Police launched their most sweeping crackdown in three weeks of protests against military rule on Saturday in towns and cities across Myanmar, and one woman was shot and wounded and dozens of people were detained.
Three domestic media outlets said earlier that the woman shot in the central town of Monwya had died but an ambulance service official said she was in hospital. The circumstances of the shooting were not clear and police were not available for comment.
The violence came after Myanmar’s UN envoy, saying he was speaking for the ousted civilian government, urged the United Nations to use “any means necessary” to reverse the February 1 coup.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power and detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership, alleging fraud in a November election her party won in a landslide.
The coup, which stalled Myanmar’s progress toward democracy, has brought hundreds of thousands of protesters onto the streets and drawn condemnation from Western countries, with some imposing limited sanctions.
Police were out in force in cities and towns from early on Saturday in their most determined effort yet to stamp out the protests.
In the main city of Yangon, police took up positions at usual protest sites and detained people as they congregated, witnesses said. Several journalists were detained, their media organisations and colleagues said.
Confrontations developed as more people came out despite the police operation.
Crowds chanted and sang then scattered into side streets and buildings as police advanced, firing tear gas, setting off stun grenades and shooting guns into the air, witnesses said.
“People are protesting peacefully but they’re threatening us with weapons,” youth activist Shar Yamone told Reuters.
“We’re fighting to end this military bullying which has been going on for generation after generation.”
Some protesters threw up barricades across streets. Crowds eventually thinned but police in Yangon were still chasing groups and firing into the air in the late afternoon, witnesses said. Police detained numerous people through the day and set upon some with clubs.
Similar scenes played out in the second city of Mandalay and other towns, witnesses and media said. Among those detained in Mandalay was Win Mya Mya, one of two Muslim members of parliament for Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD), media said.
Aye Aye Tint, a protester in the central town of Monwya said police had fired water cannon as they surrounded a crowd.
Junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing has said authorities have been using minimal force. Nevertheless, at least three protesters have died over the days of turmoil. The army says a policeman was killed in earlier violence.
Uncertainty has grown over Suu Kyi’s whereabouts, as an independent media website on Friday quoted officials of her party as saying she had been moved this week from house arrest to an undisclosed location.
Activists called for another day of protests on Sunday.
At the UN General Assembly on Friday, Myanmar’s Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun said he was speaking on behalf of Suu Kyi’s government and appealed for help.
“We need further strongest possible action from the international community to immediately end the military coup,” he said.
Reuters was not immediately able to contact the army for comment.
UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews said he was overwhelmed by the ambassador’s “act of courage”, adding on Twitter “It’s time for the world to answer that courageous call with action”.
China’s envoy did not criticise the coup and said the situation was an internal Myanmar affair, adding that China supported a diplomatic effort by southeast Asian countries to find a solution.
The Myanmar generals have traditionally shrugged off diplomatic pressure. Australia’s Woodside Petroleum Ltd said it was cutting its presence in Myanmar over concern about rights violations and violence.
Suu Kyi, 75, spent nearly 15 years under house arrest during military rule. She faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkie radios and of violating a natural disaster law by breaching coronavirus protocols.
A lawyer for her, Khin Maung Zaw, told Reuters he had also heard that she had been moved from her home in the capital, Naypyitaw, but could not confirm it. Authorities did not respond to a request for comment.
The lawyer said he had been given no access to Suu Kyi ahead of her next hearing on Monday and he was concerned about her access to justice and legal counsel.