What started as a peaceful protest has turned bloody as nearly thirty-eight people have reportedly been killed in Myanmar as the military quelled protests in several towns and cities. This is the deadliest day since the demonstrations against last month’s military coup first broke out.
Four children were part of the 38 people that were killed by military forces while hundreds of protesters were arrested.
According to reports from Save the Children, a 14-year-old boy was among those that were shot dead by a soldier on a passing convoy of military trucks. The soldiers loaded his body onto a truck and left the scene.
The killings occurred one day after foreign ministers from Southeast Asian neighbors urged restraint but failed to unite behind a call for the restoration of democracy and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
United Nations special envoy on Myanmar; Christine Schraner Burgener, who spoke from New York, said,
“Today it was the bloodiest day since the coup happened on the 1st of February. We had today — only today — 38 people died. We have now more than over 50 people died since the coup started, and many are wounded.”
Ko Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners rights group, had said earlier the military killed at least 18. But the toll rose by the end of the day.
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 neighborhood in the north of the city in the early evening.
A youth activist; Thinzar Shunlei Yi spoke to Reuters via a messaging app he said,
“It’s horrific, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings.” Another protester; Kaung Pyae Sone Tun, told Reuters,
“I heard so much continuous firing. I lay down on the ground, they shot a lot,” he 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 available for comment.
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.
Suu Kyi appeared at a court hearing via video conferencing this week and looked in good health. She has been held incommunicado since the coup
The U.N. Security Council which comprises of 15-members is due to discuss the situation on Friday in a closed meeting, diplomats said.
On Tuesday, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) failed to make a breakthrough in a virtual foreign ministers’ meeting on Myanmar.
While united in a call for restraint, only four members – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore – called for the release of Suu Kyi and other detainees.
“We expressed ASEAN’s readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful, and constructive manner,” the ASEAN chair, Brunei, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Junta Senior General; Min Aung Hlaing, pledged to hold new elections but no time frame was given.