Myanmar police fire on protesters

YANGON, MYANMAR (AP) — Police in Myanmar’s ancient former capital, Bagan, opened fire yesterday on demonstrators protesting last month’s military takeover, wounding several people, according to witness accounts and videos on social media.

At least five people were reported wounded as police sought to break up the Bagan protest, and photos showed one young man with bloody wounds on his chin and neck, believed to have been caused by a rubber bullet.

Bullet casings collected at the scene indicated that live rounds were also fired.

The city, located in the central Mandalay region, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in recognition of the more than 2,000 pagodas or their remnants still situated there, dating from the ninth to 13th centuries, when it was the capital of a kingdom that later became known as Burma and is now Myanmar.

Bagan is best known for being one of the country’s top tourist attractions, but it has also been the scene of large protest marches against the military’s February 1 seizure of power.

Large protests have occurred daily across many cities and towns in Myanmar, and security forces have responded with greater use of lethal force and mass arrests. At least 18 protesters were shot and killed on February 28 and 38 last Wednesday, according to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office. More than 1,500 have been arrested, the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said.

Protesters take positions behind a barricade as police gather in Yangon, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

Protests elsewhere yesterday, including in the two biggest cities of Yangon and Mandalay, were also met with the use of force by police firing warning shots, and variously employing tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.

Multiple reports from Yangon said there were also police raids on Saturday night seeking to seize organisers and supporters of the protest movement.

A ward chairman from Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, which was ousted from power in the coup, was found dead in a military hospital yesterday morning by fellow residents of his Pabedan neighbourhood, according to a post on Facebook by NLD lawmaker Sithu Maung.

Suspicion was rampant on social media that Khin Maung Latt, 58, died due to a beating in custody after being taken from his residence, but no official cause of death was immediately announced.

In Yangon and elsewhere, raids are carried out nightly after an 8pm curfew by police and soldiers.

The arrests are often carried out at gunpoint, without warrants.