Nation faces its bloodiest day

Breaking ranks: Kyaw Moe Tun holding up the three-finger salute at the end of his speech to the UN general assembly where he pleaded for action in overturning the military coup in New York City. Reuters

Police fired on protesters in the bloodiest day of weeks of demonstrations against a military coup and at least seven people were killed and several wounded, political and medical sources and media said.

Myanmar has been in chaos since the army seized power and detained elected government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership on Feb 1, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.

The coup, which brought a halt to tentative steps towards democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, has drawn hundreds of thousands onto the streets and the condemnation of Western countries.

“Myanmar is like a battlefield, ” the Buddhist-majority nation’s first Catholic cardinal, Charles Maung Bo, said on Twitter yesterday.

Yesterday brought a significant escalation in force, with fatal shootings of protesters in at least three cities around the country, as police and soldiers attempted to bring the civil disobedience campaign to heel.

Police were out in force early and opened fire in different parts of the biggest city of Yangon after stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up crowds.

Several wounded people were hauled away by fellow protesters, leaving bloody smears on pavements, media images showed.

One man died after being brought to a hospital with a bullet in the chest, said a doctor who asked not to be identified.

A woman died of a suspected heart attack after police swooped to break up a Yangon teachers’ protest with stun grenades, her daughter and a colleague said.

Police also opened fire in Dawei in the south, killing three and wounding several, politician Kyaw Min Htike said from the town.

The Myanmar Now media outlet reported two people had been killed in a protest in the second city of Mandalay.

Police broke up protests in other towns, including Lashio in the northeast and Myeik in the deep south, residents and media said.

Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing said last week authorities were using minimal force to deal with the protests.

Nevertheless, at least 10 protesters have now died in the turmoil.

The army said a policeman has been killed.

Meanwhile, the junta fired its United Nations ambassador on Saturday for breaking ranks to denounce the military’s ouster of Suu Kyi.

Kyaw Moe Tun on Friday broke ranks and made an emotional appeal to the international community for “the strongest possible action... to restore democracy”.

He pleaded with his “brothers and sisters” in Burmese to keep fighting.

“This revolution must win, ” he said, flashing the three-finger salute that has become a symbol of resistance against the junta. — Agencies

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