(Reuters) – Myanmar security forces shot dead nine opponents of a Feb. 1 coup on Friday, a funeral services provider and media said, as Indonesia urged an end to the violence and the restoration of democracy, in an unusually blunt call from a neighbour.
Military and police have used increasingly violent tactics to suppress demonstrations by supporters of detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, but that has not put off the protesters, with crowds turning out again in several towns.
Security forces opened fire in a confrontation in the central town of Aungban as they tried to clear a protesters’ barricade, media and a witness reported.
“Security forces came to remove barriers but the people resisted and they fired shots,” the witness, who declined to be identified, said by telephone.
An official with Aungban’s funerary service, who declined to be identified, told Reuters eight people were killed, seven on the spot and one wounded person who died after being taken to hospital in the nearby town of Kalaw.
The spokesman for the junta was not immediately available for comment but has previously said security forces have used force only when necessary. Critics have derided that explanation.
One protester was killed in the northeastern town of Loikaw, the Myanmar Now news portal said, and there was some shooting in the main city of Yangon, but no word on casualties.
Demonstrators were also out in the second city of Mandalay, the central towns of Myingyan and Katha, and Myawaddy in the east, witnesses and media reported.
The total number killed in weeks of unrest has risen to at least 233, according to the latest report and a tally by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group.
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‘NO MORE VICTIMS’
Western countries have condemned the coup and called for an end to the violence and for Suu Kyi’s release. Asian neighbours, led by Indonesia, have offered to help find a solution but a March 3 regional meeting failed to make headway.
The 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has long held to the principle of not commenting on each other’s internal affairs, but there are growing signs the Myanmar crisis is forcing a reassessment of that.
In some of the strongest comments from a regional leader on the crackdown, Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for democracy to be restored and for the violence to stop.
“Indonesia urges that the use of violence in Myanmar be stopped immediately so that there are no more victims,” Jokowi, as he is known, 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.”
Myanmar’s coup leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, took part in a video conference with regional defence chiefs on Thursday, his first international engagement since seizing power, state television showed.
At the meeting, the head of Indonesia’s armed forces, Hadi Tjahjanto, expressed concern over the Myanmar situation, the Indonesian military said on its website. Indonesia’s army ruled for years but eventually completely withdrew from politics.
Singapore has also spoken out against the coup and the killing of protesters and its military chief, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, said on Facebook he had expressed his “grave concern” at the meeting and urged Myanmar to avoid lethal force.
In Geneva, U.N. human rights experts denounced forced evictions, arbitrary detentions and the killings of protesters. They said foreign governments should consider pursuing those responsible for crimes against humanity.
Ousted lawmakers were exploring whether the International Criminal Court can investigate crimes against humanity since the coup, Myanmar’s U.N. envoy, who publicly broke with the junta, said in New York.
Nobel peace laureate Suu Kyi, 75, is being detained at an undisclosed location and faces accusations of bribery and other crimes that could see her banned from politics and jailed if convicted. Her lawyer says the charges are trumped up.
The army has defended its takeover, saying its accusations of fraud in a Nov. 8 election swept by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy were rejected by the electoral commission. It has promised a new election but not set a date.
Information within Myanmar is becoming increasingly difficult to verify after authorities have restricted the internet services that protesters use to organise and report.
The U.N. human rights office said this week about 37 journalists had been arrested and two more were detained in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Friday while covering a hearing for an arrested member of Suu Kyi’s party, said the Mizzima news portal, the employer of one of them.
The other detained reporter was Aung Thura of the British Broadcasting Corp (BBC), it said. The BBC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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