Update 1: Updates death toll, adds pope’s comments, updates headline
Yangon, Myanmar, March 3 (EFE).- At least nine people, including two minors, were shot dead Wednesday in Myanmar as authorities launched fresh crackdowns against coup protesters while Pope Francis urged that parties engage in peaceful dialog.
Despite security forces’ severe repression of demonstrations, which claimed the lives of at least 20 people Sunday, protests in rejection of the Feb. 1 military coup continued throughout the country.
Fatalities include five protesters in the city of Monywa, two in Mandalay, one in MyinGyan and one in Rangoon in a new deadly day of protests in which more than 30 people have died to date.
The minors are a teenager who was shot in the head in MyanGyan, according to emergency teams, as well as another 17-year-old who died, according to local media Monywa Gazette, after police repression in Monywa.
In Monywa, about 130 kilometers west of Mandalay city, a student who witnessed a crackdown there said at least six people were shot.
The toll was expected to rise.
In the most populated city of Yangon, the authorities repressed protests with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades, dispersing protesters who returned to their demonstrations each time the situation calmed.
The pope called for dialog against the repression in Myanmar and called for the release of imprisoned political leaders.
“I still receive sad news from Myanmar of bloody clashes with loss of human life. I wish to draw the attention of the authorities involved so that dialog prevails over repression and harmony over discord,” Francis said in a speech at the papal palace.
He also addressed “an appeal to the international community so that the aspirations of the Myanmar people are not stifled by violence and that the youth of that beloved land be given hope and a future where hatred and injustice leave room for togetherness and reconciliation.”
Francis also reiterated the request, expressed on other occasions, so that “the path to democracy undertaken in recent years by Myanmar may return through the concrete gesture of liberation of the various imprisoned political leaders.”
Francis had already made this appeal during the audience at the beginning of the year that he grants to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.
On Sunday, after praying the Angelus, the pontiff expressed his “lively concern” for what is happening in Myanmar.
“Since the time of my apostolic visit (2017) I carry [Myanmar] in my heart with so much affection,” he said.
He also urged those with responsibilities “to work with sincere availability at the service of the common good, proposing social justice and stability for a harmonious democratic coexistence.”
Protesters demand that the military, which ruled the country with an iron fist between 1962 and 2011, restore democracy, recognize the results of the November election and release all those detained.
Since the military coup, at least 1,294 people have been arrested, including deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, according to the latest data from the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners in Myanmar, which indicated that 306 have been released. It added that 34 journalists were arrested, with 15 of them released.
The foreign ministers of the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore on Tuesday condemned the use of lethal force by the Myanmar authorities to quell the peaceful opposition movement that emerged after the coup.
The foreign ministers, meeting by video conference during an informal session of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), called on the military junta “to refrain from instigating further violence” and to seek a peaceful solution through dialog.