Myanmar coup: Casualties rise as police step up crackdown

A violent crackdown on anti-coup protesters in Myanmar intensified on Sunday with police using live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas.

Protesters take cover in Yangon
image captionProtesters clash with police in Yangon as the anti-coup rallies continue

Huge protests in cities such as Yangon, Mandalay and Dawei have continued despite the police response.

There are reports of fatalities, although they are difficult to confirm.

The country has been rocked by protests since top government leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, were overthrown and detained by the army on 1 February.

Social media footage from Sunday showed protesters running away as police charged at them, makeshift roadblocks being erected, and several people being led away covered in blood.

The police crackdown, which began in earnest on Saturday, was extended as coup leaders sought to quash a largely peaceful civil disobedience campaign that has shown no sign of ending.

What is happening on the ground?

In the largest city, Yangon, police fired bullets after stun grenades and tear gas failed to disperse protesters. Social media images showed blood on the streets as people were helped away by fellow protesters.

A doctor told Reuters one man had died in hospital with a bullet wound to the chest.

The protesters remained defiant, with some setting up barricades.

“If they push us, we’ll rise. If they attack us, we’ll defend. We’ll never kneel down to the military boots,” protester Nyan Win Shein told Reuters.

Another, Amy Kyaw, told AFP: “Police started shooting just as we arrived. They didn’t say a word of warning. Some got injured and some teachers are still hiding in neighbours’ houses.”

Some protesters were herded away in police vans.

In the south-eastern city of Dawei, security forces moved to break up a rally.

Medical staff carry away a wounded protester in Dawei
image captionMedical staff carry away a wounded protester in Dawei

There are reports of live rounds being used. The Dawei Watch media outlet said at least one person was killed and more than a dozen wounded. One emergency worker told Reuters there were three deaths, with many more casualties feared.

Police were also cracking down on a large rally in Mandalay, where police used water cannon and fired into the air.

Protests have continued elsewhere, including the north-eastern town of Lashio.

The number of arrests since the protests began has not been confirmed. The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group has put the figure at 850, but hundreds more appear to have been detained this weekend.

Where is Aung San Suu Kyi?

Myanmar’s civilian leader has not been seen in public since she was detained in the capital Nay Pyi Taw as the coup began.

Her supporters and many in the international community have demanded her release and the restoration of the November election result that saw her National League for Democracy party win a landslide.

Ms Suu Kyi is scheduled to face court proceedings on Monday on charges of possessing unregistered walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus rules. But her lawyer says he has been unable to speak to her.

Military leaders justified the seizure of power by alleging widespread fraud in the elections, claims dismissed by the electoral committee.

The coup has been widely condemned outside Myanmar, prompting sanctions against the military and other punitive moves.

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Myanmar – the basics

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under military rule
  • Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, militants from the Rohingya ethnic group attacked police posts, and Myanmar’s army and local Buddhist mobs responded with a deadly crackdown, reportedly killing thousands of Rohingya. More than half a million Rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh, and the UN later called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
Map with Mandalay

Myanmar coup: UN ambassador fired after anti-army speech

Myanmar’s military rulers say they have fired the country’s ambassador to the United Nations after he called for help to remove the army from power.

In an emotional speech, Kyaw Moe Tun said no-one should co-operate with the military until it handed back power to the democratically elected government.

Security forces intensified a crackdown on anti-coup protesters on Saturday.

Local media say dozens were arrested, and that a woman was shot in the city of Monwya. Her condition is not clear.

The country has been rocked by protests since top government leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, were overthrown and detained after the army took power on 1 February.

What did the UN ambassador say?

Speaking at the UN General Assembly on Friday, Kyaw Moe Tun urged the international community to use “any means necessary to take action” against the military to help “restore the democracy”, saying he was representing Ms Suu Kyi’s ousted government.

“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup, to stop oppressing the innocent people, to return the state power to the people and to restore the democracy,” he said.

The speech was met with applause and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the new US envoy to the body, was among those praising his remarks as “courageous”.

People react as riot police fire tear gas during a protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar
image captionSaturday saw clashes between protesters and police using tear gas and rubber bullets

In a further show of defiance, Kyaw Moe Tun held up three fingers, a gesture against authoritarian rule that has been adopted by anti-coup protesters in the country.

Myanmar’s state television announced his removal on Saturday, saying he had “betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador”.

What happened in the country on Saturday? 

Further protests were held in several cities with water cannon reportedly deployed and journalists among dozens detained.

In the main city of Yangon, crowds of protesters were advanced upon by police firing tear gas. Witnesses who spoke to the Reuters news agency said people were arrested and beaten by police, who also reportedly fired into the air, with similar clashes reported in the second city of Mandalay.

Demonstrators move rubbish bins and tires to build barricades during a protest
image captionSome demonstrators built makeshift barricades for protection during protests

A number of local media outlets reported that a woman had been shot at a protest in the central city of Monwya, close to Mandalay. Images and an alleged identity circulated on social media but have not been independently confirmed. 

An ambulance service official later told the Reuters news agency she was in hospital, contradicting other reports she had died. 

A medic in the town told the AFP news agency he had also seen a man “severely injured” in his leg with at least 10 others treated for more minor injuries. Local media there also reported alleged beatings by plainclothes officers. 

Protesters in some places, including Yangon, were seen building makeshift barricades to try and hinder the crackdown against them. 

General Min Aung Hlaing has defended the coup he led, but at least three protesters and one policeman have died so far in violence against it.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, more than 770 people have been arrested and sentenced since the coup began. 

At least three journalists were detained on Saturday including a photographer from the Associated Press, the AFP news agency reported. 

What is the background to protests? 

Military leaders justified the seizure of power by alleging widespread fraud in November elections, which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won in a landslide.

She was placed under house arrest and charged with possessing illegal walkie-talkies and violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law. But there is growing uncertainty about her whereabouts amid reports on an independent news website on Friday that she had been moved to an undisclosed location. 

A lawyer for the 75-year-old ousted leader told Reuters he had also heard she was moved and has been given no access to her ahead of her next hearing.

The army has ordered internet blackouts and also banned social media platforms but demonstrations have continued daily. The coup has been widely condemned outside Myanmar, prompting sanctions against the military and other punitive moves. 

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Myanmar – the basics

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under military rule
  • Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, militants from the Rohingya ethnic group attacked police posts, and Myanmar’s army and local Buddhist mobs responded with a deadly crackdown, reportedly killing thousands of Rohingya. More than half a million Rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh, and the UN later called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
Map with Mandalay

Myanmar coup: Security forces intensify protest crackdown

Myanmar’s security forces intensified a crackdown against protesters on Saturday, with local reports of dozens of detentions and a woman shot.

Myanmar has seen growing unrest since the military seized power and detained key leaders in a coup on 1 February.

Local reports said a woman had been shot in the city of Monwya on Saturday. Her condition is not yet clear.

It comes a day after the country’s envoy to the United Nations pleaded with the organisation to stop the coup.

Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, speaking on behalf of the ousted government of Aung San Suu Kyi, appealed for the UN to use “any means necessary to take action” against the military to help “restore the democracy”. 

“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup,” he said, signing off his address with a three-finger salute used by pro-democracy protesters.

The country has been rocked by weeks of protests since senior government leaders, including Ms Suu Kyi, were overthrown and detained.

What happened on Saturday? 

Saturday saw further protests in cities across the country, with water cannon reportedly deployed and journalists among dozens detained.

In the main city of Yangon, crowds of protesters were advanced upon by police firing tear gas. Witnesses who spoke to the Reuters news agency said people were arrested and beaten by police, who also reportedly fired into the air, with similar clashes reported in the second city of Mandalay.

Demonstrators move rubbish bins and tires to build barricades during a protest
image captionSome demonstrators built makeshift barricades for protection during protests

A number of local media outlets reported that a woman had been shot at a protest in the central city of Monwya, close to Mandalay. Images and an alleged identity circulated on social media but have not been independently confirmed.

An ambulance service official later told the Reuters news agency she was in hospital, contradicting other reports she had died.

A medic in the town told the AFP news agency he had also seen a man “severely injured” in his leg with at least 10 others treated for more minor injuries. Local media there also reported alleged beatings by plainclothes officers. 

Protesters in some places, including Yangon, were seen building makeshift barricades to try and hinder the crackdown against them. 

General Min Aung Hlaing has defended the coup he led, but at least three protesters and one policeman have died so far in violence against it.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners monitoring group, more than 770 people have been arrested and sentenced since the coup began. 

At least three journalists were detained Saturday including a photographer from the Associated Press, the AFP news agency reported. 

What is the background to protests? 

Military leaders overthrew the elected government of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the start of the month, justifying the seizure of power by alleging widespread fraud in November elections, which Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won convincingly.

She was placed under house arrest and charged with possessing illegal walkie-talkies and violating the country’s Natural Disaster Law, but there is growing uncertainty about her whereabouts amid reports on an independent news website on Friday that she had been moved to an undisclosed location.

A lawyer for the 75-year-old ousted leader told Reuters he had also heard she was moved and has been given no access to her ahead of her next hearing.

Protesters are demanding an end to the military’s rule and want Ms Suu Kyi released, along with senior members of her party.

The coup has been widely condemned outside Myanmar, prompting sanctions against the military and other punitive moves.

The Myanmar ambassador’s emotional plea was met with applause at the UN General Assembly in New York on Friday with Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the new US envoy to the body, among those praising his remarks as “courageous”.

Myanmar's ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun holds up three fingers
image captionMyanmar’s ambassador asked for the “strongest possible action” to help

Since the military seized power, it has ordered internet blackouts and also banned social media platforms but demonstrations against the coup have continued daily in spite of the mounting crackdown. 

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Myanmar – the basics

  • Myanmar, also known as Burma, became independent from Britain in 1948. For much of its modern history it has been under military rule
  • Restrictions began loosening from 2010 onwards, leading to free elections in 2015 and the installation of a government led by veteran opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi the following year
  • In 2017, militants from the Rohingya ethnic group attacked police posts, and Myanmar’s army and local Buddhist mobs responded with a deadly crackdown, reportedly killing thousands of Rohingya. More than half a million Rohingya fled across the border into Bangladesh, and the UN later called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”
Map with Mandalay

Myanmar coup: Internet shutdown as crowds protest against military

Myanmar’s military rulers have shut down the country’s internet, according to monitors, as thousands of people protest against this week’s coup.

A near-total internet blackout is in effect, with connectivity falling to 16% of ordinary levels, NetBlocks Internet Observatory said.

The BBC’s Burmese service also confirmed the shutdown.

It comes the country sees the largest rally since the military seized power on Monday. 

“Military dictator, fail, fail; Democracy, win, win,” the crowd chanted in the main city Yangon.

Police with riot shields have blocked the main roads into the city centre.

Access to Twitter and Instagram has been blocked to stop people mobilising, a day after Facebook was banned.

The military have not commented. They temporarily blocked access to the internet following the coup on 1 February.

On Saturday, protesters including factory workers and students called for the release of those detained by the army, including elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. 

They marched through the streets of Yangon as city buses sounded their horns in support. Bystanders flashed the three-finger Hunger Games salute, which has become a symbol of defiance against authoritarianism in the region.

Demonstrators gave police roses and bottles of drinking water, calling on them to support the people not the new regime.

Riot police block a road in Yangon
image captionPolice in riot gear have blocked roads in Yangon

Myanmar – also known as Burma – has remained mostly calm in the aftermath of the coup, although some demonstrations have been held in different parts of the country.

The BBC’s Nyein Chan in Yangon says the Burmese know very well the violent crackdowns that the military is capable of. The country was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011.

But now that people have had time to digest what is happening, they are finding different ways to get their voices heard, our correspondent says.

Ms Suu Kyi is under house arrest, according to her lawyer. Police documents show she is accused of illegally importing and using communications equipment – walkie-talkies – at her home in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw.

The coup took place as a new session of parliament was set to open, following November’s landslide election win by Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party.

Many Burmese watched the events unfold in real time on Facebook, which is the country’s primary source of information and news. But three days later, internet providers were ordered to block the platform for stability reasons.

Following the ban, thousands of users were active on Twitter and Instagram using hashtags to express their opposition to the takeover. By 22:00 local time (15:30 GMT) on Friday access to those platforms had also been denied.

There was no official word from the coup leaders but the AFP news agency said it had seen an unverified ministry document that said the two social media sites were being used to “cause misunderstanding among the public”.

A spokeswoman for Twitter said the ban undermined “the public conversation and the rights of people to make their voices heard”. Facebook, which owns Instagram, called on the authorities to “restore connectivity”.

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Myanmar at a glance

Myanmar is a country of 54 million people in South East Asia which shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Laos.

It was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011, leading to international condemnation and sanctions.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent years campaigning for democratic reforms. A gradual liberalisation began in 2010, though the military still retained considerable influence.

A government led by Ms Suu Kyi came to power after free elections in 2015. But a deadly military crackdown two years later on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh.

It triggered a rift between Ms Suu Kyi and the international community after she refused to condemn the crackdown or describe it as ethnic cleansing.

She has remained popular at home and her party won again by a landslide in the November 2020 election. But the military have now stepped in to take control once more.

Map of Myanmar

After Facebook ban, thousands in Myanmar take to Twitter to plead #RespectOurVotes

Many are using the platform and pro-democracy hashtags to criticize the army’s takeover and call for peaceful protests until the result of November’s election, which was won in a landslide by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, is respected.

The hashtags #RespectOurVotes, #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar, and #SaveMyanmar all had hundreds of thousands of interactions by Friday, according to hashtag tracker BrandMentions.

The junta seized power on Monday in a coup against the democratically elected government of Suu Kyi in response to what the army said was “election fraud.” [L4N2KA47K]

Military authorities banned Facebook Inc – which counts half of the population as users – until at least February 7th for the sake of “stability”, after the junta’s opponents began using the platform to organize.

But it took several hours for internet providers to enforce the ban, during which time activists began creating Twitter accounts and sharing them on their Facebook profiles, according to a review of social media messages.

Twitter was by Friday among the top five most downloaded apps on both the Google and Apple stores, according to data from research firm SensorTower.

Out of around 1,500 new Twitter accounts reviewed by Reuters and activated in the last two days using Myanmar related hashtags, most identified themselves as being opposed to the military government, while a handful of accounts were pro-military and posted links to the junta’s press releases.

Some pro-democracy activists used the hashtag #MilkTeaAlliance, to appeal for support to cross-border youth movements pushing for democracy.

The hashtag, which started in Thailand in April, is used prominently by Hong Kong, Thai, and Taiwanese activists, with Twitter becoming a key soapbox for the region’s pro-democracy activists.

Twitter declined to comment on the surge of users in Myanmar.

Myanmar coup: Military blocks Facebook for sake of ‘stability’

Myanmar’s military rulers have blocked access to Facebook, days after they overthrew the democratic government.

Officials said the social media platform – for many in Myanmar the only access to the internet – would be blocked for the sake of “stability”.

Facebook has become a key rallying point for opposition to Monday’s coup.

In further civil disobedience, lawmakers are refusing to leave their compound in the capital, and more pot-banging was seen in Yangon.

The coup, led by armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing, installed an 11-member junta, ending a short period of majority civilian rule. 

The military said an election in November had been fraudulent – though the country’s election commission said there was no evidence of such fraud.

The elected civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, along with President Win Myint, were detained and on Wednesday police filed charges against them. 

The charges against her include possession of unlawful communication devices – walkie-talkies used by her security staff. 

President Myint is accused of breaching Covid rules while campaigning for last November’s election, won decisively by Ms Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy. 

What is Facebook’s role?

The Ministry of Communications and Information said access to Facebook would be blocked until 7 February. However, it was still reported to be accessible sporadically.

Anthony Aung, who runs a tour agency in Yangon, the main city, told the BBC at one point he still had access to the site through WiFi but not cellular data. 

He said “people around me are all rushing to download alternative apps and VPN” – virtual private networks which allow users to get round internet restrictions. 

Hours later, Mr Aung said Facebook had stopped working completely. 

Yangon student Min Htet said her education had already been suspended due to the Covid pandemic. “Blocking Facebook today means that the freedom of young people is restricted from now on,” she told Reuters.

Half of Myanmar’s 54 million people use Facebook and activists have set up a page to co-ordinate opposition to the coup.

The company allows its app to be used without data costs in Myanmar as a way of avoiding expensive telecoms data charges. 

The social media giant acknowledged the disruption, saying “we urge authorities to restore connectivity so that people in Myanmar can communicate with their families and friends and access important information”.

Telecoms company Telenor Myanmar, which is part of the Norwegian Telenor Group, said it would comply with the order to block Facebook, but suggested in a statement that this breached human rights law. 

What is happening on the streets?

A small protest has taken place in front of a university in Myanmar’s second city, Mandalay, with reports of four arrests. 

In Yangon, residents banged cooking pots for a second night running. 

A woman in the city told the BBC: “We bang drums as we want the military government and the world to know that we don’t agree with this military coup… I want our leader Aung San Suu Kyi back.” 

Protesters against the coup in Myanmar on the streets of Yangon, 3 February 2021
image captionMore protesters took to the streets in Yangon

At least 70 lawmakers with the NLD are refusing to leave a government guest house in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, and have declared what they are calling a new parliamentary session, BBC Burmese reports. 

The lawmakers are among hundreds who were confined by the military to guest houses before being told they were free to leave.

The streets are for the most part calm with no sign of major protest and a night-time curfew in force. 

However, hospitals have seen protests. Many medics have either stopped work, or continued while wearing symbols of defiance.

But a rally by thousands in support of the military, known as the Tatmadaw, took place in Nay Pyi Taw. Some waved banners saying “Tatmadaw that loves people”. 

A rally in support of the military regime in the Myanmar capital, Nay Pyi Taw, following the military coup on 1 February 2021
image captionA rally took place in support of the military regime in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw

‘Absolutely unacceptable’

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has meanwhile called for constitutional order to be re-established in Myanmar – also known as Burma. He said he hoped there would be unity in the Security Council on the matter.

“We’ll do everything we can to mobilise all the key actors of the international community to put enough pressure on Myanmar to make sure that this coup fails,” he said. 

“It’s absolutely unacceptable to reverse the result of the elections and the will of the people.

Myanmar department of agriculture workers in the capital wear red ribbons in protest against the coup, 4 February
image captionDepartment of Agriculture works wearing red ribbons in protest

Western countries have condemned the coup unreservedly, but efforts at the Security Council to reach a common position failed as China dissented. China is one of five permanent members with a right of veto in the council. 

Beijing has long played a role of protecting the country from international scrutiny, and has warned since the coup that sanctions or international pressure will only make things worse. 

Alongside Russia, it has repeatedly protected Myanmar from criticism at the UN over the military crackdown on the Muslim minority Rohingya population.

Myanmar at a glance

Myanmar is a country of 54 million people in South East Asia which shares borders with Bangladesh, India, China, Thailand and Laos.

It was ruled by an oppressive military government from 1962 to 2011, leading to international condemnation and sanctions.

Aung San Suu Kyi spent years campaigning for democratic reforms. A gradual liberalisation began in 2010, though the military still retained considerable influence.

A government led by Ms Suu Kyi came to power after free elections in 2015. But a deadly military crackdown two years later on Rohingya Muslims sent hundreds of thousands fleeing to Bangladesh and triggered a rift between Ms Suu Kyi and the international community.

She has remained popular at home and her party won again by a landslide in the November 2020 election. But the military have now stepped in to take control once more.

Map of Myanmar