Protesters defy Myanmar security forces as UN action urged

Yangon, Myanmar

Demonstrators defied growing violence by Myanmar security forces and staged more anti-coup rallies Friday, while the U.N. special envoy for the country called for urgent Security Council action, saying about 50 peaceful protesters were killed and scores were injured in the military’s worst crackdowns this week.

In addition, YouTube removed five channels run by Myanmar’s military for violating its guidelines.

The escalation of violence has put pressure on the world community to act to restrain the junta, which seized power on Feb. 1 by ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Large protests against military rule have occurred daily in many cities and towns. Security forces escalated their crackdown with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests.

At least 18 protesters were shot and killed Sunday and 38 on Wednesday, according to the U.N. Human Rights Office.

More than 1,000 have been arrested, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

Protests continued in the biggest cities of Yangon and Mandalay, and elsewhere Friday. They were met again with force by police, and gunfire was heard.

In Mandalay, Zaw Myo was fatally shot in Mandalay as the 26-year-old and other residents sought to protect a march by a group of engineers.

U.N. special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said in her briefing to a closed Security Council meeting obtained by The Associated Press that council unity and “robust” action is critical “in pushing for a stop to the violence and the restoration of Myanmar’s democratic institutions.”

“We must denounce the actions by the military,” she said. “It is critical that this council is resolute and coherent in putting the security forces on notice and standing with the people of Myanmar firmly, in support of the clear November election results.”

Schraner Burgener reiterated an earlier appeal to the international community not to “lend legitimacy or recognition to this regime that has been forcefully imposed and nothing but chaos has since followed.”

She urged council members to hear “the voices of the people of Myanmar” and support Kyaw Moe Tun, the country’s U.N. ambassador who was terminated by the military after denouncing the coup in a dramatic speech to the General Assembly.

The military appointed his deputy, who resigned a day later and Tun has said he remains Myanmar’s permanent representative to the U.N.

Any kind of coordinated action at the U.N. will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, are likely to veto it.

The action by YouTube to remove the military channels came as the platform said it is watching for any further content that might violate its rules.

It earlier pulled dozens of channels as part of an investigation into content uploaded in a coordinated influence campaign.

The decision by YouTube followed Facebook’s earlier announcement that it has removed all Myanmar military-linked pages from its site and from Instagram, which it also owns.

Many cases of targeted brutality by security forces in the streets have been captured in photos and videos that have circulated widely on social media.

Videos have showed security forces shooting people at point-blank range and chasing down and savagely beating demonstrators.

The U.S. called the images appalling, the U.N. human rights chief said it was time to “end the military’s stranglehold over democracy in Myanmar,” and the world body’s independent expert on human rights in the country, Tom Andrews, urged Security Council members to watch the videos.—AFP