Dozens Killed, Over 1,000 Arrested in Mass Protests After Asian Military Topples Democratic Government


Security forces in Myanmar on Saturday forcefully dispersed anti-coup protesters after a violent week that left more than 50 peaceful demonstrators dead and scores injured.

Protests were reported Saturday morning in the country’s biggest city, Yangon, where stun grenades and tear gas were used against demonstrators. On Wednesday, 18 people were reported killed there.

Protests also took place in several other cities, including Mandalay, the second-largest city, Myitkyina, the capital of the northern state of Kachin, Myeik in the far south and Dawei in the southeast.

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

The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in Myanmar, which for five decades had languished under strict military rule.

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Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party led a return to civilian rule with a landslide election victory in 2015 and an even greater margin of votes last year.

It would have been installed for a second five-year term last month, but instead Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other members of the government were placed in military detention.

Large protests have occurred daily across the country, and security forces have responded with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests.

At least 18 protesters were shot and killed last 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.

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U.N. special envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener said in a briefing to Friday’s closed U.N. Security Council meeting that “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.”

She 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.”

The Security Council took no immediate action. Council diplomats said Britain circulated a draft statement for consideration, a step below a legally binding resolution.

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

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Earlier in the week, Schraner Burgener warned Myanmar’s army that the world and the Security Council “might take huge, strong measures.”

“And the answer was, ‘We are used to sanctions, and we survived those sanctions in the past,’” she said.

A decree issued by the military and published in state media on Friday increased the potential costs of opposition, declaring that members of a self-styled alternative government formed by elected lawmakers were committing high treason, which is punishable by death.

The Biden administration last week announced sanctions against the top military officials who ordered the coup. Many of the leaders were already under sanctions because of attacks against Muslims.

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