Myanmar police fired on protesters around the country on Sunday in the bloodiest day of weeks of demonstrations against a military coup and at least 18 people were killed, the U.N. human rights office said.
Police were out in force early and opened fire in different parts of the biggest city of Yangon after stun grenades, tear gas and shots in the air failed to break up crowds. Soldiers also reinforced police.
Several wounded people were hauled away by fellow protesters, leaving bloody smears on pavements, media images showed. One man died after being brought to a hospital with a bullet in the chest, said a doctor who asked not to be identified.
“Police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force that — according to credible information received by the UN Human Rights Office — has left at least 18 people dead and over 30 wounded,” the U.N. human rights office said.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the army seized power and detained elected government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership on February 1, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.
Among the dead were three people in Dawei in the south, politician Kyaw Min Htike told Reuters from the town.
The Myanmar Now media outlet reported two people had been killed in a protest in the second city of Mandalay. Security forces fired again later in the day and one woman was killed, Mandalay resident Sai Tun told Reuters.
“The medical team checked her and confirmed she didn’t make it. She was shot in the head,” Sai Tun said.
The dead in Yangon included a teacher, Tin New Yee, who died after police swooped to disperse a teachers’ protest with stun grenades, sending the crowd fleeing, her daughter and a fellow teacher said.
Police also hurled stun grenades outside a Yangon medical school, sending doctors and students in white lab coats scattering. A group called the Whitecoat Alliance of medics said more than 50 medical staff had been arrested.
Nevertheless, at least 21 protesters have now died in the turmoil. The army said a policeman has been killed.
The crackdown would appear to indicate determination by the military to impose its authority in the face of defiance, not just on the streets but more broadly in the civil service, municipal administration, the judiciary, the education and health sectors and the media.