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Human Rights Watch: Killing of dozens of protesters in Myanmar was planned

Protesters march in Yangon on Sunday during a demonstration against the military coup. | AFP-JIJI

The killing of dozens of protesters in Myanmar in March was planned by military and security forces, Human Rights Watch said in a new report.

Researchers pored over several videos and photographs of the March 14 protest and talked to six witnesses, who described Myanmar security forces "kettling," or encircling and trapping people, on a street in a small industrial section of Yangon called Hlaing Tharyar before they opened fire and killed 65 protesters and bystanders.

“The Myanmar security forces’ massacre of several dozen people outside Yangon in mid-March was not a case of riot control gone astray,” said Manny Maung, one of the researchers at Human Rights Watch, which called the slaughter a violation of international law.

“The Hlaing Tharyar killings have the hallmarks of a planned attack on protesters for which those responsible, regardless of rank, should be held to account," they added.

After a Feb. 1 military takeover of the Southeast Asian country, Myanmar citizens took to the streets to protest the coup. The March 14 protest escalated around 11 a.m., when 200 military police trapped protesters from the east and west in Hlaing Tharyar.

During the shooting, people tried to help others who were wounded, but security forces continued to fire at them. Protesters used Molotov cocktails and rocks in response to the gunfire, according to Human Rights Watch.

Graphic videos uploaded by the organization show protesters sprinting down the street to escape gunfire. Another video on YouTube, verified by Human Rights Watch, reveals military forces standing on a bridge with rifles cocked, aiming at protesters below and allegedly shouting, "Shoot [the protesters] in the head."

Other riot police in Yangon discussed the weapons they were going to use on protesters in a video on TikTok, explaining they would "show no mercy for these people.”

More than 1,200 people have been killed in Myanmar since the military coup, Human Rights Watch says, and more than half of the country is expected to reach poverty level by next year. In response to the government's human rights violations, the U.S. has sanctioned high-ranking Myanmar officials.

But none of the military officers who organized the deadly response to protests on March 14 have been held accountable, according to Human Rights Watch.

“Hlaing Tharyar was a bloodbath for which all those responsible should be brought to justice,” Maung, the researcher, said. “Such atrocities will continue unless the UN Security Council and concerned governments take concerted action to hold Myanmar’s junta leaders to account.”


(c) 2021, The Hill



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