POLITICS

News24.com | Myanmar police fire stun grenades as Southeast Asian ministers aim for talks

  • Myanmar police to disperse military coup protesters.
  • Asean ministers will meet to discuss the way forward for the country.
  • Some reports indicate that police used live ammunition in Kale.

Myanmar police opened fire to disperse protesters on Tuesday, witnesses said, as foreign ministers of neighbouring countries were due to hold talks with the military in a bid to quell violence and find a way out of the crisis.

The talks will come two days after the bloodiest day of unrest since the military removed Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government a month ago, unleashing anger and mass street protests across Myanmar.

READ | Myanmar journalist arrested after overnight attack – employer

Protesters, many wearing hard hats and clutching makeshift shields, had gathered behind barricades in different parts of the main city of Yangon to chant slogans against military rule.

“If we’re oppressed, there will be explosion. If we’re hit, we’ll hit back,” demonstrators chanted before police moved in firing stun grenades to scatter crowds in at least four different places in the city.

There were no reports of any injuries in Yangon but several people were wounded in the north-western town of Kale when police fired live ammunition to disperse a crowd, according to a democracy activist and a reporter in the town.

“Several are injured, two are in critical condition,” activist War War Pyone said.

21 protesters killed

Hospitals and police in the area could not be reached for comment. The military representatives did not answer telephone calls.

At least 21 protesters have been killed since the turmoil began. The army said one policemen was killed.

The coup on 1 February halted Myanmar’s tentative steps toward democracy after nearly 50 years of military rule, and has drawn condemnation and sanctions from the US and other Western countries, and growing concern among its neighbours.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) would be frank when they meet by video call on Tuesday and will tell a representative of Myanmar’s military they are appalled by the violence.

In a television interview late on Monday, Balakrishnan said Asean would encourage dialogue between Suu Kyi and the junta.

“They need to talk, and we need to help bring them together,” he said.

Asean groups Myanmar, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam.

The military justified the coup saying its complaints of fraud in a November election won by Suu Kyi’s party were ignored. The election commission said the vote was fair.

Junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in remarks read on state television by a newscaster, said protest leaders and “instigators” would be punished and threatened action against civil servants refusing to work.

Min Aung Hlaing has pledged to hold new elections and hand power to the winner but has given no time frame.

Asean’s effort to engage with Myanmar’s military has been criticised by supporters of democracy, with a committee of ousted Myanmar lawmakers declaring the junta a “terrorist” group and saying Asean’s engagement will give it legitimacy.

Sa Sa, the committee’s anointed envoy to the UN, said Asean should have no dealings with “this illegitimate military-led regime”.

The US warned Myanmar’s military on Monday that it would take more action if security forces kill unarmed people and attack journalists and activists, which State Department spokesperson Ned Price called “abhorrent violence”.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration was preparing further costs on those responsible for the coup.

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