Myanmar’s ruling junta has declared martial law in six townships in the country’s largest city, as security forces killed dozens of protesters over the weekend in an increasingly lethal crackdown on resistance to last month’s military coup.
At least 38 people were killed Sunday and dozens were injured in one of the deadliest days of the crackdown on anti-coup protesters, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent group tracking the toll of the violence.
The junta has repeatedly justified its power grab by alleging widespread electoral fraud in November’s elections, which Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party won by a landslide.
State-run media announced late Sunday that Yangon’s massive Hlaing Tharyar township and the neighbouring Shwepyitha township will be placed under martial law.
The vast and impoverished townships are known as factory hubs and home to garment factories.
Soldiers and police have in recent weeks been staging near-daily crackdowns against demonstrators calling for a return to democracy, using tear gas and firing rubber bullets and live rounds to quell anti-coup protests.
Complicating efforts to organize new protests as well as media coverage of the crisis, mobile internet service has been cut, though access is still available through fixed broadband connections.
In Hlaing Tharyar township police and soldiers clashed violently, with protesters wielding sticks and knives and rushing for protection behind makeshift barricades.
Residents hiding at home heard gunshots continuously throughout the day, while military trucks were seen driving through the smoky streets.
The United Nations envoy for Myanmar strongly condemned the bloodshed, stating that the international community, “including regional actors, must come together in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and their democratic aspirations.”
Envoy Christine Schraner Burgener said in the statement that she had heard “heartbreaking accounts of killings, mistreatment of demonstrators and torture of prisoners” from contacts in Myanmar.
The ongoing brutality “severely undermines any prospects for peace and stability” in the country, she said.
Former colonial power Britain said it was “appalled” by the use of force “against innocent people.”
A statement signed by British ambassador Dan Chugg called for an “immediate cessation” of violence and for the regime to return power to the elected civilian officials.