Myanmar military, police crack down on protesters, 18 dead

Myanmar witnessed the worst outburst of violence since the military seized power last month. Police and military forces opened fire on protesters, killing at least 18 and injuring at least 30 on Sunday as mass protests called for the restoration of democracy. The fire came after deployment of tear gas, stun grenades, and warning shots into the air despite the protests having been overwhelmingly peaceful.

“It is shocking and deeply alarming that the police and military responded with lethal force against entirely peaceful protesters, leading to a surge in fatalities yesterday. These protesters must be allowed to exercise the right to gather peacefully to express their opinion about the country’s current situation,” says Deputy Director for Research of Amnesty International, Emerlynne Gil.

She condemned the violence and called for it to end, “The duty of all law enforcement, whether police and military, is to facilitate and protect peaceful assemblies. They must not harm protesters and must certainly not apply lethal force. Any measure they take to restrict these peaceful assemblies must be legitimate, proportionate, and necessary. Amid this rapidly deteriorating situation, the Myanmar security forces must immediately cease the use of unnecessary force against peaceful protesters and release all those arbitrarily arrested.”

The United Nations Human Rights Office (UNHCR) released a statement yesterday calling for a return to democracy in Myanmar, with releasing the detained leaders as the first step. The office emphasized the right of Myanmar’s people to demonstrate, “The people of Myanmar have the fundamental right to assemble peacefully and demand the restoration of democracy. These fundamental rights must be respected by the military and police, not met with violent and bloody repression.”

The overwhelmingly majority of international response to the violence across Myanmar on Sunday sends a universal condemnation of the use of such force against peace protestors. The UNHCR says in no uncertain terms, “Use of non-lethal force against non-violent demonstrators is never justifiable under international human rights norms.”

The military took control of Myanmar in early February and is currently holding Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior officials under house arrest. Ms. Suu Kyi and other officials are currently awaiting sentencing for alleged crimes and it is currently unlikely another nation will intervene. The commander-in-chief of the military, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and other senior military officials were recommended to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes by a 2018 United Nations Fact Finding report on Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis.

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