March 1 (UPI) — Myanmar’s military opened fire on protesters demonstrating against a Feb. 1 coup on Sunday, killing at least 18 people and injuring more than 30, the United Nations said.
The military, also known as the Tatmadaw, used live rounds along with “less-than-lethal force,” including tear gas and flash-bang and stun grenades, against crowds in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, as well as Dawei, Mandalay, Myiek, Bago and Pokokku, the U.N. Human Rights Office, or OHCHR, said in a statement.
OHCHR spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani added that more than 1,000 individuals have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in the last month, including at least 85 medical professionals and students, as well as seven journalists present at the demonstrations on Sunday.
“Use of lethal force against non-violent demonstrators is never justifiable under international human rights norms,” Shamdasani said. “Since the beginning of the coup d’etat … the police and security forces have targeted an ever-increasing number of opposition voices and demonstrators by arresting political officials, activists, civil society members, journalists and medical professionals.”
Sunday’s violence was an escalation from previous measures used against demonstrators protesting its forceful takeover of the government and detention of its civilian leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratically elected officials, after the military deployed rubber bullets, tear gas and stun grenades against those opposing the coup on Saturday.
Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, condemned the escalation as “outrageous and unacceptable” in a statement issued on Twitter.
“Live ammunition should not be used to control or disperse protests and lethal force can only be used to protect life or prevent serious injury,” he said. “Any deaths and serious injuries should be promptly and impartially investigated. Those found responsible for any unlawful acts should be held accountable.”