Security forces shoot protesters

Not backing down: Protesters throwing water in an effort to control tear gas fired by police during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon. — AFP

THREE protesters were critically injured when security forces fired live rounds at anti-coup protesters in northwestern Myanmar, medics said, as regional powers met to pressure the junta over its deadly crackdown.

Myanmar has endured mass protests demanding the military release civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was detained on Feb 1 at the start of the coup.

Authorities have in response steadily stepped up its use of force, with tear gas, water canon, rubber bullets and, increasingly, live rounds.

Sunday was the bloodiest day since the coup, with the United Nations saying that at least 18 protesters were killed across the country.

In the northwestern town of Kale yesterday, another rally turned violent when security forces opened fire on protesters, according to medics who witnessed events and treated those wounded.

“About 20 people were injured in a morning crackdown by police and soldiers in Kale, ” said a rescue worker, on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussions.

Protests also continued in several different neighbourhoods in Yangon yesterday, with demonstrators wearing hard hats and wielding improvised home-made shields.

Foreign ministers from Myanmar’s South-East Asian neighbours held talks yesterday with its ruling military in an effort to quell deadly violence and open a channel to resolve its escalating political crisis.

Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi urged Myanmar to “open its doors” to the Asean bloc to resolve escalating tensions after the military coup.

After a meeting with other Asean foreign ministers, Retno also called for the release of political detainees and for democracy to be restored in Myanmar, while pledging that Asean countries would not break their non-interference pledge.

Meanwhile, Singapore’s Prime Minister called for the military to release Suu Kyi to allow the country to move forward and said sanctions would hurt the people rather than the military.

In a transcript of an interview with the BBC, Lee Hsien Loong said the military would have learnt from the past that it was in the country’s interests for it to work out an arrangement with an elected civilian government, as a military route would lead nowhere.

Asked why Singapore had not yet imposed sanctions, he said: “Outsiders have very little influence on this. You can ostracise them, condemn them, and pass resolutions or not, but it really has very little influence on what Myanmar will do.” — Agencies

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