At least six protesters were killed by security forces in Myanmar, witnesses and media reported, as activists marked the anniversary on Saturday of a student whose killing in 1988 sparked an uprising against the military government.
Three people were killed and several injured when police opened fire on a sit-in protest in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-biggest city, two witnesses told Reuters. Another person was killed in the central town of Pyay and two died in police firing in the commercial capital Yangon overnight, domestic media reported.
“The security forces initially stopped the ambulance from reaching the injured people and only allowed it later,” a 23-year-old protester in Pyay told Reuters, asking not to be named for fear of retribution.
“By the time they allowed it, one of the injured became critical and he later died.”
The deaths came as the leaders of the United States, India, Australia and Japan vowed to work together to restore democracy in the Southeast Asian nation.
More than 70 people have been killed in Myanmar in widespread protests against a February 1st coup by the military, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners advocacy group has said.
Saturday’s protests erupted after posters spread on social media urging people to mark the anniversary of the death of Phone Maw, who was shot and killed by security forces in 1988 inside what was then known as the Rangoon Institute of Technology campus.
His shooting and that of another student who died a few weeks later sparked widespread protests against the military government known as the 8-8-88 campaign, because they peaked in August that year. An estimated 3,000 people were killed when the army crushed the uprising, at the time the biggest challenge to military rule dating back to 1962.
Aung San Suu Kyi emerged as a democracy icon during the movement and was kept under house arrest for nearly two decades.
She was released in 2008 as the military began democratic reforms. Her National League for Democracy won elections in 2015 and again in November last year.
On February 1st this year, the generals overthrew her government and detained Suu Kyi and many of her cabinet colleagues, claiming fraud in the November elections.
The coup in Myanmar, where the military has close ties to China, is a major early test for US President Joe Biden.
His administration described a virtual meeting with the Indian, Japanese and Australian leaders on Friday, the first official summit of the group known as the Quad, as part of a push to demonstrate a renewed US commitment to regional security.
"As longstanding supporters of Myanmar and its people, we emphasise the urgent need to restore democracy and the priority of strengthening democratic resilience," the four leaders said in a statement released by the White House.
A spokesman for the junta did not answer phone calls from Reuters seeking comment.