Myanmar’s military are likely to be committing crimes against humanity, the United Nations said today, adding that 70 protesters had been ‘murdered’ since last month’s coup.
Another seven demonstrators were shot dead today prompting widespread international condemnation for the crackdown – with even traditional ally China calling for ‘de-escalation.’
The UN’s top expert in the country, Thomas Andrews, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that there is growing evidence the top brass are directing crimes including ‘enforced disappearance, persecution, torture, and imprisonment.’
The junta responded to the international condemnation with a propaganda offensive against ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi who it accused of accepting £430,000 in cash and 24 pounds of gold (£490,000 worth) from a now-detained lawmaker.
Ousted and jailed former leader Aung Suu Kyi was today accused of accepting £430,000 in cash and 24 pounds of gold from a now-detained lawmaker
Seven people were killed in protests across the country on Thursday including 25-year-old Chit Min Thu who was shot in the head in Rangoon’s North Dagon neighbourhood
Anti-coup protesters retreat from the frontlines after riot policemen fire sound-bombs and rubber bullets in Rangoon on Thursday
The military, which alleges voter fraud in the recent election, claimed that the chief minister of Rangoon (Yangon) admitted to giving Suu Kyi the bribes.
Oxford-educated Suu Kyi, detained since the February 1 putsch, is already facing several criminal charges including owning unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions by staging a campaign event during last year’s election.
The fresh charges came as the United Nations condemned the use of live rounds on protesters on Thursday.
Six demonstrators were shot dead and another eight people were wounded, including at least one who was in critical condition, in central Myanmar’s Myaing township.
There was also a fatality in Rangoon’s North Dagon neighbourhood, where Chit Min Thu, 25, died after being shot in the head.
His wife, who is two months pregnant, was filmed sobbing as she held a boy in her arms.
‘He went out everyday,’ she said. ‘This morning I told him not to go. We have another child, this child and another in my womb.
‘I said “what if something happens” and I told him not to go. But he went out everyday. He said it’s worth dying for and what if everyone didn’t go out for reasons like his.’
Min Thu believed he wouldn’t get the democracy the country deserved unless he went out to demonstrate.
His mother told AFP: ‘I recently learnt that his wife is two months pregnant …
‘No one will be in peace until this situation ends. They were so cruel with my son. I never expected my son would be shot in the head… I’m worried about all the unarmed youth, they will be in trouble.’
On Thursday, state-run newspaper the Mirror carried an announcement that the Arakan Army (AA) – which fights for more autonomy for the ethnic Rakhine population in northern Rakhine state – was no longer considered a terrorist organisation.
The AA has been locked in battle with the military for nearly two years in a conflict that has left hundreds dead and forced some 200,000 civilians to flee their homes.
A demonstrator hides behind a shield during an anti-coup protest in North Dagon, Rangoon
Protesters carry metal material to build a barricade as they take part in an anti-coup protest in Rangoon
Policemen leave after destroying makeshift barricades made by anti-coup protesters in Rangoon
Policemen and soldiers leave after destroying barricades set up by protesters in the capital today
Herve Lemahieu, a Myanmar expert from Australia’s Lowy Institute, said the move was likely because the military – known as the Tatmadaw – wanted to end the distraction of fighting the AA so it could focus on the protests.
‘The Tatmadaw has many enemies, they don’t want to operate on too many fronts at once and the most pressing front at this point in time is against the ethnic Burman majority in the major urban centres,’ he told AFP.
As the crackdown continues, the Sanchaung township in Myanmar’s commercial hub Yangon had another sleepless night, as security forces raided apartments searching for lost police weapons.
‘They used sound bombs on every street,’ said one resident.
Another part of Rangoon, North Okkalapa, was also reeling after 300 arrests on Wednesday, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group.
An anti-coup demonstrator sits behind a makeshift barricade in the capital on Thursday
Protesters use large sections of pipe to form a makeshift barricade in the capital
An Amnesty International report on Thursday accused the military of using ‘battlefield weapons’ on unarmed protesters and carrying out premeditated killings orchestrated by their commanding officers.
The rights group catalogued the security forces’ use of firearms that are ‘completely inappropriate for use in policing protests’, including light machine guns, sniper rifles and semi-automatic rifles.
With international condemnation so far seemingly ignored by the junta, the United States applied fresh pressure with sanctions against two adult children of coup leader General Min Aung Hlaing.
And the Asian Development Bank announced it had temporarily suspended funding for government projects in Myanmar ‘as the international community assesses the evolving situation’.