2021-02-20 05:24:24 | US calls for Myanmar junta to stop violence in wake of protester’s death | Myanmar

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Story by: Guardian staff and agencies The Guardian

The US has called for Myanmar’s military leaders to refrain from violence and relinquish power, as protesters from ethnic minorities planned demonstrations in support of ousted democratic leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

The US state department called for restraint following the death on Friday of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, 20, who police shot in the head at a demonstration in the capital, Naypyidaw, on 9 February.

“We reiterate our calls on the Burmese military to refrain from violence against peaceful protesters,” spokesperson Ned Price told reporters.

“We will work with partners and allies to press the Burmese military to reverse its actions.”

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, has held talks with allied countries in recent days to press for a firm international response.

The US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have announced limited sanctions, with a focus on military leaders, including banning travel and freezing assets. Japan and India have joined western countries in calling for democracy to be restored quickly.

The junta has not reacted to the new sanctions. On Tuesday, an army spokesperson told a news conference that sanctions had been expected.

A protester holds up a poster with a portrait of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who died from a gunshot wound after being shot in the head during a demonstration against the military coup.
A protester holds up a poster with a portrait of Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing, who died from a gunshot wound after being shot in the head during a demonstration against the military coup. Photograph: Sai Aung Main/AFP/Getty Images

Mya Thwate Thwate Khaing was the first fatality among opponents of the coup. She had been on life support since being taken to hospital after being hit by what doctors said was a live bullet. She has become a symbol of resistance for protesters, who have used her photos in demonstrations and unfurled banners from a bridge showing the moment she was shot.

“We will regard you as our martyr,” said one social media tribute to the young grocery store worker. “We will bring justice for your loss.”

A memorial has since appeared in the streets of Yangon, with residents of the commercial capital laying flowers and messages to the victim.

Her sister Poh Poh told reporters on Friday: “Please all join this protest movement to be more successful. That’s all I want to say.”

The army said one policeman had died of injuries sustained in a protest.

The country emerged from its sixth straight overnight internet curfew on Saturday, a measure imposed as neighbourhoods around the country began setting up watch groups to guard against evening arrests.

Internet monitor Netblocks reported that Wikipedia had been blocked, joining a list of banned content that includes Facebook and other social media services.

Protesters have been demanding the restoration of the elected government, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and others and the scrapping of a 2008 constitution, drawn up under military supervision, that gives the army a decisive role in politics.

Saturday’s protests by minority groups were planned despite some misgivings about Aung San Suu Kyi’s commitment to their aspirations for autonomy, community representatives said. Aung San Suu Kyi has been widely criticised internationally for not condemning the military’s brutal suppression of the minority Rohingyas.

Ke Jung, a youth leader from the Naga minority and organiser of the Saturday protest in Yangon, said demonstrators were demanding a federal system.

“We can’t form a federal country under dictatorship. We can’t accept the junta,” he said.

Myanmar has experienced insurgencies by ethnic minority factions since shortly after its independence from Britain in 1948 and the army has long held itself to be the only institution capable of preserving national unity.

Aung San Suu Kyi, 75, like the top generals, is a member of the majority Burman community.

Ke Jung said some minority parties were not committed to the movement against the coup.

“It’s a reflection of how Aung San Suu Kyi failed to build alliances with ethnic political parties,” he said.

“However, we must win this fight. We stand together with the people. We will fight until the end of dictatorship.”

Myanmar‘s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said 546 people had been detained, with 46 released, as of Friday.

Aung San Suu Kyi faces a charge of violating a Natural Disaster Management Law as well as charges of illegally importing six walkie talkie radios. Her next court appearance has been set for 1 March.

Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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Source References: The Guardian
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