Update 1: Adds international reactions
Yangon, Myanmar, Mar 4 (efe-epa).- Myanmar was preparing Thursday for a new day of anti-coup protests countrywide, a day after security forces killed at least 38 people, the highest death toll to date.
Protesters outraged by Wednesday’s massacre started gathering in the morning in Yangon, the country’s largest city and former capital, and in Mandalay.
Demonstrators, most wearing plastic helmets and makeshift shields, formed barricades to protect themselves from security forces using tear gas, water cannons, rubber bullets, slingshots and even live ammunition to quash protests.
Several videos showed five army fighter jets flying Thursday morning over Mandalay, which is the country’s second largest city and has seen some of the most violent and lethal crackdowns.
Christine Schraner Burgener, United Nations Special Envoy for Myanmar, said that at least 38 people died Wednesday, among which were at least two minors.
“More than 1,200 people are under detention and many families do not know where their loved ones are or what condition they are in,” the UN said in a statement.
About 60 protesters have died since the Feb. 1 coup by the military, which arrested part of the elected government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, said in a Wednesday statement that flags would fly at half-mast at its offices to commemorate those killed.
The UN Security Council plans to address the situation in the country Friday in a closed-door videocall according to the United States, which holds the organization’s rotating presidency.
The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution last month calling for Suu Kyi’s release.
However, pressure from members including China, Russia, and Venezuela prevented the body from fully condemning the coup, making it unlikely that the body will take military action.
Human rights groups, the UN and the United States government condemned the use of lethal force by security forces after Wednesday’s violence.
Human Rights Watch said Thursday that Myanmar law enforcement agencies “appear to be trying to cut off the legs of the anti-coup movement through gratuitous and sheer violence.”
Richard Weir, Crisis and Conflict researcher for the organization, said “the use of deadly force against protesters rescuing others shows how little the security forces fear being judged for their actions.”
For its part, organization Fortify Rights demanded that the junta “immediately ends its deadly attacks throughout the country against non-violent protesters and return power to the elected government.”
In a similar vein, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Parliamentarians’ Association for Human Rights (APHR) voiced its rejection of the violence, which it called “nauseating.”
“When is the army going to stop? Is it trying to kill or arrest 80 percent of the country that voted in November to kick them out of Myanmar’s politics,” said Charles Santiago, APHR president and Malaysian MP.
The actions of the security forces also received the disapproval of Tom Andrews, UN human rights rapporteur, who asked the Security Council to see the images of “the shocking violence unleashed against peaceful protesters,” before their upcoming meeting.
The Security Council addressed the crisis last month, but did not condemn the coup by the opposition of Russia and China, which have veto power, making it unlikely that the body will take action against the military.