Myanmar security forces kill eight protesters amid calls to end violence

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Myanmar security forces shot dead eight opponents of a Feb. 1 coup on Friday, a funeral services provider said, as Indonesia sought an end to the violence and urged that democracy be restored, in an unusually blunt call from a neighbor.

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Ousted lawmakers explored whether the International Criminal Court (ICC) can investigate crimes against humanity since the coup, while authorities arrested two more journalists, including a BBC reporter, media said.

Military and police have used increasingly violent tactics to suppress demonstrations by supporters of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but that has not put off the protests, with crowds turning out again in several towns.

Security forces used teargas to disperse protesters in the central town of Aungban and later opened fire in a confrontation as they tried to clear a protesters’ barricade, media and a witness reported.

“Security forces came to remove barriers but the people resisted and they fired shots,” one witness, who declined to be identified, said from the town by telephone.

An official with Aungban’s funerary service, who declined to be identified, told Reuters eight people were killed, seven on the spot and one who was wounded and died after being taken to hospital in the nearby town of Kalaw.

The spokesman for the junta was not immediately available for comment but has said security forces have used force only when necessary. Critics have derided that explanation.

Myanmar police talk to people gathering outside the Kamayut court in Yangon, Myanmar Friday, March 12, 2021. (AP)
Myanmar police talk to people gathering outside the Kamayut court in Yangon, Myanmar Friday, March 12, 2021. (AP)

The total number killed in weeks of unrest has risen to at least 232, according to the latest report and a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.

Police in the main city of Yangon forced people to clear protesters’ barricades, residents said, while demonstrators were also out in the second city of Mandalay, the central towns of Myingyan and Katha, and Myawaddy in the east, witnesses and media reported.

Western countries have condemned the coup and called for an end to the violence and for Suu Kyi’s release. Asian neighbors, led by Indonesia, have offered to help find a solution but a March 3 regional meeting failed to make headway.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has long held to the principle of not commenting on each other’s internal affairs but there are growing signs the Myanmar crisis is forcing a reassessment.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo called in a speech for democracy to be restored and violence to end and for Southeast Asian leaders to meet to discuss the situation.

“Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar be stopped immediately so that there are no more victims,” Jokowi, as he is affectionately known, said in a virtual address.

“The safety and welfare of the people must be the top priority. Indonesia also urges dialog, that reconciliation is carried out immediately to restore democracy, to restore peace and to restore stability.”

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