March 19, 2021 3:23:44 pm
Security forces shot seven protesters dead on Friday during a clash with pro-democracy protesters in the central town of Aungban, Myanmar Now news portal reported.
Another protester was taken to hospital, but died from their injuries, a local funeral service worker confirmed to Reuters.
Security forces were attempting to remove a barricade in the town. They used teargas to disperse protesters, but then opened fire, witnesses reported.
“Security forces came to remove barriers but the people resisted and they fired shots,” one witness, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.
Junta responds violently to ongoing protests
The total number of people killed during the protests in recent weeks rose to at least 232, according to a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners Activist group.
Witnesses reported demonstrations in the main city of Yangon — where police forced protesters to clear barricades — as well as in Mandalay and the central towns of Myingyan and Katha.
The military junta on Thursday arrested the spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD) — Aung San Suu Kyi’s political party. Kyi Toe had been giving updates on the condition of the country’s deposed leader since the coup began on February 1.
At least two members of the NLD have died in custody.
Authorities also continued their crackdown against the press, arresting two more journalists, including a reporter for the BBC.
How have Myanmar’s neighbors responded?
Indonesian President Joko Widodo took the almost unprecedented step of calling for democracy to be restored in Myanmar in a speech on Friday.
“Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar be stopped immediately so that there are no more victims,” Widodo said in a virtual address.
“The safety and welfare of the people must be the top priority. Indonesia also urges dialogue, that reconciliation is carried out immediately to restore democracy, to restore peace and to restore stability,” he added.
Indonesia had led talks among neighboring countries in early March to an end to the violence but failed to make any headway.
Usually, the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) avoid commenting on each other’s internal affairs, but the Myanmar crisis has brought this principle into question.