Myanmar coup: ‘Evidence’ live bullets used against protesters, says UN envoy | Sunday Observer

Myanmar coup: ‘Evidence’ live bullets used against protesters, says UN envoy

14 February, 2021
Russia’s Sergei Lavrov had a frosty meeting with the EU foreign policy chief a week ago
Russia’s Sergei Lavrov had a frosty meeting with the EU foreign policy chief a week ago

NAYPYITAW, Feb. 13 (BBC) - Myanmar’s security forces have been using live ammunition against anti-coup protesters in breach of international law, the UN human rights envoy says.

Speaking at an emergency meeting in Geneva, Thomas Andrews condemned the leaders of the coup and said there were “growing reports and photographic evidence” of wrongdoing. He called for economic sanctions and a ban on weapons exports to the country.

Protests continued on Friday in defiance of a plea from the army chief.

Gen Min Aung Hlaing called for “unity” to prevent “disintegration” as the country marks the Union Day holiday. Demonstrators are demanding the release of detained elected leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

During Friday’s emergency meeting, Mr Andrews - the United Nations human rights investigator for Myanmar - said while investigators have been denied access to Myanmar, there was growing evidence that live ammunition had been used against protesters.

Mr Andrews said the people of Myanmar had invested their hope in the UN, and needed more than a statement on paper. He called on the UN - through the security council - to consider economic sanctions against Myanmar, a ban on arms exports, and a travel ban on military leaders.

Earlier this week, 19-year-old Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing was shot in the head and seriously injured when police tried to disperse protesters using water cannon, rubber bullets and live rounds.

She remains on a ventilator in hospital in a critical condition. The wound was consistent with one from live ammunition, rights groups said.

The UN calls for sanctions came as protests continued on Union Day, with reports of rubber bullets fired by police in Mawlamine.

On Thursday, in a TV address to the nation, Gen Hlaing said those protesting had been “incited” and again asked them to work for the country without “focusing on the emotion”.

The military marked Union Day by granting amnesty to, and ordering the release of, more than 23,000 prisoners, including 55 foreigners. Mass pardons are common on national days, often to reduce numbers in overcrowded prisons. Union Day celebrates the signing in 1947 of an agreement between the government under Ms Suu Kyi’s father, Aung San, and the Shan, Kachin and Chin people that marked the unification of the republic.

A student activist in Mandalay, Tayzar San, told the BBC he feared the prisoners were being released to attack protesters.

“The people have a very bad precedent. In 1988, the military junta released the pro-military prisoners and they disturbed our people’s peaceful demonstrations,” he said.

The crackdown on the 1988 pro-democracy uprising is believed to have left thousands dead.

In his address, Gen Hlaing called on people to stay in their houses, citing the dangers of the pandemic.

But the protests continued on Friday. They remained mostly peaceful, although Radio Free Asia footage showed police charging at protesters in the city of Mawlamine.

A Red Cross official told Reuters three people were injured by rubber bullets.

Protests have also continued in the biggest city, Yangon, the capital Nay Pyi Taw, the coastal town of Dawei, and Myitkyina in northern Kachin state, among others.

The US has been among those demanding a return to democracy and the release of civilian leaders. It has targeted a number of officials and companies with sanctions.

media captionPolice in Myanmar used water cannon and rubber bullets on protesters

The military seized control on 1 February following a general election which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won by a landslide.

The armed forces had backed the opposition, which was demanding a rerun of the vote. It claimed widespread fraud, an accusation rejected by the electoral commission.

The coup was staged as a new session of parliament was set to open. Ms Suu Kyi is under house arrest and has been charged with possessing illegally imported walkie-talkies. Many other NLD officials have also been detained.