of democracy.

“The country is like the Tiananmen Square in most of its major cities,” the Archbishop of Yangon, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, said on Twitter, referring to the violent suppression of student-led protests in Beijing in 1989.

Security forces breaking up protests in Yangon detained about 300 protesters, the Myanmar Now news agency reported.

Video posted on social media showed lines of young men, hands on heads, filing into army trucks as police and soldiers stood guard. Reuters was unable to verify the footage.

Images of a 19-year-old woman, one of the two shot dead in Mandalay, showed her wearing a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK”.

Police in Yangon ordered three medics out of an ambulance, shot up the windscreen and then kicked and beat the workers with gun butts and batons, video broadcast by U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia showed. Reuters was unable to verify the video independently.

Democracy activist Esther Ze Naw told Reuters that the sacrifices of those who died would not be in vain.

“We will continue this fight and win. We shall overcome this and win,” she said.
On Tuesday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to make a breakthrough in a virtual foreign ministers’ meeting on Myanmar.—AFP