United Nations special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, said 38 people had been killed in the southeast Asian nation yesterday.
Myanmar security forces opened fire on protests against military rule yesterday leading to the casualties, a human rights group said, 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 determined to stamp out protests against the February 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 said via a messaging app.
A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.
In the main city Yangon, witnesses said at least eight people were killed, one early in the day and seven others when security forces opened sustained fire in a neighbourhood in the north of the city in the early evening. “I heard so much continuous firing. I lay down on the ground, they shot a lot,” protester Kaung Pyae Sone Tun, 23, said.
A protest leader in the community, Htut Paing, said the hospital there had told him seven people had been killed.
Hospital administrators were not immediately available for comment.
After nightfall, Yangon residents lit candles and held prayers for the dead.
Another heavy toll was in the central town of Monywa, where six people were killed, the Monywa Gazette reported.
Others were killed in the second-biggest city Mandalay, the northern town of Hpakant and the central town of Myingyan.
Save the Children said in a statement four children were among the dead, including a 14-year-old boy who Radio Free Asia reported was shot dead by a soldier on a passing convoy of military trucks.
The soldiers loaded his body onto a truck and left the scene, according to the report.
The violence took place a day after foreign ministers from southeast Asian neighbours urged restraint but failed to unite behind a call for the release of Suu Kyi and the restoration of democracy.
Pope Francis said on Twitter: “Sad news of bloody clashes and loss of life...I appeal to the authorities involved that dialogue may prevail over repression.”
The European Union said the shootings of unarmed civilians and medical workers were clear breaches of international law. It also said the military was stepping up repression of the media, with a growing number of journalists arrested and charged.
“There must be accountability and a return to democracy in Myanmar,” the EU said.
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 US-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.
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