Myanmar’s security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to break up a protest in Yangon on Saturday, just hours after a UN special envoy called on the Security Council to take action against the ruling junta for killing protesters.
The country in Southeast Asia has been overthrown since the military overthrew and arrested elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, with daily protests and strikes that have stifled business and paralyzed administration.
Sporadic protests were held across Myanmar on Saturday and local media reported that police fired tear gas canisters and stun grenades to break up a protest in the Sanchaung district of Yangon, the country’s largest city. There were no reports of deaths.
More than 50 protesters have been killed since the coup, according to the UN – at least 38 on Wednesday alone. Protesters are demanding the release of Suu Kyi and the respect for the November election, which her party won in a landslide, but which the army rejected.
“How much more can we allow the military in Myanmar to get away with?” Special Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener told of a closed-door meeting with the UN Security Council on Friday, according to a copy of her comments reviewed by Reuters.
“It is critical that this council is determined and coherent in putting the security forces on standby and standing firm with the people of Myanmar, in support of the clear election results in November.”
A spokesman for a junta did not respond to calls and requested comments.
The army says it has been detained to stop the protests, but has said it will not allow them to threaten stability.
Hundreds of people gathered in Sydney on Saturday to protest the coup, sing and hold up three fingers, a greeting that has come to symbolize solidarity and resistance throughout Myanmar.
“We want to call on the Australian Government to work closely with the United States, Britain and the European Union and to take strong action against these military dictators in Myanmar,” said protest organizer Thein Moe Win.
In Myanmar’s southern city of Dawei, protesters shouted “Democracy is our thing” and “The revolution must prevail”.
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People have taken to the streets of Myanmar for hundreds of thousands at times, promising to continue operating in a country that spent nearly half a century under military rule until democratic reforms in 2011 that were short-circuited by the coup.
“Political hope has begun to shine. We can not lose the momentum of the revolution,” wrote a protest leader, Ei Thinzar Maung, on Facebook. “Those who dare to fight will have victory. We deserve victory.”
On Friday night, authorities disturbed the grave of a 19-year-old woman who became an icon of the protest movement after she was shot dead in a T-shirt that read “Everything will be OK,” a witness and local media said.
A witness said Kyal Sin, commonly known as Angel, was removed on Friday, examined and returned, before the tomb was resealed in Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay. The independent news service Mizzima also reported on the incident.
A military spokesman did not respond to calls for comment. Reuters could not contact police for comment.
The killing of protesters has provoked international outrage.
“The use of force against the people of Myanmar must stop now,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a tweet, calling for the release of Suu Kyi and other prisoners and for the restoration of democracy.
The United States and some other Western countries have imposed limited sanctions on the junta and the independent UN human rights investigator against Myanmar, Thomas Andrews, has called for a global arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions.
The army took power over allegations of fraud in last year’s election which had been dismissed by the election commission.
It has promised to hold a new election on an unspecified date.
That plan is rejected by protesters and by a group representing legislators elected in the last election who have begun issuing statements in the name of a rival civilian administration.
On Friday, it listed four demands – the end of the junta, the release of prisoners, democracy and the abolition of the 2008 constitution, which left significant political representation and control in the hands of the military.
A civil disobedience campaign of strikes running in parallel with the protests has been supported by many government workers including a seepage of police.
Authorities in Myanmar have asked India to return eight police officers who sought refuge across the border to avoid taking orders from the junta, an official in northeastern India said on Saturday.
The Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to a request for comment by referring to a statement issued in a press release on Friday stating that the ministry was still “establishing the facts.”