At least 33 protesters were killed by Myanmar security forces on Wednesday, the highest number since a Feb. 1 military coup, according to a compilation of local reports.
The data, mostly from local media and Facebook postings, was compiled by a data professional in Yangon, the country’s largest city. It many cases it includes the victims’ names, ages, hometowns and where and how they were killed.
It was hard to independently confirm most of the reported deaths, but a sampling of online postings matched what is included in the compilation. The person who compiled the information asked to remain anonymous because of fears of reprisals from the military government. He said 18 people were killed Wednesday in Yangon.
Videos from various locations showed security forces firing slingshots at demonstrators, chasing them down and even brutally beating an ambulance crew.
Demonstrators have regularly flooded the streets of cities across the country since the military seized power on Feb. 1 and ousted the elected government of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Their numbers have remained high even as security forces have repeatedly fired tear gas, rubber bullets and live rounds to disperse the crowds, and arrested protesters en masse.
The intensifying standoff is unfortunately familiar in the country with a long history of peaceful resistance to military rule — and brutal crackdowns. The coup reversed years of slow progress toward democracy in the Southeast Asian nation after five decades of military rule.
According to the United Nations Human Rights Office, security forces killed at least 18 protesters Sunday. On Wednesday, there were reports of eight more deaths in four different cities, including a 14-year-old boy.
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Security forces have also arrested hundreds of people at protests, including journalists. On Saturday, at least eight journalists, including Thein Zaw of The Associated Press, were detained. A video shows he had moved out of the way as police charged down a street at protesters, but then was seized by police officers, who handcuffed him and held him briefly in a chokehold before marching him away.
He has been charged with violating a public safety law that could see him imprisoned for up to three years.
The escalation of the crackdown has led to increased diplomatic efforts to resolve Myanmar’s political crisis — but there appear to be few viable options.
The UN Security Council is expected to hold a closed meeting on the situation on Friday, council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized the give the information before the official announcement. The United Kingdom requested the meeting, they said.
Still, any kind of coordinated action at the United Nations will be difficult since two permanent members of the Security Council, China and Russia, would almost certainly veto it. Some countries have imposed or are considering imposing their own sanctions.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member, held a teleconference meeting of foreign ministers on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.
But there, too, action is unlikely. The regional group of 10 nations has a tradition of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. A statement by the chair after the meeting merely called for an end to violence and for talks on how to reach a peaceful settlement.
Ignoring that appeal, Myanmar’s security forces on Wednesday continued to attack peaceful protesters.