At least five protesters were killed by security forces in Myanmar, witnesses and the media reported as activists marked the day of death on Saturday for a student whose death in 1988 sparked an uprising against the military government.
Two people were killed and several others injured when police opened fire on a rally in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second largest city, a witness told Reuters. Another person was killed in central Pyay city center and two died in police shootings in the commercial capital Yangon overnight, domestic media reported.
The deaths came when the leaders of the United States, India, Australia and Japan promised to work together to restore democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
More than 70 people have been killed in Myanmar in extensive protests against a February 1 coup by the military, says the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Saturday’s protests erupted after posters were spread on social media urging people to mark the day of death for Phone Maw, which was shot and killed by security forces in 1988 within what was then called the Rangoon Institute of Technology campus.
His shot and another student who died a few weeks later sparked widespread protests against the military government, known as the 8-8-88 campaign, as they peaked in August that year. An estimated 3,000 people were killed when the army crushed the uprising, at the time the biggest challenge for military rule from 1962.
Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a democracy icon during the movement and was placed under house arrest for almost two decades.
She was released in 2008 when the military began democratic reforms and her National League for Democracy won elections in 2015 and again in November last year.
On February 1 this year, the generals overthrew her government and imprisoned Suu Kyi and many of her government colleagues, alleging fraud in the November election.
The coup in Myanmar, where the military has close ties to China, is a major early test for the new US President Joe Biden.
His administration flagged a virtual meeting with Indian, Japanese and Australian leaders on Friday, the first official summit of a group called the lighthouse, as part of a push to show renewed US commitment to regional security.
“As long-time supporters of Myanmar and its people, we emphasize the urgent need to restore democracy and prioritize strengthening democratic resilience,” the four leaders said in a statement released by the White House.
A spokesman for the junta did not respond to phone calls from Reuters for comment.
South Korea breaks off defensive ties
UN human rights investigator Thomas Andrews on Friday dismissed as “absurd” comments from a senior Myanmar official that the authorities exercised “greatest restraint”.
He spoke to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and called for a unified strategy to “remove the junta’s sense of impunity”.
Former colonial power Britain warned its citizens in Myanmar to leave on Friday, saying “political tensions and unrest have been widespread since military takeover and levels of violence increased”.
South Korea said it would suspend defense exchanges and reconsider development aid to Myanmar due to the violence.
The Kremlin said Russia, which has close ties to Myanmar’s military, was concerned about the growing violence and was “analyzing” whether to suspend military cooperation.
“We consider the situation alarming, and we are concerned about the information about the growing number of civilian accidents coming from there,” Kremlin President Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.
Earlier this week, the UN Security Council released language from a statement condemning the military takeover as a coup due to opposition from China, Russia, India and Vietnam.
Poland’s foreign ministry said a Polish journalist was arrested this week in Myanmar, the second foreign reporter to be detained. A Japanese journalist was briefly held while covering a protest.
Riot police and armed soldiers entered the General Hospital in Hakha, in the western state of Chin, forcing all 30 patients to leave and move staff from homes on the site, says local activist Salai Lian.
Soldiers have occupied hospitals and universities throughout Myanmar as they seek to overthrow a civil disobedience movement that began with government employees as doctors and teachers but has expanded into a general strike that has paralyzed many sectors of the economy.
On Friday night, large crowds gathered for evening vigils. In Yangon, they lit candles in the shape of a three-finger salute, the symbol of the movement, while saffron-clad monks gathered outside a pagoda in the northern Sagaing region.