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Myanmar ‘using battlefield weaponry’ in lethal crackdowns on democracy protests

MYANMAR’S coup regime was accused today of using battlefield weaponry in its increasingly bloody crackdown on protests.

Amnesty International said it had analysed 50 videos and concluded that “security forces appear to be implementing planned, systematic strategies including the ramped-up use of lethal force. Many of the killings documented amount to extrajudicial executions.”

Security forces have used live ammunition against protesters, causing the deaths of at least 60 people. Many more deaths were reported in attacks on protesters today and yesterday, but these have yet to be verified.

Police operations in the country’s largest city Yangon on Wednesday saw a residential area reserved for railway workers sealed off and an unknown number of residents arrested, an exercise thought to be linked to railway workers’ strike against the coup.

In other parts of the city video showed crowds being driven back with tear gas, stun grenades and bullets. Hundreds of arrests were reported.

Protests continued in other towns and cities including Mandalay, Monywa, Dawei, Myitkyina, Myitkyina, Bago, Kalaw and Myingyan.

Enormous protests have rocked Myanmar since the army seized power on February 1, arresting Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, which won elections last November with around 80 per cent of the vote.

Today the unrest spread to armed guerilla groups, with the Kachin Independence Army mounting an attack on an army base in the northern state of Kachin.

It condemned the junta’s use of lethal force against protesters. Another separatist militia, the Karen National Union of the south-eastern Tanintharyi region, said it would deploy armed fighters to defend anti-coup protests in the area.

On Wednesday night the UN security council unanimously called for a reversal of the coup and the release of imprisoned leaders including Ms Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

It called for “utmost restraint” by the junta. UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said that it was “absolutely essential to release all prisoners, to respect the results of the elections and to allow … a move back to a democratic transition.”

UN special envoy to Myanmar Schraner Burgener said she had some ideas for proposals to put to the junta and Ms Suu Kyi on a solution, but added that the army had told her “the time isn’t yet right” for her to visit the country.

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