Security forces in Myanmar fired on protesters on Sunday, killing at least 18 people and leaving more than 30 others injured in the deadliest day of demonstrations since the February 1 military coup, according to the U.N. human rights office.
“Throughout the day, in several locations throughout the country, police and military forces have confronted peaceful demonstrations, using lethal force and less-than-lethal force,” said a statement from U.N. human rights office spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.
The statement called on the military to “immediately halt the use of force against peaceful protesters.”
Shortly after on Sunday, the U.N. special rapporteur, Tom Andrews, released a statement that listed “options” for U.N. member states and the security council to take action.
“As the military junta of Myanmar ratchets up its violence against the people, I believe it is imperative that the international community ratchet up its response,” Andrews said.
Among the options laid out in his statement are a global arms embargo, sanctions against businesses owned or controlled by the junta, and the convening of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the issue. On sanctions, Andrews urged countries that have already established some to “immediately consider more.”
Witnesses to Sunday’s bloody protests say police used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and in some cases live ammunition in the country’s biggest city, Yangon. According to the Associated Press, photos of shell cases from live ammunition were posted on social media. Media videos show demonstrators dragging some of those injured away from the protests, leaving bloody smears on pavement.
The new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, tweeted, “We stand in solidarity with the people of Burma, who have displayed determination and courage in rejecting this military coup,” as she used another name for Myanmar. She also said, “We stand with them as they call for a return to peace, democratic governance, and rule of law.”
Witnesses say police used tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon and in some cases live ammunition in the country’s biggest city, Yangon. According to the Associated Press, photos of shell cases from live ammunition were posted on social media. Media videos show demonstrators dragging some of those injured away from the protests, leaving bloody smears on pavement.
Police also aggressively sought to break up protests in other cities, including Mandalay and Dawei.
Popular protests have been staged across Myanmar on a daily basis since the military detained de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other members of the civilian government last month, claiming widespread fraud in last November’s election, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won in a landslide.
The European Union condemned violence against protesters Sunday, calling security forces shooting unarmed citizens a “blatant disregard for international law.”
“The military authorities must immediately stop the use of force against civilians and allow the population to express their right to freedom of expression and assembly,” EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in a statement.
Last week, junta commander Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the military was using “minimal force” to deal with protests. But at least 21 protesters have been confirmed killed during demonstrations, and the army has said one policeman has been killed.
The junta has declared a one-year state of emergency. Its commander, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, has pledged that new elections will be held to bring about a “true and disciplined democracy,” but did not specify when they would take place.
Myanmar’s electoral commission denied the military’s claims of election fraud.
The United States and other Western nations have demanded the release of Suu Kyi and her lieutenants and called on the junta to restore power to the civilian government.
Some information in this report was provided by Associated Press and Reuters. VOA’s Margaret Besheer contributed to this story.