(Reuters) – Thirty-eight people were killed in Myanmar yesterday as the military quelled protests in several towns and cities, the United Nations said, the most violent day since demonstrations against last month’s military coup first broke out.
Police and soldiers opened fire with live rounds with little warning, witnesses said.
The bloodshed occurred one day after neighbouring countries had called for restraint in the aftermath of the military’s overthrow of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
“It’s horrific, it’s a massacre. No words can describe the situation and our feelings,” youth activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi told Reuters via a messaging app.
The dead included four children, an aid agency said. Hundreds of protesters were arrested, local media reported.
“Today it was the bloodiest day since the coup happened on the 1st of February. We had today — only today — 38 people died. We have now more than over 50 people died since the coup started, and many are wounded,” United Nations special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, said in New York.
A spokesman for the ruling military council did not answer telephone calls seeking comment.
Ko Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners rights group, had said earlier the military killed at least 18. But the toll rose by the end of the day.
In the main city Yangon, witnesses said at least eight people were killed, one early in the day and seven others when security forces opened sustained fire in a neighbourhood in the north of the city in the early evening. “I heard so much continuous firing. I lay down on the ground, they shot a lot,” protester Kaung Pyae Sone Tun, 23, told Reuters.
A protest leader in the community, Htut Paing, said the hospital there had told him seven people had been killed. Hospital administrators were not available for comment.
After nightfall, Yangon residents lit candles and held prayers for the dead.