Australia joins US, India and Japan in vowing to restore democracy in Myanmar as death toll rises

The leaders of Australia, the United States, India and Japan have released a statement, calling for the 'urgent' restoration of democracy.

A man flashes the three-fingered gesture while others hold images of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a candlelight night demonstration in Yangon.

A man flashes the three-fingered gesture while others hold images of deposed Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi during a candlelight night demonstration in Yangon. Source: AAP

Myanmar security forces killed at least 12 people, witnesses and media reported, as the acting leader of a civilian parallel government vowed in a first public address on Saturday to pursue a “revolution” to overturn the 1 February military coup.

Five people were shot dead and several injured when police opened fire on a sit-in protest in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city, witnesses told Reuters.

Another person was killed in the central town of Pyay and two died in police firing in the commercial capital Yangon, where three were also killed overnight, domestic media reported.

“They are acting like they are in a war zone, with unarmed people,” said Mandalay-based activist Myat Thu. He said the dead included a 13-year-old child.

Si Thu Tun, another protester, said he saw two people shot, including a Buddhist monk. “One of them was hit in the pubic bone, another was shot to death terribly,” he said.

Footage shared on social media late Friday showed police pulling three residents out on the streets of Thaketa township, beating them on the head and hauling them away.

"They are beating them without reason," said the person who shot the footage, which has been verified by AFP.

Protesters in the Hlaingthaya (Hlaing Tharyar) township on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, 13 March 2021.
Source: AAP

Posters spread on social media calling on people to come out on the streets to protest against the junta and to mark the death anniversary of Phone Maw, who was shot and killed by security forces in 1988 inside what was then known as the Rangoon Institute of Technology campus.

His shooting and that of another student who died a few weeks later sparked widespread protests against the military government known as the 8-8-88 campaign, because they peaked in August that year. An estimated 3,000 people were killed when the army crushed the uprising.

Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a democracy icon during the movement and was kept under house arrest for nearly two decades. She was released in 2008 as the military began democratic reforms and her National League for Democracy won elections in 2015 and again in November last year.

Protesters raise their hands with clenched fists during an anti-coup demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar on 13 March 2021.
Source: AAP

On 1 February this year, the generals overthrew her government and detained Ms Suu Kyi and many of her cabinet colleagues, claiming fraud in the November elections.

More than 70 people have been killed in the Southeast Asian nation in widespread protests since then, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group said.

The coup in Myanmar, where the military has close ties to China, is a major early test for new US President Joe Biden.

His administration flagged a virtual meeting with the Indian, Japanese and Australian leaders on Friday, the first official summit of a group known as the Quad, as part of a push to demonstrate a renewed US commitment to regional security.

"As longstanding supporters of Myanmar and its people, we emphasise the urgent need to restore democracy and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience," the four leaders said in a statement released by the White House.

A spokesman for the junta did not answer phone calls from Reuters seeking comment.

South Korea snaps defence ties

UN human rights investigator Thomas Andrews on Friday dismissed as “absurd” comments by a senior Myanmar official that authorities were exercising “utmost restraint”.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, he called for a united approach to "strip away the junta’s sense of impunity".

Former colonial power Britain warned its citizens in Myanmar to leave on Friday, saying "political tension and unrest are widespread since the military takeover and levels of violence are rising".

Security forces escalate violent crackdown on protesters in Myanmar

South Korea said it would suspend defence exchanges and reconsider development aid to Myanmar because of the violence.

The Kremlin said Russia, which has close ties to Myanmar’s military, was concerned over the mounting violence and was “analysing” whether to suspend military-technical cooperation.

"We evaluate the situation as alarming, and we are concerned about the information about the growing number of civilian casualties coming from there," Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying.

Earlier this week, the UN Security Council dropped language from a statement that condemned the army takeover as a coup due to opposition by China, Russia, India and Vietnam.

Poland’s foreign ministry said a Polish journalist was arrested this week in Myanmar, the second foreign reporter to be detained. A Japanese journalist was briefly held while covering a protest.

Riot police and armed soldiers entered the general hospital in Hakha, in the western Chin state, forcing all 30 patients to leave and evicting staff from on-site housing, said local activist Salai Lian.

Soldiers have been occupying hospitals and universities across Myanmar as they try to quash a civil disobedience movement that started with government employees such as doctors and teachers but has expanded into a general strike that has paralysed many sectors of the economy.

Additional reporting: AFP


Share
Published 13 March 2021 at 6:09pm, updated 14 March 2021 at 6:50am
Source: Reuters - SBS