Two protesters were shot dead when riot police fired rubber and live bullets at a crowd protecting government shipyard workers in Myanmar’s second largest city Saturday, the bloodiest day in the nearly three weeks since the army seized power in a coup, witnesses said.
Two dozen other protesters were wounded when security forces repeatedly raided a rally at the government shipyard in Mandalay, beating protesters with truncheons and then firing slingshots and rifles at those who resisted, witnesses from the neighborhood told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
The protesters at the Yadanarbon shipyard were trying to stop soldiers and police from storming the plant to force striking shipyard workers and other government shipping civil servants back to work after they’d walked off the job to join a nationwide civil disobedience movement against the Feb. 1 military coup.
Video footage obtained by RFA from livestreams and videos shared by protesters and citizen journalists showed crowds screaming at the crackle of several bursts of gunfire. In another scene, a lifeless young man was lying on the ground with a bleeding head wound as the others tried to help him.
Protesters said riot police used live ammunition, not rubber bullets, against protesters who were trying to repel the police, seriously injuring at least six people. At least 10 protesters were arrested, they said.
The Irrawaddy online news outlet reported that the two slain protesters were hit in their abdomens and heads, and that some of the at least two dozen people wounded by gunfire or slingshot are in critical condition.
Protesters said slingshot snipers fired marbles and other projectiles at witnesses, medics and volunteers ferrying the wounded at the scene of the deaths and injuries. Slingshot fire hit a reporter for the local newspaper Democracy Vision and damaged the motorbike of an RFA reporter on the scene.
The U.S. Embassy in Yangon issued a statement urging the army to halt the violence, and noting that Saturday’s fatal shooting came a day after the first death since the protests began, a 20-year-old protester who was shot in the head in the capital Naypyidaw on Feb. 9.
“No one should be harmed for exercising the right to dissent,” said the statement.
“We are deeply troubled by the fatal shooting of protestors in Mandalay, a day after the death of Mya Thwe Thwe Khine,” it said.
Protesters hold banners commemorating 20-year-old Mya Thwe Thwe Khine, the first protester killed in nearly three weeks of demonstrations against Myanmar’s military coup, Yangon, Feb. 20, 2021. Credit: RFA
Despite the violence, threats and arrests, protests rallies were held across the country of 54 million on Saturday, rejecting the military regime that deposed the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, arresting scores of politicians, on unsubstantiated claims that November 2020 elections were fraudulent.
An attorney for detained government leaders—Aung San Suu Kyi, president Win Myint and others—said he was still not able to see them. They were separately detained at their residences, he added.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a watchdog group, said that as of Saturday, 569 people have been arrested, charged or sentenced in relation to the military coup, with 523 still being held.
Supporters and well wishers hold a candlelight vigil for two protesters killed and dozens reported injured when riot police in Mandalay fired on protesters, Yangon, Myanmar. Feb. 20, 2021. Credit: Myanmar Celebrity TV Club 1
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Paul Eckert.