At Least 18 Killed in Myanmar Coup Protests

Myanmar security forces open fire on demonstrators angry about Feb. 1 military coup.

By UCA News reporter

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon has called for patience and tolerance as at least 18 anti-coup protesters were shot dead by Myanmar security forces on Feb. 28, the bloodiest day since the Feb. 1 military coup.

He said the streets of Myanmar have seen so much pain, suffering and resistance.

“Let us all believe in the power of love and reconciliation,” Cardinal Bo said in a Feb. 28 homily.

“We are all sons and daughters of the same land, same mother Myanmar, and we need to exercise patience and tolerance.

“If you want to be a leader, you must serve. Service is the greatest power, not guns. Make peace our destiny, not conflict. Arms are useless. Rearm ourselves with reconciliation and dialogue.”

Hundreds of Catholic laypeople joined by priests and nuns marched in Mandalay on Feb. 28 saying the rosary and calling for a peaceful solution to the crisis.

Demonstrators flash the three-finger salute March 1, 2021, during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Demonstrators flash the three-finger salute March 1, 2021, during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. (CNS photo/Reuters)

The second Sunday of Lent saw violence erupt in Yangon, Mandalay, Dawei, Myeik, Bago and Pokokku when police and soldiers opened fire on crowds protesting against military rule.

The United Nations rights office said at least 18 people were killed and more than 30 wounded. Some media reported that as many as 26 died.

Tear gas was also reportedly used in various locations as well as flash-bang and stun grenades.

The intensive crackdown has drawn strong condemnation from the UN, the European Union and other countries including the US.

U.N. spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said: “We strongly condemn the escalating violence against protests in Myanmar and call on the military to immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters.”

Tom Andrews, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said it was clear the junta’s assault would continue, so the international community needed to ratchet up its response.

“Words of condemnation are welcome but insufficient. We must act,” he said.

Andrews proposed a global arms embargo, more sanctions from more countries, sanctions on the military’s businesses and a U.N. Security Council referral to the International Criminal Court.

Police gesture toward protesters as security forces crack down on demonstrations against the military coup in Yangon on Feb. 28. At least 18 protesters were shot dead. (Photo: Sai Aung Main/AFP)

Police gesture toward protesters as security forces crack down on demonstrations against the military coup in Yangon on Feb. 28. At least 18 protesters were shot dead. (Photo: Sai Aung Main/AFP)

The assault on peaceful protests came two days after Myanmar’s envoy to the U.N. broke rank in a rare speech against the military regime and called for international action to help reverse the coup.

Kyaw Moe Tu urged the U.N. Security Council and the world to use “any means necessary to rescue the people of Myanmar and hold the military to account.”

Despite the bloody crackdown, hundreds of protesters continued to hold peaceful protests in Yangon and Mandalay on March 1 by defying the junta’s order.

Myanmar has been in political turmoil since the army seized power and detained elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi after alleging fraud in the November 2020 election her National League for Democracy party won by a landslide.

The impoverished nation, which was ruled by the military for more than five decades, has seen daily protests following the coup that abruptly ended a 10-year experiment with democracy.

Feature image: Protesters take shelter behind shields as they clash with riot police officers March 1, 2021, during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar. (CNS photo/Reuters)

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The Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) is a ministry that provides news, features and multimedia content on social, political and religious developments of interest to the Catholic Church in Asia. www.ucanews.com