Myitkyina: Two protesters have been killed by gunshot wounds to the head as Myanmar’s biggest trade unions began a nationwide strike in the latest attempt to pressure the country’s generals to step down after they seized power in a coup last month.
Witnesses said they were taking part in a protest when police fired stun grenades and tear gas. Several people were then hit by gunfire from buildings nearby.
One witness, who said he helped move the bodies, told Reuters news agency two people were shot in the head and died on the spot. Three people were wounded.
“How inhumane to kill unarmed civilians,” said the witness, a 20-year-old man. “We must have our right to protest peacefully.”
The killings came as shops, factories and banks in the main city of Yangon closed, responding to a call by 18 labour organisations which urged workers “union and non-union alike” to stop work to reverse the February 1 coup and restore Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government to power.
“The time to take action in defense of our democracy is now,” said the unions, which represent industries including construction, agriculture and manufacturing.
“No one can force any Myanmar citizen to work. We are not slaves to the military junta now and we never shall be.” They added that the nationwide stoppage would continue until “we receive our democracy back”.
Witnesses reported the sound of gunfire and stun grenades in different parts of Yangon during the night.
Soldiers were also deployed to public buildings around the country, sparking confrontations with protesters, the Myanmar Now news agency reported. State media said on Monday that security forces were maintaining a presence at hospitals and universities across the country, as part of their law enforcement efforts.
Physicians for Human Rights said it was appalled by these moves, calling them a violation of international law.
“One eyewitness account detailed armed security forces entering and seeking to occupy West Yangon General Hospital by force,” the group said, adding it had reliable information that five other Yangon hospitals were being occupied with similar situations elsewhere in Myanmar. “Even though medical personnel vacated their government posts to initiate the civil disobedience movement, many returned to government hospitals in response to escalating violence against peaceful protestors.”
At least 50 people have been killed since the demonstrations began, according to the United Nations.
Women’s groups called for a Htamein (Sarong) movement to mobilise in force and mark International Women’s Day while condemning the generals. Al-Jazeera