Former Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accused of breaking obscure trade and health rules, appears this Monday by videoconference in court, while security forces once again opened fire on demonstrators in the aftermath of the deadliest day of repression since the coup. At least 18 people were killed on Sunday, according to the United Nations which is based on “credible information”.
AFP has been able to confirm at this stage from an independent source ten deaths, but some reports highlight an even heavier toll than that announced by the UN.
Despite the fear of reprisals, protesters were back in the streets on Monday and tensions were high.
Near the infamous Insein prison in Yangon, security forces fired on demonstrators gathered to protest the multiple arrests the day before, according to a live broadcast on social media.
It was not possible at this point to know whether the shots were fired with live ammunition or with rubber ammunition. “We are united,” chanted the protesters.
In other parts of the economic capital, some demonstrators erected makeshift barricades with wooden panels, sofas or bamboo poles for protection. The police fired with rubber bullets in an attempt to disperse some, according to local media which reported several wounded.
Aung San Suu Kyi “in good health”
These tensions come as Aung San Suu Kyi, held in secret by the junta since his arrest on February 1, is appearing by video conference in court, his lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told AFP. She appears “in good health,” added the board, who was seeing her client for the first time, still not being allowed to meet her.
The 75-year-old former leader, under house arrest in the capital Naypyidaw, faces two extravagant charges in the eyes of international observers: she is charged with illegally importing walkie-talkies and violating related restrictions to coronavirus.
No political motive has been put forward at this stage, whereas the generals have justified their putsch by alleging “enormous” frauds in the November elections, which were won overwhelmingly by the party for the Nobel Peace Prize. After nearly a month of pro-democracy mobilization with daily demonstrations and a campaign of civil disobedience, the authorities’ response was particularly bloody on Sunday.
Three demonstrators notably died in Dawei, in the south of the country, after being targeted by “live ammunition”, according to a rescuer.
Despite the fear of reprisals, residents of the coastal city took to the streets this Monday morning to lay red flowers and light candles in front of the portraits of the victims.
Thirty dead since the putsch of February 1
“The Burmese army is a terrorist organization”, reacted on Facebook Thinzar Shunlei Yi, a leading activist. When asked, the army did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment on this information. But state media warned on Sunday that “tough action will inevitably be taken” against “lawless crowds.”
There are now around thirty dead in the ranks of demonstrators since the putsch of February 1, according to an NGO providing assistance to political prisoners (AAPP). The army says for its part that a police officer perished while trying to disperse a rally.
The police and military use of lethal weapons against largely peaceful protests has sparked a new wave of international protests. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned on Twitter “the abominable violence of the Burmese security forces”. “The use of lethal forces (…) and arbitrary arrests are unacceptable”, reacted for his part the Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres.
The Burmese ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, had himself a few days earlier in a spectacular break with the putschist generals by calling for “an end to the military coup” and “to return the power of the State to the people ”. He was removed from his post by the junta.
The numerous international protests and the announcement of sanctions by the United States and the European Union have so far failed to influence the military.
“The world must step up its response. Words of condemnation are welcome but are insufficient, ”lamented the UN special rapporteur, Tom Andrews, adding that he was going to publish on Monday a list of options to be proposed to the Security Council.
Hundreds of arrests
The waves of arrests continue. More than 1,100 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced since the coup, according to the AAPP. Official media reported 571 arrests on Sunday alone. Several journalists have been arrested in recent days, including a photographer from the Associated Press agency.
The country has been rocked by a wave of protests and a campaign of civil disobedience since the putsch that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi, 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner.
The last popular uprisings of 1988 and 2007 were bloodily suppressed by the army already in power for nearly 50 years since the country’s independence in 1948.
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