Nineteen people have been sentenced to death in Myanmar for killing a fellow military captain, said military-owned TV station Myawaddy, the first public sentence announced since the February 1 coup and the crackdown on protesters.
- More than 600 people have been killed by Myanmar security forces cracking down on protests against the coup
- Ambassadors from 18 countries including Australia have called for the restoration of democracy and the release of political prisoners
- The UN Security Council has warned that Myanmar is on the verge of “state collapse”
The report said the killings took place on March 27 in the Okkalapa North district of Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. Martial law has been imposed in the district, allowing military courts to hand down sentences.
The military ruler who overthrew the elected government said his campaign of protest against his rule was waning because people wanted peace and would hold elections in two years, the first time frame given for a return to democracy.
Troops fired rifle grenades at anti-coup protesters in the town of Bago, near Yangon, witnesses and news reports said.
At least 10 people were killed and their bodies piled inside the pagoda, they said.
Myanmar Now News and Mawkun, an online news magazine, said at least 20 people were killed and many injured.
Junta spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told a press conference in the capital, Naypyitaw, that the country was back to normal and that government ministries and banks would soon be fully operational.
More than 600 people have been killed by security forces cracking down on protests against the coup, according to an activist group. The country came to a standstill due to protests and widespread strikes against military rule.
“The reason for reducing the protests is because of the cooperation of people who want peace, which we value,” said General Zaw Min Tun.
“We ask people to cooperate with the security forces and help them.”
He said the military had recorded 248 deaths and he denied that automatic weapons had been used. Sixteen policemen were also killed, he said.
Foreign ambassadors called for the restoration of democracy
The Political Prisoners Assistance Association (AAPP) activist group said 614 people, including 48 children, had been killed by security forces since the coup, through Thursday evening (local time).
More than 2,800 people were detained, he said.
“We are humbled by their courage and dignity,” said a group of 18 ambassadors in Myanmar about the protesters in a joint statement.
“We stand together to support the hopes and aspirations of all those who believe in a free, just, peaceful and democratic Myanmar. Violence must be stopped, all political prisoners must be released and democracy must be restored.”
The statement was signed by the ambassadors of the United States, United Kingdom, European Union, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Switzerland and several other European countries.
“Advice from neighboring countries and big countries as well as powerful people in politics, we respect them,” said General Zaw Min Tun.
He also accused members of the National League for Democracy ousted by leader Aung San Suu Kyi of setting fire and said the protest campaign was financed by foreign money, but gave no details.
Suu Kyi and many of her fellow party members have been detained since the coup.
General Zaw Min Tun said reports that some members of the international community did not recognize the military government were “fake news”.
“We cooperate with foreign countries and cooperate with neighboring countries,” the spokesman said.
Pressure is growing on the UN Security Council to act
The ousted Myanmar politician urged the UN Security Council to take action against the military.
“Our people are ready to pay whatever it costs to regain their rights and freedoms,” said Zin Mar Aung, who has been appointed acting foreign minister for a group of ousted politicians.
He urged council members to apply direct and indirect pressure on the junta.
“Myanmar is on the brink of state failure, state collapse,” Richard Horsey, a senior Myanmar adviser at the International Crisis Group, said at an informal UN meeting, the first public discussion on Myanmar by a council member.
The UN’s special envoy to Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, wanted to visit the country but said she had been rejected by the generals.
He said on Friday he had arrived in Bangkok, the capital of neighboring Thailand.
“I’m sorry the Tatmadaw answered me yesterday because they weren’t ready to accept me,” Schraner Burgener said on Twitter, referring to the Myanmar military.
“I am ready for dialogue. Violence has never resulted in a sustainable, peaceful solution.”