Protesters returned to the streets of Yangon and elsewhere on Thursday, unbowed by police and soldiers who murdered dozens in attacks across the country in a bid to crush a month-old popular uprising against the military regime.
There were no reports of deaths or mass arrests and police and soldiers used less violence than the day before.
Wednesday was the bloodiest day since the February 1 coup, with at least 38 killed as commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing intensified his crackdown on peaceful protests.
At least seven died in Yangon’s North Okkalapa township when soldiers and police shot protesters and choked them with tear gas.
The office of UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said in a statement on Thursday that at least 54 people have now been killed by security forces since the military seized power, but added that the actual death toll could be much higher.
“It is difficult to establish how many people have suffered injuries, but credible information indicates, at a minimum, hundreds have been wounded during protests,” the statement said.
“Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protestors,” Bachelet added.
“I am also appalled at the documented attacks against emergency medical staff and ambulances attempting to provide care to those who have been injured,” she said.
Soldiers on Wednesday were captured on CCTV brutally beating medics from an emergency rescue team, kicking them and hitting them with the butts of their rifles.
Security forces also raided the office of the Free Funeral Services Society, whose team members helped treat people injured during attacks in North Okkalapa.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said on Wednesday that at least 1,498 people have been arrested nationwide since February 1.
Bachelet called for their immediate release. “Many of the arbitrary arrests and detentions that have been carried out since 1 February may constitute enforced disappearances,” she said.
Protesters block roads
As tens of thousands took the streets on Thursday, protesters in the Yangon townships of North Okkalapa, Thingangyun, Tamwe, Sanchaung and Insein built makeshift barricades to road blocks using sandbags, bricks and other materials to delay the advance of security forces.
Soldiers and police had bulldozed barricades overnight but protesters rebuilt them in the morning. In Insein, protesters blocked a main road with two containers loaded on trucks.
Frontline protesters wore gas masks, goggles and handmade shields to protect people demonstrating behind them.
At one point security forces in Tamwe and Sanchaung advanced towards protesters firing tear gas and stun grenades. Protesters retreated into side streets but emerged again and resumed their protest once soldiers and police left the area.
In some places, people paid tribute to those murdered by police and soldiers by observing a one-minute silence.