Myanmar’s security forces violently dispersed anti-coup rallies around the country on Sunday, with reports of at least three protesters killed in the uprising.
The junta has exceeded its use of force over the weekend against the massive street movement that demands that it give power and release the dismissed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
Police and soldiers had already fired rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons at demonstrations in recent weeks in an attempt to get the civil disobedience campaign to heel, with live rounds being used in some isolated cases.
A large number were mobilized again on Sunday morning to disperse buildings in several parts of the country that had gathered in response to online calls for protesters to once again flood the streets.
Three men were killed and at least 20 others injured when security forces moved on a demonstration in the southern coastal network of Dawei, according to a volunteer doctor and local media reports.
Pyae Zaw Hein, a rescue worker, told AFP that the trio had been “shot dead with live rounds”, while the injured had been hit by rubber bullets.
“There could also be many more deaths as more wounded continue to enter,” he added.
Local media Dawei Watch confirmed that three had died in the incident.
Officers at the Yangon commercial hub began dispersing a crowd in the center a few minutes before the planned start of the day’s protest, but it was unclear whether they used live rounds.
“Police started firing just as we arrived,” said Amy Kyaw, a 29-year-old elementary school teacher in central Yangon.
“They did not say a word of warning. Some were injured and some teachers are still hiding in the neighbors’ houses. ”
Live broadcasts on social media showed that security forces used tear gas to clear a mass of crowds in Yangon and water cannons further north in Mandalay, the country’s cultural capital.
Weeks of unrest
Since the military takeover on February 1, Myanmar has been embroiled in gigantic demonstrations and a civil disobedience campaign encouraging officials to resign.
Sunday’s action followed a similar wave of violent acts against angry but largely peaceful anti-coup rallies around the country a day earlier.
Several journalists documenting Saturday’s abuse of security forces were arrested, including a photographer from the Associated Press in Yangon.
Near the city’s main university, police fired several stun grenades to clear a crowd at a protest hotspot.
According to the assistance group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 850 people have been arrested, charged or convicted since the coup.
But strikes over the weekend were expected to raise that number dramatically, with state newspapers reporting 479 arrests on Saturday alone.
International condemnation of the coup has been fierce, with the United States, the European Union and other major powers condemning violence against protesters and demanding that the junta relinquish power.
Suu Kyi has not been seen in public since she was taken into custody during the raid before dawn in the capital Naypyidaw when the coup was launched.
She will appear in court there on Monday on obscure charges of possession of unregistered walkie-talkies and violations of coronavirus restrictions at public gatherings.
But her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP that he still could not meet the Nobel laureate before the hearing.
“As a lawyer, I trust the court and … a fair trial,” he said. “But during this time period, anything can happen.”
State media announced late on Saturday that the authorities had ended the deployment of the country’s UN envoy, who gave a passionate appeal for help on behalf of Myanmar’s dismissed civilian government.
“We need … the strongest possible action from the international community to end the military immediately,” Kyaw Moe Tun told the New York General Assembly.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the body had not heard of the diplomat’s firing and that Kyaw Moe Tun was currently Myanmar’s representative.
At least five people have been killed since the coup – four of them from injuries sustained during demonstrations against the coup.
The military has said a police officer died while trying to stop a protest.