MANDALAY: Myanmar’s security forces fired live rounds and rubber bullets at protesters in the country’s second-largest city of Mandalay on Saturday (Feb 20), leaving at least two dead and about 30 injured.
Much of the country has been in an uproar since the military deposed civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup on Feb 1, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets to protest against the junta.
On Saturday, hundreds of police and soldiers gathered at Yadanarbon shipyard in Mandalay, by the Irrawaddy river.
Their presence sparked fears among nearby residents that authorities would try to arrest workers for taking part in the anti-coup movement.
Banging pots and pans in what has become a signature gesture of defiance, protesters started yelling at the police to leave and throwing rocks at them.
But officers opened fire with live rounds, rubber bullets and slingshot balls, dispersing the alarmed protesters.
“Two people were killed,” said Hlaing Min Oo, the head of a Mandalay-based volunteer emergency rescue team, adding that one of the victims, who was shot in the head, was a teenager.
“About 30 others were injured – half of the injured people were shot with live rounds.”
The rest were wounded from rubber bullets and slingshots, he said.
The death toll was confirmed by another emergency worker on the scene, who declined to be named for fear of repercussions.
“One under-18 boy got shot in his head,” he told AFP.
A volunteer doctor said of the two deaths: “One shot in the head died at the spot. Another one died later with a bullet wound to the chest.”
READ: Singapore says use of lethal force in Myanmar against unarmed protesters ‘inexcusable’ after deaths reported
The man shot in the chest was identified by relatives as Thet Naing Win, a 36-year-old carpenter.
“They took away the body to the morgue. I cannot bring him back home. Although my husband died, I still have my son,” his wife, Thidar Hnin, told Reuters by phone. “I haven’t been involved in this movement yet but now I am going to … I am not scared now.”
State television MRTV’s evening news broadcast made no mention of the protests or casualties.
Police were not available for comment.
The protests against the coup that overthrew the government of veteran democracy campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi have shown no sign of dying down. Demonstrators are sceptical of the army’s promise to hold a new election and hand power to the winner.
Authorities have arrested hundreds of people since the putsch, many of them civil servants who had been boycotting work as part of a civil disobedience campaign.
Around the Mandalay shipyard and its surrounding neighbourhood, empty bullet cartridges were found on the ground, as well as slingshot ammunition including metal balls.
One woman received a head wound from a rubber bullet and emergency workers quickly administered first aid to her.
A Facebook video streamed live by a resident on the scene appeared to carry non-stop sounds of gunshots.
“They are shooting cruelly,” said the resident, who appeared to be taking shelter on a nearby construction site.
“We have to find a safer place.”
Since the nationwide protests started two weeks ago, authorities in some cities have deployed tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets against demonstrators.
There have been isolated incidents of live rounds in the capital Naypyidaw.
An anti-coup protester who was shot in the head during a Feb 9 demonstration in Naypyidaw died on Friday.