Bloodshed continues in Myanmar as troops open fire on protesters

YANGON (REUTERS) – Myanmar troops fired at anti-coup protesters on Wednesday (April 7), killing at least seven people and wounding several, media said, as a Chinese-owned factory was set on fire in the commercial capital Yangon and activists burned the Chinese flag.

The country’s military ruler said the civil disobedience movement was “destroying” Myanmar.

More than 580 people have been killed, according to an activist group, in the turmoil in Myanmar since a Feb. 1 coup that ended a brief period of civilian-led democracy. Nationwide protests and strikes have persisted since then despite the military’s use of lethal force to quell the opposition.

Myanmar has been in chaos since a Feb 1 coup that ended a brief period of civilian-led democracy and sparked nationwide protests and strikes, despite the ruling military’s use of lethal force to quell the resistance.

Violence erupted as troops entered the protest site on Wednesday in the town of Kale in the Saigang region, a hot spot of unrest, where demonstrators were demanding the restoration of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government, a resident told Reuters.

News outlets cited witnesses saying there were casualties and repeated gunfire. Mizzima news outlet said three people were killed and posted pictures on Facebook of a fire burning near parked vehicles and soldiers with rifles in the street.

The Kale resident said the information was provided to him by witnesses, who took pictures of five bodies. Reuters could not independently verify the information.

Two protesters were killed in the town of Bago near Yangon, the Myanmar Now news outlet said.

A fire broke out in the Chinese-owned JOC Garment Factory in Yangon on Wednesday, news reports and the Fire Department said.

There were no reports of casualties and no details on the extent of damage.

The mostly youth-led movement’s ability to organise anti-coup campaigns and share information via social media and instant messaging has been severely hamstrung by curbs on broadband wireless Internet and mobile data services.

Fixed-line services, which few in Myanmar have access to, are still available.

“Myanmar has been subject to a stepwise collapse into the information abyss since February,” Mr Alp Toker, founder of Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks, told Reuters on Wednesday.

“Communications are now severely limited and available only to the few.”

With print media also halted, protesters have sought workarounds to get their message across, producing their own A4-sized daily news pamphlets that are shared digitally and printed for distribution among the public.

On Tuesday, Dr Sasa, who leads a parallel government of remnants of Ms Suu Kyi’s administration, said in a statement that its legal counsel would be submitting evidence of military atrocities to different United Nations human rights bodies.

He said lawyers for his Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) had received 180,000 items of evidence and would meet on Wednesday with representatives of an independent investigative mechanism for Myanmar.

Some 581 people, including dozens of children, have been shot dead by troops and police in almost daily unrest since the coup, and security forces have arrested close to 3,500 people, with 2,750 still detained, according to advocacy group  Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Red paint splashed on a road by protesters, representing blood spilled during demonstrations, in Myanmar’s Shan state. PHOTO: AFP

Junta ‘losing control’

Arrest warrants have been issued for hundreds of people, with the junta this week going after scores of influencers, entertainers, artists and musicians.

The country’s most famous comedian, Zarganar, whose real name is Mr Maung Thura, was arrested on Tuesday, local media reported.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab discussed how Britain and the international community could support a South-east Asian effort to resolve the crisis in Myanmar, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Wednesday, after meeting her British counterpart in Jakarta.

Indonesia is among several South-east Asian countries leading a push for high-level regional talks on Myanmar.

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Western countries including the United States, Britain and Australia have imposed or tightened sanctions on the generals and the military’s huge network of business monopolies in response to the coup, detentions and use of lethal force against demonstrators.

The European Union is expected to follow suit.

Russia, which has shown support for Myanmar’s ruling military council, on Tuesday said the West risked triggering civil war in the country by imposing sanctions on the military junta.

Fitch Solutions in a report issued on Wednesday said targeted Western sanctions alone were unlikely to succeed in restoring democracy. It predicted in the medium term a violent revolution between the military on one side and an armed opposition comprised of members of the anti-coup movement and ethnic militias.

Protesters in a demonstration against the military coup in Mandalay, Myanmar, on April 6, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

Some ethnic military groups, which control large swathes of Myanmar’s border regions, have said they cannot stand by as the junta kills people and have already engaged the military in skirmishes.

Fitch said Myanmar was heading towards being a failed state.

“The escalating violence on civilians and ethnic militias shows that the Tatmadaw is increasingly losing control of the country,” it said, adding that the vast majority of people backed the parallel government.

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