Myanmar’s widely filmed flare-up against protests is provoking outrage

YANGON, MYANMAR (AP) – Footage of the brutal crackdown on protests against the coup in Myanmar has sparked outrage and calls for a stronger international response on Thursday, a day after 38 people have died. The videos showed security forces shooting a man into the blind area and chasing and beating the demonstrators wildly.

Despite the shocking violence of the previous day, protesters returned to the streets on Thursday to cancel the army’s takeover on February 1 – and met with tear gas again.

The international response to the coup has been adequate for the time being, but the flood of videos shared on the internet, in which security forces are brutally targeting protesters and other civilians, has called for further action. The United States called the images terrible, the UN human rights chief said it was time to “end the strangling of the army for democracy in Myanmar,” and the world’s independent human rights expert asked the Security Council to watch the videos on Friday to discuss crisis.

The coup reversed years of slow progress towards democracy in Myanmar, which had been under severe military rule for five decades, leading to international isolation and sanctions. As generals have become looser in recent years, the international community has lifted most of the sanctions and investments.

UN Special Envoy for Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener called Wednesday “the bloodiest day” since the takeover when the army ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. They confirmed that since then, more than 50 civilian, mostly peaceful protesters have been killed by police and soldiers, including the 38 he said died on Wednesday.

“I saw some very disturbing video clips today,” said Schraner Burgener, who told UN reporters in New York via a video link from Switzerland. “One of the police beat the volunteer medical staff. They were not armed. In another video, it was seen that a protester was taken by the police and shot very close, perhaps only a meter away. He did not oppose his arrest and appears to have died on the street.

It seemed to refer to a video shared on social media that begins with a group of security forces following a civilian who appears to have just been pulled out of a building. A shot is heard and the person falls. After he raised his head for a short time, two teams drag the street by the arms of two people.

In other shots, about two dozen security forces, some with outstretched firearms, chase two people on the street, worn by many protesters. When people are caught, they are beaten and kicked several times with sticks. One of the officers is filming the scene on his cell phone.

In another video, several police officers kicked a man several times and hit a man with sticks while he circled the ground, handing over his head. The officers move in and out of the frame, get some kicks, and then accidentally leave.

While some countries have imposed or threatened sanctions in the wake of the coup, others, including Myanmar’s neighbors, are hesitant to respond. The plethora of violent images shared on Wednesday and the high mortality rate raised hopes that the dynamics could change.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Thursday called on all those with “information and influence” to hold military leaders accountable.

“This is the moment when the tables must be turned to justice and the strangling of the military in Myanmar’s democracy must end,” he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. was “shocking” because of “horrific violence,” and UN independent human rights expert in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said “the systematic brutality of the military junta is once again showing horrible”.

“I ask members of the UN Security Council to look at photos / videos of the shocking violence that escaped peaceful protesters before they meet,” he said on Twitter.

The Security Council scheduled private consultations on Friday to reverse the coup, including by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and to halt growing stagnation.

But Justine Chambers, deputy director of the Myanmar Research Center at the Australian National University, said that while the graphic images will undoubtedly lead to strong condemnation, action in Myanmar will be more difficult.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think the brutality caught on camera will change much,” he said. “I think the world’s audience around the world is not very keen on stronger action, that is, intervention, given the current state of the pandemic and the related economic issues.”

Any concerted action at the UN will be difficult, as the two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, would almost certainly veto it.

Even if the council were to take action, UN envoy Schraner Burgener warned that this could not make much of a difference. He said he had warned Myanmar’s army that the nations of the world and the Security Council could “take huge, strong action”.

“And the answer was, ‘we’re used to sanctions, and we’ve survived those sanctions in the past,'” he said. to walk. “

Wednesday’s biggest casualties were in Yangon, the country’s largest city, where an estimated 18 people died. A video taken at a hospital in the city showed mourning relatives collecting the blood-soaked bodies of family members. Some relatives sobbed uncontrollably, while others stared in shock at the scene around them.

The protesters gathered again in Yangon on Thursday. Police again tried to scatter the crowd with tear gas, while protesters again set up obstacles on the main roads.

Protests also continued in Mandalay, where three people died on Wednesday. The flight of five fighter jets flew over the city on Thursday morning for seemingly violent violence.

Protesters in the city flashed the three-fingered homage, a symbol of defiance, as they followed the funeral procession with Kyoto Sin, also known as Deng Jia Xi in Chinese, a university student who was shot in the meantime. previous day demonstration.

As part of the violence, security forces have arrested well over a thousand people, including journalists, the Political Prisoners Independent Relief Society says. On Saturday, at least eight journalists, including Thein Zaw, of the Associated Press, was detained. He and several other members of the media have been charged with violating a public safety law that could result in up to three years in prison.