Burma: thousands of demonstrators in the streets, injured

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The repression continued Sunday in Burma against pro-democracy demonstrators who took to the streets by the thousands, with several protesters injured.

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In Bagan (center), not far from the vast archaeological site famous for its century-old pagodas, detonations were heard.

“An 18-year-old teenager was shot in the jaw,” rescuer Ko Ko told AFP, while local media reported “at least five people injured.”

In Yangon, the economic capital, the police fired again to disperse rallies, protesters chanting: “Let’s drive out the dictator!”, Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

Other rallies are held in Mandalay (center), the country’s second largest city, and Dawei (south) where several protesters have been killed in recent days.

The pro-democracy movement called for a massive mobilization on Sunday and Monday.

“If we call for civil disobedience and a strike without taking to the streets, that is not enough. We must maintain our fight at the highest level (…) We are ready to die ”, declared Maung Saungkha, one of the headliners of the protest.

State media have warned that the striking officials “will be sacked from March 8”.

Real bullets

These strike calls are having a significant impact on many sectors of the already fragile Burmese economy, with banks unable to function, hospitals closed and ministerial offices empty.

Fear is on everyone’s mind: more than 50 people have been killed since the start of the peaceful uprising against the February 1 coup.

Widely circulated footage showed security forces firing live ammunition at rallies and removing the lifeless bodies of protesters.

The Union, Solidarity and Development Party (PUSD), supported by the army, is participating in the attacks.

PUSD members killed a local representative of the National League for Democracy (LND), Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, and a 17-year-old teenager on Friday, according to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners (AAPP) .

On Saturday, the security forces continued to fire live ammunition at demonstrators, according to this Burmese NGO.

State media, for their part, deny any involvement of the police and the army in the deaths of demonstrators.

Violent raids

Raids took place overnight from Saturday to Sunday, targeting in particular LND officials. “We do not know how many people were arrested,” said Soe Win, one of the party officials.

An LND lawyer was also targeted, but security forces could not find him. “His brother was beaten (…) and tortured because there was no one to arrest”, according to a former deputy.

State media on Sunday warned MPs who do not recognize the legitimacy of the coup and have created a committee to represent the civilian government that they are committing “high treason”, punishable by death or 22 years of detention.

Local officials, politicians, journalists, activists, artists: hundreds of people have been arrested since February 1.

Those arrested in Yangon are often taken to the infamous Insein prison where many political prisoners served heavy sentences under previous dictatorships.

Faced with the deteriorating situation, some Burmese are fleeing the country.

About fifty, including eight police officers who refused to take part in the repression, reached neighboring India.

Burma demanded from India the repatriation of the eight police officers “in order to preserve good relations between the two countries” in a letter which AFP was able to consult.

Around 100 Burmese are still crowded at the border in the hope of being allowed to enter the country.

New sanctions

The generals turn a deaf ear to the concert of protests of the international community, divided on the response to be provided.

The UN Security Council failed to agree on a joint statement on Friday. Negotiations are due to continue next week, according to diplomatic sources.

Coercive measures have been announced by the United States and the European Union, but observers urge to go further with an international embargo on arms deliveries, a decision which requires the agreement of all members of the Council.

However, Beijing and Moscow, traditional allies of the Burmese army and exporters of arms in the country, refuse to speak of a “coup”, the Chinese press agency evoking, at the beginning of February, a simple “ministerial reshuffle” .

Solicited, the junta, which disputes the result of the November elections won overwhelmingly by the NLD, did not respond to multiple requests from AFP.