Over 70 people were killed in Bago in central Myanmar on Friday as the military opened fire on anti-coup protesters and others, local media reported Saturday. Soldiers reportedly surrounded residents from early morning, using heavy weaponry. They brought the dead into a pagoda, where over 50 bodies might be, local media outlet Myanmar Now reported, citing a protest group leader who spoke with eyewitnesses. Myanmar's military-affiliated TV channel reported Friday night that 19 people were sentenced to death by court-martial the previous day over the death of an associate of an army officer, likely marking the first death sentences imposed by the junta following a February military coup. On March 27, the 19 robbed and tortured an army officer and his associate after stopping their motorbike in the township of North Okkalapa in the country's largest city Yangon, killing the latter, according to MRTV. The township is one of several in Yangon where the junta declared martial law in March. Also read:Will Myanmar learn its lessons? Out of the 19, only two are in custody, and the rest remain at large, the report said. On the country's Armed Forces Day on March 27, more than 100 people were killed by security forces across Myanmar, the deadliest day of protests since the Feb. 1 coup. Also Friday in Bago, central Myanmar, the military opened fire on anti-coup protesters possibly killing dozens of them, according to local media. Soldiers have been bringing the dead into a pagoda, where over 50 bodies might be, local media outlet Myanmar Now reported, citing a protest leader who spoke with eyewitnesses. Soldiers are said to have surrounded residents from early morning, using heavy weaponry. Troops arrived in a residential area in 10 trucks in the late afternoon and shot people, the report said. Also read:Myanmar cuts wireless internet service amid coup protests The junta's top decision-making body, the State Administration Council, indicated at a news conference on Friday that the one-year state of emergency issued following the coup could be extended. The country's Constitution stipulates that a one-year state of emergency can be extended for another year, with a general election to be held within six months after the state of emergency ends. Spokesman Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun said the council will abide by regulations, stressing that it has promised the world an election would be held. He also defended the military as a protector of democracy. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thai-based rights group monitoring the situation in Myanmar, put the death toll from the military's bloody campaign against protesters at 618 as of Friday.
Myanmar's wireless broadband internet services were shut down on Friday by order of the military, a local provider said, as protesters continued to defy the threat of lethal violence to oppose the junta's takeover. A directive from the Ministry of Transport and Communications on Thursday instructed that "all wireless broadband data services be temporarily suspended until further notice,” according to a statement posted online by local provider Ooredoo. Fiber-based landline internet connections were still working, albeit at drastically reduced speeds. Also read: Protests in Myanmar as junta chief marks Armed Forces Day Also Friday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a report saying that Myanmar's military has forcibly disappeared hundreds of people, including politicians, election officials, journalists, activists and protesters and refused to confirm their location or allow access to lawyers or family members in violation of international law. “The military junta’s widespread use of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances appears designed to strike fear in the hearts of anti-coup protesters,” said Brad Adams, Human Rights Watch's Asia director. “Concerned governments should demand the release of everyone disappeared and impose targeted economic sanctions against junta leaders to finally hold this abusive military to account.” The crisis in the Southeast Asian nation has expanded sharply in the past week, both in the number of protesters killed and with military airstrikes against the guerrilla forces of the Karen ethnic minority in their homeland along the border with Thailand. In areas controlled by the Karen, more than a dozen civilians have been killed since Saturday and more than 20,000 have been displaced, according to the Free Burma Rangers, a relief agency operating in the area. About 3,000 Karen fled to Thailand, but many returned under unclear circumstances. Thai authorities said they went back voluntarily, but aid groups say they are not safe and many are hiding in the jungle and in caves on the Myanmar side of the border. The U.N. Human Rights Office for Southeast Asia called on countries in the region “to protect all people fleeing violence and persecution in the country” and “ensure that refugees and undocumented migrants are not forcibly returned,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York. Also read: 320 killed in Myanmar military's crackdowns on protests, group says The U.N. Security Council late Thursday strongly condemned the use of violence against peaceful protesters. The press statement was unanimous but weaker than a draft that would have expressed its “readiness to consider further steps,” which could include sanctions. China and Russia, both permanent Council members and both arms suppliers to Myanmar’s military, have generally opposed sanctions. The statement came after the U.N. special envoy for Myanmar warned the country faces the possibility of civil war and urged significant action be taken or risk it spiraling into a failed state. Earlier this week, an opposition group consisting of elected lawmakers who were not allowed to be sworn into office Feb. 1 put forth an interim charter to replace Myanmar’s 2008 constitution. By proposing greater autonomy for ethnic minorities, it aims to ally the armed ethnic militias active in border areas with the mass protest movement based in cities and towns. More than a dozen ethnic minority groups have sought greater autonomy from the central government for decades, sometimes through armed struggle. Even in times of peace, relations have been strained and cease-fires fragile. Several of the major groups — including the Kachin, the Karen and the Rakhine Arakan Army — have denounced the coup and said they will defend protesters in their territories. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades languished under strict military rule that led to international isolation and sanctions. As the generals loosened their grip, culminating in Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise to leadership in 2015 elections, the international community responded by lifting most sanctions and pouring investment into the country. Also read: 93 killed in one of deadliest days since Myanmar coup
Thailand’s prime minister denied Tuesday that his country’s security forces forced villagers back to Myanmar who had fled from military airstrikes, saying they returned home on their own accord. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, nevertheless, said his country is ready to shelter anyone who is escaping fighting, as it has done many times for decades. His comments came a day after humanitarian groups said Thailand has been sending back some of the thousands of people who have fled a series of air attacks by Myanmar's military. “There is no influx of refugees yet. We asked those who crossed to Thailand if they have any problem in their area. When they say no problem, we just asked them to return to their land first. We asked, we did not use any force,” Prayuth told reporters. “We won’t push them back,” he said. ’If they are having fighting, how can we do so? But if they don’t have any fighting at the moment, can they go back first?” The governor of Thailand's Mae Hong Son province, where as many as 3,000 refugees had sought shelter, said later that those still on Thai soil were expected to return to their own country in a day or two. The weekend attacks, which sent ethnic Karen people to seek safety in Thailand, were another escalation in the violent crackdown by Myanmar’s junta on protests against its Feb. 1 takeover. At least 510 protesters have been killed since the coup, according to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which says the actual toll is likely much higher. It says 2,574 people have been detained. Protests continued Tuesday despite the deaths of more than 100 people on Saturday alone. Engineers, teachers and students from the technology university in the southern city of Dawei marched without incident. The number of protesters killed in the city rose to eight with the announcement of the death of a teenager who was shot by soldiers on Saturday as he rode a motorbike with two friends. According to local media, a hospital certificate attributed his death to “serious injuries as he fell from a motorbike.” Medical workers in Mandalay, the country’s second biggest city, honored three of their colleagues who have been killed by security forces. The two doctors and a nurse were remembered in a simple ceremony in front of a banner with their photographs and the words “Rest In Power.” At a cemetery in the biggest city, Yangon, three families gave their last farewells to relatives killed Monday in a night of chaos in the South Dagon neighborhood. Residents said police and soldiers moved through the streets firing randomly with live ammunition. The coup that ousted the government of Aung San Suu Kyi reversed the country's progress toward democracy since her National League for Democracy party won elections in 2015 after five decades of military rule. At Thailand’s Mae Sam Laep village along the Salween River, which forms the border with Myanmar, paramilitary Thai Rangers on Tuesday twice waved off a boat that had come from the other side carrying seven people, including one lying flat and another with a bandage on his head. But ambulances soon arrived on the Thai side and it landed anyway. Thai villagers helped medical staff carry the injured people on stretchers to a small clinic at a nearby checkpoint. One man had large bruises on his back with open wounds, an injury one medical staffer said could have been caused by an explosion. An elderly woman in the group had small cuts and scabs all over her face. Thai nurses in protective gear to guard against COVID-19 attended to her, giving her and others tests for the coronavirus. Another villager from the boat, 48-year-old Aye Ja Bi, said he had been wounded by a bomb dropped by a plane. His legs were hit by shrapnel and his ears were ringing, he said, but he was unable to travel to get help until Tuesday. The airstrikes appeared to be retaliation for an attack by guerrillas of the Karen National Liberation Army on a government military outpost, in which they claimed to have killed 10 soldiers and captured eight. The group is fighting for greater autonomy for the Karen people. About 2,500-3,000 refugees crossed into Thailand on Sunday, according to several humanitarian aid agencies who have long worked with the Karen. They said on Monday, however, that Thai soldiers had begun to force people to return to Myanmar. “They told them it was safe to go back even though it is not safe. They were afraid to go back but they had no choice,” said a spokesperson for the Karen Peace Support Network, a group of Karen civil society organizations in Myanmar. The army has restricted journalists’ access to the area where the villagers crossed the border. Myanmar’s government has battled Karen guerrillas on and off for years — along with other ethnic minorities seeking more autonomy — but the airstrikes marked a major escalation of violence. Political organizations representing the Karen and Kachin in northern Myanmar have issued statements in recent weeks warning the government against shooting protesters in their regions and threatening a response. They were joined Tuesday by the Three Brothers Alliance, which represent the guerrilla armies of the Rakhine, Kokang and Ta-ang -- also known as Palaung -- minorities. The alliance condemned the killing of protesters and said if it did not stop immediately, they would abandon a self-declared cease-fire and join with other groups to protect the people. Their statement, like those of the Karen and Kachin, seemed to suggest that any military response by them would be in their home areas, not in the cities of central Myanmar where the protests and repression have been the strongest. Supporters of the protest movement are hoping that the ethnic armed groups could help pressure the junta. Protest leaders in hiding say they have held talks, but there have been no commitments. The United States on Monday suspended a trade deal with Myanmar, also known as Burma, until a democratic government is restored in the Southeast Asian country. The office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the country was immediately suspending “all U.S. engagement with Burma under the 2013 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.″ Under the agreement, the two countries cooperated on trade and investment issues in an effort to integrate Myanmar into the global economy, a reward for the military’s decision to allow a return to democracy — a transition that ended abruptly with last month’s coup. The announcement Monday doesn’t stop trade between the two countries. Last week, the United States restricted American dealings with two giant Myanmar military holding companies that dominate much of that country’s economy.
Three anti-coup protesters were shot dead by security forces on Monday, local media reported, as workers staged a general strike across the country against the return of military rule.
Australia has suspended its defense cooperation with Myanmar and is redirecting humanitarian aid in the country because of last month's military takeover of the government and the ongoing detention of an Australian citizen.
Police in Myanmar’s biggest city fired tear gas Monday at defiant crowds who returned to the streets to protest last month’s coup, despite reports that security forces had killed at least 18 people a day earlier.
The hopes of building a robust democracy in Myanmar were shattered when the powerful military toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy party in a coup Feb. 1.
A young woman who was shot in the head by police during a protest last week against the military’s takeover of power in Myanmar died Friday morning, her brother said.