Death Toll Nears 240, International Pressure on the Myanmar’s Military Junta to Halt Repression of Pro-democracy Supporters Increases

Myanmar’s coup protesters are planning more demonstration as international pressure on the military junta to halt its repression of pro-democracy supporters increases.

Two people were reported to have killed when soldiers opened fire overnight in the northern ruby mining town of Mogok That took the death toll since the February 1 coup to 237, according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group. The killings have not quelled the anger over the removal of the elected government and the detention of its leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, though some protest organisers say they have to adapt their tactics.

“We protest where there are no police or military, then when we hear they’re coming, we disperse quickly,” campaigner Kyaw Min Htike told Reuters from the southern town of Dawei. In other towns, people have been gathering at night to hold up candles and protest banners and pose for photographs before melting away.

On Friday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned what he denounced as the military’s continuing brutal violence. A “firm, unified international response” was urgently needed, his spokesman quoted him as saying.

The US House of Representatives approved legislation condemning the coup and lawmakers decried the increasingly harsh tactics against the demonstrators. There are reports that authorities have tightened restrictions on internet services, making information increasingly difficult to verify, and clamped down on private media.

Ambassadors of Western countries condemned the violence as “immoral and indefensible”, in the Hlaing Tharyar industrial district of the commercial capital Yangon, where dozens were killed over several days after Chinese-owned garment factories were torched last weekend. “Internet blackouts and suppression of the media will not hide the military’s abhorrent actions,” they said in a statement on Friday.

Asian neighbours who usually not in the habit of criticizing one another, have also been speaking out to urge an end to the violence. For instance, the Indonesian President Joko Widodo said, he would ask Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to call an urgent meeting. “Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar be stopped immediately so that there are no more victims,” Jokowi said in a virtual address. “The safety and welfare of the people must be the top priority.”

Backing Indonesia’s call for a meeting, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said he was appalled by the persistent use of lethal violence against unarmed civilians. Philippine foreign minister Teodoro Locsin said that ASEAN had to act. Singapore has also spoken out against the violence and the coup that triggered it, calling for the release of Suu Kyi.

Unfortunately, the military has shown no sign of being swayed and has defended its takeover, which derailed a slow transition to democracy in a country that has been ruled by the army for most of its post-independence history.

It says a November 8 election won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy was fraudulent and its claims were ignored by the electoral commission. It has promised a new election but not set a date. Suu Kyi, 75, faces accusations of bribery and other crimes that could see her banned from politics and jailed if convicted. Her lawyer says the charges are trumped up. The Nobel peace laureate, who has campaigned for democracy in Myanmar for three decades, is being held at an undisclosed location.

The New Daily