Wednesday was the bloodiest day in four weeks of protests, as security forces opened fire on crowds of people across the country, killing at least 38 people. Footage and footage, captured by passers-by, local reporters and citizen journalists, showed bodies lying in the street surrounded by pools of blood as protesters ran for safety. Other clips showed police beating detained protesters and in one footage, security forces were seen beating three charity medical workers with their guns and batons.
Amnesty said that “the heartbreaking scenes currently unfolding across Myanmar show increasing evidence of greater brutality in the textbooks” under the command of coup leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.
“We are seeing an increase in unlawful killings, including apparent extrajudicial killings, without any apparent attempt to curb the use of lethal force,” Gil said in a statement. “On the contrary, the security forces seem more and more brazen in their deployment of lethal weapons with each passing day.”
On Wednesday, in the city of Myinchan, near Mandalay, Zin Ko Ko Zaw was demonstrating with his family. Video from that day shows people beating pots and pans near a line of protesters and security forces, before gunshots ring out and crowds disperse.
In the fray, Zin Ko Ko Zaw was shot in the head. His brother took him to a waiting ambulance, but it was too late.
âI had to drag his body and died in my hands,â said brother Than Zaw Oo. Blood was flowing from his mouth and from his head.
Zin Ko Ko Zaw would have turned 23 next month. His parents say he was the breadwinner, working in the local market. They were all at the protest together, but were separated when the shooting started.
“We are risking our lives to claim victory. They have no weapons, but they are fully armed. All we can do is protest. They are firing live ammunition at us, please help. us, “said her mother, Daw Htar. .
CNN has contacted the ruling military regime by email but has yet to receive a response. The military junta had previously claimed to exercise restraint towards what it called âanarchic crowdsâ. The state-run Global New Light Of Myanmar said “tough action will inevitably be taken” against “rioting protesters.”
Myanmar police told the Global New Light on Friday that “rioters armed with two weapons believed to be smoke grenades” were found in Wednesday’s protests. “The demonstrators were no longer at the normal stage of the demonstration but were armed with explosive devices and resorted to violence,” the report said, without providing further evidence.
Thousands of people from all walks of life in Burma have joined the ongoing protests and civil disobedience movements aimed at destabilizing the new military regime. The largely leaderless movement, however, is led by young people who have come of age since the military renounced half a century of direct rule in 2011, allowing for elections and greater democratic reforms.
They now feel that their future has been taken away from them.
Wearing flimsy plastic masks and helmets, young people are massively on the front lines of protests, building barricades and watching security forces. They suffered heavy losses.
The activist group Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners has identified 48 people who died as a result of the violent crackdown on protesters. Of these, half were under 25, including 17 people under 20. The youngest was just 14, the group reported.
While on Thursday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said at least five children – all boys aged 14 to 17 – as well as several young people and adults had been killed and at least four children seriously affected. wounded. The group condemned “in the strongest possible terms the use of force against children, including the use of live ammunition, and the arbitrary detention of children.”
“Our children’s legs are broken, their heads are injured, they are shot in the chest. We can’t take this anymore, they are intentionally targeting young people with a bright future,” Zin Ko Ko Zaw’s mother said. , distraught, Daw Htar.
John Quinley, senior human rights specialist at Fortify Rights, said many of those protesting were young people in their 20s and 30s.
“It is Myanmar’s next generation who want the country to be democratically ruled and governed. And they want their leaders to uphold human rights principles,” Quinley said. “And these are the people who are dying on the streets.”
One of the youngest killed is 16-year-old Nay Myo Aung. He was protesting with his cousin in Mandalay on Wednesday when police and military dispersed the crowd with tear gas. As protesters began building barricades, police then started firing rubber bullets, as well as live ammunition, his cousin said.
“I received two rubber bullets and fell, then my cousin tried to lift me up and that’s when he got shot with a real bullet,” said Hein Htet Aung, 17 years old. He added that the protesters shouted insults. security forces, but were otherwise peaceful that day.
Nay Myo Aung was rushed to hospital but died hours later from his injuries. The bullet went through his left arm and pierced his lung, doctors told the family.
His 21-year-old brother Ko Ko Lin Maung said he was a “good boy” who took care of their grandmother after their parents died.
âHe died for the country, so that’s something we can be proud of, but I only have this little brother, so I’m very sad about it,â Ko Ko Lin Maung said.
Another victim of Wednesday’s bloodshed was Ma Kyal Sin, known as Angel. Wearing a t-shirt that read “Everything will be fine,” Angel had regularly joined protests fighting for democracy, according to his friends interviewed by Reuters. She was shot in the head by security forces during a demonstration against the coup that day.
Before stepping out to protest, the dancer and taekwondo champion posted details of her blood type, phone number and a request to donate her body in the event of death on social media, Reuters said.
Video of her final moments showed her squatting in the street with other protesters, rallying crowds in Mandalay before tear gas was fired. Bullets followed.
His funeral on Thursday drew hundreds of mourners, with crowds lining the procession route in Mandalay, waving the three-fingered salute from the Hunger Games films, which was adopted by protesters as a symbol of resistance.
“She was a happy girl, she loved her family and her father loved her so much too,” her friend Myat Thu told Reuters. “We’re not at war. There’s no reason to use live ammunition on people. If they’re human, they won’t.”
Myanmar Police Force released a statement to the Global New Light on Friday saying they were investigating the death of Ma Kyal Sin. The report said police analyzed a photo of the young woman’s injury and concluded “it was not a riot gun injury.” The statement continued, if his injury had been caused by a “riot gun or live ammunition” it would not be possible “for the head of the deceased to be in good condition”.
Rights groups said the level of coordination and use of force used by the military junta in recent protests indicates they no longer intend to simply disperse protesters as a form of control crowds.
“The similar use of excessive and deadly force by security forces in towns and villages across the country demonstrates coordination between units and a comprehensive national strategy,” advocacy group Fortify Rights said Thursday. .
“This is not a non-lethal tactic to disperse protesters. This is an attack on peaceful protesters across the country,” Quinley said. “And these are not crowd control techniques, this is an attack on civilians and people protesting the military takeover.”
The UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said that “we are seeing orders ordering the police and the military to shoot people in cold blood”.
âThey use 12 gauge shotguns, they use 38mm rifles, they use semi-automatic rifles against peaceful protesters who pose no threat to them,â he said.
Despite the dangers, the demonstrators continue to return to the streets. Police opened fire on protesters in Mandalay on Friday, killing a young man, according to Reuters, citing witnesses. In Yangon, protesters were rebuilding barricades and in Lashio, Shan State, crowds sang songs and waved the three-fingered tribute.