Myanmar forces purposely killed anti-military protesters: HRW

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A new report by Human Rights Watch alleges that Myanmar security forces deliberately surrounded protesters in Yangon and used lethal force.

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A rights watchdog has found that the killing of at least 65 protesters in Yangon, Myanmar on March 14 was planned and premeditated.

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Human Rights Watch (HRW) released a report on Thursday describing the deliberate crackdown on security forces and the use of deadly force against mobs calling for the resumption of the democratically elected Aung San Suu Kyi government after a February 1 military coup. was accused of doing.

In a working-class neighborhood of Yangon, a New York-based organization, “soldiers armed with assault rifles and police attacked trapped protesters and those trying to aid the wounded, killing at least 65 demonstrators and spectators”.

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Its findings were based on interviews with six witnesses and analysis of 13 videos and 31 photographs of violence posted on social media.

The footage, reviewed by HRW, includes a TikTok video posted by a police officer in which security officers discuss the weapons they will use. One of them is heard saying: “I will show no mercy to these people.”

Following the military takeover, largely peaceful demonstrations across the country faced increasingly brutal repression. The government established by the military has described the protesters as “rioters”.

‘I will never forget’

Before dawn on March 14, the demonstrators went to Yangon City’s main Huling River Road to stage a sit-in. Security forces arrived around 10 a.m., forcing the protesters to disperse on the streets.

Based on analysis of two videos and satellite imagery, HRW said security forces surrounded or “kettles” protesters between noon and 12:40 p.m.

One protester, identified as “Jaw Jaw” to protect his identity, said security forces began with tear gas and rubber-coated bullets and then fired live rounds.

“On our side, we used slingshots and rocks, and some even threw back Molotov cocktails … Many people died before my eyes … I will never forget that day,” said Zaw Jaw .

Witnesses described situations in which they believed security forces were targeting and shooting protesters.

HRW said it confirmed witnesses’ accounts with videos showing security forces cutting down protesters’ exit routes and deliberately attacking protesters and health care workers trying to aid injured protesters. are.

It appears that at least four people were injured trying to help others. One was limp and immobile as he was carried and the other was bleeding from his back on the pavement, HRW said.

political repression

Since the military takeover, at least 1,300 protesters and bystanders have been killed, according to a detailed tally kept by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a non-profit rights group documenting political repression.

HRW’s Myanmar researcher Manny Mong told The Associated Press news agency that the breaches continued. “Whatever happened nine months ago is still important because we can and we will hold these people accountable and we can prove they did it with intent,” he said.

The organization urged the international community to “complement, strengthen and coordinate international sanctions against junta leadership and the military, responding to the ongoing human rights violations and crimes against humanity in Myanmar.”

No action has been taken against members of the security forces and no government official immediately responded to requests for comment.

“It is essential to ensure that such data are made aware that they can be tried and taken into account later,” Mong said.

Attacks on pockets of resistance to the country’s military regime have led to thousands of civilians fleeing their homes.

Aung San Suu Kyi created chaos in the country after a massive election victory for the National League for Democracy or NLD in 2015 and won re-election in 2020 by an even bigger margin, after being placed under house arrest.

The military refused to recognize the most recent election results in a February 1 coup, leading to widespread protests.

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