UN condemns junta over protesters’ death

YANGON (AFP) – The deaths of two anti-coup protesters in Myanmar sparked fresh United Nations (UN) condemnation of the country’s new military regime yesterday, as mourners prepared for the funeral of a young woman who became a national symbol of resistance to the junta.

Authorities have gradually ratcheted up their tactics against a massive and largely peaceful civil disobedience campaign demanding the return of ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Saturday marked the deadliest day yet in more than two weeks of nationwide street demonstrations when security forces fired upon a rally in Mandalay, sending the crowd fleeing in fear.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres condemned the use of “deadly violence” in the melee, which emergency workers said killed one teenager and wounded dozens more.

“The use of lethal force, intimidation and harassment against peaceful demonstrators is unacceptable,” Guterres wrote. Security forces in Mandalay, the country’s second-largest city and cultural capital, had attempted to raid a shipyard and detain port staff on strike to protest the army takeover.

Images of Mya Thwet Thwet Khine adorned with flowers are displayed on a roadside in Mandalay, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

Medical rescue workers said troops used live rounds and rubber bullets against a crowd of people who had started flinging rocks in an effort to stop the arrests.

“Two people were killed,” said Hlaing Min Oo, the chief of a Mandalay-based volunteer emergency rescue team. Another 30 were wounded, with half of the injuries from live rounds, he added.

A graphic video circulated on Facebook showing a teenaged victim, splayed on the ground and bleeding from his head as a bystander placed a hand on his chest to feel for a heartbeat.

The Global New Light of Myanmar, a state newspaper, made no mention of the deaths but blamed demonstrators for the affray and said protest leaders had been detained.

The report conceded “some” protesters had been injured by security forces, along with three soldiers and eight police officers.

Large crowds had returned to the streets of Mandalay by the morning, undeterred by the previous day’s violence, with rallies also staged further south in Yangon.

In the capital Naypyidaw, a funeral service was underway for a young protester who died on Friday after being shot in the head during a rally last week.