Myanmar security forces again met with deadly force on Saturday against protests against the military takeover last month, killing at least four people by shooting live ammunition at protesters.
Three deaths have been reported in Mandalay, the country’s second largest city, and one in Pyay, a city in southern Myanmar. There were multiple reports of the deaths on social media, as well as photos of the dead and wounded in both locations.
The UN independent human rights expert for Myanmar Tom Andrews said Thursday that “credible reports” indicated that security forces in the Southeast Asian nation had killed at least 70 people to date, citing growing evidence of crimes against humanity since the military began The elected had ousted the government of Aung San Suu Kyi
According to reports on social media, three people were shot dead on Friday evening in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city, where residents braved a 8 p.m. curfew to take to the streets last week.
Two gunfire deaths were reported in Yangon’s Thaketa Township, during which a protest in front of a police station was broken up. A crowd had gathered there to demand the release of three young men who had been confiscated from their home on Friday evening. Photos of the bodies of two dead protesters have been posted online. The other reported fatality on Friday night was a 19-year-old man who was shot dead in the Hlaing community.
The nightly protests may reflect a more aggressive approach to self-defense that has been advocated by some protesters. Police had aggressively patrolled residential areas at night, shooting in the air and firing tranquilizers to intimidate themselves. They have also carried out targeted raids and removed people from their homes with minimal resistance. In at least two known cases, the detainees died within hours of their release from custody.
Another possible indication of increased resistance came on Saturday with photos published online of a railway bridge that is said to have been damaged by an explosive charge.
The bridge has been described in several reports as a railway line from Mandalay to Myitkyina, the capital of the northern state of Kachin. The photos show damage to a part of a concrete beam.
No one took responsibility for the action, but it could serve a twofold purpose.
It could be seen as support for the nationwide strike by state railway workers who are part of the civil disobedience movement against the coup.
At the same time, this could aim to disrupt the junta’s ability to reinforce its troops in Kachin, a state whose residents have long been at odds with the central government. The Kachin ethnic minority are setting up their own well-trained and equipped guerrillas, and there has been outrage in Myitkyina that security forces have killed anti-coup protesters there.
The prospect of sabotage has been openly discussed by some protesters, who warn that they could blow up a pipeline supplying China with natural gas. You see China as the main supporter of the junta, although Beijing has slightly criticized the coup in its public comments.
In Washington, the Biden administration announced on Friday that it would offer Myanmar people temporary legal residency, citing the takeover of the military and ongoing lethal violence against civilians.
Homeland Security Minister Alejandro Mayorkas said it would take 18 months to grant temporary protection status to people from Myanmar. The offer of temporary legal residence is for people who are already in the United States. Mayorkas said in a statement that deteriorating conditions in Myanmar would make it difficult for these people to return home safely.
The February 1 coup reversed years of slow progress towards democracy in Myanmar that had suffered for five decades under strict military rule and resulted in international isolation and sanctions.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party led to a return to civilian rule in 2015 with a landslide election victory and even greater voting leeway last year. It would have been installed last month for a second five-year term, but instead Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and other members of the government have been taken into military custody.