A man who was shot during the security force crackdown on anti-coup protesters shows a three-finger salute as he is helped in Thingangyun, Yangon, Myanma, on March 14 2021. Picture: REUTERS/STRINGER
A man who was shot during the security force crackdown on anti-coup protesters shows a three-finger salute as he is helped in Thingangyun, Yangon, Myanma, on March 14 2021. Picture: REUTERS/STRINGER

Myanmar security forces fired on prodemocracy demonstrators on Monday killing two people, witnesses said, a day after dozens of protesters were shot dead and attackers torched several Chinese-financed factories in the city of Yangon.

Supporters of detained democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi marched again including in Mandalay and the central town of Myingyan where police opened fire, two witnesses said.

“They fired on us,” said an 18-year-old protester in Myingyan. “One girl got shot in the head and a boy got shot in the face.”

The protesters took to the streets in defiance of the authorities’ escalating use of violence, with dozens killed on Sunday in the bloodiest day since the February 1 coup.

The arson attacks on Sunday provoked China’s strongest comments yet on the turmoil gripping its Southeast Asian neighbour, where many people see China as supportive of the coup.

The Chinese embassy urged Myanmar’s ruling generals to stop violence and ensure the safety of people and property.

China’s Global Times newspaper said 32 Chinese-invested factories were “vandalised in vicious attacks” that caused damage worth $37m and two Chinese employees were injured.

Japan, which has long competed for influence in Myanmar with China, said it is monitoring the situation and considering how to respond in terms of economic co-operation.

The worst of Sunday’s bloodshed came in the Yangon suburb of Hlaingthaya where security forces killed at least 37 protesters after arson attacks on Chinese-owned factories, said a doctor in the area who declined to be identified.

Martial law

Sixteen people were killed in other places, rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said, as well as one policeman.

Media said martial law had been imposed in Hlaingthaya and several other districts of Yangon, and in several parts of the second city of Mandalay.

The latest deaths bring the toll from the protests to about 140, based on a tally by the AAPP and the latest reports.

A junta spokesperson did not answer calls requesting comment.

In an apparent bid to suppress news of the turmoil, telecoms service providers were ordered to block all mobile data nationwide, two sources with knowledge of the matter said. Telecom Telenor said “mobile internet was unavailable”.

The army said it took power after its accusations of fraud in a November 8 election won by Suu Kyi’s party were rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised to hold a new election, but has not set a date.

Suu Kyi has been detained since the coup and faces various charges, including the illegal importing of walkie-talkies and infringing coronavirus protocols. Last week, a charge related to accepting illegal payments was added to the list.

She was due to face another virtual court hearing on Monday but her lawyer, Khin Maung Zaw, said the session could not go ahead because the internet was down which meant no video conferencing. The next hearing will be on March 24, he said.

Western countries have called for Suu Kyi’s release and condemned the violence. Asian neighbours have offered to help resolve the crisis but Myanmar has a long record of rejecting outside intervention.

Behind bars

Tom Andrews, the UN human rights investigator on Myanmar, appealed for UN member states to cut the supply of cash and weapons to the military.

“Heartbroken/outraged at news of the largest number of protesters murdered by Myanmar security forces in a single day. Junta leaders don’t belong in power, they belong behind bars,” he said on Twitter.

The Hlaingthaya industrial suburb is home to migrants from across Myanmar. On Sunday, security forces opened fire as black smoke billowed from factories.

China’s embassy described the situation as “very severe” after the attacks on the Chinese-financed factories and it urged authorities to “stop all acts of violence, punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law and ensure the safety of life and property of Chinese companies and personnel”.

Anti-Chinese sentiment has risen since the coup, with opponents of the army takeover noting Beijing’s muted criticism compared with Western condemnation.

China’s Global Times newspaper blamed instigators for the arson and called for their punishment. It said China is trying to promote a peaceful settlement of the crisis.

Protest leader Thinzar Shunlei Yi said Myanmar people do not hate their Chinese neighbours but China’s rulers have to understand the outrage felt in Myanmar over their stand.

“[The] Chinese government must stop supporting coup council if they actually care about Sino-Myanmar relations and to protect their businesses,” she said on Twitter.

Reuters

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