US orders diplomats out of Myanmar as violence spirals

YANGON (AFP) – The United States (US) yesterday ordered the departure of non-essential diplomats from Myanmar, amid growing violence following the military coup to oust civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Daily protests demanding the restoration of the elected government have been met with a military crackdown that has left more than 520 civilians dead in the weeks since the February 1 coup.

The junta’s violent response has triggered international condemnation – and threats of retaliation from some of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic armed groups.

The US State Department said it was ordering the departure of “non-emergency US government employees and their family members”.

The decision was taken to protect the safety and security of staff and their families, the State Department said.

Soldiers walk towards anti-coup protesters during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. PHOTO: AP

World powers have repeatedly condemned the violent crackdown on dissent and hit top junta cadres with sanctions. But the pressure has not swayed the generals. Last Saturday, the annual Armed Forces Day, saw the biggest loss of life so far, with at least 107 people killed.

The spiralling bloodshed has angered some of Myanmar’s 20 or so armed ethnic groups, who control large areas of territory mostly in border regions.

Three of them – the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army (AA) – on Tuesday threatened to join protesters’ fight unless the military reined in its crackdown.